No SWAT team this time. But youthful scofflaws, take note!

While I probably should have been shocked by this news report from the front lines in the War on Foods and Drugs, nothing shocks me anymore. 

Nor should it surprise anyone that pushers are recruiting young children to sell their unhealthy products on streetcorners, without permits:

VILLA RICA, GA -- It sounds like a bad Saturday Night Live skit --police cracking down on a Girl Scout cookie stand.

It happened Wednesday at a strip mall on Hwy 78 in Villa Rica when a police officer asked members of Troop 7984 if they had a peddler's permit.

Troop Leader Kathy Crook was stunned.

"We were just told that we would have to pack up our cookie booth [and] we would need to go and get a peddlers permit," Crook said. "The customers that were there had to just be turned away."

Crook was more disturbed at the reaction of the younger Daisies in the group.

"They were very upset that we were in real trouble and that we were all going to be taken to jail," Crook said.

Both Villa Rica Police Chief Michael Mansour and Mayor J. Allen Collins said they have spoken with the officer who dealt with the Girl Scouts, and they believe he did nothing wrong.

Of course the police did nothing wrong! It's typical for racketeers and other operators of criminal enterprises to enlist young children in their constant search for loopholes. But fortunately, the law is the law. And now the White House has declared war on fattening foods (which Girl Scout Cookies are!), it is high time for all patriotic citizens to remember that traitors in the Food War can be of any age, and anywhere.

Even in uniform!

More: Girl Scout cookies cause violence.


posted by Eric at 11:58 PM | Comments (6)

Messing up veterans' monuments saves democracy! But taking pictures is rude!

Even though I know that free speech carries a price, I tend towards First Amendment fanaticism, and I do not believe in restricting anyone's free speech rights, no matter how obnoxious it is or how much I disagree with the views expressed. 

Still, I'm fascinated by the idea that a prolonged and raucous occupation of a building and indoor campout for the purpose of forcing compliance with political demands (with all the inevitable wear and tear and increased police costs that entails) constitutes "free speech" in the ordinary sense of the word. In Berkeley I saw many similar exercises in occupation over the years, the idea always being to wear down the opposition by a process of intimidation and attrition. This strikes me more as action than speech, and while it may be legal, I think it borders on extortion.

If a group of people want me to do something, and they ask me to do it, that is free speech. But if they surround my house and chant in order to wear me down, and physically block my driveway so that I cannot go about my business, that is not quite the same thing.

What's even more annoying is the way the yellers and screamers carry on about how what they are doing constitutes "democracy." A perfect example was provided by Ann Althouse, who was scolded as "rude" for taking pictures of demonstrators in front of the Veterans' Monument that had been disrespected previously. As one protester (with a pronounced non-Wisconsin accent) explained, "the protesters are 'trying to save' democracy."

I didn't get to ask follow-up questions, but I think her point was to equate the protesters to the veterans and to make that a justification for piling sleeping bags and all sorts of junk up against the monument. I didn't get to ask how trying to undo the results of the last election is an effort to "save democracy," and, obviously, she wasn't interested in having a conversation with me.

This country is not a democracy in the technical sense or the word. But even if we assume for the sake of argument that it is, democracy means majority rule. A majority elected Governor Walker, and a majority can vote him out of office if they don't like the way he has stood up to the unions. That's the democratic way of doing things.

How do tactics such as occupying a building, messing up a veterans' monument and behaving like obnoxious thugs "save" the principle of majority rule? 

I don't think the people who make such a claim understand what democracy is. Nor do they understand what free speech is. For not only does what they're doing go beyond mere speech, but they have zero tolerance for free speech when it disagrees with them.

Unless they think democracy means a loud and shrill minority getting their way by tyrannizing the majority, I'm not getting how they're saving it. 

Like, my yelling and screaming and occupying a building until I get my way saves democracy, but your taking a picture of me is rude?

And if you disagree with me, you're against democracy?

I suspect that if the very issue they're steamed up about -- collective bargaining by state employees -- were put to a majority vote, if the majority went against them they'd be doing exactly what they're doing right now, and claiming to be saving democracy.

posted by Eric at 02:23 PM | Comments (9)

Triangle Of Greed

Tim Pawlenty has coined a phrase. I like it.

...growing government, powerful unions and bailed-out businesses make up "a royal triangle of greed" in America.
Define the enemy. And in most libertarian terms too.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:10 PM | Comments (1)

Eventually You Run Out Of Other People's Money

Walter Russell Mead is discussing the fact that anti-public union fever is not just for Wisconsin anymore. He comes up with a quote which is the perfect explanation for why the SIHTF.

From a state that is bluer than blue, ultraviolet Vermont, comes the news that Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democratic governor with solid Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature, will not solve his state's fiscal problems with a tax increase. Why? As Politico reports, "We've already got a progressive income tax in Vermont, and we can't get more progressive because we'll lose the few payers that we have," Shumlin said in between sessions at the National Governors Association meeting. "We don't have any more tax capacity."

"I can see New Hampshire from my house," said the governor, noting that Vermont is already losing business, investments and residents to its low-tax neighbor.

As Dame Margaret Thacher (a grocers daughter) is reputed to have said,
The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money.
It looks like eventually has arrived.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:49 AM | Comments (4)

Perchance to Dream

In the last day, I noticed a lot of postings on Facebook about the shuttle. And this made me realize something about space, and what space means.

I haven't been exactly paying attention. Whenever a novel is done - let alone a novel that was delayed due to my stupid body, once more, reminding me that these things come without warranty - there's a lot of things I've been putting off that have to be dealt with. Particularly when I'm plunging straight into another couple of books that need to be finished, both of which are ready to enter 'final phase' (the phase when things are coming together and I work in a sort of white-hot haze.)

So, in the last couple of days I verified that my kitchen does, indeed, still have a floor by removing all the fur and grime that had accumulated over it; reduced the waiting Everest of laundry to a mere Pikes Peak; did grocery shopping; made sure the kids are still alive (you never know, and zombie children are such pains); cleaned the cats water fountain; removed approximately three Haveys from every surface in the house, including the floor (a Havey is a measurement of fuzziness. It equals about an inch of fuzz on everything.)

As has been obvious from this blog, I've logged on to the net maybe twice/three times a day, if that, and I haven't exactly been thinking about the internet.

Even so, I couldn't avoid postings on the shuttle.

Continue reading "Perchance to Dream"

posted by Sarah at 08:47 AM | Comments (1)

Wisconsin Teachers Mafia - Follow the Money

When you want to know what a fight is all about - it is often helpful to follow the money. So where is the money in Wisconsin's fight with the Teachers Union?

We recently issued a report titled, " A Crucial Challenge for Wisconsin Schools: Escaping the Shackles of WEA Trust Insurance." After hours of investigation and research, we were able to demonstrate that WEA Trust is the most expensive form of school employee insurance in the state, and schools could save hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions of dollars, by switching to different insurance carriers.

We also pointed out that WEA Trust has a grossly unfair advantage in the Wisconsin school insurance market, allowing the company to charge inflated prices without losing a great deal of business. The problem is that state law makes the identify of the school insurance carrier a topic of collective bargaining. That allows local teachers unions to come to the table demanding WEA Trust coverage, because their state union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), created and is closely associated with WEA Trust.

We polled administrators from 20 school districts that managed to break away from WEA Trust coverage in recent years. All of them saved, or expected to save, at least $100,000 per year while still offering quality health coverage to employees. McIlheran wrote about one of those districts, Milton, which expects to save $1 million per year.

Well what do you know? It is not about teachers pay at all. It is about union profits.

The Chicago Boyz have more details.

Would someone please note that Unions make the great lion's share of their $ from negotiating "benefits", not salaries... or collection of dues.

This is why the decoupling of the Salaries and Benefits is so important to Unions in Wisconsin. And why the Union's have countered the way they have. They'll give up Salary and Jobs for Teachers in a second, but they will fight to death for the Benefit negotiation position. In another life as an executive in CA, I used to do administration for two Teamster's "Health and Welfare" benefit packages. Do your research, but you'll find I'm correct about motivation of Unions. I also believe that the amount of money kept by Unions will be very interesting to both your viewers, and the tax payers of the US of A. The way it works is that the Unions negotiate with the "Employer" regarding how much money per member/per month they will need to support the benefit options required in Union contract. In the case of WI, they negotiate with each of the 77 counties. Then the Unions negotiate the terms of benefits with "providers"/Ins Co's, etc. They make the lion's share of their money off of what is called the "breakage" created by Employees choosing between plan options, and the administration of the programs.

A commenter at the Boyz puts it in clear dollars and cents terms.
Mike Says:

February 20th, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Average annual cost of family coverage for the teachers in the school district our business is located in $22,000 with no employee contribution required. Average annual cost of family coverage in our business $12,000 with employee contribution of 12%. We just received our May 1st renewal up 16%.

My advise to WI teachers. With all due respect, go back to work, carefully consider the "value" of your union and consider firing them. And lastly, stop whining and make the best of a not so good situation like the rest of us are. Maybe its just me.

So in this one case each union member is worth $10,000 a year to the union. Over and above union dues and any other money the union gets from the teachers. Talk about your sweetheart deals.

Here is some more information on what honest deals might do to the union.

[Waukesha, Wisc...] Wisconsin school districts are saving millions of dollars by switching health insurance providers away from WEA Trust, but the teachers union is not making it easy.

WEA Trust is affiliated with the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) [the State affiliate of the NEA - ed.], the union representing some 98,000 employees within Wisconsin schools. The MacIver News Service has learned some districts across the state have discovered they can provide equal coverage at a lower cost through soliciting bids from other companies in the health insurance marketplace.

For example, this year Campbellsport School District switched to the Wisconsin Counties Association's plan and will save $100,000. The Slinger School District switched to United Healthcare and saved $200,000. Waukesha switched from WEA Trust as well and indicates it will save $2 million.

"United has a larger pool and can provide the same coverage at a much lower price," said Todd Gray, Waukesha Superintendent.

This trend has caught the attention of the WEAC, and their locals are fighting to stop it. In Campbellsport, the Master Agreement between the union and the district allows the school board to switch insurance providers as long as the coverage is identical. The union there claims the district violated that agreement and filed a grievance and a prohibited practice complaint against the district.

"Since becoming effective July 1, 2010, the change in health insurance carriers has been almost seamless, without any loss in the level of benefits," Dan Olson, Campbellsport Superintendent, said.

The school board decided to take up the grievance at an August meeting, and publicly posted the item on August 3 to comply with open meetings law. At that meeting, the board decided to take up the grievance in open session.

"In these tough economic times the residents of the Campbellsport School District deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent, including the efforts the District is taking to save approximately $100,000.00 in costs," said Jay Miller, Board of Education President.

There are more details on how the union fought a change in insurance plans at the link. Hmmmmmm. I think I smell MONEY.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air goes even deeper into the money. Good material. But I think you get the general idea. The Union is skimming from the members Health Care Plan. They seem to do that sort of thing on pension plans when they control them. This is starting to look like a pattern of practices and behavior.

This book might be a good guide to those patterns and practices:

Mobsters, Unions, and Feds: The Mafia and the American Labor Movement

Charles Krauthammer says Wisconsin represents the shot heard 'round the world in America's efforts to right the ship.

Wisconsin is the epicenter. It began with economic issues. When Gov. Scott Walker proposed that state workers contribute more to their pension and health-care benefits, he started a revolution. Teachers called in sick. Schools closed. Demonstrators massed at the capitol. Democratic senators fled the state to paralyze the Legislature.

Unfortunately for them, that telegenic faux-Cairo scene drew national attention to the dispute - and to the sweetheart deals the public-sector unions had negotiated for themselves for years. They were contributing a fifth of a penny on a dollar of wages to their pensions and one-fourth what private-sector workers pay for health insurance.

The unions quickly understood that the more than 85 percent of Wisconsin not part of this privileged special-interest group would not take kindly to "public servants" resisting adjustments that still leave them paying less for benefits than private-sector workers. They immediately capitulated and claimed they were only protesting the other part of the bill, the part about collective-bargaining rights.

Indeed. Walker understands that a one-time giveback means little. The state's financial straits - a $3.6 billion budget shortfall over the next two years - did not come out of nowhere. They came largely from a half-century-long power imbalance between the unions and the politicians with whom they collectively bargain.

Wretchard at the Belmont Club (who quotes an article I recently wrote) thinks if America can right the ship it will be an example for the rest of the world.
...what's important to remember is that the United States is the fulcrum of fate. Unlike other world crises, in which there were rival centers of hard power, the suddenness of this storm happens while the US remains, and will remain for the short run, the center of hard power.

Not that it will be used, and therein lies the key redeeming feature of the struggle. The world does not have the capacity to break out into global war because, with the exception of Russia, their nuclear arsenals are "too small" and they cannot cross the seas to attack each other because they have no power projection capacities and cannot challenge the USN.

That means that if America regains rationality, it can hold the ring and the world crisis will not spill over into international chaos. This can be a global velvet revolution instead of a bloody one. If America regains rationality

And that is the key. Rationality. Which is why I'm a TEA Partier.

1. Fiscal Responsibility
2. Constitutional Government
3. Free Markets

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

H/T Linearthinker for the Wretchard link.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:54 AM | Comments (0)

There is nothing gay about a sin condemned by Jesus! Yet.

While the term "gay marriage" has become a euphemism for same sex marriage, it is a bit misleading. Because, just as as no proof of heterosexuality is required for opposite sex couples who seek to marry, none of the jurisdictions I know of which allow same sex couples to marry require any proof of homosexuality. So just as opposite sex marriage is not necessarily heterosexual, same sex marriage would not necessarily be homosexual.

However, according to some religions, marriages are in theory supposed to be consummated to be valid, and they can be annulled if they are not. But there is no legal consummation requirement. A sexless marriage may be odd, but unless there is a divorce, it remains a legal marriage. I suppose it might supply grounds for divorce, but as most divorce is now no-fault, any failure of consummation would be largely irrelevant.

It has long annoyed me that the gay marriage debate almost always frames itself as a civil rights issue, and this focus on rights ignores a rather large elephant in the room, which is precisely the opposite of rights -- the power of the state to enter people's lives and tell them what to do.

Because of its nature, marriage puts government into citizens' lives, big time. Anyone who doubts this for a moment should consider something that the debate over gay marriage ignores, which is that 50% of marriages end in divorce, and that most of these divorces entail the state entering the lives and dictating the property rights and obligations of the parties at gunpoint. I find it mind-boggling that so many people are thoughtlessly framing a massive scheme of government involvement in people's lives solely in terms of "rights" and that the only people who object are libertarians and a few fringe religious types. 

People talk of the "institution of marriage" but I hardly ever hear talk of the "institution of divorce." Yet if half of marriages end up in divorce, I don't see how it is possible to talk about one "institution" without the other. Many people complain about how gay marriage would ruin the "institution of marriage," but the only talk about the gay threat to the "institution of divorce" seems to be snark from gay comedians.

Is that because divorce is an institution that cannot be ruined? 

At this point, my inner paranoid conspiracy theorist must ask a question.

What if divorce is the number one threat to marriage, and the gay marriage issue is being used as an emotional rhetorical diversion to avoid looking at that?

A number of conservative thinkers (Kay Hymowitz being a recent example) have bewailed the reluctance of men to marry, and argue that they should, because it makes men more manly. Common sense suggests to me that much of this reluctance to marry is not grounded in immaturity or "unmanliness," but in a legitimate fear of divorce.

Indeed, many of the complaints about Kay Hymowitz's argument are such ringing indictments of the divorce system that they resemble a call to revolution (hardly "unmanly" behavior). Here's an example:

"Where is the drive to procreate, the ambition to do great things beyond yourself, the hope for the future and your place in it?"

Where is it? It is being murdered in America's "family" courts every day of the week, in every city in America.

Sorry Dayna, men have begun to smell the rotting stench of other males who have been economically murdered and sold into slavery in government's quest to position itself as the servant of women.

Government needs someone gullible enough to fall for all of its offered services, and men are certainly not so gullible. But women are, have fallen for it, and now so many cannot and will not find husbands within the woman's productive years.

You don't realize ladies that men are afraid of what they see happening to more than 50% of men who ever get married. You women are being used to do this to men and you seem to not even realize it.

Wake up and smell the rotting flesh of male slaves exploited by "family" courts. Ask a few men if they have any friends to have had their lives completely ruined by a woman who they married or had a child with. Do your market research.

This is why men are "avoiding" marriage like the plague. Because GOVERNMENT has turned marriage into a plague which kills men.

It is probably worth adding that divorce is considered by most psychologists to be one of the major life traumas like death or financial catastrophe. 

And of course, not only is divorce usually a financial catastrophe, but it can lead to death:

   1. Non-smoking, divorced men have almost the same death rate from cancer as married men who smoke 1 pack or more per day.
   2. Nearly every type of terminal cancer strikes divorced individuals of either sex at higher rates.
   3. Early death from both cardiovascular disease and stroke doubles for divorced men compared to married men.
   4. In a 1990 study of 16 developed countries, unmarried men were twice as likely to die at a younger age than married men.  For divorced men, risks were sometimes 10 times greater than for a married person the same age.
   5. Premature death due to pneumonia for divorced men is more than 7 times that of their married counterparts.
   6. Divorced and separated persons experience acute conditions such as infectious diseases, parasitic diseases, respiratory illnesses, digestive illnesses and severe injuries at higher rates than those who are married.
   7. Heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis occur in higher rates in the formerly married.

Add to the above list the mental health aspects:

   1. Divorced men have 9 times the rate of psychiatric outpatient visits compared to married men and 21 times the rate of psychiatric hospital admissions.
   2. Divorced women have a 5 times higher rate of psychiatric care than married women.
   3. Divorced men are at higher risk for major depression than divorced women among those with no prior history of depression.
   4. The divorced of both sexes have more than double the depression rates of those married.
   5. Suicide is 4 times higher for divorced white men as it is for their married counterparts.  FACT: Divorce now ranks as the #1 factor linked with suicide.
   6. Automobile fatalities tripled among the divorced for both sexes.

Additionally, because divorce records are public, and therefore accessible to the entire world, unless the records are sealed, all financial privacy is lost. Many judges balk at requests to seal records:

Lyndon has had mixed results sealing divorce records and said judges more often than not refuse to do it. When successful, he said he gives clients this caveat: "If challenged, I wouldn't expect it to hold up."

Randy Kessler, an Atlanta divorce lawyer, said he has received requests from clients for "the Glenn Richardson divorce," meaning getting the case sealed right after it is filed. "But then we have to explain to them that we just can't do it," he said.

Family law attorneys say it's understandable that parties to a divorce would want to have their cases placed under seal. With court files so readily accessible, attorneys say, filing for divorce can be tantamount to putting your financial information on a billboard.

Hmmm.... It doesn't take much imagination to conclude that divorce is a fiendish enterprise, calculated to wreck men's lives and break their spirits in every way imaginable. Perhaps marriage ought to carry a warning. In light of all the above, the ringing indictment I quoted earlier sounds almost reasonable.

So, considering the devastating mental, physical, and financial damage divorce inflicts on men, it strikes me as dishonest to conflate an entirely legitimate fear of divorce (and desire to avoid the possibility of it at all costs) into an "unmanly" fear of marriage.

But what's even more disturbing is the way it is being systematically left out of the big moral debates we're supposedly having about marriage.

A recent report in USA Today sought to explore and explain the reasons for a drop in marriage rates among twenty-something Americans. The article cited statistics from the 2006 census which indicate that 73% of men and 62.2% of women ages 20-29 listed themselves as never having been married in 2006. Just six years before, those numbers were significantly lower: 64% of men and 53.4% of women.

According to the article, the reasons for this shift include social and economic factors, an increase in cohabitation, more highly educated women with fewer options for equally-educated partners, and generally more life choices available to women than in decades past.

One thing not mentioned in the article, though, was fear of divorce.

A psychology professor from Florida International University of Miami responded to the article with an opinion piece, citing divorce as perhaps the most important factor in the rising marriage age. In his piece, which also appeared in USA Today, Professor Gordon E. Finley outlined his addition to the theory of declining marriage rates.

Now that's interesting. What's even more interesting is that not only was fear of divorce not mentioned in the original article, but Professor Finley's argument seems to have been scrubbed from the USA Today blog. (The listed link goes nowhere.)

Fear of divorce stunts many young adults' decision to marry
18 September 2007

Gordon E. Finley, Professor of psychology,
Florida International University - Miami

While social science commentators quoted in USA TODAY's article [below] gave a variety of reasons for why young adults are delaying marriage, they omitted the most critical: divorce ("Young adults delaying marriage," Life, Wednesday).

With a 50% divorce rate <> for first marriages, women overwhelmingly initiating divorce and mothers getting custody about 85% of the time while fathers get visitation, child support and alimony, it is easy to see why any man wouldn't want to get married.

Further, many of these young adults are children of divorce who know firsthand the consequences.

If one wants to increase marriage rates, one first must reform divorce laws to make them equitable for both fathers and mothers and help children maintain relationships with both parents.

Many libertarians scholars have argued that marriage should be privatized. Jeffrey Miron says that the government needs to divorce the marriage business:

(Aug. 13) -- The gay marriage debate gained renewed intensity last week when a federal judge struck down California's Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage. Supporters of gay marriage hailed the decision as a crucial blow for civil rights; opponents assailed it as an assault on fundamental moral and religious values.

Oddly, both sides agreed on one thing: that government should define and "supply" marriage.

But it is the government's role in marriage that's at the heart of the problem.

If marriage is privatized (reprivatized, really, as the government only got into the marriage licensing business in the 19th century), then what about privatizing divorce?

Wouldn't that make the process less fearsome and less ruinous to men, and thereby help solve the problem of which Hymowitz and others complain?

But how would we privatize something that has become an integral feature of state control over (and micromanagement of) a large part of the populace? How much money and how many many jobs would be at stake? And other than in rants like this, why have so few people discussed it?

Privatized divorce is probably just another utopian idea for only libertarian cranks to kick around. Might as well talk about legalizing drugs or taking the Constitution literally. 

Hell, it's almost easier to fall back on the largely abandoned religious view that divorce is bad because Jesus condemned it as sinful. I can certainly understand why religious people have abandoned that argument. If you think about it, if Jesus was right about divorce being a sin, then the no-fault divorce system would mean the state is compelling millions of people to sin.

Wouldn't that give people who follow the teachings of Jesus a special right not to divorce?

No, because there is no right not to have the government in your life, so there can be no right not to divorce. If there were, another precious "institution" would crumble.

Anyway, if there's no right not to divorce, gays might want to think carefully about whether they want to lose the right not to marry before Barack Obama takes it away and they have their lives ruined by the divorce courts.

MORE: It is probably worth stressing again what I have said in countless posts -- that gay (same sex) marriage would intrude into the lives of gays who are not interested in and did not choose to be married. Notice the scrambling by gay couples in California who do not want the state in their lives:

gays in CA won't even have to formally marry to get f*(ked up the ass by the fact that Gays have the right to marry in California.

We previously pointed out that a large number of gay couples registered as domestic partners in CA UN-REGISTERED right before the DP law in CA was about to change to make the assets of gay couples community property. THIS OBVIOUSLY MEANS that there is in fact a large number of Gay Couples in long term relationships in CA who DO NOT want their assets to be community property and who do not want to be legally liable for their partners' debts.

It seems to us that the practical effect of The Gay Marriage Ruling in CA will be that the Gay Couples in CA who have lived together long term and who un-registered as Domestic Partners to avoid the "community property issue" will now be subject to Palimony Case Law.

So how would such people opt out? Draft a pre-nup for the no-nup? Why should that be necessary in a free country?

From where does the idea derive that someone who moves in with someone else and has sex with that person should be entitled to force an accounting, and demand a share of that person's earnings? Is it a form of government-sanctioned prostitution?

Cohabitating couples may not be interested in marriage. But marriage law is interested in them.

I am tired of this issue (and tired of being misunderstood). But once again I will say that I think gays who want to live their lives without government scrutiny should beware.

posted by Eric at 02:28 PM | Comments (13)

Attack On Coptic Monastary In Egypt

Don't watch this if you have a weak stomach. Even if you have a strong stomach it is hard to watch.

Here is a report from Coptic Solidarity (which has a shorter version of the video).

For the second time in as many days, Egyptian armed force stormed the 5th century old St. Bishoy monastery in Wadi el-Natroun, 110 kilometers from Cairo. Live ammunition was fired, wounding two monks and six Coptic monastery workers. Several sources confirmed the army's use of RPG ammunition. Four people have been arrested including three monks and a Coptic lawyer who was at the monastery investigating yesterday's army attack.

Monk Aksios Ava Bishoy told activist Nader Shoukry of Freecopts the armed forces stormed the main entrance gate to the monastery in the morning using five tanks, armored vehicles and a bulldozer to demolish the fence built by the monastery last month to protect themselves and the monastery from the lawlessness which prevailed in Egypt during the January 25 Uprising.

Asia News says:
The confrontation was sparked by the construction of fences around the convents to protect them from marauding criminals who escaped prison in the wake of the 25 January uprising. After issuing a 48-hour demolition order, the army moved in. Some 7,000 Copts protest in Tahrir Square.
There are more details at how the "situation" arose at the Asia News link.

This seems to be a rather excessive reaction to what amounts to a building code violation.

And don't forget: always take your camera to the action. Evidence is always good to counter the "narrative".

Here are a few pages of books on the Copts and Egypt.

H/T Judith Weiss (Yehudit) on Facebook

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:06 AM | Comments (1)

Extending An Olive Branch To Regulators

I get around half my calories from olive oil -- much like this lady -- so when I started reading that a lot of olive oil is not actually olive oil I was naturally quite concerned.

More than two of every three bottles labeled imported extra virgin olive oil are either a cheaper grade of olive oil or adulterated with another type of oil, a University of California at Davis study found.

Top-selling brands including Bertolli, Filippo Berio, Carapelli, Pompeiian, Colavita, Mazola and Carapelli all had bottles that flunked the test -- containing instead a cheaper virgin olive oil, the study by the university's Olive Center found. Even a brand carrying the name of TV host Rachael Ray -- who frequently touts her supposedly extra virgin olive oil -- flunked the testing on two of three samples.

WalMart's "Great Value" store brand olive oil is -- not surprisingly -- pretty inexpensive compared to alternatives, and since I consume so much olive oil I make a point of buying theirs (I usually keep 3-4 gallons around at any given time, which also gives me a nice healthy calorie-dense hedge against disaster).  But surely at such a great price they must be one of those aforementioned scammers, right?

The chemical analysis did find that 90% of the California-packaged olive oils were indeed what they claimed to be. Two that were exactly what they claimed to be were Walmart's Great Value brand and Costco's Kirkland Organic.


Well, that's a relief.  While I'm not in California, I expect that holds true across all of WalMart's distribution chain.  It's ironic, though, that the big bad box stores are in fact the most honest.

Of course, not all the players are self-regulating here, and this is one of those cases where libertarians welcome proper regulation of the marketplace.  Oftentimes such regulation amounts to ridiculous rentseeking (such as the 80-year-old barber forced to get a license), but effective regulation is valuable to a free market -- all that intangible capital we Americans enjoy is largely in the form of trust, such as trusting that labels really tell us what's in a product.

posted by Dave at 03:41 PM | Comments (16)

"Auto" eroticism -- a problem of elephantine and nonsexical proportions

I can't remember where I found the link, but this article about an elephant raping a car got me to thinking about morality.


Sorry if I misstated the facts a bit. Perhaps what happened should not have been called "rape." This is not to say that the car consented, for cars are incapable of consent. So are mannequins.

Morally as well as legally, animals cannot and do not commit rape. While we humans can commit rape against humans, human on animal sex is not considered rape because only humans can commit rape or be raped. Obviously, that means that it is not possible for a human being to "rape" an inanimate object.

But would it be correct even to call such behavior sex?

There are all sorts of variations (or "perversions" for those who are into the term) in the world of humans, and it is certainly feasible for a human to become sexually aroused by a car. Many people have described cars as sexy, and a lot of people think the bulbous streamlined cars of the 1950s were voluptuous. So it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that the right car might be capable of making the right man achieve an orgasm. 

How perverted would that be, though? Is arousal by car the sort of thing normally associated with sexual immorality? And suppose we broke that down into its component parts. I think a lot of people might think the idea of a guy actually mounting a car would be perverted, but suppose he was riding inside the car, and got turned on by the vibrations? Vibration eroticism is quite common; even women have been known to get turned on by vibrations, and not just by devices intended to cause sexual stimulation. Some are known to be turned on by riding on a motorcyle. Now, why is that less perverted that actually being attracted to the machine itself? How about getting sexually turned on by pictures of cars? Auto pornography, anyone? (I didn't spend much time researching this, although I did find a disappointing piece with the exciting title of The Automobile as Erotic Bride.)

Who decides where these lines are drawn? The People Who Care The Most? Who would they be? Why should people who care more have a monopoly over people who don't care as much? That sounds like environmentalism, animal rights, or any host of isms. The people who care the most have the most power and the people who care the least and want to be left alone have little or no say in the matter. Environmentalists are a tiny minority of the population, yet their word is law where it comes to the environment (and the environment is almost anything they want it to be). Why? Because they are said to be the most protective of it? So why not put people who are most "protective" of cars in charge of protecting them? So where does that leave the people who are turned on by cars?

But this is a very bad example of sexual immorality, for it may not be sexual immorality at all. I'm also thinking that very few people would be annoyed enough by sex with cars to care about protecting cars from guys with car fetishes (or guys with car fetishes from their own proclivities). It might be considered very odd or eccentric, but it simply isn't shocking, and it would never be made illegal. 

Why? Because it isn't sexual? Car sex doesn't touch on humans, so we don't see it as threatening in the moral sense? How about sex with robots, then? I think people would get a lot more exercised about that, because like fetishes involving human items of clothing (or even a bicycle seat fetish) sex with robots comes a lot closer to human sex, as the robots resemble humans. However, if the "robot" were simply a booth like the Orgasmatron, it would not be likely to trigger the same "that's immoral!" reaction. Let's face it; screwing a woman's shoe is immoral and perverted in a way that screwing an inner tube or hub cap is not. This touches on the objection many people have to pornography. If a man is turned on by a magazine, people are offended because of the human image the magazine contains. It's tough to imagine a physical attraction to non-pornographic printed material (like finding erotic sensation in a magazine with no pictures), but if that did happen, few if any moralists would be screaming. 

Likewise, few worried about cultural decay when a man was alleged to have been found screwing a pumpkin. Yes, it turned out to be an urban legend, but I did find simulated pumpkin sex on YouTube as well as a written account by a man who claims to have sexually penetrated a pumpkin. So it might as well have happened. I am not counting Boulder's Naked Pumpkin Run, though because even though the kids put pumpkins on their heads and ran around naked, there's no indication they did so for purposes of sexual gratification.

However, I suspect that there's a slippery slope in there somewhere.

Perhaps I'm looking for immorality in all the wrong places.

Maybe the rule is that for a sex act to be immoral, it has to be in, er, the right place.

posted by Eric at 01:17 PM | Comments (2)

Breaking the narratives that enslave us

The video of the black gay Tea Partyer getting harassed by angry leftists has been widely circulated and commented upon, and the reason I can't stop thinking about it is not only because it demonstrates in a microcosm the nastiness of the left (I should probably say "the Jim Crow left" -- more on that later), but because it is the most perfect example I have seen of pure non-narrativism. I don't know whether that's a word, but maybe it should be. Not only is the black gay Tea Partyer himself a triple narrative violation, but people on the left hate to be caught in a multiple violations of their own narrative, which is they are never racist, and never homophobic. (For an especially jaw-dropping example of leftist homophobia, see Michelle Malkin's post, and check out the video.)

Gateway Pundit was the first to link the video of the harassment of the black gay Tea Partyer (there are at least three of them). The whole thing is pretty chaotic, but thanks to Glenn's link to a post by Looking at the Left I found a thorough breakdown of the scene with pictures and dialogue, along with an interview with the man himself, Leland Robinson:

That man with the Gadsden flag turned out to be Leland Robinson, 51, a Denver native. I was reminded of another black man who was waving a Gadsden flag at an SEIU event in St. Louis in 2009. Kenneth Gladney was viciously attacked and hospitalized by SEIU thugs for his thought crimes.

As I spoke with Mr. Robinson, a school teacher interrupted as he had decided to teach Leland a few union thug lessons.

The man said he was a school teacher and felt that he deserved sympathy because after 14 years of work, he made only"Forty-something thousand" a year. With the entire benefit package, we all know that this figure soars. And that's for working 180 days a year. He claimed that without the union, he'd be making $8 an hour.

At this point, an aggressive woman with a purple SEIU shirt assailed Robinson with a flurry of insults.

"That's your problem. You're an entrepreneur, so you don't work. You don't know what work is until you get into an educational area. ... You're uneducated, unethical, immoral, and you don't know what life is. That's your problem. Why don't you go behind that fence where you belong? Why don't you go back with your own kind?" She said this indicating towards the bottom of the Capitol Steps, where a couple of hundred tea partiers were gathered listening to speeches.

Um, excuse me for interrupting with a rhetorical question, but can anyone even begin to imagine the outcry if a white conservative had told a black person to "go back with your own kind"?

Next, this lady in red rudely got in Robinson's face.

Lady in red: "I asked you a question: Do you have any children? That you claim, that you claim."

Robinson: "Do I need children to understand what's going on?"

Lady in red: "You need children to understand education."

Robinson: "No I don't."

Bystander: "What did you mean when you said does he have any children that he claims?"

Lady in red: "Because he's such a free spirit and an entrepreneur, I would assume that he's not supporting children.

(To Robinson:) You are a big-mouth take-care-of-yourself man. You don't care about anyone."

At this point, police interceded. Seeing a lone black man being shouted at by union goons, they decided it was better that he joined the tea party protest at the bottom of the stairs, where he would be safe. Robinson told me that he had never attended a tea party before, and had never belonged to any political organization.

When I asked the lady in red why she was so incensed at Robinson, a man she had never spoken to in her life, she said "He comes here dressed to the nines, look at him. He is portraying someone not from this community." She admitted that her assumption that this black man has children he doesn't support was racist, but said "What I said is racist, but I am not a racist."

It sounds like she thinks that a taxpayer who doesn't want to pay 100% of the Cadillac retirement and health benefits of state workers is too greedy to pay for his own children.This is putting a nice spin scrubbed of racial animosity on the incident. But this moment also highlights an insidious form of Liberal racism. Mr. Leland said that he is accustomed to double hostility from liberal Democrats not just because he is conservative, but doubly so because he is a black who is not behaving as they think a black man should behave. They feel free to hurl their venom on him because he stands up as a free and successful man, proud of his achievements, who is not dependent on their party. He rejects their liberalism and their party's race identity politics and openly states that both have done harm to black families and individuals in America.

I am reminded of an incident from childhood, and it's pretty ugly, but I think it belongs here. In the early 1960s (when segregation and Jim Crow were very much alive) my parents took me on a road trip from up North in Philadelphia to stay at a lovely resort down South. There was a beautiful lake there and I wandered to the side of the lake to watch some ducks swim. An old white lady was also watching the ducks, and she engaged me in conversation. I don't know why, but eventually she turned to the topic of race, by suddenly asking me point blank what I thought of President Johnson (who had only recently taken office, after JFK's assassination). I thought it was unusual for an adult to be asking a kid such a question, so I sort of ducked and said "I don't know" the way a kid will when confronted.

The woman scowled, and asked me loudly and angrily, "DID YOU KNOW HE'S PUTTING N****RS IN THE WHITE HOUSE?" I knew I was in "The South," and I had heard my parents talking about "the race issue" down there, but I was shocked, as nothing had prepared me to be asked a question like that. Fortunately, she had not asked the question to hear my answer, but only by way of making her pronouncement. While she carried on, a well-dressed black couple also happened to be walking along nearby (this was a Sunday afternoon, so I assume they might have been to church earlier), and the woman then looked at me and exclaimed, "I HATE SEEING N****RS DRESSED UP!" Again, nothing had prepared me to hear a statement like that by an old lady. Later I told my parents, and my father explained patiently that there were a number of bigoted and ignorant people down there and it would take time for things to get better.

The white woman who harassed Mr. Robinson might not have used the N-word, but it her sentiment was eerily similar to the bigoted old woman who got in my face and whom I have never forgotten.

But racism does not exist on the left! Nor does homophobia! Hear hear!

I'm glad to see someone standing up to left wing Jim Crow racism and the homophobia that does not exist. In addition to not accepting the degrading and subordinate role which the left assigns to him for his race, Robinson also refuses the degrading and subordinate role the left assigns him for his sexuality:

I contacted Leland Robinson by phone and here is part of what he told me:

"When you are African-American or Hispanic it's like" okay you were born black so that means you're a liberal, so you're born gay so you're a liberal". Hmmmm, I don't know. I was born with a brain so that gives me the opportunity to do my fight.

I won't quote it in its entirety, but read it all.

The guy is a hero.

I have rarely seen a more perfect illustration of how the left is hopelessly stuck in its bigoted narratives than their treatment of the black gay Tea Partyer.

Nor have I seen a more ringing indictment of identity politics, which of course is all about narrative politics. Whatever category they put you in comes with a scripted narrative, to which you must conform.

Those on the right who say that sexuality should not be treated like race have it half right. Race should not be treated like race! Why would any gay person who wants to be treated as a full citizen want to be subjected to the same condescending treatment to which blacks are routinely subjected? Why would any free citizen want to be assigned to a special category when that means having to think in a certain way and vote in a certain way?

So, I agree that it is wrong to treat gays like blacks. By his heroic example, Leland Robinson is an indictment of the concept. 

In terms of the right to be free citizens, though, gays are like blacks are like Asians are like Jews are like Hispanics.

A few people on the right disagree, and one of the mistakes they make is by asserting that cultural views and attitudes from the past should be controlling on the present. As I have talked to Tea Partyers who think this way (and commenters here have made the same point repeatedly), I think it's worth examining the idea that the views toward homosexuality from centuries ago are somehow binding on present day America.

I found a typical example of this view expressed at the website of a local conservative organization which supports the Tea Party movement.

...the men who drafted the U.S. Constitution considered sodomy a serious crime and it was never tolerated in either the original thirteen colonies or in Washington's Continental Army.

Well, that's undeniably true. And so what? If we are going to resort to prevailing opinions from certain eras, and if we are going to take the views of individual founders as authoritative, why stop with sexuality? What about slavery? What about the view that black people were inherently inferior to white people? That women were to be subordinate and should not vote? That the whipping post or ducking stool were appropriate punishments for various offenses? Why should the view of a founder on sodomy be any more controlling than his views on slavery, or for that matter his view of the age of the earth? I think it's obvious that none of these views should be controlling on people today, and I doubt very much the founders would have wanted them to. After all, they were founding a country, and they wanted it to be based on the Constitution, not a bunch of petty narratives.

Not that my views are controlling either, but let me say for the umpteenth time that I think things like race and sexuality should not matter.

The people who think they should remind of that mean old white lady by the side of the beautiful southern lake.

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

Comments appreciated -- agree or disagree.

posted by Eric at 10:26 AM | Comments (28)

What Kind Of Utopia Do You Want?

The left likes pain free utopias (why should anyone suffer?). The right likes painful ones (how else can you learn?). A middle way would be nice.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:46 AM | Comments (3)

Miscarriages Will Need To Be Investigated

Back in December of 2009 a commenter at The Other McCain said:

The Indentured Servant Girl said...

M. Simon: women were not, and would not be charged with murder for procuring an abortion. It is the doctors that the law goes after.

Of course I had a response in my post Abortion Is Murder. My central question was this:
The question for me is enforcement. How intrusive will the government have to get to make it work? Weekly pregnancy tests? (the Drug War precedent) And of course with new technology coming on line - maybe electronic sniffers to look for changes in the body? Then every miscarriage becomes a murder investigation
I was pretty far out on a limb on that one. So far out that it was not taken seriously.

Well I 'm not on a limb any longer. According to Bridget Casey we have a state legislator proposing just such a law.Georgia State Representative Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta) just introduced a new bill to the legislature called HB 1. This bill is basically an anti-abortion bill. It is extremely rigid with almost no wiggle room and it's causing the lefty loons to go berserk. His bill defines the beginning of life as the moment of conception and any person who ends that life shall be guilty of murder....period. Now...I am a very devout Catholic pro-life gal and I think abortions are wrong but I think this bill goes too far.

For instance....Mr. Franklin wants all miscarriages to be investigated unless they occurred in the presence of a doctor. So in other words, if you miscarry at home, you could be investigated and you would have to prove that you did nothing to cause that miscarriage. If you took a sleeping pill or if you had a glass of wine then you would have to prove that neither of those things caused you to lose your baby...or you could be charged with murder.I warned of this very thing in my November 2005 post It Is All About Enforcement.

And of course every miscarriage will need a murder investigation.
There is much more there about how an anti-abortion law will need to be enforced. None of it is good. Murder investigations are expensive and the number of them required if this law was a nationwide law would go from about 20,000 to on the order of 200,000. The effort on regular murder cases would decline or vast sums of money would be required to put this into effect.

Neil Boortz has some thoughts on this.

We are sure that Franklin believes women who suffer miscarriages should be put in a position where they might have to prove they did nothing to cause that miscarriage or face charges for murder and possible execution.

Now, you're probably thinking that I've blown an exhaust valve here. Read it for yourself in Franklin's House Bill 1 -- introduced, by the way, with no co-sponsors.

The purpose of the bill is to take what Franklin calls "prenatal murder" and make it a crime punishable by death. By "prenatal murder," Mr. Franklin means abortion.

What you may not immediately realize is that Mr. Franklin is also referring to miscarriages. See line 114 of my copy of Franklin's bill: "Prenatal murder means the intentional removal of a fetus from a woman with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus."

On line 118 you'll read that a miscarriage might also be prosecuted as prenatal murder if it can be shown that the pregnant woman took some action that might have played a role in the miscarriage.

In other words, if Bobby Franklin's bill were to become law (not gonna happen) a woman who suffers the anguish of a miscarriage could be put in the position of having to prove that she did nothing whatsoever to cause that miscarriage or face a murder charge.

One of the commenters at Hill Buzz
dginga Says:

February 24, 2011 at 5:07 pm

"I can't imagine the pain and horror of having to deal with losing a child and then *prove my freaking innocence* if I had a miscarriage out of a doctor's sight!"

MamaCon, my mother had to do that very thing back in the 1960′s before Roe V. Wade, and it made her a rabid pro-choice advocate forever after (and she's 85 now). Even though she already had SEVEN children. Even though she was well over 40 at the time. Even though it was a high-risk pregnancy to begin with, when she miscarried at home and my dad took her to the emergency room, she said the docs and nurses treated her like a criminal assuming that she had given herself an abortion rather than making the very realistic (and true) assumption that she was too old for the fetus to be viable. After that experience she vowed to support the pro-choice advocates so that no woman would ever be treated like that again following a miscarriage.

The problem is a political one. As a commenter points out.
rikc Says:

February 24, 2011 at 10:08 pm

One jack-wagon and an order of fries to go! Geeze is this dude for real???? Someone please tell me this person is a plant from the Odumbo camp to make us Indies lean back towards the dems! There are a lot of us Indies who are moderate to liberal who voted GOP in the last election because the dems were simply out of control, not to mention Odumob's antics, however if the GOP doesn't squash this asshattery by lunatic fringe people like this guy, a lot of us will be forced to go back to the left. So again I pose the question, is this guy for real, or is he a plant from the Odumbo camp to gather up all the Indies who left the dems at the starting gate in the past two elections???

Lefty site Mother Jones has this to say:
Holding women criminally liable for a totally natural, common biological process is cruel and non-sensical. Even more ridiculous, the bill holds women responsible for protecting their fetuses from "the moment of conception," despite the fact that pregnancy tests aren't accurate until at least 3 weeks after conception. Unless Franklin (who is not a health professional) invents a revolutionary intrauterine conception alarm system, it's unclear how exactly the state of Georgia would enforce that rule other than holding all possibly-pregnant women under lock and key.

I've seen a lot of anti-woman, hate-filled bills this year, but this one takes the cake. And it's not just anti-woman, it's anti-logic. The bill contends that Georgia is exempt from upholding Supreme Court decisions like Roe v. Wade because the Constitution's Article I only governs five crimes: counterfeiting, piracy, high seas felonies, offenses against the law of nations, and treason. According to the bill, since murder is not one of those five crimes, it should be solely governed by the state. The bill also mandates that doctors must try to save the mother and the fetus, even though as we know, there are many situations in which both cannot be saved. It also changes medical terminology, re-designating all zygotes, embryos, and concepti as fetuses. In the bill's logic, a fertilized egg is the same as a person, and its destruction is murder. Sometimes even a fertilized egg will fail to adhere to the uterine lining, so would that make a uterus a murderer?

I have written a few other posts on the abortion question.

Letter To A Friend

The Jewish Position On Abortion

The Jews And Partial Birth Abortion

I'm against abortion and I'm also against government involvement in the question. It is a political, medical, and legal minefield. Which is why I support Rockford Pro Life which is against abortion and against government involvement in the question.

Which reminds me of another question. Can anyone point me to a secular anti-abortion group? I have never heard of one.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:29 AM | Comments (5)

The Problem With Socialists And Socialist Conservatives

Bill Whittle explains "The Problem With Socialists And Socialist Conservatives" in his review of the movie Forbidden Planet.

Forbidden Planet (Two-Disc 50th Anniversary DVD Edition)

This book is a further exposition on the subject:

God's Executioner: Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland

And if that isn't enough for you I have a C.S. Lewis quote:

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

Me? I'd rather not live under any form of socialism. As a wag once said of the "problem": "If you tell people what to do they will do the opposite. If you leave them alone they will do as they damn well please."

Short version: leaving people alone causes fewer problems.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:03 PM | Comments (4)

Wisconsin Teachers Mafia

Wisconsin Teachers Mafia: Give us the money or the kid gets it.

Parent: Gets what?

Wisconsin Teachers Mafia: Educated by us.

Parent: But you don't educate the kids.

Wisconsin Teachers Mafia: OK. How much will you pay us to leave the kids alone?

Parent: You are going to need a doctor's excuse for that.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:57 PM | Comments (1)

Conflated confabulations of frenzied and fulminating Fonziephobia

Anti-libertarian snark fascinates me, and it seems to get louder and louder, and ever more insulting. I've complained about it before, and my recent worries have tended to focus on the tension between libertarians and social conservatives in the Tea Party context.

But I don't mean to neglect anti-libertarian snark on the left! It's just that sometimes there are more important issues to focus on, and it is easy for me to overlook things I don't see.

Right now, a huge target of the left is the Koch family. For a hard core leftie (whether a union hack, a socialist or a commie), the Koch brothers are seen in much the same way people on the right see George Soros. A pair of Great Satans.

But oh, how the left hates it when their narratives fail!

Yesterday, Reason's Nick Gillespie ridiculed the demonization of the Koch brothers in a piece titled "Why the Evil Koch Bros. Must be Stopped: They Support Drug Legalization, Gay Marriage, Reduced Defense Spending."

John Cole and his commenters are not happy with the piece. Nor do they seem happy over Nick Gillespie's penchant for leather jackets. For this offense (and probably for his casual demeanor), he has been dubbed "The Fonz."

You know, Fonzie, from Happy Days? I see it now! How clever!

And because Fonzie was a moron, Nick Gillespie must be too. And in exactly the same way Fonzie would if he knew how to write, Gillespie cites "gibberish":

Demonstrating that not only does he have a finger on the beating heart of fashion, but also public opinion, the Fonz links to this gibberish from some random crank on Reddit:

    The KOCH brothers must be stopped. They gave $40K to Scott Walker, the MAX allowed by state law. That's small potatoes compared to the $100+ million they give to other organizations. These organizations will terrify you. If the anti-union thing weren't enough, here are bigger and better reasons to stop the evil Kochs. They are trying to:

          1. decriminalize drugs

          2. legalize gay marriage

          3. repeal the Patriot Act

          4. end the police state

          5. cut defense spending.

Gillespie claims this will have a hand in "complicating dumb media narratives and blowing the minds of some of your leftard friends..."

You seriously can not spoof this guy.

Aw, come on! It's easy to seriously spoof this guy. Simply make fun of his attire and everything he says and everything he cites somehow becomes wrong. Gibberish! No further proof is required. 

Hmmm... I'm wondering about something. If Nick decided to ditch the biker garb and switch to a pinstripe suit and a more conservative haircut*, would that earn him new respect on the left?

I don't know. But if the comments are any indication I somehow doubt it. I selected a few.

First, a fantastically ingenious penis insult:

Gillespie is about as useful as a dick that is wider than it is long.

Hey, there's an old San Francisco expression about bigoted sexual narrowmindedness. "Don't knock it until you've tried it!"

Somehow, Gillespie's observations are also being seen as a teaching moment to instruct us about a chilling major goal I had never heard about before, but which is shared by both Republicans and Libertarians -- the destruction of epistemology:

One major goal of current day Republicans and Libertarians is to destroy epistemology.

How come I have to go to a leftist blog to find that out? Why is there nothing in the GOP platform about destruction of epistemology? And why have I not heard so much as a word about this at any Tea Party event?

Am I being deliberately kept in the dark?

Deeply worried, I read on, and another commenter amplified on the meme:

No doubt. I've been saying for awhile that this crop of "repuglicans" are the greatest post-modernists this world has ever seen. French Philosophers would drop their hand-rolled cigarettes in shock at how far they've taken the concept "there is no truth but what we make", and made a Global Reality of it.

All I can say to that is Who Knew? Why, just last month Sarah's son wrote a great post about Post Modernism, and he didn't say a word about the GOP or Tea Party PoMos. How much did the Koch brothers pay him to keep it out?

I am beginning to suspect a plot. Perhaps I should read leftist blogs more often!

After struggling with the deconstruction of epistemology idea till my dimwitted little libertarian head began to hurt, I found succor in a much more traditional insult:

Dude, you're a glib little bitch who would let "the market" take care of people with special needs, which would cause them to be forever condemned to closets, institutions, and/or the streets.

Fuck you.

What a relief! All I can say to that is "Hey dude, meet the Fonz out back if you have any cajones!" Maybe he can finally knock some sense into their epistemology. (Just kidding, folks. I know the left would never engage in violence.....)

Another commenter had actually gone over to Reason to read comments, and was shocked to see that someone had actually questioned child labor laws. Yes, they actually debated such a thing. Heaven forefend!

There's actually a debate in the comments of that post about whether child labor laws should exist - after all, shouldn't the parent decide, not the state?

I cannot believe I wasted time reading that crap. I'm really really hoping my snarkmeter failed and they weren't actually being serious.

I'd wish they would read Sarah's "Marx is dead" post for additional enlightenment on child labor laws. Might send the snarkmeter off the charts.

I should read leftie blogs more often.

Seeing how upset they become over support for things like drug legalization, and gay marriage on the right makes me wonder if they aren't natural allies for some of the social conservatives who are upset over the same things and who want to kick libertarians out of the tent.

As I've said before, the conservative "traditional values" crowd can't do it alone.

Sometimes the left provides a lift.

* In the interest of full disclosure, I feel obligated to point out that when I met Nick Gillespie at an event in DC, I was in full capitalist pig attire, and Nick was wearing his leather jacket! I admit, for a moment I might have been inclined to feel overdressed. But being a libertarian, I failed to succumb to Fonziephobia.

Besides, according to Dave, Nick takes his leather jacket off occasionally.

MORE: More on the sinister pair who refuse to conform to the left's narrative. Benito's Boy Wonder Glenn Reynolds (who says the brothers have been "EXPOSED AT LAST") links a Radley Balko piece titled "The Koch Brothers' Right-Wing Conspiracy to Undermine the PATRIOT Act."

Balko has lots of dirt, including this:

...the $20 million donation the Kochs made to the ACLU to fight the Bush administration over the PATRIOT Act. Browsing various accounts of the Kochs political spending over the years, that $20 million appears to be substantially more than the Kochs have contributed to all political candidates combined for at least the last 15 years.

What kind of shameless America-haters would help to undermine the Patriot Act?

And it gets worse. One of the brothers has Libertarian bona fides:

David Koch did run for Vice President on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980, but on a platform of legalizing drugs and prostitution, and abolishing the FBI and CIA.

Isn't it about time for real conservatives to join forces with the left and take their party back so they can rid the GOP of subversive libertarian infiltrators before they ruin every last narrative that's left?

posted by Eric at 12:13 PM | Comments (9)

"in order for democracy to work"

While it was shocking enough to read that a man described as a lawyer has requested a presidential pardon for Charles Manson, what is also shocking is that any attorney would be so incapable of understanding what several of Glenn's readers do -- that Charles Manson was convicted only of state offenses.

Yes, Manson was convicted in a California court of murders that occurred in California, and was sentenced by a California court.

Glenn says Manson's purported attorney is "barking up the wrong tree, as the President can only issue pardons for federal offenses."

That is so true that I long thought it was beyond dispute, and said so in two posts. Federalism (separation of state and federal jurisdiction) is so basic a concept that it shouldn't be worth another post pointing it out.

Except this is the second time in the past year that I've seen such a misdirected pardon request, the first being a Saudi man convicted in a Colorado court of a rape occurring in Colorado. I pointed out that the Saudi lobbyists should have petitioned the Colorado governor, but snarked that not only might the Saudis think Obama has kingly powers, so might the people who attend trendy leftist cocktail parties:

I realize that many of the backwards-thinking constitutional literalists like me will argue that he simply doesn't have the power, because the Constitution doesn't give him the power, but haven't we already been proven wrong many times, and by better minds than our own?

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

After all, who wants to be laughed at?

Looking more closely into the Manson pardon request, I saw that the "lawyer" (in quotes because I am not sure what he is) who wrote to the president (PDF) is not an American, but an Italian, one Giovanni Di Stefano.

To call Di Stefano a piece of work does not quite do the man justice. The "clients" (for lack of a better term) listed on his Wiki page (and he has complained that Wiki defamed him, naturally) read like a Who's Who of World Crooks and Swindlers. He's a friend of all sorts of awful people (like Slobadan Milosevic), and has tried to intervene on behalf os Saddam Hussein and others:

Notable people that Giovanni Di Stefano has represented include: Saddam Hussein;[20] Tariq Aziz;[21] Patrick Holland;[22] Jeremy Bamber;[23] Nicholas van Hoogstraten;[24] John Gilligan;[25] Charles Bronson[26][27] Ali Hassan al-Majid (known as Chemical Ali, whose death sentence Di Stefano tried, but failed, to overturn);[27] Gary Glitter (pop star);[28] Birgit Cunningham (on her child support payment complaints against the son of billionaire Sir Nicholas Nuttal);[29] Ian Brady;[30] and Ian Strachan (one of the defendants in the 2007 royal blackmail plot).[31] He has also represented Ronald Biggs (one of the Great Train Robbers) in his claims for release from prison.[32]

I am unable to determine whether the man is a lawyer, but it does seem that he is a businessman who acts as a sort of lawyer: Italian businessman, notable through his involvement in various legal cases. Raised in the United Kingdom, but based in Italy, he has made a reputation claiming to act as lawyer for high-profile notorious defendants worldwide - he has been referred to as [1][2] "The Devil's Advocate".[nb 1] He was a business associate of Serbian paramilitary leader Arkan (Željko Ražnatović)[2][3] and appeared on CNN as part of the defence team in the trial of Saddam Hussein.[4][5] He has taken a considerable interest in football, and is a music producer.

Whether he understands federalism or the Constitution is probably a silly question, as I doubt Di Stefano could care less anyway.

From his letter to President Obama:

The Applicant is now 76 years of age and has served 43 years on what at worst should have been no more than nineteen even if one could sustain that he had received a fair trial. On the basis of the above as stated where the judiciary cannot, will not or simply fail to rectify a wrong it is for the Executive no matter how notorious the Applicant to apply the powers vested by the Constitution.

President Gerald Ford applied the pardon to former President Richard Nixon on September 8, 1974, for official misconduct which gave rise to the Watergate scandal. Andrew Johnson pardoned thousands of former Confederate officials and military personnel after the American Civil War. Jimmy Carter granted amnesty to Vietnam-era draft dodgers. George H. W. Bush's pardoned 75 people, including six Reagan administration officials accused and/or convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra affair. William Clinton commuted sentences for 16 members of FALN in 1999 and of 140 people on his last day in office, including billionaire fugitive Marc Rich. Most recently, George W. Bush's commuted the prison term of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

This application is for remission of sentence of the above for the reasons outlined. We are of course it requires courage and even audacity and may not be popular because the media have painted the Applicant in a manner that is frankly, not consistent with the evidence. In order for Democracy to work the Criminal Justice System must work and the application of executive intervention is often required. We ask that it is applied to this applicant.

Whether you like Barack Obama or not, does any American president really need a lecture from an Italian crackpot about how Charles Manson needs to be pardoned "in order for democracy to work"? (And why does CNN consider this man a legal expert?)

Needless to say, the presidential pardons Di Stefano mentions all involved federal crimes. If the man is serious (which I seriously doubt), he should be asking California Governor Jerry Brown to pardon Charles Manson. And good luck with that; I doubt even Governor Moonbeam is that crazy.

What worries me is to see this happening twice.

I'd hate to see the idea that President Obama possesses (or should possess) extraconstitutional, kingly powers become an international habit.

posted by Eric at 03:40 PM | Comments (4)

A government tax on "consumption" that isn't there?

Much as I hate being distracted from important issues of the day, it so happens that today is my bill-paying day, which means I have to devote a moderate amount of time to opening bills, tearing off the payment slips, writing checks for the amounts on the slips (with account numbers written on all the checks), then put all that in envelopes, stamp them, and put them in the mail.

This almost never takes more than a half an hour, except this morning I happened to notice that my AT&T phone bill seemed higher than it should have been. Looking more closely, I saw a charge in the amount of 12.95 for "ID LIFE GUARDS-CREDIT PROTECT/REPAIR" listed on an enclosed bill from a company called "ILD Teleservices." I never did, and never would, order such a "service," so I was very suspicious, and promptly Googled the company. 

It turns out to be a huge scam -- called "Cramming," and countless people are complaining about it.

According to the National Association of Attorneys General, cramming was the 4th most common consumer complaint of 2007[4].  

If a scam like that has been around that long, why isn't anything being done to stop the scammers? And why is AT&T enabling them, then telling people that they have no choice?

Flawed System

AT&T allows ANYBODY to claim that you signed up for their services, through ILD, even though you did not. Then AT&T charges you for whatever amount the thieving "merchant" says you owe.

Cramming is the practice of placing fraudulent, unauthorized charges on your phone bill, which you did not order, and you do not want.

ILD Teleservices - Fraud Enablers
ILD Teleservices (International Long Distance Teleservices) placed a phony charge of $15.95 on my April phone bill.
When I called, "Alma" insisted that I had "Signed Up Online" for a service called "Family Contact". I never did any such thing. This witch continued to insist that I had signed up for the service. In spite of the fact that all she does every day is listen to these complaints. A little disingenuous maybe? How about BOLD FACED LIAR! She knows damn well what is going on.

Thousands of Victims
Most people just pay, because they assume that it is a legitimate change. It is not. It is telecom FRAUD, pure and simple.
This is happening to 1000's of AT&T phone customers. You must watch your bill like a hawk, and contest any phony charges. ILD is depending on the fact that many AT&T customers will not notice.

The Complaints Against ILD
How many online complaints are there? You tell me -
ILD Teleservices Complaints - Google says 9,120
ILD Teleservices Complaints - Yahoo says 3,690
ILD Teleservices Complaints - Bing says 2,120

Etc. There are so many consumer complaints (and websites screaming about this rampant corporate fraud) that I got tired of reading them. Here are a couple of good posts on the subject, and a helpful site with tips on how best to avoid the problem. There's even a pissed-off-ILD-Services-consumer website.

It's analogous to automated credit card billing (and I suspect that AT&T wanted to get a piece of the automated turf action and charges fees to companies like ILD), but the difference is that it's much harder for a scammer to get hold of credit card numbers than phone numbers. And as is explained here, any scammer can have anyone just call in and say your number is theirs. No verification is done.

But wait. If I am a victim of such absolute fraud based on a false claim I ordered something I never did, how can I be said to be a "consumer"? Doesn't being a consumer require, like, actually buying or wanting to buy something? I have no consumer relationship with this scamming company other than the fact that they managed to sneak an unauthorized item onto my phone bill. It's no diffferent than if some thief got hold of my credit card numbers and generated charges for things I never ordered or received. How could I be called a "consumer" when I neither consumed nor expressed an interest in consuming?

A conscientious Bay Area television station did an investigative report on Cramming, and there's a YouTube video showing an older woman complaining about the bogus charges.


The first thing that went through my mind when I saw my bill was that while it's relatively easy for me to spot fraud, there are a lot of less sophisticated people (or elderly people who tend to do as they are told) who might see an itemized charge for "ILD Services" and assume that it's just "part of the phone company bill" and they should simply pay it.

While it galls me to see a big company like AT&T working in connivance with scam artists and then hiding behind the government by saying they have no choice, seeing such blatant ducking of responsibilities by government officials from the Public Utilities Commission -- which is charged with policing large utilities and headquarted in the very left-wing city of San Francisco -- had me puzzled at first. So did the bafflement expressed by the investigative reporters. 

Why indeed would the government drag its feet?

A closer look at my bill revealed a possible reason.


Just below the fraudulent $12.95 charge is an item called "Government Fees and Taxes." The amount the government receives is .97. Now, I know that ninety seven cents isn't enough to upset most people. After all, it is conveniently less than a dollar and most people wouldn't begrudge the government such a piddling sum. But still, I'm thinking that if the government gets a dollar a month from every one of these automated corporate scams, a dollar here and a dollar there spread out over millions of consumers might add up to real money. Might that account for government foot dragging?

Bad as it is to have AT&T enable fraud, I think there is something even worse about the government benefiting from from what amounts to a fraud tax.

And because this fraud is a crime, this amounts to a crime victim tax. Sorry, but even though it's only ninety seven cents, the idea that the government is taxing people for being victims of crime simply adds insult to injury. Imagine if the government taxed people on the value of items stolen from them by burglars.

People really ought to be howling over this. Trouble is, they already are, yet the practice is "mysteriously" allowed to continue.

So, while I can't prove it, I strongly suspect the fact that this fraud is generating tax revenues might help explain the "mystery."

posted by Eric at 10:25 AM | Comments (9)

Take The Bastards Down

I think they have the wrong bastards in mind. But if they want smashing this 66 year old is up for it. Let them fire the first shot. Then give them some serious counter battery fire. Two for range and then fire for effect.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:31 AM | Comments (1)

The Old Order Is Breaking Down

Commenter Frank asked me to elaborate on my point about the start of the next world war at Palin: Libyans Should Be Protected By Nato. I replied in a comment. I think that comment deserves more eyeballs.



The world system is breaking down. In America:

1. The lower education/union bubble
2. The higher education bubble
3. The real estate bubble
4. Not enough oil production
5. Drug Prohibition is being recognized as a failure
6. Insufficient food production to support the world system.
7. The Green bubble
8. Unsustainable Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.
9. The Democrat party is near a collapse point. Wisconsin is the leading indicator
10. etc

Europe - similar to the above without oil resources plus a Muslim problem.

In the Middle East:

1. Islam is breaking down due to the Internet/cell phones
2. It will not go quietly
3. Muslim Brotherhood etc.
4. Not enough food production
5. Dictators R us
6. etc.


1. Food
2. The Jasmine Revolution
3. Internet/cell phones - see Jasmine Revolution
4. One Party rule - like the Democrats in America only worse

India - I'm going to have to study more. Probably much of the above plus an Islam problem going back at least 500 years only partially resolved with the India/Pakistan partition.

No doubt much more.

The world system is breaking down. Much of the old system that we have been carrying is unsupportable. It will be a better system once the old order is gone. The old order will not go without a fight.

Texas is designing a degree system that will cost the student $10,000. I don't see why the cost shouldn't be more on the order of $2,000. We have the Internet.

The US is well positioned with its TEA Parties to come out on top of this upheaval. But it will not be pretty here either.

Some good places to start for further reading are:

The Origins of The Second World War


The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914

From a review:

The fateful quarter-century leading up to the World War I was a time when the world of Privilege still existed in Olympian luxury and the world of Protest was heaving in its pain, its power, and its hate. The age was the climax of a century of the most accelerated rate of change in history, a cataclysmic shaping of destiny.

Sound familiar?


The Guns of August

May I also suggest Sara Hoyt's blog post Marx Is Dead

Batten the hatches, General Quarters, Incoming! This is not going to be pretty. At all.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers.

posted by Simon at 06:04 AM | Comments (29)

Palin: Libyans Should Be Protected By Nato

Sarah Palin says Libya should be declared a no-fly zone.

...Gaddafi is a brutal killer and Libya - not to mention the world - would be better off if he were out of power. Now is the time to speak out. Speak out for the long-suffering Libyan people. Speak out for the victims of Gaddafi's terror. NATO and our allies should look at establishing a no-fly zone so Libyan air forces cannot continue slaughtering the Libyan people.
You know what the Peacemongers will say:
Damn Warmongers interfering in the internal affairs of other nations. Every nation has the right to kill its own citizens in mass quantities. The Warmongers should stay out and let the slaughter proceed.
I believe that we are witnessing the start of the next world war.

Welcome Instapundit readers. This one is a little off topic (it concerns the need for better drugs for PTSD - our military is going to need it) but you might like Opiates for PTSD. Another good one prompted by this post is The Old Order Is Breaking Down.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:18 PM | Comments (19)

all croaked up

I could not possibly have less to say today. No, not even if I tried. So I won't.

Won't try to say less, of course. Besides, Sarah's "Marx is dead" post yesterday was so thoroughly brilliant that anything that follows it is bound to be a letdown.

However, I did stumble onto a very interesting frog, which is so puffed up that when I first saw the picture I thought maybe someone had exaggerated his features with PhotoShop:


While it's being called a "bump toad," contrary to humor sites, it's actually a frog of the the Breviceps genus, commonly known as the Rain Frog.

The Wiki picture is good too!



The various Breviceps beasties are in a group called microhylid frogs which burrow underground in the desert:

The species of the genus Breviceps are burrowing frogs found in the arid regions of Africa. Some of their species will even lay their eggs under ground.

When it rains, they come out.

And if you think they're weird, some critters are even weirder. For a couple of days, Drudge linked this picture -- of a man who looks like he would burrow in the underground desert and lay eggs, if he could get away with it!


Speaking of burrowing, there's a very strange female critter in Pennsylvania who for reasons known only to her, went into a store's freezer room and refused to come out. Police were called, and they arrested her for having peed on $500.00 worth of baked goods.

As detailed in a probable cause affidavit, State Police troopers were summoned to the grocery store at about 5:00 AM. A clerk explained that Harkness, pictured at right, had entered the walk-in freezer and that she "could not get her to leave." At one point, workers asked a woman who had accompanied Harkness to the store to help "get the defendant to come out of the freezer."

When a Country Fair employee opened the freezer door, Harkness's friend asked her "if she had gone pee in the freezer." Harkness replied, "Yes, I did."

Upon investigation, Trooper Robert Baldwin discovered "what appeared to be frozen liquid in the freezer floor and splatters of a frozen liquid on several boxes containing food." According to the affidavit and a criminal complaint, the damaged baked goods included packaged cookies ($248), bagels ($36), and 2-bite cakes ($224).

No explanation why, which means unless we "blame the culture," we have little choice but to conclude she's crazy or trashy.

Discussing the Pennsylvania peeer (in conjunction with a YouTube rampage at Denny's that Drudge had linked -- which brought thousands of astonishingly angry commenters who blame everything from "Cultural Marxism" to "Tea Baggers"), an interesting question arose.

"What is wrong with these people?"

Plenty is wrong, and clearly they have to be either mentally ill or just complete trash or both. Yet there have always been trashy and mentally ill people. The problem is that now they are being regularly and constantly immortalized on line, and it has a cumulative effect, so it appears that their numbers are much larger than they are.

Repetition makes questionable premises seem more and more true:

In several experiments, Mr Rucker and Mr Dubois planted rumours among undergraduates. They found that with each repetition, scepticism diminished. The rumours themselves did not change; only the likelihood that the students would believe them. These findings were published in a report called "The Failure to Transmit Certainty".

It reminds me of gruesome pit bull attacks. Every year a few people in our nation of 300 million are maimed and/or killed by dogs described as "pit bulls." (As far as whether fact checkers have examined the pedigrees to determine how true the descriptions are, I don't know.) But because of the Internet and vindictive web sites, it is made to look like huge. The stories and pictures never go away and are repeated and recycled endlessly. More and more people start to think that there is a "growing" and "urgent" "crisis" and something must be done. Every time I read about another one, I cringe in fear of "the people," (few of whom see dogs as arms) and I worry that they might get all stirred up and get that "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH" going in such a way as to incite grandstanding local politicians to pass laws which would kill Coco. When people are in hysteria mode, they don't take kindly to rational arguments.

There are advantages to living in burrows.

posted by Eric at 03:53 PM | Comments (2)

Opiates For PTSD

As those of you who read me regularly know I have frequently been inflicting on you a link to my article Heroin in discussions of both the Drug War and PTSD. And some of you with an irrational hatred of Heroin have derided me and told me I'm full of it. The evidence in the article was circumstantial and not extremely strong. Well I have some extremely strong evidence now and it first surfaced in my article Underground In Las Vegas. And where did the evidence come from? Probably the most conservative sector of our society. The US Military.

And what is the military prescribing for PTSD? The article refers to them as narcotics. Really they are opiate analogs. Here is part of the story:

By some estimates, well over 300,000 troops have returned from Iraq or Afghanistan with P.T.S.D., depression, traumatic brain injury or some combination of those. The Pentagon has looked to pharmacology to treat those complex problems, following the lead of civilian medicine. As a result, psychiatric drugs have been used more widely across the military than in any previous war.

But those medications, along with narcotic painkillers, are being increasingly linked to a rising tide of other problems, among them drug dependency, suicide and fatal accidents -- sometimes from the interaction of the drugs themselves. An Army report on suicide released last year documented the problem, saying one-third of the force was on at least one prescription medication.

"Prescription drug use is on the rise," the report said, noting that medications were involved in one-third of the record 162 suicides by active-duty soldiers in 2009. An additional 101 soldiers died accidentally from the toxic mixing of prescription drugs from 2006 to 2009.

Obviously the military doctors are having no more luck with PTSD than their civilian counterparts. Which is to say - there is no cure.

But the civilian doctors in some states have an option the military doesn't have. Medical Marijuana.

Chronic pain conditions change peoples lives. The discomfort and pain is consuming. Many patients fail to truly weigh the pros and cons of the medications they are given for pain, especially those who have chronic conditions. Constipating opiates are almost always an option, but medical marijuana is rarely discussed. But, it should be an option for those facing hard treatment decisions regarding long term medication use. There are blood tests that doctors run to check for long term kidney and liver damage by medications, although they fail to mention all of the reasons for testing. The very idea that it is routine for some doctors to check to the amount of damage a medication can do to the kidneys and liver is indicative of its inherent damage. Medical marijuana presents none of those problems.

Chronic pain patients often end up at pain management facilities. Treating chronic pain is about providing the patient with the best quality of life while they are in pain, whether this is cancer pain or herniated disc pain awaiting new surgical fusion technology. Pain treatment often involves a combination of physical therapy, medication, relaxation, ice and heat rotations, and surgery. Doctors prescribe cocktails drawing from Opioids, Anti-convulsives, muscle relaxants, beta blockers, Benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and others. Rather than discuss medical marijuana and the proven efficacy of cannabis as a pain remedy, patients are given expensive cocktails. Medical marijuana has long been a taboo subject for patients, especially when it comes to asking their primary care doctor. The stigma associated with medical marijuana blinds physicians from seeing that cannabis often far outweighs the use of other medication combinations. Medical marijuana is a valid treatment for many conditions. Using medical marijuana can reduce the amount of other medications. Marijuana is safer.

Yep. Marijuana is safer. DEA Judge Young in a legal opinion about marijuana as medicine said:
Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.
What else can marijuana do when combined with opiates?

Medical marijuana can help pain patients in many ways. Using cannabis as an adjunct medicine can help opiate pain meds work better. Medical marijuana can successfully treat pain and help lower the overall dose of narcotics, something that is healthy for the patient.
Marijuana is safer than a very common psychoactive over the counter drug. Alcohol. In fact some one has written a book about it.

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

In fact alcohol was considered a kind of folk remedy for PTSD before the condition had an official name. Back in the day it was called "shell shock" or similar. And as you might have guessed I have written something on the subject. See: The Soldiers Disease.

Our understanding of the use of marijuana for PTSD is rather advanced. See: PTSD and the Endocannabinoid System.

Now my questions are a simple ones. Why don't those who have so much compassion for our military men work for the repeal of Federal Marijuana Prohibition so those in desperate need can get better help than they are now receiving? And why aren't we looking at the vast untreated population in America with PTSD who are now self medicating with illegal drugs? Why are we punishing the traumatized in this country? Or at least those the government can catch and of course their suppliers. I do not consider the drug dealers evil. I think of them as heroes. They are helping people (for profit - just like the pharma companies) that our government in its infinite wisdom does not count as worthy of treatment. Unless their condition was acquired on the battlefield. Why are victims of sexual assault or child abuse any less worthy than the folks in the military?

Cross Posted at Power and Control. May I also suggest you visit here for some more corroborating links in the comments. This article about the US Civil War and opiates is suggestive. But there were no good statistics from the period to differentiate between residual pain from war wounds and PTSD type problems.

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

Marx Is dead

And I don't feel so good myself.

When I was in highschool in the seventies (well, it couldn't be helped. It's not like I chose my date of birth. But in my defense, I delayed coming of age till 1980) in Portugal, I studied Marxism and Marxist theory in four classes a year: off the top of my head, the line up I remember is History; Economics; Portuguese; Sociology. (And if you ask why I was taking Sociology in Highschool, it's because the Portuguese system has no electives. They tell you what you're going to study. And Sociology gave them one more chance to teach Marx.)

Of course, we used "Marxist Techniques" in other courses too - anthropology; literary analysis. I seem - vaguely - to remember we used Marxist analysis in biology but I hope to all that's good and holy that I'm wrong about that. (It was a long time ago.)  It would be roughly the equivalent of using the rhythm method in literary production.  Or perhaps grammatical analysis in music.  I mean, you can bend anything in any way, but it makes no sense.

I read somewhere, written by a more literate person - I believe an economist - that the weakest point of the Marxist theories was that Marx, as an economist, was such a bizarre failure he never understood the role of resellers.

Continue reading "Marx Is dead"

posted by Sarah at 11:59 PM | Comments (63)

Don't Try To Blow Sunshine Up My Butt

Col Allen West confronts a Muslim from CAIR. The sound is a little indistinct at the beginning. Keep replaying until you get it. BTW the "Don't blow sunshine..." quote is unmistakable.

From West's wiki.

"If it's about the lives of my soldiers at stake, I'd go through hell with a gasoline can."
My kinda guy.

H/T Hill Buzz

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:25 PM | Comments (4)

Not Feeling Too Good Myself

Inspired by Sarah's Marx Is Dead which you absolutely MUST READ.

posted by Simon at 04:51 PM | Comments (1)

Have you had too much? Naturally!

After the publication of an allegedly "secret formula" which listed alcohol as an ingredient in Coca Cola, a Muslim man in Israel has filed a huge class action lawsuit against the company:

An Israeli Muslim filed a NIS 1.2 billion class action suit against The Central Bottling Company Group Ltd. (the Israel franchisee for Coca Cola) in the Jerusalem District Court today for compensation for mental anguish and infringing the independent choices of the individual.

The plaintiff, an Israeli Muslim, filed the suit following publication on the web last week of what is apparently the secret recipe of Coca Cola, and which allegedly contains alcohol. The class action suit was filed by Advs. Hani Tannus, Ofir Cohen, and Mahmud Machjana.

Alcohol is forbidden by Islam, and the plaintiff cites he has been unwittingly drinking alcohol for years. He therefore claims Coca Cola is guilty of misleading consumers, infringing the independent choices of the individual, and causing huge mental anguish.

The plaintiff says that his class action suit comprises NIS 1,000 compensation for each of the 1.2 million Muslims living in Israel.

The suit said, "This is one of the greatest deceptions in the history of consumer affairs, when a company ignores the existence of alcohol as an ingredient despite being aware that the Muslim world abstains from products like these. This is a very serious matter and it certainly won't be the last in the world in light of the fraud.

Aside from the fact that it's loony, I see several problems with the lawsuit. First, Coca Cola denies that the drink contains any alcohol at all, and denies that the secret recipe is in fact the one which was published. Second, even if it had minute traces of alcohol, many sodas use minute amounts of alcohol as a fixative in the flavoring process, but they are classified as non-alcoholic because it is simply not possible to consume them and have the alcohol cause any effect at all. Trace amounts of alcohol are present in many flavorings and they cannot cause intoxication. Accordingly, they are not required to list alcohol as an ingredient on the label.

Non-alcoholic beer contains small amounts of alcohol (less than .05%) and is sold legally in Saudi Arabia, because it is not possible to get drunk from it. Whatever trace amounts of alcohol a soft drink might contain would be considerably less than that. 

Coca Cola has been subject of a huge rumor-mongering campaign in the Mideast, with ridiculous paranoid conspiracy claims. As The Economist points out, there are implications beyond Coca Cola:

IF YOU Google the phrase "Middle East rumours", the first link that pops up is not, as you might expect, a website propagating conspiracy theories. It is Coca-Cola's website. For several years now the company has struggled to rebut ridiculous rumours about its products.

For example, some people believe that if you read Coke's Arabic logo backwards, it says: "No Muhammad, No Mecca". Others insist that the company is owned by Jews, or that it bankrolls Israel. These rumours are one reason why Coke does worse than Pepsi in Arab countries. Yet they are all false, as Coke's website explains in painstaking detail.

Such rebuttals are unwise, argue Derek Rucker and David Dubois, of the Kellogg School of Management, and Zakary Tormala, of Stanford business school, three psychologists. By restating the rumours, Coke helps to propagate them. Its web page is a magnet for search engines. And people who read rebuttals tend to forget the denial and remember only the rumour, says Mr Rucker.

As information is passed around, important qualifiers are lost. A rumour may start as "I'm not sure if this is true, but I heard that..." Then it evolves into: "I heard that..." Finally it becomes: "Did you know that...?" Even when no one intends to spread falsehoods, they spread.

In several experiments, Mr Rucker and Mr Dubois planted rumours among undergraduates. They found that with each repetition, scepticism diminished. The rumours themselves did not change; only the likelihood that the students would believe them. These findings were published in a report called "The Failure to Transmit Certainty".

This image went viral in the Mideast a few years ago:


The travails of Coca Cola aside, I don't like the idea of Muslims suing any company over trace amounts of alcohol in products. Especially if the ban on alcohol is intended to prohibit intoxication, it seems specious, and I hope the Israeli court slam-dunks it on its face, because all that should matter is the simple fact that Cokes will not get a person drunk, no matter how many are consumed.

What's really intriguing about alcohol is that because it occurs in nature as a result of the breakdown of sugar by yeast, trace amounts of it are in all sorts of things, and not just bottles of juice that sit too long in the refrigerator.

Because our bodies contain sugar and yeast, we humans are also subject to having trace amounts of alcohol in our systems without any control over it. Not only may it not be possible to avoid alcohol, but under certain conditions, some people manufacture enough alcohol in their bodies that they become legally intoxicated, and would be subject to prosecution under the DUI laws! I am absolutely not making this up: 

In an interesting scientific article, two physicians at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore reported that they detected the odor of beer in three of their patients. This was in an isolated hospital setting; there was no access to alcoholic beverages. The doctors had urine samples taken and analyzed by gas chromatography. Result? All three showed the presence of alcohol in their systems. Two of these were then tested for actual blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). One showed a BAC of .043%. The other was .121% -- or 1 1/2 times the legal limit for DUI!

The post includes a technical explanation, and notes that while endogenous alcohol is normal, the "wide inter-individual variation in healthy abstaining individuals is hard to explain."

But because of the law, even if your alcohol is your own natural internal brew, you are still liable for prosecution:  

How many folks, with "immaculately conceived" alcohol in their systems, have been arrested and convicted for DUI? These people were innocent, right?

Wrong. In the rush to convict drunk drivers (and with federal pushing), 49 states have now passed so-called "per se" laws: driving with a BAC of .08% or more. Neither intent, negligence or even knowledge is required. The crime consists of simply having the alcohol in your body.  Even if you've had nothing to drink.

So, while some of us are legally "guiltier" than others, that the human body makes endogenous alcohol seems to be a little reported fact:

The human body produces its own supply of alcohol naturally on a continuous basis, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It's called endogenous ethanol production. Therefore, we always have alcohol in our bodies and in some cases people produce enough to become legally intoxicated and arrested for DUI.

As to why this isn't better known, I have a funny feeling that it might be unwelcome, and above all destructive to the narrative in certain quarters. And I don't mean just fatwa-issuing Muslims, but fatwa-issuing MADD activists and assorted fatuous "zero tolerance" Neo-prohibitionist types.

Think about it. If endogenous alcohol means there is no such thing as a natural born teetotaler, then zero tolerance means one hundred percent intolerance!

posted by Eric at 04:12 PM | Comments (7)

What Madison Is All About

Chuck Sweeny - a Rockford Register Star reporter that I know from his days of covering the local Libertarian Party - gets to the heart of the goings on in Madison and explains why it is so critical for the unions to win against Governor Walker and the Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature.

But Democrats can't compromise on ending collective bargaining rights, because that would weaken their party's key political bloc. Democrats know that Walker's gambit to break the unions is part of the national Republican strategy in the run up to the 2012 elections.
Chuck thinks that the Republicans, who only need one Democrat to show up to pass their agenda, will fold in the face of union pressure. I don't think so. It costs real money to bus in all those protesters and keep them fed and housed. Every day Walker can keep the protesters on the street further weakens the Democrats for the next election.

What Chuck also leaves out is that recall elections can be called by petition in Wisconsin one year after a person is elected. All the Republicans have to do is collect about 25,000 signatures from a Senate District, get them verified, and six weeks later there will be an election. In a district that was barely won by a Democrat and with sentiment favoring the Governor there is a good chance that in 12 or 16 weeks Walker will have enough Senators to make a quorum and the unions will lose a LOT. Can he hold out that long? Walker has been in politics for a while and he has a reputation for not backing down. Time will tell.

As Chuck points out the Democrats depend on that union money to elect Democrats who will do the unions more favors so they can get their cut. But the marks are staring to wise up. My take is that the longer he holds out the stronger he will get. And he doesn't have to get everything to win. A couple of things would do it: yearly union elections and no automatic deduction of union dues. The last point alone would mean a raise of a few percent for those who didn't want to pay. In these hard times who wouldn't like a raise or even a smaller cut in pay?

Wisconsin is only the first battle. Ohio is next. Indiana is even going after private sector unions. And a labor leader emphasizes Chuck's point:

Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the nation's largest public-sector union, said the moves in various state capitals to target state employees were an explicit effort to undermine a key source of Democratic funds.

"They know how much we spent in the last campaign," he said. "They're going to try and shoot us down."

The 1.6 million-member AFSCME last year tapped emergency accounts and took out loans as it poured more than $90 million into Democratic campaign efforts in the mid-term elections.

Overall, unions put around $400 million into the 2008 campaign to help elect Mr. Obama and other Democrats.

That is quite a war chest. I think the Republicans would like to flatten it. I think they can.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:34 AM | Comments (5)

Who needs words you can't say when you can use the words you can say?

In a piece Glenn linked titled "Words you can't say at the Pentagon,"Stewart Baker makes it clear that top Army bureaucrats (along with a large number of politically correct people in the ruling classes) only want Islam referred to with stultifyingly propagandistic terms such as "the religion of peace."

It's easy to yell about free speech, but if you're in an environment where you don't have it (such as the military, the government, schools, academia, many large corporations, etc.) you might just have to adapt to the lingo using whatever magic words are demanded, no matter what. 

So what happens if a member of the Religion of Peace goes postal and opens up on a crowd of people, and makes clear his belief that he is doing it in the name of his religion? It's like, if you can't call someone like Major Nidal Hasan an Islamist, an Islamic terrorist or a Jihadist, then how is he to be described in discussions? A religious peace shooter? A religious shooter for peace? A shooter of the religion of peace? A religious peacenik?

Regardless of what they were supposed to say, it is clear that the Army personnel who dealt with Hasan knew what was going on:

Off the record, it seems, everyone thought Hasan was dangerous, a nutjob, or an Islamist, and perhaps all three.

On the record, though, no one would criticize him.  You don't rise in the armed forces if you can't read your superiors.  And the rising officers who met Hasan knew what their superiors wanted without having to be told.  Islam was a religion of peace, and Muslims in the Army were a welcome sign of diversity. Treating Hasan as a dangerous Islamist would put those messages at risk.

And that might be bad for their careers.  So instead they spun Hasan's rants into gold.  His 2007-2008 evaluation praises Hasan for having "focused his efforts on illuminating the  role of  culture and  Islamic faith  within the Global War on Terrorism."  It adds that his "work in this area has extraordinary potential to inform national  policy and military strategy. ... His unique interests have captured the interest and attention of  peers and mentors alike."

The next year was the same, full of praise for Hasan's "keen interest in  Islamic culture and  faith  and his shown capacity to contribute to our psychological understanding of  Islamic  nationalism and how it  may relate to events of  national security and Army interest."

I can't help noticing the quotation marks, and I guess putting words in quotes is bureaucratically permitted. So when referring to Major Hasan, would it be acceptable to just call him a follower of the "religion of peace" -- with the latter in quotes?

In the same manner, just keep the quotation marks around the rave reviews he drew:

"extraordinary potential to inform national  policy and military strategy."


"His unique interests have captured the interest and attention of  peers and mentors alike."

Who could argue with that?

And his "keen interest in  Islamic culture and  faith  and his shown capacity to contribute to our psychological understanding of  Islamic  nationalism and how it  may relate to events of  national security and Army interest."

Yes! Double plus absolutely!

I'm being a little sarcastic, but I'm sure some would say that no sarcasm is needed.

It's all so... so religion of peace!

See? I didn't even need to put that in quotes!

posted by Eric at 05:22 PM | Comments (10)

Libya Is Collapsing

Qaddafi has fled to Venezuela.

Libyan air force bombing civilians; two pilots refuse and fly to Malta.

Clerics endorse rebellion.

This follows on yesterday's chaos.

As usual, Wikipedia has one of the more thorough summaries of the situation.

posted by Dave at 01:12 PM | Comments (2)

True and hard proof of "hard right" Trutherism

Ann Arbor officially got 9.6 inches of snow last night, but it looks like a foot, and it is the heavy wet kind, so I am sick of shoveling. Besides, what's the point of shoveling out my driveway when the street in front of the house has not been plowed? I can't go anywhere, as my car is not snow-worthy. 

So I am snowed in, but I can still read blog posts, and what I have been reading lately gives me the creepy feeling of being increasingly cornered by hyperbole which borders on outright lunacy.

Like, Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker's attempts to cut back on the high cost of unionized state employees are seen -- seriously -- as Nazism, and he is portrayed repeatedly as Hitler. It would be one thing if this were just overwrought hysteria, but Ann Althouse went to the trouble of interviewing one of the sign carriers, who really does believe that Scott Walker is just like Hitler. Yeah? I would like to see her explain to elderly concentration camp survivors and people whose parents were gassed and burned by the Nazis how the horror of what happened to them was the moral equivalent of ending the automatic deduction from state workers' paychecks and making the unions collect the dues themselves.

The other night a friend (heretofore always reasonable) started spouting Noam Chomsky at me. I began to wonder whether no one feels obligated to be reasonable any more because there is so much unreasonable nonsense being spouted. Birthers, truthers, religious loons, atheist loons, enivronmentalist loons -- all these and more just vent freely, and there is no consensus on what constitutes reason, sanity, or even civility. I want to think that most people are nice, because most of them are. (Even radical Muslims are nice on an individual basis. Just don't go near them when they gather on a Friday by the million....)

Andrew Sullivan (whom I am not supposed to link lest I upset commenters who claim that when I link him I am allowing him to take over this blog) characterized Glenn Reynolds as "hard right"-- apparently because he linked this post from Prof. Jacobson lamenting the fact that a million Egyptians poured out into the streets to listen to (and cheer for) radical Islamist nutjob Yusuf al-Qaradawi:

...over a million Egyptians turned out in Tahrir Square last Friday to cheer the vile anti-Semitic Sunni cleric Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who had been exiled by Mubarek, and who espouses the fundamentalist Islamic view that Jews must live as Dhimmis under Islamic control.  Instead of accurately reporting the significance of this event, The New York Times whitewashed the cleric as someone who supports a "a pluralistic, multiparty, civil democracy."

Here is the video of the rally (in Arabic, via Israel Matzav) with the crowd chanting:

"To Jerusalem We go, for us to be the Martyrs of the Millions."

Great. So it's now "hard right" to object to (or even link objections to) a million anti-Semites rabidly yelling in the street.

If objecting to mob anti-Semitism is "hard right," then what, pray tell, would "hard left" be? Breaking into chants of "DEATH TO THE JEWS"?

How am I supposed to make sense of this? Should I just get with Andy's plan, and stop calling Glenn a libertarian?

I mean, rather than complain about the nuttiness, perhaps I should just join with the flow. Fortunately, as it happens, for years I have been methodically documenting Glenn's "hard rightness," especially his well-known historical ties to Benito Mussolini.

And just last week I unearthed a new picture, showing the two of them late in the regime. As is the case with any research into The Truth, there is no stopping the True Truth from continuing to surface. And while Glenn admits that he has tried to get his minions to bury the truth and sanitize the Internet, even Glenn must concede that there are always telltale traces and fragments that indelibly remain. Such was the case with a very old, quite blurry photograph -- the original of which is probably long suppressed. It shows Mussolini listening very carefully to a man who is speaking:


Even though the quality is poor, if you look carefully you will see that the man bears a striking resemblance to Glenn Reynolds.

What truer proof of hard rightness could there be than that?

UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking my explanation of "the true meaning of 'hard right.'" A warm welcome to all, and I especially appreciate the valuable insights and speculations.

I'm taking Glenn's comment to mean that my true meaning is open to interpretation. 

His silence on the incriminating picture speaks volumes, though!

posted by Eric at 12:42 PM | Comments (30)

Adam Carrola Rants On The Schools

Adam Carolla has a beautiful rant on the school systems. Don't Miss It. If you only do the first five minutes it is worth it.

Not Safe For Work

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:49 AM | Comments (0)

Rights And Wrongs

The unions in Wisconsin are making one argument that I agree with -- that their struggle is about human rights.

Hell yes, this is about human rights.  This is about the property rights of taxpayers being violated.  There is absolutely no reason why unions should be allowed to organize against people whose income is being seized by force in order to demand more of their income be seized.

Collective bargaining has its place -- in a system of voluntary exchange.  Taxes aren't voluntary, they're compulsory.  A worker paid with seized money should have the same zero ability to negotiate that an individual taxpayer has.

And unions and Democrats are in bed together -- massive amounts of money are being spent on Dems' behalf by the unions, and the quid pro quo is beyond obvious.  That isn't collective bargaining, it's armed robbery.

Private vs public compensation by profession.

Private workers more productive.

Public sector workers overcompensated.

Rising costs of public sector compensation.

Excessive benefits in public sector compensation.

posted by Dave at 11:10 AM | Comments (3)

Is Libya Toppling?

It sure looks that way.

Reports are that much of the east may already be under the control of protesters, with the armed forces joining the revolution.

Meanwhile, tribal leaders are now openly challenging Qaddafi:

The leader of the Al-Zuwayya tribe in eastern Libya threatened on Sunday to cut oil exports to Western countries within 24 hours unless authorities stop what he called the "oppression of protesters".

Akram Al-Warfalli, a leading figure in the Al Warfalla tribe, one of Libya's biggest, told the channel: "We tell the brother (Gaddafi), well he's no longer a brother, we tell him to leave the country."

It's incredible there are still places like this in the world in 2011. 

posted by Dave at 08:00 PM | Comments (0)

Destroying manhood in order to save it?

Kay Hymowitz has a new book -- Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys -- and Dr. Helen is questioning some of its premises at her blog, where she asks a question that made me chuckle:

When someone tells you to "man-up," what do you think they are trying to tell you?

I'd rather not answer that right now, because this is Sunday and I am trying to keep this post "family friendly." 

But I will go on the record as saying (for now, at least) that I am not inclined to order a pair of the new Levi's "Ex girlfriend's jeans" that Glenn utterly failed to recommend when he had the opportunity earlier.

No seriously. The pants are far too queeny for me, and I am just not into that look -- no matter how hip they're supposed to be. I'm not saying that they might not look attractive on some people, but a man my age just shouldn't run around in public wearing what look for the world like ballet tights.

But for those who are interested, here's the new look!


Not that new, really. I'm old enough to remember the skin-tight pants from the 1960s, although they weren't quite that severe. Whether they are "better" than the baggy pants that couldn't possibly have gotten any baggier, who knows? I do see some young men at the University of Michigan running around who have that look, and it is my carefully considered opinion that a lecture from Kay Hymowitz about how they need to "man up" would not sway them to ditch the tights and opt for conventional manly slacks.

Scoldings tend to not work that way. (It goes without saying that a "manliness backlash" might work in either direction, and unmanly fashions worn by some could very well encourage manlier fashions in others.)

But I digress. This post is not about the merits of manly versus unmanly fashion, but the premise of the "man up and get married!" argument.

In Dr. Helen's latest PJM column from 2008, she argues that Hymowitz is missing a central point:

Hymowitz is the author of Marriage and Caste in America whose main thesis seems to be that marriage is important to society. I read over her article and was rather appalled at the lack of understanding on the part of Hymowitz as to why men don't marry. We interviewed her for a podcast on the Glenn and Helen Show and she seemed to be level-headed and understanding-but I guess everyone has their blind spot when it comes to why men don't toe the line and provide society with what it needs or wants despite little reward and plenty of headache for being a modern day husband and father. Instead, Hymowitz, like so many other writers and naysayers blames men for not marrying because their "default state" is perpetual adolescence...

As to what Hymowitz deems "unmanly," it ain't the ex-girlfriend's ballet tights jeans:

there's no denying the lesson of today's media marketplace: give young men a choice between serious drama on the one hand, and Victoria's Secret models, battling cyborgs, exploding toilets, and the NFL on the other, and it's the models, cyborgs, toilets, and football by a mile.

Funny thing, but I don't consider the above to be unmanly or even especially adolescent. But her premise seems to be that things adolescent men like are unmanly.

Why? What is unmanly about liking sexy lingerie or football, or blowing stuff up?

Dr. Helen thinks that what's happening is that men are on strike:

What Hymowitz misses is that men are on a marriage strike, not necessarily because they are perpetual adolescents or avoiding deep attachments to others but because the reward for being an adult in our society is so low, especially for men.

It's really simple Psychology 101 (or Economics 101) -- make something negative enough and people will avoid it, make it positive, and more people will engage in that particular behavior.

I couldn't agree more.

And at Dr. Helen's blog, I left this comment:

One of the ironies is that scolding men for not marrying makes the whole idea of marriage look like that much more of a drag.

As to whether men can be scolded into being more manly, I think that may be a hall of mirrors.

It should be borne in mind that many men resent being told what to do.

Reading the other comments, I saw similar sentiments repeated over and over, which made my comment superfluous. But what the hell -- a superfluous comment left at another blog can certainly be the subject of a blog post here.

When you tell people what to do, you are simply adding to the list of disincentives. I like what Barry Goldwater said years ago about Americans being a people who naturally resent being told what to do, and if you tell them not to do something, their impulse is to figure out a way to do it.

I would say that real men don't like being told what to do, and it goes to the essence of manliness. Which is what I meant by the "hall of mirrors." If you tell men to "man up" and be "manly," some of them might just decide to do the opposite out of spite. Perhaps in extreme cases, wearing ridiculously tight pants as a symbol of manhood! That's the way it worked back in the 60s. Tight pants were one of the symbols of rebellion, and schools used to struggle with dress codes accordingly. (More recently, schools have had to fight super baggy pants, which may by now be a vintage retro look.) 

Kay Hymowitz's insistence on manning up reminded me of an excellent YouTube video series which caused me to laugh myself sick on several occasions. I don't have time to watch them all, but they take the form of a show called "Is It A Good Idea to Microwave This?" There are countless episodes, but the theme is the same -- host Jory Caron (who looks for the world like an engineering student) and his sidekick will put a new thing into a microwave oven as an "experiment" and then cook it to see what happens. Naturally, they have exploded countless microwave ovens, and have probably violated more nanny state bureaucrat consumer product safety and environmental protection laws than almost anyone in the country, but they do it in a hilariously, deliberately irresponsible "scientific" manner, and I think it's great. 

"Is It A Good Idea To Microwave A Bottle Of Beer?" is as good an example as any.


After the bottle bursts, they comment:

"It's the manliest smell! It's swagger and beer!"

That the whole thing is adolescent is not merely beside the point, it is the point. The argument could be made that what the glum sourpusses who deem it their duty to scold the world call adolescence in fact lies at the heart of manliness. 

Who knows? The Dangerous Book for Boys (reviewed by Glenn ages ago) might even be a manhood manual. 

It strikes me that there is a fine line between an indictment of adolescence and an indictment of manhood, and that Kay Hymowitz just isn't quite getting it.

Scolding men into being manly is self canceling.

Manhood has been in the microwave long enough.

UPDATE: When I wrote this post, the PJM column Dr. Helen referred to as upcoming had not yet been written, and I mistakenly called her previous PJM piece "current," which it is not. My mistake has been corrected above. 

And here's the link to Dr. Helen's latest PJM piece.

posted by Eric at 01:16 PM | Comments (10)

Drugs Corrupt Cops

Alcohol prohibition corrupted the law enforcement apparatus of the United States.

4. Prohibition permanently corrupted law enforcement, the court system, and politics. During Prohibition, organized crime had on its payroll police, judges, prosecutors, and politicians. If mobsters couldn't buy or successfully threaten someone in a powerful position, they either "wiped him out" or, following more democratic principles, ran a candidate against the incumbent in the next election. They put money behind their candidate, stuffed the ballot box, or leaked some scandal about the incumbent just before the election (or all three). The important thing was winning, and more often than not, someone beholden to organized crime rose to the position of power. After more than twelve years of purchases, threats, and elections, organized crime had "in its pocket" the political and governmental power structure of most medium-to-large cities, and several states.
National drug prohibition has been in effect since 1914. In 1937, after the repeal of alcohol prohibition, marijuana was added to the list.

So what has been the result of drug prohibition according to a former head of the CIA?

"The Latin American drug cartels have stretched their tentacles much deeper into our lives than most people believe. It's possible they are calling the shots at all levels of government." - William Colby, former CIA Director, 1995
Thanks to Instapundit I have come across a more local example of police corruption.
MARTINEZ -- Public defenders on Thursday quickly moved to re-examine cases against their clients after the arrests of a Contra Costa County drug task force chief and a private investigator accused of running a narcotics-selling scheme, possibly with confiscated drugs.

The arrest of Norman Wielsch, commander of the state's Central Contra Costa Narcotics Enforcement Team, or CNET, could have far-reaching ramifications in superior and appellate courts, said Contra Costa County Public Defender Robin Lipetzky. The arrest not only calls into question the credibility and integrity of Wielsch as an individual, she said, but also that of the task force as an investigative body and the guardian of prosecution evidence.

"Was he motivated by a desire to confiscate as much drugs as he could so he could turn around and sell them? Was he writing false police reports? Was he exaggerating in police reports? You have to question everything in a CNET investigation," Lipetzky said. "You also have to wonder when it's the top cop of the investigation that's a crooked cop, what did others in CNET know?"

Wielsch and Chris Butler, who runs the investigative firm Butler and Associates, were arrested together in Benicia by federal agents Wednesday morning after an undercover investigation that began in January, said Department of Justice special agent Michelle Gregory.

Both men were booked into County Jail in Martinez on as many as 25 suspected felony offenses, including possessing, transporting and selling marijuana, methamphetamine and steroids, and embezzlement, second-degree burglary and conspiracy. District Attorney Mark Peterson said his office will likely decide whether to file charges Friday [18 Feb - ed.].

Public defenders are asking for what the investigators have turned up so far in order to find out what cases may have been tainted by these public servants. And you have to wonder who else in the department was doing dirty deeds if the guy at the top was dirty.

Plus you have to wonder where else stuff like this was going on? We do know that this is not the first time such malfeasance has been discovered. There was the Rampart Scandal that broke in 2000. There were cover ups and gang ties found in the Rampart Division of the LAPD.

The Rampart scandal refers to widespread corruption in the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (or CRASH) anti-gang unit of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Rampart Division in the late 1990s. More than 70 police officers in the CRASH unit were implicated in misconduct, making it one of the most widespread cases of documented police misconduct in United States history. The convicted offenses include unprovoked shootings, unprovoked beatings, planting of evidence, framing of suspects, stealing and dealing narcotics, bank robbery, perjury, and covering up evidence of these activities
So are the police with their never ending drug war preventing anarchy or fomenting it? Hard call.

Take my town Rockford, Illinois. Around 1986 or '87 the FBI and DEA took out a whole gang of drug dealers. The local murder rate spiked and citizens were irate over the increase in street violence. They haven't done a whole gang raid like that since. I guess the ensuing anarchy was too much for the community. My guess is that the police are working with the gangs (or working with their favored gangs) to prevent a return of anarchy.

Well what about free speech? If you are tasked with fighting the drug war it is not allowed lest the public find out what is actually going on.

The War on Talking About the Drug War

Border Patrol agent loses job after stating the obvious

In April 2009, El Paso native and rookie Border Patrol Agent Bryan Gonzalez was working a stretch of the Mexican border near Deming, N.M. It was a relatively slow day, so when Gonzalez saw fellow Agent Shawn Montoya patrolling in the same area, the two men took a break, pulled their vehicles up next to each other, rolled down their windows, and began talking. When the conversation turned to the drug-related violence that was plaguing the border, Gonzalez "mentioned that he thought that legalization of marijuana would save a lot of lives across the border and over here," New Mexico ACLU spokesman Micah McCoy said during a recent interview. Gonzalez also mentioned that there's an organization of law enforcement officers and officials - Law Enforce­ment Against Prohibition - that stands in opposition to the drug war. "The other guy didn't agree" with Gonzalez's views, McCoy said, but regardless, "it was a friendly conversation" between the two men.

The conversation ended, and that was that - or so Gonzalez thought. As it turned out, Montoya related the content of the conversation to a fellow officer stationed out of the Customs and Border Patrol El Paso Sector headquarters; in turn, that agent bypassed his supervisor and went straight up the food chain to the agency's Joint Intake Command in Washington, D.C., to report what Gonzalez had said that day. "From there, they started a full-blown Internal Affairs investigation," says McCoy.

Well that backfired on them. Now instead of a conversation between a few officers it is now a conversation with the public.

And how about the latest national news on drug gangs?

Mexican and US security experts, some with inside information, suspect the Zetas in the killing of an American special agent this week, a prospect that could complicate investigations due to the Mexican drug gang's brutal yet sophisticated tactics.

Further knotting the matter, experts say it is not entirely clear if the gunmen were operating independently or on orders from commanders when they opened fire Tuesday on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents Jamie Zapata and Victor Avila, who were driven off the road between the violent city of Monterrey and Mexico City in the state of San Luis Potosí. Mr. Zapata died from his injuries, and Mr. Avila suffered leg wounds.

Washington swiftly announced the creation of an FBI-led task force from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security to work with Mexico in its investigation.

And for those of you who think it is the drugs. Please explain why alcohol distribution gangs melted away after 1933. Did some one find a cheap way to instantly turn water into wine?

Well the above catalogs a whole host of things that are going wrong with the drug war. So how about some more? Like raiding the wrong house.

When narcotics officers appeared at a Castro home shortly after 7 a.m. on Jan. 11, they had permission from a judge to search for "proceeds" from an illegal marijuana grow.

The SFPD and DEA found no piles of marijuana money at 243 Diamond St., one of six addresses raided simultaneously in San Francisco that morning. Instead, they found Clark Freshman, who rents the penthouse at the two-unit building. Freshman, a UC Hastings law professor and the main consultant to the television show Lie to Me, was put into handcuffs while in his bathrobe as agents searched, despite Freshman's insistence that they had the wrong place and were breaking the law. "I told them to call the judge and get their warrant updated," he says. "They just laughed at me -- I guess that's why they're called pigs."

Soon they may be called defendants in a lawsuit. A furious Freshman has pledged to sue the DEA and the SFPD for unlawful search and seizure of his home.

In his search warrant, Officer Scott Biggs of the SFPD's narcotics unit says that prior to the raid, he spent two days and two nights casing the address looking for Mahmoud Larizadeh, the property's owner. Larizadeh also owns a 13th Street warehouse, a part of which he rents to Bruce Rossignol, a licensed medical cannabis patient who now faces three felony charges for growing pot there.

Thanks to Instapundit for that one too. I'm not going to go into the marijuana as medicine issue here. If it interests you you can start your reading here: Cannabis is the Best Medicine. I'll just say that it seems rather evil to slap a man with a felony for growing his own medicine.

The first quote in this article was taken from:

Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:48 AM | Comments (2)

Democratic Dominoes

A great point from M Simon here at Classical Values: the one country notably absent from the recent massive pro-democracy protests across the Mideast is... Iraq.  Hmmm, why might that be?  Oh right, they already have democracy.  The protests in Iraq, by contrast, are Tea Party-like demonstrations against corruption, bad economic policies, and lack of transparency.

In fact, one can reasonably point to Iraq as the animating force for the pro-democracy movement.  The violence in Iraq died down around 2008 and by 2009, we started seeing protests in Iran against the rigged elections there (they must have expecially galled Iranians, since millions of them travel to Najaf every year on Shia prilgrimage to a country that actually holds real elections). 

As the years went on and Iraq continued having elections, protests, free press, and free speech and it became increasingly clear that the Iraqi democratic experiment was working, the natural empirical response of the people of the Mideast was to demand democracies of their own. 

And so (much as happened in Iraq itself) when most had given up hope of success, the neocon dream of an Iraqi Model that would foster a wave of democratic reform across the Mideast has suddenly, dramatically taken wing.

Should this pro-democracy movement continue gaining strength and transforming the Mideast, it will become increasingly undeniable that our actions in Iraq constituted not just a strategic masterstroke but also a humanitarian boon of historic proportions.

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

Isn't This Conspiracy To Commit Fraud?

Doctors from numerous hospitals set up a station near the Capitol to provide notes covering public employees' absences. Family physician Lou Sanner, 59, of Madison, said he had given out hundreds of notes.

Ummm, what? 

Let's say the Milwaukee Brewers put together a promotion in which they encouraged attendees to call in sick and provided doctors to give them notes excusing their absence.  Does anyone think that wouldn't be massively illegal and lead to forfeiture of medical licenses if not jail time?  The mind boggles.

Also note the goalposts for left-wing protests are, shall we say, a bit lower than for Tea Partiers.

But Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said there had been no arrests or problems by midafternoon.

I don't recall a lot of articles covering Tea Party protests that focused on the lack of arrests as an indication of their peacefulness.

posted by Dave at 04:21 PM | Comments (4)

A combination more dangerous than Four Loko!

As regular readers know, I get sick of the gay issue. Especially the "TEH GAY" issue. But what the hell. I seem to be stuck with it and no matter what I do, there exists a demand for gay related posts. What I find a little disturbing is that the demand is not created only by gay readers. Far from it. According to recent statistics demand at this blog for gay content in recent months has been heavily driven by anti-gay readers.

As I am not anti-gay, I find myself in a bit of a conflict of interest here, but the important thing in blogging is to be entertaining and generate traffic, right? If that is the goal, then should I not be pandering to the anti-gay readers too? Or would that be dishonest of me? I am always open to ideas, and advice on my tired, brokeback ethics is always appreciated lest I become too.... what's the word? Overcompromised?

Anyway, a very helpful regular reader whose name should probably be kept out of this noticed a remark I probably should not have made about trying to put more gay stuff in my posts, and while that was not a promise, the helpful emailer sent me a link to an amusing post by Ed Driscoll about gay beer:

"Mexican brewery unveils first gay beer," according to the Telegraph:

The beer, which has a slight honey flavour, will initially be marketed to homosexual consumers in Mexico, Colombia and Japan.

The Minerva brewery said that the "Artisan Honey-Ales" would appeal to a section of the beer-drinking public that had so far been snubbed by larger brewers.

"We're out in the market with great respect with the idea of offering a product directed to the gay-lesbian community that has been ignored for too long but is important and very demanding", Dario Rodriguez Wyler, commercial manager for distributors Bodega 12, told the Mexican news agency Efe.

The label on the beer bottles has been designed so that it can be unglued and worn as a symbol of gay-lesbian pride, he said.

And if you think that's bad, Ed really rubs it in, with a SNL video many anti-gay conservatives would deem unsuitable for The Children! The subject? 

Schmitt's Gay beer.



But that's comedy, and like it or not, my serious readers demand serious attention to serious issues. Plus, I should be paying close attention if I want to pander to the wants and needs of readers who believe gay beer is bad, or that even gay-friendly beer is bad. After all, Coors and Miller have had to face anti-gay boycotts for making their beer too friendly to gays, by running ads targeting disgusting sodomite events!

But I like to dig deeper for insights into the thought processes of the boycotters, and I thought an assertion expressed here might merit scientific exploration:

...watery tasteless beer leads to watered-down distasteful morals! Hence my boycott of Miller/Coors has long been in place.
Let me know Sam Adams or Shiner go off the deep end.

If we look at beer that way, the issue becomes much larger than a boycott of any particiular beer, and it may even touch on a key sentiment which fueled the prohibition movement.

I feel duty bound to put the question bluntly.

If beer causes a lowering of moral standards, could it in fact make people gay?

Laugh if you want, but I have some very bad news in the form of scientific proof of a claim often made in humor.

Hello and welcome to Silver Lake 2000 SCIENCE CORNER, the newest feature on the ever expanding UncoolCentral website. The experts here at SL2000 have often overheard local residents asking: "What is the difference between a gay and a straight man?" with the answer being, "Six beers." Could it really be true that homosexual and heterosexual males become one after the consumption of only six alcoholic grain beverages? The scientists in our laboratories decided to conduct a controlled experiment and see just how valid this theory was.

No, I am absolutely not going to provide all the details of the experiment or I'd have to wash my mouth out with suds. Pandering can be carried too far. Suffice it to say that it is not what Anti-Gay Inc. would call "family friendly."

The combination of gay and beer is clearly a deadly threat. And to think we imagined that combining caffeine and alcohol was bad!

So where's the FDA when we need them?

posted by Eric at 09:43 AM | Comments (7)

The Country That Isn't Barking

There is large scale unrest all across the Middle East. Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Iran, Kuwait, Algeria, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and probably others. Which country (besides Israel) is not on the list? Iraq.

And yet we were told by our anti-war and lefty friends that Iraq was the biggest military/foreign policy mistake the US had made since Vietnam.

I know we have lefty/anti-war readers. Would any of them care to explain the Iraq anomaly? Comments are open.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:45 PM | Comments (8)

Kill the Kill Switch!

While I have long worried about the possibility of the government shutting down the Internet, recent events in Egypt show that what I have been told is technically impossible in this country has become possible -- at least in other countries.

The most ominous development to date is an actual proposal to have an Internet "Kill Switch" (in the form of a bill titled "Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset")  -- presumably with Barack Obama's finger on the button:

The bill -- crafted by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Tom Carper, D-Del. -- aims to defend the economic infrastructure from a cyberterrorist attack. But it has free-speech advocates and privacy experts howling over the prospect of a government agency quelling the communication of hundreds of millions of people.

"This is all about control, an attempt to control every aspect of our existence," says Christopher Feudo, a cybersecurity expert who is chairman of SecurityFusion Solutions. "I consider it an attack on our personal right of free speech. Look what recently occurred in Egypt."

Its critics immediately dubbed it Kill Switch, suffusing it with Big Brother-tinged foreboding. "Unfortunately, it got this label, which is analogous to death panels (during the health care debates)," says Mark Kagan, director of research at Keane Federal Systems, an information-technology contractor for the government.

Good! I'm glad it has that label, for it would kill free speech at a time when it is most needed, shut down small businesses, and ironically, prevent the sort of patriotic countermeasures that cyber-savvy Americans could be depended upon to mount in the event of a real online emergency.

In a very real sense, the Kill Switch is analogous to giving the government power to disarm all citizens in the event of national emergency.

The disruption to communications and economic activity "could be catastrophic," says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

What irritated me the most was to read the logic behind the thinking of those who want the government to have this capacity:

Computer-security expert Ira Winkler, a staunch advocate of the legislation, counters, "The fact that people are complaining about this fact is grossly ignorant of the real world. The fact critical infrastructure elements are even accessible to the Internet is the worst part to begin with."

The piece cites examples of how hackers have hacked into this or that system, including "a company that runs the Nasdaq stock exchange," a "computerized sewage system" in Australia, along with denial-of-service attacks at Amazon, Yahoo and eBay. OK, I agree that hackers suck, as do virus-spreaders and spammers. But the idea that because some big government bureaucrats or corporate entities are not careful enough to wipe their cyber asses in an efficient manner (which of course they can be depended upon not to be!), all of us who are online should pay the penalty of having our communications shut down -- that to me is simply an outrage.

"The Internet thing is all messed up, kids! So we'll have to shut it down!"

A more perfect example of the National Kindergarten mentality I have rarely seen.

I hope this God-awful bill is fought tooth and nail, and I hope that every Republican who supports or votes for it is held accountable.

For starters, every one of them should be forced to read the 197 page monstrosity (PDF here) in its incomprehensible entirety out loud, while being covered with virtual tar and feathers.    

HT Glenn Reynolds.

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

Comments invited, agree or disagree.

(I promise not to tar and feather those in the latter category.)

posted by Eric at 10:30 AM | Comments (10)

Hoosier Daddy

The title of this post is an ironic reference to a song by The Zombies. But the question has come up in reference to the Obama birth certificate question (not that again). And there are some strange alliances at work here. Gay run site Hill Buzz is quoting gay haters WND.

Drudge has linked this story from World Net Daily that notes the odd decision by the Supreme Court to hold a new "conference" on Obama's eligibility to hold the presidency.

Let's research WHY the court could be compelled to do this.

It MUST have something to do with the fact that Obama has no birth certificate on file in the Hawaiian Hall of Records with the name "Barack Hussein Obama" on it -- since his original Hawaiian birth certificate with that name was sealed in the 1970s when he was adopted in Indonesia by Lolo Soetoro, his stepfather. At the time of adoption, a child's original birth certificate is sealed away and replaced in the Hall of Records by a new birth certificate that bears the adopted parents' names and the child's new name, if a new name is given.

This is what happened to Obama, when he was renamed "Soetobakh" by his mother and stepfather at the time of adoption.

In Indonesia, there are no last names. The man who adopted Obama is routinely called "Lolo Soetoro", but in reality his name in Indonesia is just Soetoro. "Lolo" is a nickname -- but on documents in the West, Soetoro seems to have used the name "Lolo Soetoro" because he needed to complete a first and last name line on documentation.

I know next to NOTHING about the laws in this area. Can you sign an alias to official documents? Probably. Especially if you have an alias notification filed at some courthouse. But what if you don't have such a document on file? I suppose if you are notorious like Obama it may be OK. In any case (in this case?) the Supreme Court seems to have taken an interest despite being previously disinterested.

There is way more at Hill Buzz and if this sort of speculation and the ensuing discussion interests you may I suggest a visit there.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:14 AM | Comments (6)

Rick Santorum Has An Anal Problem

Rick Santorum may be making a run for President.

Back in September, I wrote a story about former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, who was jetting around to Iowa and New Hampshire laying the obvious groundwork for a presidential run in 2012.
But Google Santorum and some very ugly crap comes up. Similar results come up for Rick Santorum.
Santorum advisers told Roll Call that burying Savage's site on Google was virtually impossible. The reporter suggested that Santorum might consider getting his supporters to fight back with blog posts and Internet traffic directed at his own sites. But his advisers wrote this effort off as too expensive. Of course, what they didn't say is that the homophobes Santorum panders to--he's a frequent fundraiser for the anti-gay marriage group National Organization for Marriage--aren't nearly as many or as motivated as the pissed off gay people and their friends, relatives, and sympathizers who were outraged by the comments he made equating homosexuality with bestiality. The fact that Santorum can't generate enough web traffic to bury the Savage's seven-year-old site in the Google rankings suggests that winning the bigot vote won't be enough to put him in the White House. But of course, we knew that. After all, it wasn't even enough to keep him in the Senate.
That is not my issue with Rick. My issue with Rick is the Drug War. He is a total Drug Warrior.

And Sarah Palin doesn't like him for her own reasons. She says she will not call him "A Knuckle Dragging Neanderthal" though. In any case I'm willing to help him with his anal problems. By making them worse.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:18 AM | Comments (5)

The Wisconsin Legislators Are Gone

As you may or may not know 14 Wisconsin Senators were camped out in Rockford. The first mate and I had gone out today for a late Valentines Day lunch (we often celebrate holidays early or late depending) at Aunt Mary's on State Street which is owned by Sam from Albania. We had the best Reuben sandwiches in Rockford plus a really decadent chocolate fudge cake for desert. When we got back home we were really full and decided that a Valentines Day snuggle was in order. Yummy. We stared the snuggle at about 3:30 PM local time and I didn't get up until a little after 9 PM. And I look at my e-mail and all heck has broken loose. Tall Dave (who blogs at Classical Values among other places) sent me an e-mail with the Gateway Pundit link above. And there were others like these:

Patriot Action Network

Rockford Tea Party - Facebook

Plus my favorite link resource:


I was planning to make it to their hide out at the Clock Tower tomorrow and take some pictures so I decided to watch the local news for an update - something I rarely do - and found out that the Wisconsin guys had left town. Dang. But you know a man has got to know his priorities. My personal coverage of the event would have meant lots of blog hits. Snuggles (naked) with the first mate? Priceless.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:01 AM | Comments (3)

Day of Rage 2: This Time It's Personal!

[This was not written by me but by I friend who wishes to remain anonymous.  I realize it falls under taking a sledgehammer to an ant, but sometimes ants deserve to be crushed with excessive force.  This one certainly does.]

You know, there's a certain kind of political radical that, observed from a safe distance, is actually funny. In particular, I'm referring to political radicals who evidently believe that the best stimulant of coherent thought is drugs, preferably consumed in quantities that would be life-threatening to a horse. I was reminded of such radicals when I first started hearing about a certain Facebook group, even now being very correctly mocked by dozens of other people online. That said, I can never pass up the opportunity to do a nice line-by-line dismantling, and this group is just begging for it. So, with my comments in bold italics, I humbly present to you:

Day Of Rage (America)
Hint: If you have to stipulate the location of the movement in a subscript, that might be an indication that you're using a clichéd name for that movement. It's like seeing a movement called "The Boxer Rebellion 2: This Time It's Personal".

About: We believe that Egypt is just the start.
Two clichéd lines in as many items! Since the political situation in Egypt is completely different from the political situation in America, it's hard to know what they think they're getting at. Then again, they only said they BELIEVE Egypt is just the start. They can also believe that their walls talk to them and secretly spawn jelly beans.

Of course, they didn't actually specify what about Egypt was the start. For all we know, this has nothing to do with a revolution. They just believe Egypt was the start of complex embalming methods in the Middle East and thought we should know.

Continue reading "Day of Rage 2: This Time It's Personal!"

posted by Sarah at 09:33 PM | Comments (3)

Chickens just won't stop coming home to roost!

On Valentine's Day of last year, I wrote a post about the long tradition of political ridicule, in which I featured an unflattering political cartoon of Thomas Jefferson:



It's not very nice. Disrespectful, even. But presidents have been subjected to innumerable comparisons with animals. George Bush was so routinely likened to a chimpanzee that it ceased to shock anyone.

Yet with this president, any and all ridicule is seen as racist, simply because he is black. Bush as chimpanzee was standard operating fare, but in the case of Obama, when a bookstore inadvertently had a book about chimpanzees for sale near books about Obama, there was an uproar.

Ever the vicious troublemaker, I PhotoShopped the chimp book out and substituted an evil book about gay sex!


To my utter astonishment, there was no uproar. Not even in my comments -- although one did opine that the chimp I removed had been a Bonobo.

(Sorry to digress, but I am feeling under pressure lately to put gay stuff into posts lest certain commenters feel neglected. I know it's irrational, but I try to satisfy.)

Anyway, the latest uproar is over a cartoon said to make fun of Michelle Obama's double standards in dieting as well as her alleged weight issues.

It showed her with a plate of hamburgers:


The authors describe the hysteria that resulted:

...last Sunday we turned in what we thought was a very mild cartoon mocking the first lady's over reach of her powers. And I decided to show her eating hamburgers like Wimpy from the old Popeye cartoons to mock the fact that she tends to scold other people's eating habits, yet every time we read about what they're eating at the White House, it's extreme. And to throw in a gag we used before, the President is shown eating hardly anything.

The cartoon did not get a lot of comments at first. I figured it was rather mild. I would try to be funnier next time. Little did I expect the firestorm that followed a few days later.

The propaganda wing of the Democrat party known as Media Matters for America, who is out to destroy all critics of this administration, ran an article saying the cartoon attacked the first lady's weight and gave out our emails, encouraging people to send us hate mail. Like pigs to the trough the mainstream press jumped on the story. Yesterday morning I got up and saw it mentioned on several websites like Salon. The NY Daily News wanted to interview us. And it was on the local TV news. We started getting inundated with hate mail. But the worst was yet to come.

The Daily News article came out and basically said we were mocking her weight, which wasn't true at all. We posted our full response on the Big Sites and my blog. Most of the emails and comments we received during the day were about us allegedly mocking her weight. And I had to set people straight over and over again. Some of them accused us of racism. Which is just the left's way of telling you to shut up. One e-mailer suggested our cartoon was going to inspire teen suicides because we were supposedly mocking body issues.

But then they died down. As evening came, I got a message that MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell was taking us to task, calling us mentally disturbed racists. He showed our pictures. He gave out where we lived. Told people to go after us. Even mentioned Batton's wife who had nothing to do with the cartoon.

Predictably, diet-related ridicule led to death threats. 

Who the hell do they think Michelle Obama is, anyway? Muhammad?

I can remember Hillary Clinton being routinely mocked for her "piano legs" and more.

Anyone remember the Hillary Clinton fried chicken special?

2 fat thighs, 2 small breasts, and a bunch of left wings!

They even came up with a picture of a KFC with a sign, which I managed to find:


I don't feel like PhotoShopping, but suppose I changed "HILLARY" TO "MICHELLE."

Would that be racist? Why?

How about this picture of Barack Obama?



Have things have reached the point where we can't even joke about or make cartoons of our leaders in the way we have always?

Forgive the rhetorical question. There is nothing new about this malevolent nonsense.

It evokes vintage Ann Althouse:

Lots of people who voted for Obama believed that his election would reflect the extent to which Americans had moved beyond racism. That was part of why some people voted for him. Little did we realize that it would turn every criticism of the President into an occasion to make an accusation of racism. Racism is revolting, but so is the notion that we aren't allowed to criticize a President!

Jimmy Carter's supremely sleazy accusation requires a solid, sound rebuke. It is an effort to place the President of the United States beyond criticism. . . . And since demanding apologies is all the rage, let me say that I would like the wizened old husk of a former President to beg our forgiveness.

And even earlier (pre-election) vintage Glenn Reynolds:

I can think of no better reason to vote against Obama than the prospect of an administration where any criticism of the President is treated as racism. 

While there are a lot more reasons now, that still remains a leading reason.

It's a sorry state of affairs that the White House has become a racist food fight.

Still, at least it's ridiculous.

There's a certain small comfort in that.

MORE: While it's tedious to have to point it out again, recent events demonstrate that in politics today, the real racism is on the left -- and it includes advocacy of lynching and vicious racial slurs

Moral lesson?

Political criticism coming from the right is racism. But genuine racism coming from the left is political criticism. 

It probably would make sense to a post modernist multiculturalist.

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

Comments appreciated, agree or disagree.

MORE: Commenter Dave M. (now in S. Korea) reminded me of the double standard involving Sarah Palin:

Instead of "racist," if Hilary had been elected every criticism would be met with the shrill cry of "sexist." Of course, the actual sexist remarks made about Sarah Palin don't count.

This is a basic law of Identity Politics:

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.


posted by Eric at 01:15 PM | Comments (17)

The Diet Of Champions

There is a lot of craziness going around about healthy eating. Last night I saw a TV news clip showing that poor eating habits (mostly in the South) have led to poor medical outcomes. I think I have a solution. "The Pink Taco Diet"

I'm waiting for the "The Pink Taco Diet Book - Illustrated". One way to get most men and some women eating healthy. And if you eat slow - say two hours per meal - well the benefits are obvious. Preparation time is minimal and the wife and husband (or mate) can both be involved in the meal.

You have to wonder why no one has though of it yet?

I can just see it:

The husband gets home and asks the wife, "What's for supper dear?"

The wife points to the appropriate spot and says, "Healthy choice."

And for the ladies and guys who prefer something different: "The Raw Hot Dog Diet - With Protein Sauce."

In fact it is possible for both partners to enjoy their healthy choices simultaneously. With a diet like that much less hectoring will be required to get folks to stick to their diets. I can't wait.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:57 AM | Comments (3)

Defending Borders is a natural impulse

In a down economy, it's easy to understand the socialist impulse. After all, if businesses are failing everywhere, and "The Government" has "All That Money," why, it seems almost a no-brainer to use that money to "keep everything going." At least until things "get back to normal."

What is normal? Stasis? Should the government have intervened to protect the buggy whip industry? Why? To "preserve jobs"?

Such thoughts have been on my mind because Ann Arbor (considered by many to be Michigan's most affluent city) is home to yet another failing business -- the great Borders bookstore chain. Aside from the loss of Borders and the loss of jobs, this means more large vacant storefronts in Ann Arbor.

Technology is being blamed.

More local links:

Sarah is very worried about short term and long term implications, and I don't blame her. Since I have moved to Ann Arbor (and I have only been here two years), I have witnessed a mind-boggling pattern of downsizing, closures, layoffs, and more and more vacancies. The great Pfizer plant closed not long before I moved here, and then the facility in St. Louis where the Ann Arbor employees had relocated closed. The Hollywood Video chain closed (that's two more stores), a longtime nearby supermarket closed, a huge sporting goods store closed, the Circuit City closed -- and two years later the latter is still vacant at one of Ann Arbor's largest shopping centers, which is now to lose Borders! Giant vacant storefronts have simply become part of life. Former shopping centers now look like the modern equivalent of ghost towns. Here's the "Georgetown Mall":


And remember, Ann Arbor is an affluent place. 

As to banks, some close and others close and then reopen under new names, and it all happens so quickly that I can't keep track of where they are or what their names are.  

Well, at least Ann Arbor is not raiding the marijuana clinics that have been springing up. Too bad the 174-acre, 2-million square-foot Pfizer plant couldn't have been transformed into a giant manufacturing center of legalized drugs. Imagine the jobs and revenue that would have brought! (An added plus would be the loss of criminal opportunities. Maybe even the failure of the Mexican drug cartels at the other "Borders" in the news lately!) Instead, the University of Michigan took over the site, as it has been acquiring a number of properties. So many that it has now become a commercial landlord. In a way it's good, but long term it means a loss of property tax revenue as the University is tax exempt. 

So I understand the temptation to have the government "do something." What I can't figure out is why the auto industry is so much more worthy of a bailout than the book industry.

If I were more of a leftist, I'd be screaming about discrimination.

posted by Eric at 10:02 AM | Comments (3)

Underground In Las Vegas

There are people living in the flood tunnel system under Las Vegas.

Further into the maze are Amy and Junior who married in the Shalimar Chapel - one of Vegas's most popular venues - before returning to the tunnels for their honeymoon.

They lost their home when they became addicted to drugs after the death of their son Brady at four months old.

'I heard Las Vegas was a good place for jobs,' Amy said. 'But it was tough and we started living under the staircase outside the MGM casino.

'Then we met a guy who lived in the tunnels. We've been down here ever since.'

Matthew O'Brien, a reporter who stumbled across the tunnel people when he was researching a murder case, has set up The Shine A Light foundation to help.

'These are normal people of all ages who've lost their way, generally after a traumatic event,' he said.

'Many are war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress.

It is really shameful the way we treat people with personal problems in the US. If they take drugs for relief we hound them into jail if we can find them. But that is not the only problem.

PTSD treatment for returned soldiers is haphazard at best.

In his last months alive, Senior Airman Anthony Mena rarely left home without a backpack filled with medications.

He returned from his second deployment to Iraq complaining of back pain, insomnia, anxiety and nightmares. Doctors diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder and prescribed powerful cocktails of psychiatric drugs and narcotics.

Yet his pain only deepened, as did his depression. "I have almost given up hope," he told a doctor in 2008, medical records show. "I should have died in Iraq."

Airman Mena died instead in his Albuquerque apartment, on July 21, 2009, five months after leaving the Air Force on a medical discharge. A toxicologist found eight prescription medications in his blood, including three antidepressants, a sedative, a sleeping pill and two potent painkillers.

Yet his death was no suicide, the medical examiner concluded. What killed Airman Mena was not an overdose of any one drug, but the interaction of many. He was 23.

It breaks my heart to see this. But that is not the only such story.
...the military came under criticism a decade ago for not prescribing enough medications, particularly for pain. In its willingness to prescribe more readily, the Pentagon was trying to meet standards similar to civilian medicine, General Chiarelli said.

But the response of modern psychiatry to modern warfare has not always been perfect. Psychiatrists still do not have good medications for the social withdrawal, nightmares and irritability that often accompany post-traumatic stress, so they mix and match drugs, trying to relieve symptoms.

"These decisions about medication are difficult enough in civilian psychiatry, but unfortunately in this very-high-stress population, there is almost no data to guide you," said Dr. Ranga R. Krishnan, a psychiatrist at Duke University. "The psychiatrist is trying everything and to some extent is flying blind."

They are all flying blind - civilian and military doctors alike.

Worse - our government actively hampers the use of one of the safest drugs known to man for relief of PTSD symptoms. I have written about it at length. Here are some of the articles:

PTSD and the Endocannabinoid System

The Soldiers Disease

Is Addiction Real?

Police and PTSD

PTSD Pot Alcohol & Substance Abuse

PTSD is not just a problem for combat vets: Heroin.

And where opiate use is necessary marijuana can reduce the required dose.

Medical marijuana can help pain patients in many ways. Using cannabis as an adjunct medicine can help opiate pain meds work better. Medical marijuana can successfully treat pain and help lower the overall dose of narcotics, something that is healthy for the patient.
It would be very useful if military doctors could use marijuana to reduce the required opiate dose. Unfortunately military doctors are not allowed to have anything to do with medical marijuana. There are Federal Laws against pot dontcha know.

I would love it if the Government wised up about all this. But first the people are going to have to demand it. We are not quite there yet. And that is very sad.

Here are a few books on the subject:

Marijuana Medical Handbook: Practical Guide to Therapeutic Uses of Marijuana

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

Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence

Medical Marijuana 101: Everything They Told You Is Wrong

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:43 AM | Comments (2)

Hunger Coming To Korea

There has been an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in South Korea.

The severe foot and mouth epidemic that started in South Korea at the end of November could have even more serious repercussions for public health. Some 3m head of livestock have already been slaughtered but now the environment ministry is concerned about burial of the carcasses. Under the pressure of events some cattle were buried alive and the authorities sometimes failed to take the necessary precautions: digging pits four or five metres deep and lining them with two layers of plastic sheeting. Farm animals were buried at more than 4,000 sites, often in easily accessible spots, for instance beside rivers. As spring temperatures rise the corpses will start to rot. Rainfall leaching through the pits, above all during the June monsoon, could contaminate rivers and aquifers. This could be a hazard for drinking water with the risk of another outbreak of foot and mouth disease. To prevent "an unprecedented environmental disaster" the environment minister Lee Maanee last week called for "a full, detailed study of all the [burial] sites before spring". According to a survey carried out in the eastern province of North Gyeongsang, where the epidemic started, more than one in 10 burial sites needs to be reinforced. New pits may be dug and lined with concrete. The new problem comes on top of those posed by the epidemic itself, which has already cost South Korea 2,000bn won ($1.75bn) and pushed up food prices. The price of pork rose by nearly 12% in January alone. With about 5% of beef and dairy cattle having been destroyed the authorities are afraid there may be milk shortages, production having dropped by as much as one-fifth in some places.
Could it infect humans? Yes but it is rare.
Because FMD rarely infects humans, but spreads rapidly among animals, it is a much greater threat to the agriculture industry than to human health. Farmers around the world can lose huge amounts of money during a foot-and-mouth epizootic, when large numbers of animals are destroyed and revenues from milk and meat production go down.
And there are animal vaccines. It is looking bad for South Korea. But at least they have resources to buy their way out of the problem. North Korea is in worse shape although the infection has not spread so far there.
SEOUL--A swiftly moving disease that has decimated South Korean livestock and damaged the country's food production now appears to be out of control in North Korea. It is unclear where or when the latest outbreak of the airborne, easily transported illness known as foot-and-mouth disease began on the Korean peninsula. But in a sign of the pressure North Korea is facing over the issue, its state media on Tuesday reported that the outbreak originated in the South and that other countries, including Malaysia and Mongolia, have been hit with outbreaks in the past. North Korea, which faces chronic food shortages and whose authoritarian government resists interaction with outsiders, hasn't taken any apparent steps to cull animals infected with the disease, as South Korea did. Visitors to North Korea reported as far back as December they suspected the country was battling foot-and-mouth disease, but North Korea's state news agency didn't officially confirm the outbreak until Thursday when it said "more than 10,000 head of draft oxen, milk cows and pigs have been infected" and "thousands of them died." In addition to reducing the North's already-constrained food supply, the disease's spread to oxen, widely used in place of tractors there, will limit the ability of North Korean farmers to carry out planting and other tasks.
And of course China, which borders North Korea is at risk. This is going to cause a spike in food prices world wide. The rich countries will be stressed. Many of the poor countries of the world will be broken. Add in the recent freezes in in the US and Mexico and the world food supply is going to be strained severely. And yet the Delta Smelt has shut down a lot of food production in California (brilliant that) and we are using vast acreage to turn corn into alcohol. You have to wonder if the people running the show in America were born stupid or did they have to take classes?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:47 AM | Comments (3)

When the center can't hold, is revolution imminent?

As Sarah was having trouble opening the blog software earlier, she asked me to post something about the Border's Books closure.

I've echoed two of a friend's posts on the borders situation on my FB.  I view this as a sign of the things happening all over -- both in publishing AND in government.  The center cannot hold, mostly because the "center" isn't.  They're people who specialized in me-to-ism to acquire their credentials/not education.  Publishing, (I'm sure I've explained it somewhere) is a profoundly top-down system and all of those seem to be in free fall.

The links Sarah mentioned are these:

It's happened & no one's jumping for joy

Breaking news. The Borders watch is now moving into the phase. As expected, the bookseller has filed for bankruptcy this morning. According to DealBook, a major reason for the filing is that Borders failed to secure agreements from publishers and other vendors about restructuring its debt.

More on Borders' Bankruptcy

As noted earlier, Borders has done the expected: they filed for bankruptcy this morning. I first heard about it on the local news. Early as it was, there was little hard information available at the time. Since then, more information about the filing is coming to light.


posted by Eric at 04:24 PM | Comments (5)

Male hazards

On Valentine's Day of all days, Glenn Reynolds linked a fascinating article (by fellow University of Tennessee law professor Michael J. Higdon) titled "Fatherhood by Conscription: Nonconsensual Insemination and the Duty of Child Support." Quipped Glenn,

I was thinking of writing an article on this subject someday, entitled "Ejaculation As An Ultrahazardous Activity."

As most lawyers know, "Ultrahazardous Activity" equals "Strict Liability." Depending on the consequences of ejaculation it certainly can be ultrahazardous.

From the abstract:

Nathaniel, was a California teenager who became a father in 1995. The mother of Nathaniel's child was named Ricci, and at the time of conception, she was thirty-four years old. Nathaniel, however, was merely fifteen. Although Nathaniel admitted to having sex with Ricci voluntarily about five times, the fact that he was under sixteen years of age at the time made it legally impossible for him to consent to sexual intercourse. In other words, under California law, Nathaniel was not only a new father, but was also a victim of statutory rape. Nonetheless, in a subsequent action for child support, the court held that Nathaniel was liable for the support of the child who was born as a result of his rape. According to the court, "Victims have rights. Here, the victim also has responsibilities."

Much of the law relating to child support is based on the fact that it is typically in a child's best interest to receive financial support from mothers as well as fathers. So strong is this precept that courts will hold a father liable for child support even in the face of wrongful conduct by the mother. Thus, child support is essentially a form of strict liability with the justification being that the child is an innocent party, and, therefore, it is the child's interests and welfare that the court must look to in adjudicating support. At first glance, such a standard seems eminently reasonable. Few would argue with the proposition that, if a man voluntarily has sex with a woman and a child results, then he should be liable for child support. The problem with the court's current approach, however, is that the standard is so strict that even those men who never consented to the sexual act that caused the pregnancy are nonetheless liable for the support of the resulting child. These men include males who became fathers as a result of statutory rape and also adult males who became fathers either as a result of sexual assault or having their sperm stolen and used by a woman for purposes of self-insemination. In all such cases, these "fathers" have been held liable for child support.

If we follow out current legal reasoning, the age of the father is utterly irrelevant; even if a woman managed to seduce and become pregnant from the sperm of a fertile 11 year old boy, the kid would still be stuck having to pay child support! Laugh if you want, but that's the law.

The author proposes treating involuntary underage fathers in a manner similar to the way sperm donors are treated, and I thoroughly agree.

But when I read the above, I was reminded me of a man I knew who fathered a child when he was under eighteen, and reached his majority as a "deadbeat dad" and a bureaucratically hunted man. He was a homeless drifter who would often live in tents, and I put him up for awhile, hearing his drunken tale of woe over and over again. While I felt sorry for him, whether he deserves sympathy is not the point here. What I have noticed is that for whatever reason, society has an obsession with holding men responsible for fathering children, whereas the mother tends to be considered a "victim" whose children have a right to be cared for by the state. Fathers are expected to work and contribute money to support their children, while mothers are not. Instead, they are seen as automatically entitled to child support from the state.

The state pays, and demands that the father contribute. But no similar demands are placed upon the mother. 

Another thing which strikes me as manifestly unfair is that the mother at all times has the right to opt out of motherhood -- whether by aborting her fetus while pregnant or placing her child for adoption after it is born. The father has no such option. He is simply stuck with fatherhood.

This is in a country which enshrines the right to "equal protection under the law." 

You'd almost think they want to make being male an ultrahazardous activity.

UPDATE: Notwithstanding the strict liability doctrine, I just found what appears to be a loophole in the law. Fathers who are undocumented aliens appear to be able to escape legal scrutiny entirely, at least according to the laws of one state:

Stephanie Hernandez gave birth to a baby girl in Nashville's Baptist Hospital on August 31, 2007. She was not married at the time. No father's name was listed on the birth certificate, meaning that the father had no legal paternity rights or obligations. 

Deadbeat Dad?  Nope. Her fiance, whom she later married, was at her side the entire time. Hernandez, a US citizen, and her undocumented immigrant fiance, were prevented from placing his name on the birth certificate by Tennessee law. The law requires an unmarried dad to produce government-issued ID to appear on the birth certificate, but this is denied to undocumented immigrants.

Meanwhile, Tennessee appears to have no qualms about immigration status when it comes to child support collections. Calls to a local child support office and a Tennessee observer knowledgeable about these issues confirmed that an undocumented mother can indeed collect child support.

So, the mom gets child support but because the father is not a citizen, he escapes liability for having to contribute, and won't have to worry about being a deadbeat dad.

So maybe it's not so much maleness that's risky, so much as American maleness. 


posted by Eric at 12:46 PM | Comments (4)

Legalizing To Help The Black Community

The first speaker in the video, John McWhorter, makes points similar to those made in the article Demographics.

Here is a book with a rather ironic title given the subject of the video:

Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:09 AM | Comments (1)

Is the cradle safe?

Sorry to be posing what sounds like another rhetorical question, but the other day I wrote a post in which I worried about the security of the Sphinx and the Pyramids.

I was somewhat cheered by a comment from Kathy Kinsley:

Indeed, it's not funny. However, I don't think the people of Egypt would allow it.

What we need to do is keep reminding them that they are Egyptians, the cradle of civilization, and not the camel-riding nomads that conquered them...

How I would love to remind them of that! But right now, my concerns over ancient monuments seem almost beside the point. Events have confirmed my fears that Egypt is so unstable that anything could happen. The vicious mob attack -- a "brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating" -- of CBS reporter Lara Logan would be bad enough in itself, but several additional features stand out which ought to concern everyone. 

One is that the protesters have so outdone themselves in pure viciousness that they have lost whatever support they once had here:

...were there even arrests made? And why does CBS's statement feel compelled to note that the mob had been "whipped into frenzy"? Crowds at all sorts of events get pretty frenzied, but good luck trying that with a judge if you use it as a pretext to join in on a mass sexual assault.

Needless to say, the way journalists cover these events is going to change dramatically. And even more needless to say, America will never see those protests the same way again.

Another thing that stands out is that even with the military in charge of government, there is nothing resembling rule of law or security of any kind:

...after she was assaulted, Logan went back to her hotel, and within two hours -- sometime late Friday and into early Saturday -- was flown out of Cairo on a chartered network jet, sources said.

She wasn't taken to a hospital in Egypt because the network didn't trust local security there, sources said.

And neither CBS nor Logan reported the crime to Egyptian authorities because they felt they couldn't trust them, either, the sources said. "The way things are there now, they would have ended up arresting her again," one source said.

They cannot protect anyone or anything.

On top of that, there's the appallingly obscene response by certain people on the left. One Nir Rosen -- a "fellow at the NYU Center for Law and Security" who "regularly contributes to leading periodicals, such as Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, the New York Times Magazine, the Boston Review, and Harper's" -- which means he probably considers himself a "journalist" -- actually found humor in the attack:

Nir Rosen believed this was the right moment to let the world know that he "ran out of sympathy for her" and that we should "remember her role as a major war monger" and that we "have to find humor in the small things."

Your move, NYU.

If they think that a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating of a female American journalist is funny, how could anyone expect such vicious post modernists (or their Sharia Law-supporting cohorts in academia) to object to the permanent destruction of the most hallowed monuments in the history of Western civilization?

I'm tempted to say "there went Egypt," but I guess it's still there in the physical sense. At least so far.

To say that I am disappointed would be understatement. Right now I am unable consider the attackers or their supporters to be even people, much less representatives of the cradle of Western Civilization.

There is of course a growing, inhuman, chorus which says Ms. Logan was asking for it and deserved it.

And what's left of Western Civilization cowers in fear.... 

posted by Eric at 10:27 AM | Comments (4)

Humankind's Dominance In Jeopardy

"I'll wager $6,435," Watson said in his pleasant electronic voice.

"I won't ask," said host Alex Trebek, wondering with everybody else where that figure came from.

Another step forward for AI, as IBM's supercomputer tramples the organic competition.  Perhaps what's most interesting about Watson is that it included a copy of Wikipedia -- which came into existence only ten years ago but is now an incredible compendium of human knowledge, the equivalent of thousands of Libraries at Alexandria and far more accessible -- and built almost entirely by voluntary labor.  Yesterday the branching scenarios of chess, today the detail and nuance of Jeopardy, tomorrow... consciousness? 

No, almost certainly not.  First computers will have to beat us at Go, which is probably a better measure of raw computing power.  Humans, not surprisingly given the challenges posed by prehistoric life, are tuned by evolution for general-purpose problemsolving and social cognition.  Even a pocket calculator can beat 99.9% of us at certain tasks, but we're still a few iterations of Moore's Law from having the horsepower for an analogue of a human brain.

Perhaps a bigger problem is the programming effort.  Outside of sci-fi, consciousness is not going to just spontaneously emerge from complexity; creating a human analogue personality in silicon will be an extremely challenging and precise effort to replicate aspects of human intelligence. As impressive as they are, assemblages of hardware and software like Deep Blue and Watson are barely comparable to severely autistic humans.  What we think of as human consciousness arises not just from the interplay of our ten trillion synaptic connections and the ten thousand chemical triggers that tell us we're hungry, horny, harried, or hung over, but also something much more difficult than chess or Jeopardy or Go: social modelling. 

Modelling other humans is generally the most complex task our grey matter is asked to do (this probably explains why the brains of social animals seem to grow faster than those of nonsocial animals). Clumps of recently evolved brain matter called mirror neurons help mammals understand what other animals are thinking/emoting so we can predict their behavior and optimize our responses for success.  This faculty has to be exquisitely tuned in modern humans because we must navigate exceedingly complex and subtle social variations on a daily basis.

Of course, at some point in the next couple decades, after a lot of hard work and some luck, we probably will see a human-personality-capable machine... and from there, they will proceed to exceed human capabilities in the social cognition realm while still enjoying the additional specialized advantages we're already built for them today (try to imagine the wittiest, most socially successful person you know, able to motivate like Tony Robbins and innovate like Steve Jobs, and then imagine he's also the world's greatest chess player and has a Wikipedic knowledge of... well, almost everything).  And what happens after that, my friends, is beyond the veil of the Singularity...

posted by Dave at 10:14 PM | Comments (23)

Quick translation

From Glenn Reynolds, a quickie project:


OK, I'll try.

Help facilitate the destruction of human rights (which is what Sharia Law does) while claiming to be promoting "Human Rights."

posted by Eric at 09:43 PM | Comments (1)

Protecting the monkeys from developing bad tastes

In a discussion of CPAC, Greg Gutfeld argues that religion alone seems to be the basis for some people's distastes:

...if you want to argue against homosexuality, you need to move it beyond religion. Fact is, if I get mugged, I can explain to the police why the mugger must be arrested - without saying "it's in the Ten Commandments."

After all, pointing to God as the basis for your distaste is what our enemies do every time they try to blow us up. We're better than that.

And if you disagree with me, you probably don't hit the gym enough.

I have long argued that sexual tastes are just that. Some people like some things, while others don't. My opinion is that unless someone else's taste involves the use of unwanted force or fraud against others, it is a bad idea for the government to get into the business of regulating it.

And speaking of regulating human tastes, it wasn't enough to ban Four Loko and other caffeinated alcoholic drinks. There is now a growing movement to crack down on certain beverages containing caffeine:

Mary Claire O'Brien, a professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine who helped foment the moral panic that led the FDA to ban Four Loko and three other brands of caffeinated malt beverages last fall, says the fight against demonic drinks is far from over. "These premixed alcoholic energy drinks are only a fraction of the true public health risk," she and co-author Amelia Arria, a researcher at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, warn in a recent Journal of the American Medical Association commentary. "Regular (nonalcoholic) energy drinks might pose just as great a threat to individual and public health and safety."

And as in many cases involving the taste wars, caffeinated beverages are a threat to.... The Children!

...the authors, researchers at the University of Miami, equate "heavy caffeine consumption" with "drinking energy drinks," even though the leading brands contain considerably less caffeine than coffee does. Red Bull, for example, has 9.5 milligrams of caffeine per fluid ounce, while RockStar has 10, compared to about 18 for drip coffee. "In healthy adults," the article says, "a caffeine intake of 400 mg/day is considered safe," while "adolescent and child caffeine consumption should not exceed 100 mg/day." Since a can of Red Bull contains 80 milligrams of caffeine (comfortably below the recommended limit for children and adolescents) and a short coffee from Starbucks has 180 (far above it), the focus on energy drinks--which the authors suggest should be restricted like cigarettes, alcohol, or maybe Valium--is puzzling, especially since, by their own account, American teenagers typically do not consume very much caffeine.  "In the United States," the article says, "adolescent caffeine intake averages 60 to 70 mg/day." But why let that stand in the way of a good panic?

Look for my dissection of the Four Loko freakout in the March issue of Reason.

The problem with reductio ad absurdum arguments is that while they might make sense to rational people, to the regulators they are seen as pointing to loopholes that must be closed. Thus, when alcoholic drinks containing caffeine were banned, libertarians like me analogized it to banning Rum and Coke. Sure enough, the regulators of human tastes turned right around and tried to regulate that too! (What's absurd to me is a moral issue to them!)

So, while the argument that the canned energy drinks have less caffeine than Starbucks coffee might cause guffawing and snickering among libertarians, the taste regulators would see that as little more than an argument in favor of mandatory ID checks at Starbucks, at grocery stores, and anywhere coffee, tea, or "normal" soft drinks are sold. The logic is simple enough. Pepsi and Mountain Dew contain 55 mg. of caffeine to a Red Bull's 80 mg., which means drinking two cans is like drinking one and a half Red Bulls! And drinking coffee is even more dangerous than drinking two Red Bulls!

All have to be regulated, lest our children overdose!

Sometimes I wonder whether the desire to regulate the tastes of other people is built into the genes.

Of some people.

In that respect, a link in M. Simon's post yesterday reminded me of the inducement argument.

...they [gay conservatives] are taking advantage of the alcohol parties at CPAC to poison the minds and pollute the bodies of young conservatives who are still too naive to know what is being done to them," - Eugene Delgaudio, President of the Public Advocate of the U.S., warning about GOProud in a fundraising email.

Just as there are people who believe that exposure to open homosexual behavior will induce people to become gay, there are also people who believe that the presence of energy drinks on store shelves -- or for that matter junk food outlets on public streets -- will induce people to consume them. This is why cigarettes are treated the way pornography was once treated, kept behind the counter out of reach of children and sold only to adults. The regulators on the left want caffeinated beverages and junk food treated like cigarettes and alcohol, if not banned completely.

The inducement argument cannot be dismissed out of hand, for it is undeniable that there are always going to be some people who will want to do something that they see others doing. Behaviorally, it's called "monkey see, monkey do." In the context of homosexuality, I think it has to be admitted that there are some people who might have a tendency to develop that taste, and who, but for gay visibility, might not, or might not have. The idea that people who might have gay tendencies should be protected by society from their own tendencies is considered a little ridiculous by most people, but it has an undeniable appeal to others. 

A well-known religious cartoon from many decades ago epitomizes this mindset: 


The mom is afraid to let her boy see the gay genderbenders, and it reflects the fear in the minds of parents that a heretofore normal boy might be induced to become one of them.

As to how often that happens, I don't know. If the "gay disease" were that infectious, the percentage of homosexuals would have increased dramatically. (As I said to Simon in an email, if exposure to homosexuals induced homosexuality, everyone would be gay by now.) I think a good argument could just as easily be made that the boy in the cartoon would repulsed by the men in dresses, and if he had gay tendencies the sight of them might drive him straight into the closet, because for every "monkey see, monkey do" inducement, I think there are also "monkey see, monkey don't" inducements.

Which is why forbidding things and screaming about how awful they are can actually encourage them. As I have observed, Anita Bryant unwittingly did more for the early gay movement than they ever could have done for themselves.

But that's just human psychology. Whether or how parents discourage tastes they don't like in their kids is their business, but when they seek to have the government regulate the tastes of adults, then they're regulating my business. 

If we are monkeys, then I am my own monkey. I am not responsible for the behavior of the other monkeys, nor do I blame other monkeys if I decide to do what they do. That is called personal responsibility, right?

Maybe it's not a normal monkey trait.

posted by Eric at 11:36 AM | Comments (64)

A Triumph

Niall Ferguson schools some lefties on the amateurism of the Obama foreign policy team.

Update: If the above video wasn't enough you can watch the whole thing (11 minutes) at No Quarter.

Niall Ferguson has written books. This one looks interesting:

Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power


More Niall Ferguson Books

H/T Hill Buzz

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:19 AM | Comments (1)

An analysis I can't refuse

Sarah's son Robert (who wrote a great post on Post Modernism) has done such a marvelous job with the Blogfather T-shirt design that I just ordered one.


(Hey what's with that Valentine's Day rose? Coincidence?)

Quite incidentally (and quite fascinatingly, from a historical perspective),when I first read about the design, it was in Glenn's post last night about a mobster who started a blog:

THE BLOGFATHER? All hail the 'Blog-Father': Waiting for trial in 6 murders, 'Tommy Shots' takes to Web.

After which Glenn quipped,

Sorry, dude, but there's only one BlogFather.

Damned right about that. But what really blew me away was that the linked piece mentioned a guy I remembered from long, long ago. I'm no spring chicken and it blew me away to learn the guy -- one Sonny Franzese -- is still alive:

Gioeli [the man improperly called "the Blogfather"] whines that he has been depicted as a "monster" to sell newspapers but, under the heading "About me," he boasts, "See me in a fight with a bear, pray for the bear."

He rants about jail conditions - hard mattresses and the lack of toenail clippers - and shoddy medical treatment, the government and the media.

Forty-six followers are listed on the blog including a "Fr. Peter," who appears to be a priest. Gioeli even puts a call-out to snitches for information about witnesses and FBI agents.

Gioeli came to the defense of 94-year-old Colombo underboss John (Sonny) Franzese after the oldfella was hit with an eight-year prison sentence for shaking down strip joints.

"It is heartbreaking and disturbing to see my government kick an old man when he is down," Gioeli wrote.

Recently, he attacked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder - who last week declined to seek the death penalty against Gioeli for Dols' murder - and the anti-racketeering RICO statute.

"Great entertainment for everyone except the Italian Americans who can't break the hold of this stereotype and are paying with their lives," he wrote.

Stereotypes are one thing, and Holder is in no position to judge anyone. Still, I am not at all impressed by the attempt to impart to Gioeli (a Johnny-come-lately blogger if ever there was one) the title of "Blogfather" -- and I cannot imagine a more supreme act of lese majeste.

An act of disrespect.

To Glenn Reynolds, who in the Blogosphere is, simply, a man of respect!

Nevertheless, there's no denying an amazing fact: that Sonny Franzese (who has a Wiki page) is out there in the real world drawing eight years in prison for shaking down strip joints -- AT AGE NINETY FOUR!

Say what you will, but wouldn't most of us like to have such vim and vigor? 

Franzese rang a bell because as a kid, I read about how he beat a rap when he was accused of (and acquitted of) killing Ernie "The Hawk" Rupolo. Rupolo himself was quite a piece of work, who not only had to be killed several times over, but had spent most of his life working as a hit man with only one eye and a .45 caliber bullet lodged in his head:

An autopsy carried out by Medical Examiner Milton Helpern, revealed that Ernie had gone down hard. He had been shot in the head and upper chest four times, and stabbed another eighteen. Digging in among the macerated and putrid flesh, the doctor found five misshapen slugs: four .38's and one, a  45. The big one had in fact been inside Ernie's head for at least forty years, since the day he had got into an argument with another young tough, who had settled their dispute by clocking him with a .45 automatic. Somehow, Ernie survived that one, although he lost his right eye, and for the rest of his life had to go around with a patch stuck over the empty socket.

Check out the pictures. If you enjoy reading true life mob stories, read the whole tale of Ernie the Hawk.

Not that this has much to do with Glenn, but there is a certain commonality which might have implications for life extension.

If you think about it, how many guys run around working a stressful occupation for 40 years with only one eye and a bullet in their head?

And how many are shaking down strip joints and serving time in the joint at 94?

But if you think that sounds fantastic, ask yourself how many law professors who also write gazillions of blog posts -- with hundreds of millions of hits* -- were  well-connected enough to have been proteges of Benito Mussolini [allegedly, of course] back before most of us were born?

Sure, the facts might be based on hearsay, but as we all know, none of these guys will admit their true connections anyway.

It's enough to make me think long and hard about this life extension stuff.

* The number of hits must be stressed. There is only one BlogFather who can make such a claim!

UPDATE: The mystery of the Mussolini-Reynolds connection deepens. Readers may remember this photo showing the BlogFather -- way back in his early days with Il Duce:


glenno e benito01.jpg

Well, a later photo has turned up, which I have decided to share only out of a grim sense of public duty. Probably taken in the final stages of the regime, it shows a rather glum-looking pair, obviously contemplating defeat together:


Mussolini was killed, but eerily, Glenn has hardly aged at all since those dark days.

He reemerged, as The BlogFather!

Why is such amazing life extension technology only available to a select few?

UPDATE: Thanks to a fiendish form of blog censorship known by the euphemism of "Instalanche," the BlogFather has sent so many of his minions to this blog that it has been overloaded, thus preventing the dark facts from his past from being fully known!

I will endeavor to assure that the evidence will not be destroyed, and that the truth will prevail!

By the way, these photos are not crude PhotoShops! Not only have they been thoroughly vetted, and subject to rigorous content-verification, but Glenn himself has verified their accuracy by admitting that his minions have failed to destroy them! 

And note carefully the comfy chairs!

(Another recurrent theme in the endlessly-extended life of this dark titan of technology.)

posted by Eric at 01:02 AM | Comments (11)

Putting Coco's Squirrel Derangement Syndrome in perspective

Delightful as it was to read, Sarah's recent post about squirrels reminded me that there is no end in sight to the war between Coco and the Rodentine Occupation Army, which oppresses her on a daily basis and causes her extreme mental consternation. (Seriously, she is obsessed with them, and the fact that they cannot be caught is fueling a Canine Inferiority Complex.)

Notwithstanding her lack of success in this unwinnable war, Coco has a long history as a tireless anti-squirrel activist. She may not be able to catch these awful critters, but as I said before, she does keep me safe from being attacked as others have been:

No way would Coco ever allow a squirrel to terrorize me in my own house. She patrols the yard relentlessly, always on the lookout for the slightest hint of squirrel trouble. She thinks these animals are deliberately taunting her by their very presence, and is highly sensitive to the defiant, tail-flicking behavior in which they engage. She is certain that the latter is intended as a blatant display of bigoted anti-dog triumphalism (this is not just Coco's conspiracy theory, btw), and she takes it very personally.

At the time I wrote that, a squirrel had recently annoyed Coco with aggressive tail-flicking behavior of which I managed to get video


Nothing has changed. In many ways, things have only gotten worse. Over the weekend, there was quite a commotion directed at the kitchen window, and when went to investigate, I saw a fat, mangy-looking squirrel on top of the outdoor aquarium (now filled with snow), staring me and Coco right in the face and defiantly flicking its tail.


They are the enemy.

In England the humans know how to handle them. They do what Coco would do if she could catch them: farmers' markets, butcher shops, village pubs and elegant restaurants, squirrel is selling as fast as gamekeepers and hunters can bring it in.

"Part of the interest is curiosity and novelty," said Barry Shaw of Shaw Meats, who sells squirrel meat at the Wirral Farmers Market near Liverpool. "It's a great conversation starter for dinner parties."

While some have difficulty with the cuteness versus deliciousness ratio -- that adorable little face, those itty-bitty claws -- many feel that eating squirrel is a way to do something good for the environment while enjoying a unique gastronomical experience.

With literally millions of squirrels rampaging throughout England, Scotland and Wales at any given time, squirrels need to be controlled by culls. This means that hunters, gamekeepers, trappers and the Forestry Commission (the British equivalent of forest rangers) provide a regular supply of the meat to British butchers, restaurants, pâté and pasty makers and so forth.

The situation is more than simply a matter of having too many squirrels. In fact, there is a war raging in Squirreltown: invading interlopers (gray squirrels introduced from North America over the past century or more) are crowding out a British icon, the indigenous red squirrel immortalized by Beatrix Potter and cherished by generations since. The grays take over the reds' habitat, eat voraciously and harbor a virus named squirrel parapox (harmless to humans) that does not harm grays but can devastate reds. (Reports indicate, though, that the reds are developing resistance.)

Upsetting Coco is one thing, but messing with Beatrix Potter is too much!

The damned Eastern gray squirrels are, it seems, simply too successful:

A prolific and adaptable species, the eastern gray squirrel has been introduced to, and thrives, in several regions of the western United States. It has also been introduced to Britain, where it has spread across the country and has largely displaced the native Red Squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris. In Ireland, the red squirrel has been displaced in several eastern counties, though it still remains common in the south and west of the country.[3] There are concerns that such displacement might happen in Italy and that Grey squirrels might spread from Italy to other parts of mainland Europe.[4]

The EU is concerned, but seems powerless to stop them. And if you think that's bad, read about the commotion (if not outright mental instability) these awful beasts are causing in Colorado, an area they have invaded and which they are now terrorizing. 

Make sense of this one if you can:

Eastern Gray Squirrel in Colorado

We live in this strange world, and we too often get what we deserve. Giant Eastern Gray Squirrel represent big business now, even the wild ones. Conservation Agencies make huge amounts of money from selling Eastern Gray Squirrel permits. Without that, they'd operate on far less revenue. Colorado and Colorado will be facing that problem soon, and eventually, so will Colorado. But should be there yet any law preventing these Eastern Gray Squirrel habitats from feeding the meat-based feed to Eastern Gray Squirrel to create huge teeth? Nope ... none that I know of. this large amount of these Eastern Gray Squirrel habitat people have asserted themselves as people who live their lives according to how much money they make, without regard to the bad effect their lives and efforts have made upon the earth. But they only operate because of the lunacy of "trophy critter catching" and the extremely wealthy people who come out of the city looking for high scoring antlers, justifying their "outdoor experience." How can any of that be accepted as critter catching. How can any of these people accept themselves and what they do? this friend of Extermination Officer Timothy says Eastern Gray Squirrels will be appearing in Denver. soon, and the pest operator wants to take him to see them. Extermination Officer Timothy should be anxious to go, the pest operator hasn't seen the squirrels since the pest operator rode many of them in 1945. Extermination Officer Timothy was one of the small company of 101st Airborne paratroopers to return the group of squirrels which Hitler had stolen to Austrian authorities as the war concluded. The pest operator told me quite this story about it. the pest operator stated it took several seven day periods to get the squirrels where they were going, and during the trip, they had to deal with this big spring storm which flooded their camp. the pest operator stated there were about three or four dozen of the white squirrels and about this dozen squirrels of other colors. the pest operator stated they were magnificent and very tame, following the critter catchers like puppy dogs. But the pest operator stated many were hurt and all were in poor condition. the pest operator recalled putting salve on the legs of this couple of the rodents on the trip and stated that to this day, the pest operator has never seen rodents so gentle and calm. Those people who train the squirrels today will never know that in the audience watching will be one of this small handful of the surviving American critter catchers who helped rescue and return the animals' ancestors more than 60 years ago. Denver pest control companies that we contacted felt that this issue should be an important matter.

If people get that mentally tweaked by the squirrels, who can blame Coco?

MORE: And what more proof do we need of Squirrel Derangement Syndrome than the Godwin Law violation above?

At least Coco has not brought up Hitler in the context of squirrels.


posted by Eric at 10:25 AM | Comments (9)

Nuclear Material Found Entering The Port Of San Diego?

Frank in the comments to ARMZ Buys Wyoming Uranium Mines said that there are nuclear weapons found entering the port of San Diego. Well to say the least I was sceptical (love the Brit spelling). So I started checking for a reputable source. And it depresses me to no end to say I found one.

San Diego Channel 10 News - Interview Raises Questions Over Weapons Of Mass Effect In SD. Excerpted from the report:

In San Diego, every cargo container is driven through a radiation detector before leaving San Diego's seaport.

"So, specifically, you're looking for the dirty bomb? You're looking for the nuclear device?" asked Blacher.

"Correct. Weapons of mass effect," Hallor said.

"You ever found one?" asked Blacher.

"Not at this location," Hallor said.

"But they have found them?" asked Blacher.

"Yes," said Hallor.

"You never found one in San Diego though?" Blacher asked.

"I would say at the port of San Diego we have not," Hallor said.

So nothing in San Diego but maybe elsewhere. And not necessarily a bomb. It may have been a conventional explosive device surrounded by radioactive material. The purpose may not have been to spread destruction but rather to spread panic. For that purpose ordinary mined uranium or even depleted uranium would do. The general population is scared of anything radioactive even if the level of radioactivity is small.

We have video of the interview and follow-up:

There is more video here. And information and speculation here.

If this don't get your heebies jeeben I don't know what will. I wish McCain had won the last election. We could sure use a guy with military experience at the helm in times like these.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:14 AM | Comments (3)

Political Social Conservatism Is An Offshoot Of Progressivism

While perusing a link provided by Eric in his post Did the homos crash the economy? I came across this comment by our very own Tall Dave which echoes something I have been saying for a long time. And Dave. Forgive me if you were planning to post this but I just couldn't resist.

Since Libertarians occupy the fiscal conservatism circle, they're getting more attention and validation than they've had in years.

Well, there's also that whole failed War on Drugs, soaring approval for medical marijuana and gay marriage, globalization of free trace... really the last 70 years have been one long empirical validation of libertarian principles.

I don't think most social conservatives understand that their movement is actually an offshoot of Progressivism -- in the heyday of the 19th century classical liberal the government just didn't enter into people's lives much. It wasn't until groups like the WCTU got behind the levers of power that government started punishing us for our own good.

My sentiments exactly, Dave.

posted by Simon at 02:06 AM | Comments (21)

Where Were They?

We have been going at the idea that "only social conservatives can be fiscal conservatives" here at Classical Values rather hot and heavy. You can read about it here: Only Social Conservatives and here: Did the homos crash the economy?

So let me ask my Social Conservative friends why a Republican Congress spent part of 2005 dealing with Terri Schiavo instead of (in addition to) getting and keeping our fiscal house in order? The fiscal disorder was part of what led to a Democrat takeover of Congress in 2006 and the Presidency in 2008.

The Schiavo case proved there were a LOT of social conservatives in Congress and that they had the upper hand when setting the agenda. So if only social conservatives can be fiscal conservatives wha hoppened? Is it as Cynthia Yockey says:

Fiscal conservative, social conservative (when OUT of power, fiscal promises dominate; when IN power, social vendettas dominate and the majority of fiscal promises are scheduled for the indefinite future, aka, in your dreams)
You know what I think happened? The social conservatives were/are lying. Or maybe to use a kinder gentler term: they are terribly mistaken about the connection between social conservatives in government and a fiscally conservative government.

Of course the Democrats are worse. But that is not the point. Or maybe it is: social conservatism is just (or can justify) socialism lite. Because they really are not at heart fiscally conservative when it comes to their pet projects. Which is to say that despite all their discipline when it comes to social matters such discipline does not translate into conservatism in government economic matters.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:25 AM | Comments (6)

Predators Infected With Teh Gay At CPAC

You can read about it here. But I really liked this part:

"...the next TSA official that gives you an 'enhanced pat down' could be a practicing homosexual secretly getting pleasure from your submission."
I guess if I have to be patted down by a guy I'd prefer some one who is experienced and likes his job. My top preference would be some one who is experienced and likes her job. But you can't always get what you want.

H/T Radley Balko

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:39 AM | Comments (21)

Did the homos crash the economy?

I'm confused.

What better place to start than with an admission like that?

Thinking over a comment I left last night, along with earlier related posts, and something really basic began to not compute at a definitional level.

There is an argument going around, which is being widely repeated and embellished upon by ever more articulate proponents of it, that it is impossible to be an economic conservative without being a social conservative. I've been frustrated trying to understand it, and here's what I said last night:

only social conservatives can be fiscal conservatives

I keep reading this too, yet the proponents do not explain how it works; they just keep repeating it.

I might as well try to figure it out.

The logic seems to be that if you have immoral or unapproved sex, you lose the ability to save money or live within your means. Perhaps it's a sort of Neo-Freudian view that sex is akin to money, and that looseness with one equals looseness with the other.

Moral bankruptcy (sexual spending) means economic bankruptcy (wasting money).

Years ago, masturbation was thought of as akin to asset wasting, so in a way I can understand the argument. Looseness with sex = looseness with money! Depletion of sperm = depletion of the money supply!

Is it that simple?

Who knew?

I admit, I was being a little silly, especially with the sperm depletion analogy.

Nick Gillespie does a better job of trying to take the argument seriously, and he even addresses the idea that promoting gay tolerance in the GOP is part of a Communist plot:

Magill goes on to accuse GOProud and Norquist of pursuing a Gramscian "long march through the institutions," all to the greater gloryhole of that dastardly "homosexual agenda" that in this iteration at least requires nothing more of government than it treat all citizens equally. That is, let them marry and serve in the military. Yikes. I give Magill and his group credit for showing up CPAC and trying to keep some control over the conservative label that means so much to him. That's far more respectable than the shrinking violets in the con movement who are afraid of catching cooties from using the same bathrooms as homosexuals.

As a libertarian, I'm in no way tied to CPAC (did speak there a couple of years ago and have attended from time to time), but it's fascinating to me that the conservative movement can't recognize some elemental facts. First and foremost that the world they're trying to create, especially when it comes to intolerance of alternative lifestyles, is never going to happen. And that by insisting, as Sen. James DeMint and Rep. Jim Jordan have, that you can't be a fiscal conservative without being a social conservative, you're alienating all those independents who just might give the GOP a second chance at running the federal budget. And you're in open denial of reality: A person's choice of sexual partner in no way means he or she can't be in favor of less spending on farm subsidies. There's a stunning knot of bull-dinkey at the heart of the argument that tolerance equals uncritical embrace. Do conservatives, of all people, think that the state allowing all religions to practice means official endorsement?

The more I think about this, the more I wonder whether the argument that you can't be a fiscal conservative without being a social conservative contains within it an unstated premise -- that the economic conservatism they're talking about involves something less than the full embrace of free markets. That's because freedom by its nature allows the taking of risks, and economic freedom by definition means allowing what many would call economic hedonism. Is the argument an attempt to rhetorically link economic hedonism with social, or sexual hedonism?

Did society's tolerance for such things as homosexuality lead to the wild economic risk-taking that caused the economic crash? 

I don't think it did, mind you. But I am trying to get to the bottom of the unstated premises in this argument so that I can better understand it.    

While thinking this over, I remembered something I wrote a couple of years ago on the road, while still in shock over Obama's recent victory:

...if there is one lesson I have learned from freedom, it's that there are risks and downsides, and you have to take the good and the bad.

Economies do not always thrive. The American people are acting like a bunch of babies. (Or whiners as Phil Gramm said). Like gays clamoring to shut down the bathhouses once they got AIDS (which some did).

Hedonism, the irresponsible fast lane of freedom, is a high risk activity -- whether economic, sexual, or chemical. You cannot have freedom without allowing it, and people are going to get hurt. Ditto, legal guns.

The problem is, no one wants to hear this.

Beyond that, the more the government intervenes (as they did in this economy), the greater the demand for more intervention when intervention fails, which it inevitably will.

True conservatism (at least, the old fashioned kind) involved allowing freedom and encouraging -- not mandating -- responsibility. It's AYOR (at your own risk) stuff, and it's not for children.

In a post a few days later, I asked whether Barack Obama might have been perceived as more economically "conservative" than McCain, by voters who saw him as more opposed to economic hedonism:

The current economic downturn really was spun as economic hedonism for the voters. While Obama didn't use those precise words, he made clear that the economy was ruined by greedy economic hedonists run amok. The clucking eerily resembled the puritanical shamings and scoldings of the sort that are routinely directed at sexual hedonists, and it would not surprise me at all if many puritan-minded folk think that the greedy Wall Street capitalists and all of "us" who went along with it were (to borrow the AIDS/venereal disease terminology) "were asking for it" and "had it coming."

While McCain was at first only too glad to echo the theme, Barack Obama was able to better play the role of Mr. Clean -- the guy who would apply the brakes and put a stop to all the wild hedonism, and redeem this country.

So naturally, I'm wondering about something. Slowing hedonism down, applying the brakes, restraints, even crackdowns -- what image might all of this have evoked among an electorate which is supposed to be centrist to conservative?

Is it possible that (at least in economic terms) Obama was seen as the more conservative of the two candidates?

I realize how awful that looks, because Obama is anything but conservative. Still,it gave me the willies on the road, because we're not talking about conventional political litmus tests here, but emotions of ordinary voters who are not political junkies.

If Obama is a conservative, call me a hedonist.

I am still an advocate of tolerance for economic hedonism and social hedonism, even though in my personal life I am a penny pincher and a square. 

But what, then, is "economic conservatism"? Does it mean belt-tightening, crackdowns on irresponsibility, living within one's means, and neither a borrower nor a lender be? Does economic conservatism countenance allowing risk-taking behavior and even irresponsibility? Was Milton Friedman an economic conservative?

One thing stands out among the arguments which insist on linking sexual and economic hedonism.

Not much use is made of the term "free markets," and that worries me.

In any case, if it can be shown that the gays crashed the economy, then they're a far more powerful force than anyone realized.

Perhaps they could be utilized against our enemies.

Especially if "economic conservatism" means vast cuts in military spending....

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

Food - Force Majeure

The weather has dealt a blow to food prices and not in a good way. Prices are going up.

Food inflation driven by freezing weather in Florida during December and in Mexico during February, is hitting the US supermarkets in the coming day's. Sysco sent out an alert that announced an "Act of God", to address their contracted supply issues.

The cold of the Superbowl weekend in Texas, has had a more lasting impact than on just the game plans for lots of travelers. The deep cold sank into the produce fields of northern Mexico, destroying fresh produce crops. This is the biggest page 16 story, about to hit a headline, that you have seen in a while. Your restaurants will be low on fresh produces for weeks. They will have to raise prices significantly or cut the produce out of the menu.

That global warming we hear so much about really is a killer. Naturally Watts Up With That has more.

May I suggest you get this book and read it before spring:

How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back: A New Method of Mulch Gardening

Then pick some seeds and start a garden.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Update Welcome Instapundit Readers! Thank you to Glenn Reynolds for the link. You might also want to have a look at Nuclear Material Found Entering The Port Of San Diego?. No actual bombs or anything else radioactive was found in San Diego. But the report indicates that they may have been found elsewhere. The report itself did come from San Diego from a reputable source.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:06 AM | Comments (5)

ARMZ Buys Wyoming Uranium Mines

That is correct. A Russian company named ARMZ has bought two uranium mines in Wyoming.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the license transfer of two Wyoming mines to a Russian company, despite concerns over national security raised by local and national government officials including senior House Republicans.

From the Telegram:

Two uranium mines in Wyoming are on their way to control by a Russian company now that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved transferring the mines' licenses.

The NRC last week approved the license transfer to a Russian company known as ARMZ which expects to obtain a controlling interest in Canadian-owned Uranium One by year's end. Uranium One holds the licenses for a proposed uranium mine and an existing uranium mine in northeast Wyoming.

The approval comes despite concerns from local and national lawmakers. Bother groups worry that Wyoming's uranium could in theory go overseas and serve against U.S. interests.
Clever name ARMZ. Those Russians sure do have a sense of humor. The whole deal kind of makes me think of the scrap iron deal with Japan pre-WW2.

Of course once the war started we sent Japan more scrap iron.

Scrap Iron For Japan cropped.jpg
Get the poster: Salvage Scrap To Blast the Jap

I wonder if we should start collecting scrap uranium. Just in case.

H/T Bunkerville who also discusses the sale of two BP refineries.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:11 AM | Comments (1)

Getting Drugs Off The Street And Cash Out Of Wallets

There appears to be a thriving medical marijuana industry in Michigan and the police are real unhappy about it.

Earlier this month, police in Oakland County, Michigan raided a medical marijuana dispensary in the town of Oak Park. The deputies came in with guns drawn and bulletproof vests, with at least one wearing a mask.

They made no arrests, but they did clean the place out. The confiscated all of the dispensary's cash on hand and--in a particularly thuggish touch--also took all of the cash from the wallets and purses of employees and patients.

Armed robbery by the police? Not exactly. The police only get 4/5ths of the cash. They have to share the rest with the big boss who keeps the crime organized.
Under Michigan's asset forfeiture law, 80 percent of the cash the deputies seized will go directly to the Oakland County Sheriff's Department. The other 20 percent goes to the local prosecutor. Medical marijuana is legal under Michigan law but is of course still illegal under federal law. And apparently there's some debate about the legality of dispensaries. All of which means this particular dispensary will have a hard time proving it earned the seized cash legitimately. I doubt the patients and employees will get their cash back, either.
But a former prosecutor explains what asset forfeiture is all about. Now that he is out of office he can tell the truth (better than those who get out of office and don't).
"It's a money grab, pure and simple; a sneaky way of getting a penalty on something prosecutors can't prove. It's like shooting fish in a barrel."
Armed robbery by our government? It is the thing revolutions are made of.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
You can always get away with doing this to disfavored minorities for a while but eventually the bill will become due. I do hope this gets fixed before there are people in the streets and politicians hanging from the lamp posts. It would be unfortunate for all concerned. And bad for business besides.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:06 AM | Comments (2)

Day of The Squirrel

*I put this up at According To Hoyt, but was going to spare the CV readership.  Only... Eric went to racoons, sooo....  This is the incident that caused me to have a running gag about the RLF (Rodent Liberation Front) in my Shifter books.  Oh, and I can no longer spell French.  Sad, but it's been twenty some years since I had to.*

It started innocently.  At the time we were living in the small mountain town of Manitou Springs.  There were the two of us, (of course) our two sons and four cats.  So the logical thing for my younger son to ask for, for his fourth birthday, was... two hamsters.

In a sign our lunacy was too far gone, we then named them Butterscotch and Fudge.  And then - such our folly - we put them in an aquarium on the back porch.  An aquarium covered only by fine mesh net.

Oh, yeah, one more thing - these hamsters were both female.

Continue reading "Day of The Squirrel"

posted by Sarah at 10:14 PM | Comments (2)

Only Social Conservatives

In the last hour or so (see update) I have gotten some evidence to support my position so I thought a cross post was in order.


I see a lot of this phrase (or similar) "only social conservatives can be fiscal conservatives" in comments on various posts around the 'net. Cynthia Yockey has an answer to that:When I view the conservative movement I see it as being comprised of four ideological groups gathered in a tent so large that two of the groups have mutually exclusive goals:

1. Fiscal conservative, social liberal
2. Fiscal conservative, social conservative (when OUT of power, fiscal promises dominate; when IN power, social vendettas dominate and the majority of fiscal promises are scheduled for the indefinite future, aka, in your dreams)
3. Libertarians
4. Social conservative, fiscal liberal -- for some reason, this group is usually shy about announcing its full identity and prefers to style itself as "compassionate" rather than liberal.
I have a sneaking suspicion it is the dominance of groups 2 and 4 in the conservative movement that is responsible for government growing even when conservatives are in power.I think that #1 and #3 are identical philosophically.

And of course libertarians and Libertarians are staunch fiscal conservatives. Not real conservatives so I'm told. Which makes my point.

I'd also like to know what is fiscally conservative about supporting the Drug War which makes it easier for kids to get an illegal drug than a legal beer and costs (Federally) $25 billion a year. Wouldn't it be wise to save the $25 billion a year ($70 billion Federal, State, and local) AND make those drugs as hard to get as a beer? We can do that with a legalization regime modeled after beer distribution.

Update: 12 Feb 2011 2348z

Charles Blow of the New York times (yeah, I know) catalogs recent legislative events supporting Cynthia's point #2.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:05 PM | Comments (2)

Defending the Sphinx against the enemies of civilization

Not far from where I live, some local University of Michigan students have created a large Sphinx out of snow, and I took a few pictures earlier.

A view from the front:


A side view:


And a view from the rear:


Aside from having fun with the show, I suspect the goal of the students here was to express a little solidarity with their counterparts in Egypt, but I thought I would take advantage of the pictures to express a little solidarity with the Sphinx itself.

I am glad the military is in charge right now and I hope they guard the Sphinx well, because it would be an unspeakable crime against the ages if Egypt's national monuments were to befall the same fate as Afghanistan's Bamiyan Buddhas, which were destroyed by the Taliban.

There has already been damage done to Egyptian antiquities as a result of the unrest:

On the night of Friday, January 28, looters broke into the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo and vandalized some of its most precious artefacts (including objects from the Tutankhamun collection). Elsewhere -- at Saqqara, Abu Sir, Qantara to name but a few -- ancient monuments have been damaged, museums broken into and archaeological storage magazines ransacked.

Nor is it simply ancient remains that have been targeted. In Cairo, the city's Coptic Museum and the early 20th century El-Manial Palace have both suffered looting.

As Zahi Hawass, head of the country's Supreme Council of Antiquities, says on his website: "My heart is broken and my blood is boiling."

On one level, of course, the loss of a few objects, when set against so many deaths and injuries, is wholly irrelevant.

Even before the current upheavals, the preservation of historical remains featured low on the list of priorities of a majority of Egyptians, for whom simply getting food on the table is a daily struggle.

On another level, however, the damage to its cultural remains strikes at the very heart of the Egyptian identity.

In Egypt, history matters. This is a country that for 3,000 years under the pharaohs was one of the world's predominant superpowers. It played a crucial role in the development of early Christianity (it was the birthplace of the monastic tradition) and was the political center of the Muslim world under the Fatimid and, later, the Mamluk dynasties. In modern times, under Gamal Abdel Nasser, it was at the forefront of the Arab Nationalist movement.

What especially worries me is that this wasn't simply a question of looting for profit (which at least allows for the possibility of recovery of the items upon their later rediscovery). Two mummies were beheaded (for religious reasons?), but fortunately a human chain formed around the museum to prevent further damage. 

Naturally, this should raise questions about the longterm safety of Egypt's national treasures, because according to the damnable Wahhabi (meaning paid for by our petrodollars) interpretation of Islam, both the Pyramids and the Sphinx are "un-Islamic" and even blasphemous.

Although it wasn't as widely reported as it should have been, a religious fatwa was issued against them.

....there's a fatwa against the Sphinx as man-animal figure is against order of nature ordained by god. Will Progressive Muslim Brotherhood will do a Bamiyan on these Sphinx and pyramids when they capture power ?

Let's hope the bastards never capture power, because if they do, they are just small-minded and spiteful enough to destroy what are arguably the greatest cultural treasures in history.

National Geographic reported a very important fatwa from Egypt's top cleric in 2006:

Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, the country's top Muslim religious authority, last month issued a religious ruling, or fatwa, condemning the display of statues in Egypt.

As one important Islamic website explains, "Allah knows best":

...the statues should be destroyed and raised tombs should be leveled with the ground. If the sphinx or pyramids or any other statues contain tombs these are two reasons to destroy the same. First, because they are raised tombs and secondly because they are statues.
Allah knows best.

Rarely have I seen a more perfect example of religious delusion than the above. Fortunately, many (and hopefully most) Egyptians disagree with such hallucinatory authoritarianism. Some have formed a Facebook group attacking the fatwa:

We demand the incrimination of religious clerks or organizations calling for the destruction of Ancient Egyptian monuments, to avoid the repetition of the atrocities that occurred several times on the hands of Arab conquerors that destroyed many Ancient Egyptian artifacts like the nose of Sphinx that has been destroyed by Sa'im al-dahr according to Islamic theologists and historians and the incident was documented by the most famous of them all Al-Maqrizi, the broken nose is now blamed by the Pan Arabism and former British propaganda on Napoleon's troops that have described on their arrival to the Giza site "a NOSLESS sphinx".


I liked to address the topic by starting this group as it should be after being exposed to the Wahhabi call for the destruction of The Great Pyramids in Egypt and the Sphinx, the most famous and bewildering statue known to humanity.

Good for him. Scholars now seem to agree that the disfiguring of the Sphinx was not done by Napoleon, but by earlier Muslim fanatics.

In a discussion of the museum rampage, Freepers make it clear that they are on the side of the Egyptians who want to preserve their ancient monuments

The anthropomorphic Sphinx will be a much more likely target of the iconoclastic muzzies...much like the Bamiyan Buddhas were in Afghanistan when the Taliban took over.


To all

The Muslim Brotherhood has said they will destroy the ancient monuments because they are un-Islamic.
To fundamentalist Muslims there is no history prior to Mohammed & the Koran!

Since the UN has declared the Egyptian antiquities to be cultural treasures of all mankind, I wonder then if the UN will send a very strongly worded note (as opposed to only a strongly worded note!) objecting to their destruction?

We can only hope that the above is wrong and that the Muslim Brotherhood has not vowed to destroy the ancient monuments. Because if they have, then I think serious measures to save them would be called for. 

Some things are worth fighting for.

People who are insane enough even to contemplate such crimes against civilization should never, ever be allowed to have power.

The destruction of the Sphinx and the Pyramids is horrifying to contemplate -- so much so that I can't believe I would ever have to write a post about such a thing. 

Cynical as I am (and much as I enjoyed the "blasphemous" snow sculpture), this is not funny.

posted by Eric at 05:59 PM | Comments (1)

Does Liking Rap Music Make You Stupid?

Does liking rap music dull your intelligence? No. But it may indicate that your intelligence is already dull.

Like the Americans, the British teens who scored high marks for intelligence were more likely than their peers to prefer instrumental music, but no more likely to enjoy vocal selections.

Now, Beethoven symphonies are far more complex than pop songs, so an obvious explanation for these findings is that smarter people crave more complicated music. But Kanazawa doesn't think that's right. His crunching of the data suggests that preference for big-band music "is even more positively correlated" with high intelligence than classical compositions.

"It would be difficult to make the case that big-band music is more cognitively complex than classical music," he writes. "On the other extreme, as suspected, preference for rap music is significantly negatively correlated with intelligence. However, preference for gospel music is even more strongly negatively correlated with it.

So what is the point of this post? I'm hoping that brain power snobbery will kill off rap. I hate that crap.

And for you gospel music lovers? What can I say? Anyway here is some brain music.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:29 AM | Comments (10)

Sexual Excesses And Drug Induced Stupors

I'll take a gang of outlaw bikers who will fight (guaranteed) over the effetes in Washington.

The above is a response to the author and commenters at: A Letter from a Fearfully Concerned Muslim.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:59 PM | Comments (2)

Some nonsense I cannot ignore!

I get a ton of spam, and it's a very annoying process to have to scroll through the comments labeled as spam in order to save and then publish the "good" ones. The spams outnumber the goods by a ratio of 20 to 1, and it's easy to make a mistake. My apologies to all of the people who take the time to leave a comment, whether you agree with me or not. One important difference between real comments and spam is that I delete the latter, and out of respect for my quirky view of free speech never delete the former.

Normally I would say that spam is always annoying, but there is the occasional exception that proves the rule.

Once in a great while, a spam comment will get my attention, and I thought one I saw this morning (originating from a site described as a "dedicated spam server") was not only better than some non-spam comments I get, but actually merited a response from yours truly!

Man if i ever saw two racoons fighting over a blogs itd be this one

He misspelled the word, but I like the image of raccoons fighting over a blog! And it doesn't have to be this blog. Any blog'll do!

So I scoured the Internet, and while I couldn't find any pictures of raccoons fighting over an identified blog, I confirmed that they are capable of messing with computers, and since computers are where blogs come from, to the extent that raccoons fight over a computer, it is fair to say that they are also fighting over the fruits of that computer -- which is often a blog.

This one shows a raccoon breaking and entering into a computer belonging to one "Sarah"!




And it is important to note that that raccoon was not alone.

He had an accomplice, and here they are together!



And as we all know, accomplices in crime frequently fight over the loot.

So it isn't too much of a stretch to say that under the right circumstances, raccoons might fight over a blog.

Moreover, raccoons are intelligent animals, and if another picture I found is any indication, they might be capable of blogging.


I realize that to us, any text that raccoon might generate would most likely not make sense. But in fairness, couldn't raccoons say the same thing about the text we humans generate?

If generating nonsense is an attribute some humans have, then raccoons who generate nonsense can honestly be said to have something in common with the people who generate nonsense.  

I would hesitate to say that all nonsense is created equal, but I do think some nonsense is more worth fighting over than other nonsense. 


posted by Eric at 12:45 PM | Comments (1)

People who want to be left alone want it to be cool to be a Republican

Andrew Breitbart threw a party at CPAC for GOProud, and Roger L. Simon was there. He called it as close to a game changer as things get:

The party staged by Andrew Breitbart for GOProud -- the gay Republican and conservative group -- was as close to a game changer as things get and the most interesting event at CPAC by far, at least to this point -- and that's meant as no insult to CPAC. With sexy Sophie B. Hawkins singing to a boisterous, supportive crowd, the party almost obliterated in one night the conception that Republicans are anti-gay and gave the impression that young libertarians -- and some not so young -- are taking over the GOP. Pretty soon it may be cool to be a Republican and square to be a Democrat.

Were I on the left, I would tremble. And I would try to ascertain the identity of the most influential organizer(s) of the GOP's anti-gay wing, and send a check. It would be helpful from a left-wing standpoint if they made it easier to do that by forming a specific, dedicated anti-gay PAC. They could even call it "ANTI-GAY Inc." (Last time I checked, the name was available!)

Roger points out that Breitbart has taken a lot of flak for this, but he is reaching people who would otherwise be unreachable:

The younger generation, watching Glee and living in a world very different from that of their fathers and mothers, does not see gayness as a sin but as a civil rights issue. Many of them brand the GOP as bigoted. Yet these same young people often see eye-to-eye with Republicans on government overspending to a degree that has imperiled our nation. They also recognize full well the threats from abroad from primitive extremists who endanger the rights of women, gays and everybody else and the necessity for our country to stand tall against them. In fact, these young people are the ones who will be doing the standing tall. Andrew Breitbart is opening the tent for them.

So a word about my friend Andrew. I'm told he got a lot of flack for staging this event. But as I said to his business partner Larry Solov, every time you do something important or new or even interesting, you are going to get flack. And I must say this of Andrew, he is the only man I know who could have pulled something like this off with such elan. Forget for a moment the dissension such developments always engender. Andrew Breitbart proved them wrong with a party. Party on, Andrew.

I agree. I realize that gay conservatives are small in number, but how many gay conservatives there are (or how many gays there are) is not the issue. The dynamic reduces itself to a very basic one, which touches on the common sense of ordinary people. As I pointed out in a comment to an earlier post, a lot of non-homosexuals see the gay issue as a general litmus test of freedom. They think that the kind of people who care about other people's homosexuality are quite likely to butt into our lives on other issues.

Those who are turned off by that mindset are by no means limited to homosexuals, but they tend to see them as a sort of canary in the mineshaft. To the extent gays are tolerated, they feel safer about their own privacy. A lot of people have something to hide, and they're not about to tell you what it is.

There are a lot of people in this country who want to be left alone, and who also want it be cool to be a Republican.  

And they get to say so from the privacy of the voting booth.

UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, the Reason video of the GOProud party.

posted by Eric at 08:52 AM | Comments (37)

The dumbest -- and the most honest!

Glenn linked and embedded a hilarious Reason video inspired by a very unwise statement that Hillary Clinton should not have made:

Recently, during an interview with Mexico's Televisa, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the United States can't legalize drugs "because there is just too much money in it."

The video is titled "The Dumbest Thing Ever Said! Hillary Clinton, about the Drug War," and I agree that it was an incredibly dumb for her to say, but not quite for the same reasons. I mean sure, we all know that the reason there's so much money in illegal drugs is because they are illegal. If wine were made illegal, there would be a lot of money to be made in illegal wine, and the same economic reality applies to the prohibition of any product that people want. 

However, on another level, it is absolutely true that the United States can't legalize drugs because there is just too much money in it. There is! Drug enforcement is a huge industry, and so is illegal drug trafficking. These people -- the federal, state and local governments, the DEA, the police,the SWAT Team industry, the courts, the prison industry, probation and social workers, the drug testing industry, the coerced-drug-treatment industry, the corrupt narcotraficantes and assorted millionaire drug dealers and their corrupt allies all over the world -- all of them need it to be illegal, and it is in their own interests to keep it illegal.

They can't legalize it because there is too much money in it.

So yes, it was dumb -- damningly dumb -- for the Secretary of State of the country which takes the commanding role in the unending and unwinnable Worldwide War on Drugs to make such an admission.

posted by Eric at 05:44 PM | Comments (8)

"The bitch dissed me, man!"

Was my title eye-catching enough?

Remember when not long ago journalists were supposed to stop using violent metaphorical language to characterize political occurrences?

Well, over at Memeorandum this morning, I saw a link to an delightfully irresistible headline:

Rumsfeld knifes Condi

I know Rumsfeld is one of those mean and vicious Neo-Cons, but did he really do that? If so, it would be bigger news than Dick Cheney's hunting accident.

I just had to know. So I clicked the link. (Probably exactly what the inflammatory headline-composer wanted!)

Was I ever in for a disappointment! It turned out that the "knifing" incident was merely Rumsfeld's recollection of an alleged discreet finger-pointing incident and an allegedly disapproving stare.

Rumsfeld's pants were worn out, and Condi let him know.

BEHIND THE CURTAIN - Donald Rumsfeld, "Known and Unknown: A Memoir": National security adviser Condoleezza Rice "was a polished, poised, and elegant presence. I decidedly was not. One time Rice and I were sitting together in an NSC meeting, and I was wearing a pinstripe suit - one that I very well might have owned since the Ford administration. The suit was so well used that the pinstripes on the right leg above the knee were worn off. Rice noticed this, frowned, and pointed discreetly at my leg. Looking down at my suit, I noticed for the first time the missing pinstripes. 'Gee,' I whispered to her with a smile, 'maybe Joyce can sew them back on.' Condi's eyes widened. ... Often [NSC] meetings were not well organized. Frequent last-minute changes to the time of meetings and to the subject matter made it difficult for the participants to prepare, and even more difficult, with department of their own to manage, to rearrange their full schedules...

Hardly a knifing. Actually, what Condi did strikes me as the sort of maternal thing my mom would have done had I shown up to an important public event wearing worn out pants or unshined shoes. (Which I'm sure I did and I'm sure she did!) Not a big deal. She might have even thought she was being helpful. Of course, at the time, he out-ranked her, because she was the National Security Advisor and he was the Secretary of Defense. Later, though, she became Secretary of State, whereupon she out-ranked him. Rumsfeld may be one of those people who thinks you have to out-rank someone in order to criticize his personal attire. I could see his point if she had been trying to throw her weight around, but she might have thought she was being helpful.

I don't see Rumsfeld's complaint as amounting to a knifing, though.

It's not as if he accused her of being uppity.

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, another violent headline:

MORE: Mubarak takes a shot at Obama.

Which is a lot worse than Dick Cheney's hunting accident.

Ever since Obama said,  "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun," we have been subjected to endless cycles of violent metaphorical language!

posted by Eric at 10:53 AM | Comments (10)

Rational Basis

We have rules. Traditional rules.

From Leviticus 10:6

Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindled.

From Leviticus 11:7-8

And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.

From Leviticus 11:10-11

And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.

From Leviticus 16:29

And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:

From Leviticus 19:16

Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.

From Leviticus 19:18

Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

From Leviticus 19:18

Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

From Leviticus 19:31

Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.

From Leviticus 20:9

For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.

From Leviticus 20:10

And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

From Leviticus 20:13

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

From Leviticus 20:27

A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.

From Leviticus 24:16

And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.

From Leviticus 26:1

Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it

From Deuteronomy 22:5

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment:

From Deuteronomy 22:11

Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together.

From Deuteronomy 22:22

If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.

From Deuteronomy 22:28-29

If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

Can anyone tell me on what rational basis Traditional Values folk pick and choose among those laws and many others? Let me add that the Jewish Religion has evolved since those days so long ago. There is currently no effective murder penalty in Jewish law except for genocide.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:59 AM | Comments (16)


Irrational traditionalism (we have always done it this way) can be a fetish. An excuse for lack of study and thought. We used to laugh at South Sea Islanders for their Taboos when I was a kid. The idea was so popular they named a perfume after it. And yet we have in politics a very powerful Traditional Values crowd. Let me say that I have nothing intrinsically against those values. But they all ought to be evaluated in terms of current conditions. Is slavery profitable? Only if it doesn't have to compete with machines. Altered conditions change the morality of traditional practices. For better or worse the birth control pill and modern contraception in general plus antibiotics and other STD treatments has changed the effective morality in male/female sexual relations. And let us not leave out warm summer nights and automobiles.

Altered knowledge can also change how we treat others. We are not sure if "gayness" is genetic, eipigenetic, a cultural affectation or a combination of those and other factors. What ever the cause we no longer condemn to death homosexuals. It just doesn't seem right to kill people because of who they have consensual sex with. Prison might be OK though. Kinder and gentler. And burning witches has gone out of favor. Both popular religious practices at various times and places. And you know death for witches is sill in the most popular traditional values book of all time. Who is rewriting these laws without notice?

So the test of any religious/traditional practice should be a rational basis test. And in America I would add a Liberty test. You know Leviticus 25:10:

"Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof" a traditional value that has stood the test of time.

We place no reliance on virgin or pigeon, our method is science our aim is religion. Obviously a not so traditional value that might serve us better than fetishising tradition.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:23 PM | Comments (1)

Quick Links

It's not a good sign when your project deadline is looming and your to-do list is still growing rather than shrinking. In lieu of time-consuming commentary grasping desperately at some sort of insight, here's some hopefully-interesting links.

Note to Krugman: this is what structural unemployment looks like

I'm ready for my fakon shamburger. 

Vouchers buy more than an education

And on a lighter note: damn you autocorrect! Hat tip to... well, you know who you are, and I'm not sure you want your name broadcasted, but apologies that we didn't get to talk more, and I'd still like that sci-fi recommendation list if you get some free time. 

And then there's this, which is probably much more attention that my thrown-together post deserves. Thanks Matt! (I should at least have mentioned the fellow who used forged papers to escape from Czechoslovakia at the height of the Cold War and more recently toured North Korea, Ben Rast who founded the Bastiat Society and helped put together the indescribably awesome Keynes vs. Hayek rap...)

posted by Dave at 08:33 PM | Comments (2)

When political "principles" are sexualized, perversions have a political price!

One of the more ridiculous side effects of the debate over gay marriage is the way it has tended to sexualize politics on both sides. To the majority of liberal activists and to an ever-increasing number of social conservative activists, a consensus has emerged that human sexuality should be part of a political litmus test. 

Thus, when leading social conservative activist Ken Blackwell says "homosexuality is not conservative," that is considered completely reasonable by his followers on the right, and it is music to the ears of the left.

I think people need to carefully consider the implications of such an idea. Regardless of why people become gay, whether they are born gay, whether they developed that way during childhood, or whether they just one day decided to be gay as adults, to decree that a person's sexual desires constitute "leftism" is a major logical error, and one which I think will result in much mischief.

Especially if we consider that objections to homosexuality are grounded largely in religion.

I realize that to many religious people, homosexuality is sinful. But there are other sins, including those listed in the Ten Commandments, which does not list the sin of homosexuality, but does list adultery. Many Christians also consider fornication to be sinful, and Jesus condemned divorce. So if we apply the political litmus test to homosexuality and proclaim it to be a left-wing behavior which belongs in the Democratic Party only, then why not apply it to adultery, fornication, and divorce?

Resolved, all sexual sinners belong on the left.

How well is that going to work? Many sexual sinners hate socialism, many of them believe in a strong defense, oppose big government, and hate higher taxation. Many of them are young, and many of them have friends. If they are all consigned to the left, might that not be expected to have an effect at election time?

Or is homosexuality to be consigned to leftism simply because it is perverted as well as sinful sex, whereas normal sexual sins are not leftist because they are not "perverted"? OK, so how about heterosexual bondage, S&M, fetishes, cross-dressing, etc.? Why aren't they leftist practices forever preventing the practitioner from being conservative? I'm all ears.

Sarah Palin was recently taken to task by angry conservatives for her perceived willingness to allow a group of gay conservatives at CPAC. The objection was grounded in the belief that "traditional marriage" is "conservative":

...the interview raised the ire of APP's President Frank Cannon, who demanded answers from Palin on Monday.

"The concern of conservatives is over the participation of a group whose stated goals run at odds with that of core conservative principles, not over debate over those issues," Cannon said in a statement."Governor Palin should clarify her comments by letting us know whether in her definition, traditional marriage is a core component of conservatism."

Aren't some major assumptions being made there? Depending on what is meant by "traditional marriage," the above is a clear attempt to claim "it" as "conservative."

Does that mean all heterosexual couples have now become conservative and that by being in a traditional marriage, they are in a state of political opposition to same sex marriages?

Who knew?

I don't think it is Sarah Palin who needs to clarify her comments, but I think this Mr. Cannon does. He appears to be saying that those things he deems to be "core conservative principles" are not subject to debate, and that "traditional marriage" is one of them. Since when is a major assumption like that not even subject to debate?

Beyond opposition to same sex marriage, what does the phrase "traditional marriage" mean? Are cohabiting couples in violation of core conservative principles? How about divorced people?

The merits of gay marriage or homosexuality aside, I think it's very sloppy political logic to be doing this.

The philosophical implications go far beyond the apparent goal.


MORE: Out of curiosity earlier, I clicked on a link I probably should have left alone, but which discussed "10 Crazy Sexual Practices We Were Totally Unaware Of" and I saw some interesting preferences I hadn't known about.

But as these things are political, the important thing is to determine where they fit on the political spectrum.

I'll just list a few, and let you decide!

Robot Fetish. Similar to mannequin love is robot fetishism or technosexuality. Robot fetishists get excited by people acting like or dressing like robots. "You stay right there, I'm just gonna slip into my robot suit." And scene.

Liberal? Or Conservative? (I'm thinking a robot fetish might be a libertarian practice...)

Teratophilia. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Tetrophiliacs, people who are only sexually attracted to deformed people, live by that credo. I once had a weird crush on a guy with a deformed arm. But he was super hot otherwise. Does that count?

Liberal? Or Conservative? (Because this fetishizes the disabled, might that violate the ADA?)

Armpit Sex. Raise your hand if you're sure ... you want a peen in your armpit. Sometimes referred to as "pocket of paradise." What? All hands down but Brit's?

Liberal? Or conservative?

Nyotaimori. Do you really like sushi? Than you may like it even better when eating it off your lover's naked body. One question: is it appropriate to use chopsticks in this scenario?

Liberal? Or conservative?

And the last one is the dirtiest of them all:

Salirophilia. As Christina Aguilera would say, "If you ain't dirrty, you ain't here to party." Salirophiliacs would strongly agree. They get erotic pleasure from soiling their partner by ripping their clothes, messing up their hair or makeup, or covering them in mud as Adrien Brody is in this picture. OK, I'm starting to see the appeal.

Liberal? Or conservative? Either way, it sounds like dirty politics.

UPDATE: Sarah Palin has responded to the demand that she clarify her remarks, and Glenn Reynolds links the story:

SARAH PALIN: Gays Should Be Welcome At CPAC. I don't know why anyone's surprised at this -- her record as Alaska Governor was pretty gay-friendly.

(Her gay-friendly record comes as no surprise here.) 

Of course (as I just told a friend in an email) the left will still call her a bigot, while the anti-gay right will probably accuse her of "betrayal."

I can't blame reasonable people for getting annoyed by politics.

posted by Eric at 11:59 AM | Comments (19)

Victory Will Bring Defeat

The kind of victory that brings defeat is a Pyrrhic Victory. I'm going to discuss a few things before I show you why that idea is important to the general flow of American politics. This thought train was inspired by a discussion at What If They Gave A Revolution And You Didn't Show Up?

A classic military principle is to go after the weakest member of a coalition. The reason for this is that relative military strength is a non-linear function. Doubling the size of your army more than doubles your relative power. However, if you can isolate and defeat a segment of an enemy's support you subtract considerably from their total power. We see this in politics all the time. It doesn't matter if your guy got a million votes if the other guy wound up with a million and one. It might as well have been a million and one to zero. Quite a reduction in power from just one vote. In close situations you don't have to peel off much support to cause a change in outcomes.

So how are things divided up (more or less) in the American political space? Generally accepted values for the current major political divisions are 20% liberals and 40% conservatives. With the remaining 40% split among several other idea constellations including a significant libertarian contingent. In my anything but humble opinion (every day I get told how arrogant I am - thanks for the compliments) the 20% tend for the most part to be Economic Socialists and the 40% tend towards Moral Socialism. Nanny staters all. Don't believe me? It is discussed in detail in the comments at Why Did Social Conservatives Ally With Progressives? You can also check out a similar exposition at On Marijuana, Social Conservatives Trend Statist with a commenter suggesting this book:

Starving the Monkeys: Fight Back Smarter

Since the end of Alcohol Prohibition the two groups have divided their functions in seeming opposition to each other. The liberal/Progressive side handles the Economic Socialism and the Social Conservatives handle the Moral Socialism. Very convenient.

What does the Conservative Coalition look like? It consists of social conservatives and fiscal conservatives. If the fiscal conservatives win the day (that looks very likely) and the Democrats go (are forced) in that direction then the only thing left to fight over will be the nanny state addictions of the Right. Consider: When the Progressives get defeated they are going to be pissed. Economics and size of government are now off the table (when it comes to increases). So what will be on the table? The social improvement projects of the right. And the defeated will go after them with a vengeance and they can get the fiscal conservatives (smaller government) types on their side without too much effort - no Drug War means smaller government after all.

Once you destroy the economic underpinning of the nanny state the moral underpinnings will not hold up well at all. Moral improvement (the support of black markets, gangs, and criminals) is not cheap. Once economic socialism is gone the people will turn on the nanny staters of the right. The death of Economic Socialism will lead to the death of Moral Socialism. I don't think the reverse order would work. For sure not as well.

The new rule should be: No victim no crime. Ah what about society as a victim? Did you say society? Isn't concern for the welfare of society (rather than the liberty of individuals) socialism? Interesting thought that. See how long you can hold it.

And while you are holding that thought think of this: the defeat of the Economic Socialists will then lead to the defeat of the Moral Socialists with libertarians being the ultimate victors. In other words a victory over the Economic Socialists will be a Pyrrhic Victory for the Moral Socialists. Which I suppose why the Moral Socialists don't trust me. They know that ultimately I am no friend despite our current alliance. Ultimately I'm a friend of Liberty. The more the better. Within the limits of the other guy's nose of course.

My motto: First Hitler then Stalin. And to get Hitler I will ally with Stalin. How much more Machiavellian can you get?

Balance of power politics played for the long game. I'm all in.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:19 AM | Comments (24)

"I'm totally for small government except when it conflicts with my pet projects."


I got so angry when I saw Glenn's link to a Reason piece about the FCC's latest attempt to regulate the Internet that I had to calm down before I could write a post. That's because the jurisdictional power grab may already be a done deal:

Genachowski [close friend, basketball buddy, Harvard Law classmate, and "top man" of President Obama at the FCC] has finally managed to plant regulatory roots within the Net. On December 21, 2010, the agency voted 3-2 to pass a major regulatory order that no one outside the FCC had been allowed to see. Genachowski's power grab had been accomplished in haste and secrecy as a lame-duck Congress prepared for Christmas, but he had successfully fulfilled the president's promise and asserted federal control over the sprawling core of the Net. Commissioner McDowell's "greatest deregulatory success story of all time" has given way to empowered regulators. The Internet, after luxuriating in lawless freedom, finally has its own cop.

Sickening. The FCC has no congressional authority or jurisdiction over the Internet.

In a very odd coincidence, I was having nightmares about the FCC just last night. There is no better example of an agency which needs to be abolished, yet that does not happen, no matter who is in charge or what the circumstances. 

Even when the Republicans have a majority, it seems that THE FCC WILL NOT GO AWAY.

Back in December (when the FCC's threat to Internet freedom was much under discussion) a number of prominent bloggers and journalists were calling for the abolition of the FCC. Ed Morrisey put it well:

Why do we need the FCC in the 21st century?  Most television channels are narrowcasters, using satellites and cable channels that don't eat up limited broadcast space in local markets.  The phone system in the US is no longer monopolized, and the issues of access and competition in those areas could be handled by state public-utility commissions, as they are now.  The licensing of broadcast stations could be handled by the Commerce Department, or by a greatly-reduced FCC with binding limitations on jurisdiction.

We have managed to free ourselves from the encumbrances of monopolization over the last thirty years.  This country doesn't need a bloated bureaucracy getting in the way of innovation and commerce.  It needs government to acknowledge that its communications-regulation apparatus is archaic and in need of downsizing, rather than attempting to nationalize the media.

That was nearly two months ago, and there's no perceptible movement I can see towards that goal. Instead, the FCC has now deliberately thumbed its nose at the Internet, at bloggers and at libertarians.

With Obama as president, the FCC is in the hands of the left. You'd think that would make it a perfect time for a major push by Republicans to do something about this unconstitutional agency that's now threatening the Internet, right? What could possibly be going on?

Forgive my flight of paranoia, but I think it takes two to work in collusion, and my worry is that support for the FCC is not be limited to the left. As M. Simon pointed out earlier, there are people on the right who think along the following lines:

"I'm totally for small government except when it conflicts with my pet projects."

One of these pet project is a pro-censorship outfit called the Parents Television Council. Founded by prominent social conservative Brent Bozell (a leader of the the CPAC boycott), the organization is literally obsessed with the FCC and jurisdiction, and constantly harangues its members to contact them about this or that show.

Where the PTC stands on Internet censorship, I don't know. However, they do not limit their efforts to broadcast television; they have a major effort devoted to fighting programming they don't like on cable TV. This they disguise as "consumer choice" protectionism. Your cable TV dollars are subsidizing bestiality! And something must be done!

Cable subscribers everywhere should be outraged and demand to know why they are being forced to subsidize bestiality with their cable bills. Yes, you heard me right: bestiality, where a person engages in sexual activity with an animal. And if you subscribe to cable or satellite TV so you can watch ESPN or History Channel or CNN or Fox News, then you helped pay for that disgusting content. That's why we urgently need you to respond to this call-to-action. Please take a moment today to write to your Congressman and Senators and demand Cable Choice.

In a manner uncannily reminiscent of the way the left clamors for the FCC to enforce "net neutrality" when they really want the government's foot in the door, the PTC argues that the government should intervene in the market and force cable companies (and DIRECTV) to allow subscribers to pick and pay for only one channel (at a dollar a month). That's about as logical as saying that I shouldn't be "forced" to "subsidize" filthy radio like Howard Stern if I subscribe to, say, XM  Satellite Radio, and that I should only have to pay for the programs I actually want to listen to. Access to a medium doesn't come packaged that way.

But if you think that kind of meddling is the government's business, you'll love the FCC and the PTC. And of course the PTC activists would love nothing more than to be in charge of the FCC.

That's how things work.

Some "small government conservatives" like big government.

Especially when it's their big government.

MORE: Internet censorship in England:

A conservative member of the British Parliament has made a move to block all pornography from reaching Internet subscribers in the UK.

The British government plans to meet with Internet service providers in the country next month to discuss the idea of censoring all Internet connections and requiring users to specifically request access to pornographic materials from their ISPs.

There are plenty of people who would love to make it happen here.

And they are not all on the left.

posted by Eric at 12:50 AM | Comments (3)

Tingly Tribadism And Other Twisted Tales

*I meant to publish this last night, but being slap-happy completely forgot it.*

I figure I've lived a blameless life these last few weeks. The death threats and exclamations about my moral depravity and lack of social caring (read ability to toe the line) have slowed down to an almost imperceptible trickle. In other words - I iz doing it wrong.

The start of this post was something Dave put up. It's not that far away, it's not that inconceivable, and it's not at all unlikely one way or another that at some point humans will find a way to do the reproduction thing without one of the genders. I grant you this is more likely to occur with women first since babies need a leasehold in a human body while growing. However, that too might not be insurmountable with a bit more biological research. Bio-wombs of some sort might do the trick.

So, we come to... Planets where the entire population is one gender. Yes, Bujold did it, and she did it, arguably, in the difficult way. But she was published by Baen.

Unless I missed something, the flood of these stories is mostly one way - mostly we're in some idyllic future where men have been disposed of. All is peace, love and harmony. And that figure retching while reading is me.

Continue reading "Tingly Tribadism And Other Twisted Tales"

posted by Sarah at 12:45 AM | Comments (3)

The Difference

In a discussion of the GOP Presidential field (with a chart) commenter Ken Mitchell has this to say:

OK, this graph is CLEARLY bogus. Huckabee is a religious populist, and isn't ANY kind of a conservative. He's a big spending big government guy, and the only difference between Huckabee and Obama is what they plan to do with the power.
I think that fits a lot of "Conservatives" out there. Their attitude is: "I'm totally for small government except when it conflicts with my pet projects." Any one got a cite for the Drug Prohibition Amendment? Anyone? Anyone at all? Bueller?

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:45 PM | Comments (2)

How "Superbowl Excitement Syndrome" affects us all!

As regular readers know, I am anything but a sports fan. However, in the two years I've been in Ann Arbor, I have developed quite a taste for college football, at least when the Wolverines are playing.

That taste, however, did not translate into excitement for Sunday's Superbowl. I tried to watch it, but I my lack of interest was aggravated by the most aggressive sequencing of annoying commercials that I can ever remember enduring. (To my amazement, I am told people like them!) What I had thought would be the "opening kicked off" seemed to drag on for nearly a half an hour, and instead of seeing local Michigan team players who actually look something like athletes, I found myself contemplating a motley collection of older, long-haired, bearded tattooed slobs who would probably be signed on by a Hollywood casting director if they sought acting roles as criminal psychopath types. And they seemed to be sneering during the National Anthem in a way that no politician would be caught dead doing. Not that they're politicians or role models, but I think their appearance may be a direct result of unsubtle pressure brought to bear to make them be celebrities and role models whether they like it or not. Perhaps if no one cared, they wouldn't have the need to look defiant. I'm glad no one wants me to be a role model. Being a professional athlete would suck in a way that being a doctor or even a rock star wouldn't.

So by the time the actual game started, my lack of any enthusiasm for the players was compounded by being exhausted by the commercials, so I changed the channel. Not that there was anything else on; as Ann Althouse (who has the advantage of being from the same state as one of the teams) noted, these were the alternative choices:

"'Sex and the City' marathon... 'Toddlers and Tiaras' marathon... 'Bewitched' marathon... 'Worst Cooks in America' marathon... 'Jerseylicious' marathon..."

So the much-touted "Superbowl Sunday" (and there was mania at the local supermarket) would have been a big yawn had I stayed in front of the damned tube, which I didn't.

Excitement? Hah!

Glenn Reynolds linked a post by Ilya Somin about getting excited over teams, or at least caring (which is probably a mild form of excitement). Somin sees it as vicarious identification:

Not everyone enjoys vicarious identification, of course. And among those who do, some prefer to satisfy their craving by means other than rooting for sports teams. But vicarious identification is a common and deeply rooted emotion -- one that probably has biological roots. And it's not really that surprising that it leads some people to root for sports teams in much the same way as it leads others to identify with fictional characters.

Again, I have no problem caring about and rooting for the Wolverines. I don't know whether I identify with them (certainly they are not role models for me) so much as I join in the local spirit. But there is something about the Superbowl that seems like deliberately contrived, deliberately ginned-up excitement. Like, you're just supposed to get excited over one team or the other. Is getting excited a learned taste? Or is it a human need? Would I have been able to enjoy it more had I simply picked a team and decided to root for it simply to trigger that "get excited and care" impulse? Which team? I moved to Michigan from Pennsylvania, but I never spent much time in Pittsburgh and never identified with that team. OTOH, Michigan is next to Wisconsin, and both are sort of "Midwestern" states, so maybe my loyalties should lie there. Plus, Green Bay is close to the Michigan's Upper Peninsula border. However, distance-wise Pittsburgh is closer; to drive to Green Bay would take me 7 hours and 44 minutes while a drive to Pittsburgh would take only 4 hours and 51 minutes.

It would be a tough pick, and I'd probably do better to flip a coin and then get excited over my choice.

Hmmm.... I'm not liking that word "choice." Perhaps it would have been destiny? 

Forgive me for not finding that exciting.  

I find the debate over "human trafficking" at the Superbowl more exciting, perhaps even annoying. Manufactured outrage has a way of annoying me, because I sometimes worry that I have to manufacture my own outrage to combat the phenomenon. Which is bad, because that can only lead to cycles of manufactured outrage.

A variety of traditions characterize Super Bowl Sunday, the unofficial sports holiday in America.

Besides the obvious viewing of the game, much of these beloved, common customs include fun and games that involve the gluttonous consumption of food and alcohol while surrounded by friends and family.

Expensive TV commercials--memorable for either their ingenuity or notoriety--and the unfailingly hyped halftime show also mark this monumental occasion.

Super Bowl Sunday serves as one glorious, nationwide party.

However, beneath all the cheer and excitement surrounding the Super Bowl lies an insidiously vile practice, the not-so-secret, but routinely ignored, world of human trafficking.

The outraged writer continues at length. While I agree that actual child prostitution is a bad thing, there is something about the phrase "human trafficking" which looks like an emergent form of weasel wording which lends itself perfectly to conflate adult prostitution with child prostitution, and voluntary sex for money with sexual slavery. This is reflected in the Wiki entry on the subject:

Sex trafficking victims are generally found in dire circumstances and easily targeted by traffickers. Individuals, circumstances, and situations vulnerable to traffickers include homeless individuals, runaway teens, displaced homemakers, refugees, and drug addicts. While it may seem like trafficked people are the most vulnerable and powerless minorities in a region, victims are consistently exploited from any ethnic and social background.

Traffickers, also known as pimps or madams, exploit vulnerabilities and lack of opportunities, while offering promises of marriage, employment, education, and/or an overall better life. However, in the end, traffickers force the victims to become prostitutes or work in the sex industry. Various work in the sex industry includes prostitution, dancing in strip clubs, performing in pornographic films and pornography, and other forms of involuntary servitude.

I don't like seeing anyone forced to do anything. But I think it is dishonest to equate "work in the sex industry" with "involuntary servitude."

It should surprise no one that a major event like the Superbowl would draw prostitutes and that some of them would be underage. But a local news report says that the claims are unsupported: 

DALLAS -- For weeks now, police, politicians and non-profit agencies have warned that a wave of prostitutes will be coming to North Texas for Super Bowl festivities.

But News 8 has learned there is no evidence supporting such claims.

That has not stopped the hysteria, although some of the activists seem to be backing off from previous claims:

Ernie Allen, director for The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said he was misquoted last year when predicting 10,000 prostitutes would show up in Miami for Super Bowl XLIV.

Allen said the Super Bowl likely doesn't attract more sex traffickers than any other large event. What's more, he also conceded there is no way to quantify the problem.

Still, he and Graves both said the issue is under-recognized and under-reported.

"Sometimes when numbers are very high, people think it's hopeless and they may not even try to address the issue," said Becky Sykes of the Dallas Women's Foundation.

The organization has commissioned a study to research Internet ads and escort services during February.  It's specifically looking for underage girls as prostitutes and hoping -- for the first time -- to see whether the Super Bowl really increases sex trafficking in the host city.

Critics blame some women's groups for the prostitution myth as they try to raise awareness without facts.

No one disputes that trafficking is a serious and sickening problem, but whether the Super Bowl intensifies it is a prediction no one can yet prove.

The Toronto Star also reports that tales of prostitution at major athletic events have been systematically hyped up over the years.

I remember when feminists used to complain about allegedly Superbowl-fueled domestic violence, and they called it the "day of dread" for women. It was a major source of Superbowl hysteria until the claims were finally debunked. 

It was not unlike Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds" -- the radio broadcast whose report of an invasion from another planet produced panic among gulled listeners. But this time it wasn't the public that panicked.

Shortly before Super Bowl Sunday, word went forth from a devoutly progressive media "watchdog" group called Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) that on the big football day wives and girlfriends en masse could expect to be battered and assaulted by the man of the house. And indeed, NBC broadcast a somber public service spot before the game, announcing that "domestic violence is a crime."  

Word went forth also that "studies" existed, proving that woman-battering by football-crazed husbands and boyfriends rose by an astounding 40% on Super Bowl Sundays -- that battered women's shelters were besieged on this day by calls for help. Thus, FAIR's specter of shelters' staffs grimly awaiting the blood-drenched tides of victims seeking refuge from males run amok during the Bills and
Cowboys game. 

All these pronouncements were received as sacred writ by an entirely credulous army of journalists. We are talking here, after all, about the toughest investigative battalions. But feed them a story about mass victimization and how the women of the nation have to go into hiding on a certain Sunday of the year, and they have no questions.

I think it may be that there is a human need for something to get excited about, and I expect more lurid tales of "human trafficking" at the Superbowl.

Wow. I actually wrote a post about the Superbowl!

If someone told me on Sunday that I would end up doing that I'd have laughed.

(I guess it can be fun to get excited -- even though it can sometimes be a bit of a ritualized process resembling work.)

posted by Eric at 12:17 PM | Comments (2)

Global Warming

world_climate_widget_sidebar Jan 2011.gif

What Happened to Global Warming?

For more details on the above image see Watts Up With That? - Widget

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:21 AM | Comments (2)

Some Brief Impressions From the Reason Cruise

I should really be working, but I thought I'd share a few thoughts before returning to my 70-hour workweek.

Nick Gillespie was very impressive in person, witty and well-read. A better ambassador for libertarianism we couldn't hope for.  Contrary to rumor, he does take off the leather jacket when swimming and dining.

Ron Bailey was tall, craggy, and extremely intelligent.  There was always an interesting intellectual conversation circling around him at any free moment.  On the first night at the hotel we had a very small reception, and I took the opportunity to rant to him a bit about Polywell fusion and the Cathodixx guy (Ron's take on the latter was to the effect of "if he can't get published he should forget the theory and just make money" which is pretty much what we've been telling him at TalkPolywell).

Shikha Dalmia was very attractive and gave a persuasive presentation on the underrated liberalizing "soft power" of culture, with a lovely sort of Hindi trill to her speaking voice.  I'm surprised we don't see her on TV more, as telegenic and well-spoken as she is.

The Seasteading guys (Patri Friedman, James Hogan, etc) were considerably more serious than we in the audience expected -- they clearly have put a lot of work into their project and while it may not take off they certainly have their ducks in a row in terms of defining a legal and philosophical framework for the notion of independent floating city-states (which, it turns out, actually has some modern precedents).  Their next challenge is to attract industry.

Matt Ridley also gave an excellent presentation on The Rational Optimist, which is on my list of the top 5 books everyone should read.

Those were the people that stuck out, though all the Reason staff were interesting -- had a great dinner conversation with Jacob Sullum, whose presentation on the insanity of liquor laws I unfortunately missed.  Oh, and Matt Welch immediately brings to mind Noah Bennett from "Heroes."

Met some very interesting people besides.  It's not everywhere you run into someone who can talk about Anathem, the Singularity, the multifarious intricacies of Japanese language, and Drake's equation while flipping between pictures of their scuba dive of Antarctica (including an underwater iceberg pic) and the bright orange mohawk they had a while back.

There was also a trip to the Puerto Rican governor's mansion on the cruise -- he is apparently setting about deregulating, privatizing and generally freeing the island's economy.  I took pity on my wife and did not make the trip, but the consensus seemed to be he was very impressive, assuming he wasn't blowing smoke for their benefit.

An unexpected treat: pianist Hyperion Knight, apparently also a libertarian leaner, graced our informal evening receptions with his art and attended seminars when not performing professionally for the ship's passengers.

All in all, the Reason cruise was a great experience, aside from the more mundane pleasures of parasailing and undersea scooters.  I definitely recommend trying to make a future Reason cruise if at all possible.

posted by Dave at 09:29 PM | Comments (3)

doin' the anti-gay camp routine

A full page ad in the Washington Times (PDF here) maintains that allowing a group of gay conservatives to be at CPAC is a betrayal of Ronald Reagan or something.


Of course, I hasten to point out that many on the left -- especially the gay left -- would agree. That's because they believe in precisely the same faulty narrative as the anti-gay right: that Ronald Reagan was "virulently anti-gay."

The truth is that the man was a product of his times, and even though he pandered to anti-gay conservatives, he had gay friends and was personally tolerant:

The conventional view in gay political circles is that Reagan, a strong conservative, was virulently anti-gay. In this view, Reagan was propelled to office by the newly powerful religious right, and repaid that support with socially conservative administration appointments and policies. (Most unforgivably, according to the conventional view, Reagan did nothing while thousands of gay men died of AIDS. That's a charge I'll address in my next column.) The truth about Reagan and gays, however, is more complicated.

Start with the notion that Reagan himself was anti-gay. Like most of us, Reagan reflected the prejudices of his times. Born in 1911, he grew up in a small-town world that misunderstood and feared homosexuality. He was 62 by the time homosexuality was removed from the official list of mental disorders. According to biographer Lou Cannon, Reagan shared the common view of his time that homosexuality was a sickness. He was not above telling jokes about gays.

Still, perhaps because he worked with gay actors in Hollywood and had gay friends, Reagan was relatively tolerant. Cannon notes that Reagan was "respectful of the privacy of others" and was "not the sort of person who bothers about what people do in their own bedrooms." This attitude was consistent with Reagan's larger philosophical commitment to individual liberty and limited government.

Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis (the politically liberal one), recounted on Time magazine's website that she and her father once watched an awkward kiss between Doris Day and Rock Hudson in a movie. Reagan explained to his daughter that the closeted Hudson would have preferred to kiss a man. "This was said in the same tone that would be used if he had been telling me about people with different colored eyes," recalled Davis, "and I accepted without question that this whole kissing thing wasn't reserved just for men and women."

During Reagan's presidency the first openly gay couple spent a night together in the White House. In a column for The Washington Post on March 18, 1984, Robert Kaiser described the sleep-over: "[The Reagans'] interior decorator, Ted Graber, who oversaw the redecoration of the White House, spent a night in the Reagans' private White House quarters with his male lover, Archie Case, when they came to Washington for Nancy Reagan's 60th birthday party. . . . Indeed, all the available evidence suggests that Ronald Reagan is a closet tolerant."

Tolerance is not acceptance, however, and Reagan made it clear in speeches that he would not cross the line to the latter....

Read it all.

This nuanced view of Reagan is also confirmed by the scholarly Warren Throckmorton.

I think it's unlikely that Reagan would support gay marriage. But as Throckmorton notes, he was passionately pro-life, and "there is nothing comparable from Reagan on gay issues." (Biographer Lou Cannon describes him as being "repelled by the aggressive public crusades against homosexual life styles which became a staple of right wing politics in the late 1970s.") And even though he was pro-life, he worked with innumerable pro-choice conservatives and failed to kick them out of his administration. The man was legendary for his belief in coalitions. One of his most famous sayings on the subject was this:

"If you agree with me eighty percent of the time then you are an ally, not a 20 percent traitor."

Hey, I never considered myself a Reaganite, but I agree with Reagan on 80 percent of the issues, so I'm thinking maybe he wouldn't kick me out of CPAC were he alive today.

M. Simon and I have criticized the CPAC boycott, and I not only agree with Glenn that this headline is a hopeful development, I think it speaks well of her courage, sanity, and political maturity:

Sarah Palin Throws Support Behind GOProud Participation at CPAC.


"Well, I've never attended a CPAC conference ever so I was a little taken aback this go around when I couldn't make it to this one either and then there was a speculation well I either agree or disagree with some of the groups or issues that CPAC is discussing. It really is a matter of time for me. But when it comes to and David, perhaps what it is that you're suggesting in the question is should the GOP, should conservatives not reach out to others, not participate in events or forums that perhaps are rising within those forums are issues that maybe we don't personally agree with? And I say no, it's like you being on a panel shoot, with a bunch of the liberal folks whom you have been on and you provide good information and balance, and you allow for healthy debate, which is needed in order for people to gather information and make up their own minds about issues. I look at participation in an event like CPAC or any other event, along, or kind of in that same vein as the more information that people have the better."

That sounds like vintage Reagan to me, all wishful thinking in the anti-gay camp notwithstanding.

Anti-gay camp?

Did I just say that?

Damned if it doesn't sound like a drag routine....

Hey why not?

(As I keep saying, strange bedfellows working in collusion need each other.)

MORE: Hot Air has a poll -- "Should conservatives welcome GOProud, or should they skip CPAC if GOProud participates?" -- and the results so far indicate overwhelming agreement with this:


Looks like the Reagan coalition has the advantage.

posted by Eric at 09:03 PM | Comments (9)

TEA for Tech-savvy youths?

People who think the Muslim Brotherhood is the driving force behind the protests in Egypt should read this USA Today report that the initial protests -- and much of the enthusiasm -- were generated by tech-savvy youths:

CAIRO -- The uprising that threatens to topple Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and transform the Arab world started with tech-savvy young Egyptians who tapped into widespread discontent and spread the word about the protest through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

They didn't expect the massive uprising that would paralyze the country and draw the world's attention. "We thought police would come to the street and force us to go home," said Assem Farrag, a 24-year-old protester.

"But when I came to the street, I found something else," said Farrag, who was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt and had been living in a tent along with a number of other young men and women at the center of Tahrir Square.

The initial protest was promoted on a Facebook page devoted to the memory of Khaled Said, a 28-year-old man who allegedly died at the hands of police in Alexandria. The government had said he suffocated after swallowing a package of drugs he was trying to hide from police.

Photos of Said's corpse, showing his teeth broken and body badly bruised, circulated on the Internet, drawing widespread outrage. Two plainclothes police officers were later charged with excessive force and illegal arrest in connection with the incident.

Human Rights Watch says torture is regularly used by Egypt's security forces and most victims are afraid to report abuses.

Fascinating to contemplate that the major unrest which threatens to topple a longstanding US ally might have been triggered by the War On Drugs.

The drug of choice in Egpyt is hashish, which Anwar Sadat was said to enjoy. But earlier this year a major hashish shortage occurred, with most users blaming the government:

The price rise is especially lamented by older users, who grew up under the rule of President Sadat -- widely said to have been an enthusiast. His 11-year rule from 1970 to 1981 is fondly recalled as a golden age for hashish and its connoisseurs.

In modern times, usage is pervasive and classless. Cheap rolling papers are for sale at almost every kiosk and supermarket, even though rolling tobacco is expensive and available only at a handful of stores.

Most hash in Egypt comes from Morocco, with some from Lebanon. Moroccan shipments tend to come through Sudan, where the border is more porous than the western frontier with Libya. Lebanese shipments tend to arrive through the Sinai.

The shortage follows triumphant police announcements of a sweeping crackdown. In late March General Mostafa Amer, director of the Interior Ministry's anti-narcotics bureau, announced that 7.5 tonnes of hashish and 25kg of heroin had been seized in raids over three months.

More than 300 distributors were detained, he said. Few are convinced that the raids could have caused the shortage, however. Many see a darker explanation.

"This proves the Government completely controls the hash trade," said one smoker. "It's not the result of a few strategic drug busts. They just turned off the tap."

That belief has spawned a host of theories as to just why the authorities would tighten supplies. Among them: a desire to shift drug smokers to alcohol, heroin or illicit pharmaceuticals, or some internal struggle between large distributors and their "partners" in the police. Yasser's favourite theory is to blame politicians jockeying for money, power and influence.

As to who is behind the sudden unprecedented crackdown this year (which is being called the "Egypt's Great Hash Crisis of 2010"), conspiracy theories abound, but the autocratic Mubarak has been getting most of the blame. Ironically for a country in which hashish is so popular, drug trafficking can be punished by death.

Whether the crackdown earlier this year has anything to do with the current discontent, who knows? But it strikes me that if the initial protests were triggered over the death of a Muslim activist in custody, that would get a lot more media play than the death of a drug suspect.

Fascinatingly, right in the midst of the uproar an American citizen faces the death penalty on "drug" smuggling charges, for importing hemp oil:

WASHINGTON, DC - The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), the nation's leading trade organization working to promote non-drug industrial hemp, learned last week of the plight of Mostafa Soliman, an America citizen who has lived in the U.S. for 40 years and was wrongly imprisoned by Egyptian authorities on December 30, 2010 for importing organic hemp seed oil used in salads, and other healthy recipes.    If convicted, he is potentially facing death by hanging.

After almost a month in jail, Mr. Soliman was finally granted bail as protests raged across Egypt.  Just as he was about to be released on January 28th, his jail  was attacked by protesters and set on fire.  Guards and police fled leaving the prisoners to die in the burning jail, many of whom were crammed in 8 by 8 foot cells with as many as 30 people.  Eventually the protesters entered the jail and smashed the locks on the prisoner's cells amidst smoke and tear gas, releasing Mr. Soliman and others in a scene that can only be described as dangerously chaotic.

Over the next few days Mr. Soliman along with attorneys in the U.S. working with the HIA asked the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to help reissue Mr. Soliman a passport so he can return to the U.S.  However, the embassy has refused to issue the new passport so far for no apparent reason except that he is facing unfounded drug charges in Egypt.

The Egyptian born Mr. Soliman, 62, is owner of Health Harvest, the company which exported the hemp seed oil from Canada and operates in Egypt.  He lives in Aventura, Florida, but was spending time in Egypt to manage the arrival of products that he exports from the U.S. and Canada.

Again, I do not know to what extent to which the war on drugs might be implicated in the current crisis, but "Egypt's Great Hash Crisis of 2010" certainly doesn't seem to fit any of the popular narratives. (Were I a conspiracy theorist, I might even opine that this is being suppressed.)

Hash crisis aside, I do think it is vitally important to respect the fact that these demonstrations originated with tech-savvy, mostly secular young people, and that everything that can be done to offer them assistance and enncouragement should be done. In that respect, Richard Fernandez has a very thoughtful post, with concrete suggestions, irresistibly titled "The Egyptian Tea Party":

Sandmonkey lays out his vision of the way forward in Egypt in his newest post. According to him, the best way forward is to adopt a strategy of getting the Internet-connected youth to take over existing parties and movements from online strongholds. Whether the strategy is workable or not, it is certainly innovative; it represents one of the first actual attempts to exploit the role of modern connectivity in a revolutionary process.

"One of the first" and not "the first" because that honor probably belongs to Tea Party USA, which has used online organizing tools to try and take over the Republican Party. Like Sandmonkey's vision of a leaderless popular revolution, the Tea Party is an example of a political movement that has no rigid organizational structure, no big office building in a great metropolitan area, no television stations. Nancy Pelosi kept looking for the funders of the "Astroturf," and yet there were none to be found.  She could not believe that a real grassroots movement could actually exist. Yet as the events of November 2010 showed her, the Tea Party really does exist. The question is whether a similar kind of force can operate within the Egyptian revolution. First of all, let's see what Sandmonkey actually proposes.


First of all, he lays out with dismay the conventional alternative: keep on the current course and accept dwindling street protests or enter negotiations with Mubarak's rear guard through conventional opposition authority figures. He has no appetite for either, probably because events either way will eventually be co-opted by the mustache Petes of the underground or the fixers in their Saville Row suits.

Read it all. Especially the bottom line:

If there is one single thing that the American political and developer community can do to affect the course, not only of the Egyptian revolution but of changes in the Third World to come, it will be to act in this sphere. What's to be lost in trying? If anyone has any concrete ideas in this respect, don't hesitate to post in comments or email me.

There are real freedom fighters over there and they need help.

Parenthetically, I do think it's fair to point out that I've met a number of respectfully discreet pot smokers in the Tea Party movement around here, and it is not unreasonable to imagine that that might they have Egyptian counterparts. (BTW, I found repeated confirmation that the amiable Anwar Sadat was known as a "hashshash.")

Freedom lovers here should support freedom lovers there. 

Freedom is a precious thing, and its enemies are always trying to stamp it out.

posted by Eric at 10:39 AM | Comments (2)

Drugs Make Obama Smile

The President says we need to treat drugs as a medical problem. Gee I didn't know they were sick. Is there a plant pathologist in the room?

Today, in response to a video question from a former deputy sheriff about whether it is time to discuss legalizing and regulating drugs in light of the failure of the "war on drugs," President Barack Obama said that it is "an entirely legitimate topic for debate" but that he is not in favor of legalization.

The President then went on to say that he sees drug abuse as a public health issue and that a shifting of resources is required, away from the traditional approach of incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders.

That is what he talks about. What is he actually doing?
"The president talks a good game about shifting resources and having a balanced, public health-oriented approach, but it doesn't square with the budgets he's submitted to Congress," said Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of cops, judges and prosecutors who support legalizing and regulating drugs. "The Obama administration has maintained the Bush-era two-to-one budget ratio in favor of prisons and prosecution over treatment and prevention. It doesn't add up.
Is this another WTF? moment for the President? As S. Palin says: "...a lot of WTF moments throughout that speech". And it was such a short one too.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:08 PM | Comments (2)

Naturally, things don't work!

In a comment to my post about ineffective sudafed substitutes, Joseph Hertzlinger reminded me that there is a method to their madness:

While we're advocating legalizing cold remedies that work, maybe we try relegalizing toilets that work as well.

Insane as it may sound, it does seem that America is at war with Things That Work. Or at least, that the bureaucrats who run America are. The example of toilets is a classic, but a more recent example is detergent.

That's a very simple concept, right? So why is our government at war with it?

I kid you not. The latest is the attack on dishwasher detergent. Within the past year I noticed that the dishes just aren't getting as clean as they used to. It's because last summer, Michigan joined the anti-phosphate bandwagon:

According to USA Today, July starts a ban in  sixteen states of the sale of dishwasher detergents that contain high levels of phosphates, a source of pollution in lakes and streams.

Stores will not be allowed to sell detergent with more than 0.5 percent phosphorous. The bans do not apply to commercial dishwashing products, and detergents for hand-washing dishes generally contain no phosphorus.

States instituting the rule include Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, reports the Associated Press.

No doubt the legislatures followed the orders issued to them by the Public Policy People, whose job is to tell everyone what to do regardless of their ostensible titles or power. 

Naturally (!), the new dishwashing soap fails to get the dishes clean, so people are resorting to self-help, and taking advantage of a loophole. From the furious comments:

I was ready to buy a new dishwasher! All the products I bought in the last month have been leaving dishes and cookware dirty,chalky, and stained. Thanks to Garry J.... I am heading to Lowes. I called Cascade and they had no explanation as to why their products went from fine to crap. I only saw the ban when I was surfing for new dishwashers.


For the past couple of months our dishes had been coming out with horrible white spots and my black plastic utensils were white and chalky!! I just realized in tiny print all the detergent says "phosphate free". I thought something was wrong with my water! I found on the internet that if you put white vinegar or a packet of lemon kool-aid in the rinse it helps. But it's kinda hard to know when my dishwasher is rinsing, I have to hang around and listen...BRING BACK PHOSPHATES!!! It's not like we're dumping detergent directly into the lakes and rivers...can't they leave anything alone??

No, they can't. Leaving things alone is not in their nature.

Ordinary people are forced to cross state lines to evade the ban (which is probably another federal felony along with almost everything else). Freepers are also exchanging information about the new black market, and they point out that the TSP loophole won't last long.

In a recent post titled "Your dishes are dirty because of the Greens," Moe Lane notes how quickly this happened, and mentions another loophole:

Both Erick and I ranted on this topic a while back, but I don't think that either of us were aware how just how quickly it was going to get this bad. Repairing this will probably take some doing; in the meantime, I suggest that people start purchasing Finish Glass Magic Dishwasher Performance Booster: 16 OZ, as it is (I believe) still roughly 20% phosphates, and should thus supplement your regular dishwasher detergent handily. It costs more, true, but as compensation using it makes environmentalists cry - particularly if you make it a point to mention that you're adding it at least partially to spite them.

Intriguingly, he opines that this was done out of spite:

Hey. They got rid of the phosphates in the first place mostly to spite you.

And in a PS, he notes that the dangers were overhyped. (Surprise!)

PS: Turns out that phosphate levels in the Spokane river haven't gone down at anywhere near the levels expected by the ban. And that there's some question of whether high phosphate levels were actually the problem that they were portrayed as being in the first place.

It would not surprise me if many of the manufacturers see this and other bans in the same way the drug companies saw the Sudafed restrictions: as money-making opportunities. After all, when the government forces stores to clear the shelves, they need more inventory. And if the replacement doesn't work as well, many ordinary housewives will simply use more and buy more. Their loss is the manufacturer's gain!

Why more people aren't more outraged by these things, I don't know. But the government war on Things That Work is a major motivation behind many a Tea Partyer. I know because I am one of them and I hear them talk.

In New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation sees the detergent ban as only a small step in a greater war:

The detergent restocking ban took effect Saturday.

"We're chipping away at sources of pollution. This is one. Nitrogen is another," said DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. Pesticides are a third, and the agency backed legislation enacted earlier this year that will ban the use of pesticides on schoolyards and playing fields.

Hey, mosquitos, lice and bedbugs are part of the environment, and children have to be taught at an early age to live in harmony with nature. 

I can remember back in Berkeley when people used to think rats were bad, and they would trap and poison them. Now, they are feeding them:

Berkeleyside set out, with some trepidation, to investigate -- and indeed we found rats, perhaps not millions, but certainly dozens, feeding off what looked like bird food. The many passers-by, going to dinner or on their way home at 6.30 in the evening, barely seemed to notice the vermin in their midst.

They even have a nice picture of the happy Telegraph Avenue rats:


But that's just Berkeley. In many parts of backward America, people still use poison. It works. Naturally, the more progressive Europeans are a step ahead, and they want to ban it. A few pesky Scottish conservatives are not happy:

The European Parliament's environment committee will next month vote on a ban on anti-coagulant in rodenticides.

Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson said if the bill was made law there would be no other way of controlling the rodent population.

He said there would be an explosion in numbers.

Mr Stevenson said the bill, which is at the first reading stage could be in place by the summer, if it is passed.

Immense damage

He told the BBC Scotland news website: " I am trying my hardest to get a majority to vote against the amendment, but this is very serious."

"Pest controllers are extremely alarmed by this as there would be an explosion in the rat and mice population. There is no other way of controlling them.

"The damage they cause is immense."

Grain store manager, Jim Brown said: "This is potentially catastrophic.

He means catastrophic for humans. Fro the standpoint of the environment what is catastrophic to humans is good for nature!  

The idea seems to be that we should all get used to being more natural. Perhaps that explains the war on Things That Work. If you think about it, the more things don't work, the more natural we become.

Moe Lane was right to say that these things are done out of spite.

But it's out of natural spite.

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

How's Egpyt doing with that human rights thing?

Cynical as I am, I have to say that I was a bit taken aback to read that in this day and age, nine out of ten Egyption girls are made to endure female genital mutilation (FGM).

But that's what a piece Glenn linked earlier said:

Nine out of ten Egyptian women suffer genital mutilation. US President Barack Obama said Jan. 29, "The right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny ... are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere." Does Obama think that genital mutilation is a human rights violation? To expect Egypt to leap from the intimate violence of traditional society to the full rights of a modern democracy seems whimsical.

In fact, the vast majority of Egyptians has practiced civil disobedience against the Mubarak regime for years. The Mubarak government announced a "complete" ban on genital mutilation in 2007, the second time it has done so - without success, for the Egyptian population ignored the enlightened pronouncements of its government. Do Western liberals cheer at this quiet revolt against Mubarak's authority?

Suzanne Mubarak, Egypt's First Lady, continues to campaign against the practice, which she has denounced as "physical and psychological violence against children." Last May 1, she appeared at Aswan City alongside the provincial governor and other local officials to declare the province free of it. And on October 28, Mrs Mubarak inaugurated an African conference on stopping genital mutilation.

The most authoritative Egyptian Muslim scholars continue to recommend genital mutilation.

The 90% figure is shocking by any standard. In fact, it seemed as if it might be too high, so I checked it.

Sure enough I found the statistic confirmed here and here. The lowest estimate claimed it was 72%, with some studies say it is even higher than 90%:

Experts believe that although female circumcision is widespread, considerable progress has been achieved. "The Demographic Health Survey of 2008 [published in 2009] showed that 72 percent of girls aged 15-30 were circumcised, compared to 96 percent of the same age group in the Demographic Health Survey of 1995," said Azza Shalaby, gender adviser at Plan Egypt, a children's development NGO.

However, the Demographic Health Survey of 2008 also indicated that 91 percent of women aged 15-49 were circumcised.

As best as I can determine, it does appear that senior Islamic clerics are opposed to FGM and maintain it is not sanctioned by the Koran, although some religious leaders still favor the practice:

When interviewed about FGM, Ali Gum'a, the Mufti of Egypt (a.k.a. Gomaa), said:

    "We've warned time and again that this thing... It has become clear to us, in modern times, with all the medical information we have, that this is inappropriate, and that it causes severe damage from the medical, social, and human aspects. So we [decided] to refrain from performing this custom and to prevent it. We've said this once, twice, three times, and ten times... Not only now, but since 1954, we have been calling upon people to abandon this ugly custom."  5

When the interviewer pressured the mufti by asking specifically whether Islam prohibits or permits FGM, Ali Gum'a replied:

    "This issue, with these characteristics, in our times - is prohibited. If they want to know what the Mufti of Egypt has to say. I say this custom is prohibited."

Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi, the Grand Sheikh of Cairo's al-Azhar mosque, has repeated his assertion that the practice as un-Islamic. However, some other Muslim clerics have supported FGM.

That there does not appear to be any religious justification for this barbaric practice obviously does not stop it from being popular.

Seeing is believing.

I agree with Glenn that what is happening in Egypt is not analogous the fall of the Berlin Wall.

People who routinely do such a savage thing to their children may be a lot of things, but I'm having trouble seeing them as narrative material for the triumph of democracy. They're in need of liberation, all right. From themselves.

They don't even seem to have a backward and oppressive theocratic regime to offer as an excuse for Cripe's sake. They're just mindlessly reenacting a gruesome cultural tradition.

It's been a real disappointment for me, just learning about it.

Much as I'd like to go gaga over democracy, I think the country could use an improvement in its human rights department. 

Starting with their own homes.

posted by Eric at 04:22 PM | Comments (12)

Protected to death by the FDA

Speaking of government regulation of drugs, Paul Hsieh, M.D. has a great PJM piece ("America's Other Drug Problem") in which he points out that the maniacal bureacrats at the FDA are preventing Americans from getting the life-saving drugs, and thwarting their ability to get the health care they need.

Melly Alazraki of Daily Finance reports that the shortages include "vital medications such as chemotherapy, antibiotics, analgesics (painkillers), anesthetics and more." ABC News details how Minnesota cancer patient Mark McKee was suddenly told at a scheduled chemotherapy session that the hospital did not have enough of the critical medication doxorubicin for his prescribed treatment. Despite the fact that his tumor had grown recently, his doctors told him he had to settle for a significantly reduced dose and hope that "something may be better than nothing."

As happens with giant bureacracies, the FDA has gotten more and more unreasonable over time, and if its current standards were applied to wonder drugs from the past, they would never be allowed:

The FDA drug approval process is so onerous that many experts believe that certain drugs currently in widespread use would never have been approved by today's FDA -- including penicillin, aspirin, and acetaminophen (Tylenol). In 2010, the FDA approved a mere 21 drugs -- what the Wall Street Journal calls "a relatively modest figure" and a continuation of the "drought in recent years."

While aware of this problem, the Obama administration is proposing to add another level of bureaucracy.

But many scientific and industry experts are deeply skeptical that this new program will succeed.

Is anyone surprised by their skepticism?

I like the approach John Stossel has proposed: simply abolish the damned FDA.

There's no reason to think that a government agency would be better at picking pharmaceutical winners and losers than a private company that has its own money on the line and is motivated to earn a profit. Rather than creating yet another bureaucracy to "encourage" the development of drugs the government deems worthy, the government should consider a radical alternative. It should reduce the regulatory burdens on the pharmaceutical industry by phasing out -- and eventually abolishing -- the FDA.

John Stossel and others have explained how abolishing the FDA and allowing private rating agencies to monitor the safety and effectiveness of drugs would better protect consumers against unsafe products.

Private ratings agencies already work superbly in other industries. The private Underwriters Laboratories (UL) tests and approves numerous products ranging from hair dryers to Christmas lights to bulletproof glass. Manufacturers gladly pay for their testing and certification because many retailers won't stock products without the UL seal of approval.

Not that it matters to anyone in the government (or to the more powerful people  with degrees in Telling Everyone What To Do Public Policy), but exactly where did the founders grant the federal government power to determine what medicines we should be allowed to buy?

This situation calls for more middle class anarchy.

Get the government out of the pharmaceutical business and leave it up to doctors and patients what drugs they want. Doctors and patients should be allowed to mutually agree upon whatever course of treatment they want, and absent force or fraud, their transactions are no more the government's business than what two adults do in their bedroom.

posted by Eric at 12:48 PM | Comments (4)

Supply And Demand

Eric in his post An "effective" war on drugs means war on drugs that are effective! directed me to this Megan McArdle post The Goals and Means of Meth Control where I found the following exchange most amusing:


Here is a paradox that always makes me think about libertarianism:

How many meth-lab operators have degrees in chemistry, or any science, or anything at all?

Running a meth lab is certainly not easy. It's not a get-rich-quick scheme. The risks of a fiery death are high. The risks of a long stretch in prison are high. And, if you use your own product (which I'd have to think many of them do), the risks borne of addiction are high.

Getting the raw materials is a lot of work. Staying under the radar is a lot of work. Selling is dangerous - there is no honor amoungst your clientele.

Yet they do it. Why? Clearly if they are smart enough to do all of these things, they aren't stupid. And clearly if they do all of that work, they're not notably lazy.

It always strikes me as if this is a case where the job is well defined, the risks/rewards are well understood, and there are no significant startup costs.

What would happen if we made opening a pizza parlor that simple - go to Town Hall, pay a small license fee, and off you go. What if, like most of Europe, you could serve beer and wine without a license?

How many meth lab operators would opt to open sub shops, and taverns in their basements, and pizza joints out of their kitchens, etc., if only we'd let them?

Another commenter has an answer:
Rob Lyman in reply to RobM1981

None. They do it to get money to feed their addiction. No rational person would choose running a meth lab at home over fighting the zoning board.

And then a wag shows up:
barryd in reply to Rob Lyman

When you put it that way, I think a lot of people would choose running a meth lab... ;-)

Ain't it the truth. And it shouldn't be.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:35 AM | Comments (0)

Coming Soon From Naked Reader Press

Here is an excerpt from Death of a Musketeer, coming out later this month from Naked Reader Press. This will be the first time the novel has been available in digital format. If it does well enough for NRP, I will resume the series with number six, The Musketeer's Confessor, probably early next year. Enjoy!


Continue reading "Coming Soon From Naked Reader Press"

posted by Sarah at 12:10 AM | Comments (1)

What If They Gave A Revolution And You Didn't Show Up?

Eric e-mailed me a link to a rant by Matthew Jarzen discussing the social conservative (socon) pull out from CPAC. I have discussed it before at The Real Enemy and Is It Religion?. Matthew, who is evidently going to college at the present time makes some points that I would like to follow up on.

One of the hardest things about being a conservative on a college campus has been trying to explain away the ridiculous positions and statements of social conservatives and how they don't represent the GOP or conservatism as a whole. For anyone who really knows me, I despise social conservatives -- who in my and many others' mind are not conservative. Why?

Because they advocate for their brand of big government, only instead of faceless bureaucrats regulating every aspect of your life, they want faceless Christian bureaucrats to regulate every aspect of your moral life and choices. As social conservatives have become a more powerful voting bloc, they've driven out everyone who don't 100 percent agree with them, which is one of the reasons why young people are driven away from the GOP and conservatism.

The irrational behavior of the social conservatives (henceforth, I will call them "moral liberals") goes against everything Ronald Reagan stood for and preached. He was famous for saying, "If you agree with me 80 percent of the time, you're my friend."

I've been calling them "moral socialists" but "moral liberals" is close enough.

So what do I agree on with the social conservatives/moral socialists?

Fiscal responsibility, Constitutional Government (missed the Drug Prohibition Amendment), and Free Markets about covers it. You know the generally accepted TEA Party Manifesto.

...the moral liberals seem to think that some 20 percents are more important than others.

Perhaps none other than former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee illustrates my point best. When he was governor of Arkansas, he supported increases in the state income tax, sales tax, gas tax, licensing fees and even a nursing bed tax. Yet, why does Huckabee still remain popular in GOP circles? It is thanks to the social "conservative" voting bloc that feels comfortable with Huckabee because he is staunchly pro-life and anti-gay.

The moral liberals will ignore that because that 20 percent is more important than the tax and spending part. There has even been talk of social conservatives leaving the GOP and forming their own party. They will make this move solely because of GOProud, whose inclusion in CPAC is both welcomed and refreshing as it brings young, fresh faces to represent and help grow the movement.

To this proposition, I say go for it. That way the moral liberals can continue to lose elections while the rest of us figure out how to grow and build the movement and the GOP so we can compete in the next 20 years.

Many in the TEA Party movement feel that getting involved in social issues will drive away some libertarians, Democrats, moderates, independents, etc.

But suppose the socially liberal, fiscally conservative guys like Rand and Ron Paul take over the GOP and win elections without the hard core socons? Suppose enough socons defect (or are already libertarian in sentiment) to make a winning coalition?

IMO those leaving CPAC over GOProud have made an unwise move. Let me put it simply: those who leave the table will lose their seat.

That dogma often leads to unwisdom is nothing new. It is a constant in history. And yet there are some who would prefer dogma to union despite the lessons of history. Isn't there a lot in the Torah about internal conflict among the tribes leading to defeat at the hands of an external enemy? Hmmmm.

Or to put it in more modern terms: sometimes you have to join with Stalin to defeat Hitler. Try to put in a good word for Uncle Joe when you can. Say until we have defeated the Socialists and the Islamic nutters.

My good word about socons: Socons "get" economics... And my criticism: "except when it comes to their pet projects."

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his world view depends on not understanding it." - with apologies to Upton Sinclair.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:21 PM | Comments (2)

They Still Have To Eat

Spengler at Asia Times makes a very good point about how Asian prosperity is hurting Muslim countries lacking exportable resources.

It wasn't the financial crisis that undermined dysfunctional Arab states, but Asian prosperity. The Arab poor have been priced out of world markets. There is no solution to Egypt's problems within the horizon of popular expectations. Whether the regime survives or a new one replaces it, the outcome will be a disaster of, well, biblical proportions.

The best thing the United States could do at the moment would be to offer massive emergency food aid to Egypt out of its own stocks, with the understanding that President Mubarak would offer effusive public thanks for American generosity. This is a stopgap, to be sure, but it would pre-empt the likely alternative. Otherwise, the Muslim Brotherhood will preach Islamist socialism to a hungry audience. That also explains why Mubarak just might survive. Even Islamists have to eat. The Iranian Islamists who took power in 1979 had oil wells; Egypt just has hungry mouths. Enlightened despotism based on the army, the one stable institution Egypt possesses, might not be the worst solution.

It all depends on what proportion of the total family budget is devoted to food. In the US it runs under 10% (in 1900 in the US it was around 30%). If food prices double in the US it is an inconvenience - especially since so much of the food dollar goes into transport and processing. If food prices double in Egypt the number of calories consumed pretty much has to decline by 50% - at least among the poor. Which are quite numerous in Egypt.

When the oil runs out (or some technology replaces it) the Middle East is going to be a very sorry place.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:54 PM | Comments (1)

A 100% unapproved statement of 100% approval

Having just complained about cold remedies that don't work, I thought I should praise one of the best remedies I have encountered to date. While I mentioned it in a previous post, this stuff is so effective that I thought it merited a post all its own. I refer to "African Sea Coconut" brand cough syrup. Yes, that's quite a name, and it sounds downright kooky. I was a bit skeptical when I bought it the other day, because I had never heard of it, and I am a victim of chronic cough, so when I get an additional cough from a cold it becomes unendurable, and nothing really works except codeine.

Anyway, I was in a jam on Tuesday, because I knew the big storm was coming, and my cough had become disabling. So I thought I would drive to the local Chinese market and just ask the guy behind the medicine counter for whatever cough syrup was popular with customers and I would give that a try. I bought a bottle, took it home, and swallowed 2/3 of a Tablespoon full. I expected it to taste awful, and I was surprised how mild and good tasting it was. But what I really didn't expect was that it would stop my cough dead in its tracks! It was at least as effective as codeine that I had to get for last year's coughing fits, but without the side effects. Moreover, it seems to eliminate whatever that mysterious inflammation is at the junction of the bronchi and esophagous that triggers the irresistible impulse to cough. 

[A commenter takes issue with my saying "junction of the bronchi and esophagus." I meant to refer to the area where the trachea, larynx, pharynx, are separated from the esophagus by the epiglottal flap. It gets inflamed and triggers the cough reflex. The important point is that coughing is not solely or necessarily caused by bronchial tract inflammation.]

I have been taking it every four hours during the day, and before going to bed. Not only is the cough from the cold history, but I am not having my "normal" and usual late night and early morning coughing fits. It is no exaggeration to say that this amazing stuff has not only stopped my acute cough, it also seems to have stopped my chronic cough.

As to what it is, the label lists four active ingredients:

1. Tolu Balsam 

(seems to be a less-than-adequately researched substance which is considered to have anti-cough and anti-inflammatory properties -- none of which have been medically documented)

2. Squill bulb (contains "scillaren" and other substances I've never heard of)

Squill is a strong and effective expectorant, a medicine that stimulates the production of phlegm, and is widely used to cure unrelieved bronchitis, particularly when there is low sputum production leading to an irritating dry cough. Usage of squill aids in the secretion of a liquefied mucus that smoothens the progress of expectoration. At the same time, the mucilage substance makes the bronchiole passages simpler and calms them down and in this way helps the stimulation of the glycosides. Many herbal physicians also use squill to heal bronchial asthma as well as whooping cough.

3. Ipecacuanha (aka Ipecac), which contains emetidine and cepaeline:

The properties of ipecacuanha are virtually those of its principal alkaloids, emetine and cephaeline. In small doses it is a powerful expectorant, its action lasting several hours. Large doses are powerfully irritant to the whole gastro-intestinal tract, and produce vomiting and diarrhoea. The powdered drug is extremely irritating to the nasal and laryngeal mucous membrane, producing violent sneezing and coughing. Ipecacuanha is used in small doses as an expectorant in acute and chronic bronchitis and in cough when secretion is scanty. It is well borne by children, and is largely used in croup and whooping cough.

4. Licorice root

If this writeup is any indication, it is a powerful and very complicated substance.

While its flavor might please a lot of people and it might be useful to a certain extend in the treatment of coughs, colds and certain other ailments, its potency and toxicity will always be a matter of concern. Its use in large doses and for an extended period of time is certainly not advisable.

Its affinity for the endocrine system makes licorice a most remarkable herb, which when used judiciously can be very helpful in treating many human ailments. Licorice has an anti-inflammatory, antiallergic and antiarthritic effect similar to that of cortisone but without its side effects. This is because of glycyrrhizin which has a structure similar to hormones produced by the adrenal glands. Its antiallergic effect makes it very useful in treating allergic rhinitis, hay fever, conjunctivitis and bronchial asthma. Licorice has mild estrogenic properties and can be very helpful during menopause. It gets these properties from the steroid like compounds present in it which can change to estrogen precursors like estradiol and estrone. Licorice can act as a mild laxative and can also relieve indigestion and heartburn by lowering stomach acid levels.
The herb is popularly used to ease irritation and for inflammation and spasm in the digestive tract. Licorice is reputed to heal ulcers. The herb acts on the liver and helps increase bile flow and it also helps lower cholesterol levels. Licorice helps the body to built up resistance to stress by acting on the adrenal glands. It has a soothing and healing effect on the respiratory system and helps to ease irritation and inflammation. Because of its expectorant properties it is used in treating colds, coughs, asthma and chest infections. Like aspirin, licorice is useful in relieving headaches and fevers. The herb is handy for people coming off orthodox steroid medications as it has the effect of revitalizing or energizing the body. Anti-allergenic effect of licorice is very useful for hay fever, allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis and bronchial asthma. Licorice is quite useful in bringing back the liveliness when one is feeling tired or fatigue especially after surgery or during convalescence. It is a good stress reliever- both physical and emotional.

Documentary and other scientific evidence suggest that licorice was known and was put to a variety of uses for many centuries, generally as medicine and as a flavoring agent of food and other medicinal herbs. From ancient literature, primarily those of Hippocrates and Pliny the elder, the herb's use as medicine is evident. The use of the dried roots and rhizomes of the plant as a digestive aid and for coughs and colds is clearly described. Further more, a piece of licorice dating back to the eighth century was recently discovered- it still contained active principles of the herb.

The entry goes on and on. Much of it is confirmed in the Wiki licorice entry. Frankly, I'm surprised there isn't more medical interest in licorice root alone.

Ipecacuanha is one of those herbs that has been used for a long time in Western medicine as was Squill, but they seem to have fallen by the wayside. 

I was reminded of this infuriatingly amusing dialogue from my favorite W.C. Fields film "It's a Gift" -- in which a mother and her daughter torment poor Harold Bisonette (the Fields character, who is trying to sleep off his usual hangover) as they discuss whether to buy Ipecac or Syrup of Squill:

Mrs. Dunk: Don't forget the ipecac!
Abby: I thought you said syrup of squill.
Mrs. Dunk: I can't hear you, talk louder!
Abby: I thought you said syrup of squill.
Mrs. Dunk: All right, syrup of squill. I don't care.
Abby: I don't care either. I'll get ipecac if you want me to.
Mrs. Dunk: Well, ipecac or syrup of squill. I don't care which.
Abby: I don't care either. You tell me what to get and I'll get it.
Mrs. Dunk: Get whichever one you want. I don't care. Whatever they have handy. It's just the same to me.
Abby: It's just the same to me, too. I hate 'em both. Oh, where will I go? To Jones's?
Mrs. Dunk: Use your own judgment.
Abby: No, you tell me where to go.

Harold: I'd like to tell you both where to go!

Mrs. Dunk (loudly complaining): There's no use dear. I can't hear a word you're saying. Somebody's shouting on the floor below. So you'd better run along.

Ipecac or Syrup of Squill? I don't know; is it both, or either? Or is it the Licorice root, or the Tolu Balsam. Or maybe the combination effect. But something in that little bottle works. Better than any cough remedy I have ever tried.

I am hardly alone; read the glowing Amazon comments. Or this post by a young American of Asian descent, who was skeptical when his mom gave him a bottle until he tried it: cough was so bad that I couldn't even sleep without coughing my lungs out and waking up throughout the night. While hesitant to run home and tell mommy where it hurts, like most inquisitive mothers, my mom found out about my chronic cough soon enough.

Naturally, my mom gave me the most ridiculous cough syrup for me to try.

...African Sea Coconut syrup. Yes, whatever thoughts that are going through your mind right now were exactly those that went through mine.

Yet despite my reservations, the remedy worked like a charm. The rest of the labels is in Chinese so I really have no idea what the rest of the ingredients are.

In terms of growing up as a young Asian-American, my experience with this magical juice reminded me of the outright rejection most Westerners have towards Eastern medicine (not only Chinese medicine). Westerners historically have been reluctant to accept Asian chiropractors, accupuncture, herbs, medicine, and in my case - African Sea Coconut Juice.

As he had a picture of his bottle; I thought I would share mine:


Notice the look of skepticism and concern on Coco's face. Skepticism because she doesn't know whether it would work for kennel cough. And concern because the name of the product, obviously. She is worried that it might be some sort of personal insult against her, and she also fears the brand name might cause confusion, and possibly even dilute the name recognition of the one and only Coco. I told her she's just being paranoid.

Anyway, I'm very impressed by this product. It's nice to find something that works that the federal government hasn't messed with.

And I am proud to say that my "statements have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA."

(Hell, what good is the First Amendment if it doesn't apply to opinions about the efficacy of cough syrup?)

posted by Eric at 12:48 PM | Comments (10)

An "effective" war on drugs means war on drugs that are effective!

After discussing Megan McArdle's thoughtful analysis of the sudafed crackdown brought about by the war on Meth, Glenn Reynolds said something that made me want to join the sudafedayeen!

I want my goddamn Sudafed. What I've noticed is that they keep making it harder to get, but we keep getting more meth labs. Naturally, the political class's answer is more of the same! And nobody's held accountable, and nobody's willing to relax changes that have proven ineffectual -- they just accumulate like barnacles.

The situation is ridiculous, and it involves more than just the ability to buy Sudafed. You can buy Sudafed after going through the humiliating process of showing ID and signing the stupid form, but in the pharmacies I have been to, what you can buy is limited to Sudafed, and only Sudafed. Gone completely are the many different effective cold remedies which used to contain Sudafed. As Veeshir complained in a comment the other day,

I'm still upset that they took out whatever made Alka Seltzer Cold and Flu work.

Lucky for me that I have a stockpile of the old, good Theraflu, for the new Sudafed substitutes do not work. Doubtless the drug companies have spent a lot of money adjusting their manufacturing processes to eliminate Sudafed, because a couple of years ago there were posts like "Where to find real TheraFlu" and now they're as dead as the old Theraflu, for there is no way to find the REAL thing anymore. (However, I have read that some companies were delighted to have a new, government-created opportunity to "clear the shelves" simply to market a useless new drug-- which may be another underreported scandal.) 

The bottom line is that in virtually every cold remedy that once worked, Sudafed has been replaced by a worthless shlocky drug called Phenylephrine:

Substitute for pseudoephedrine

Pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine are both used as decongestants; and, until recently, pseudoephedrine was much more commonly available in the United States. This has changed because provisions of the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 placed restrictions on the sale of pseudoephedrine products in order to prevent the clandestine manufacture of methamphetamine. Since 2004, phenylephrine has been increasingly marketed as a substitute for pseudoephedrine; some manufacturers have changed the active ingredients of products to avoid the restrictions on sales.[9] Phenylephrine has been off patent for some time, and there are many generic brands available.

[edit] Questions about effectiveness

Pharmacists Leslie Hendeles and Randy Hatton of the University of Florida suggested in 2006 that oral phenylephrine is ineffective as a decongestant at the 10-mg dose used, arguing that the studies used for the regulatory approval of the drug in the United States in 1976 were inadequate to prove effectiveness at the 10-mg dose and safety at higher doses.[10] Other pharmacists have expressed concerns over phenylephrine's effectiveness as a nasal decongestant,[1] and other clinicians have indicated concern for regulatory actions that reduced the availability of pseudoephedrine.[11][12] A subsequent meta-analysis by the same researchers concluded that there is insufficient evidence for its effectiveness,[13] though another meta-analysis published shortly thereafter by researchers from GlaxoSmithKline found the standard 10 mg dose to be significantly more effective than a placebo.[14] Additionally, two studies published in 2009 examined the effects of phenylephrine on symptoms of allergic rhinitis by exposing sufferers to pollen in a controlled, indoor environment. Neither study was able to distinguish between the effects of phenylephrine or a placebo.[15][16] Pseudoephedrine[15] and loratadine-montelukast therapy[16] were found to be significantly more effective than both phenylephrine and placebo.

As far as I'm concerned, phenyephrine is useless.

Moral lesson? The War on Drugs is ineffective against illegal and dangerous drugs, but highly effective against formerly safe, legal and effective drugs.

posted by Eric at 10:44 AM | Comments (5)

All anarchy should be local

In a post about "middle class anarchy" the other day, Glenn Reynolds made the following observation:

...if the middle class asserts itself it can change things for the better instead. That's why so many fear the Tea Party movement.

Over the weekend I spoke with a Tea Party activist from a Michigan town who told me about a discussion he had with the mayor over budget constraints. One of the reasons there won't be money for things the town needs like basic road repair is that the federal government is requiring the town to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on something that no one in the town either wants or needs. New street signs that are in Mixed Case instead of ALL CAPITAL LETTERS!

The federal government says street signs in mixed case are easier for drivers to read than those in all capital letters.

"Easier to read? I can read that just fine," Driver Bill Sutherland said of the COCHRAN road sign in Charlotte.

For safety's sake, the Federal Highway Administration is mandating that all signs in all caps be changed by 2018. The only problem, they didn't doll out any extra money to do it.

"The problem is there's an awful amount of them out there and it costs a lot to replace them," Blair Ballou of the Eaton County Road Commission said.

Ballou said each named sign costs about $100 to replace, and there are 2,500 signs like it in the county.

"We're worried about salt and snow removal and we don't have an extra quarter of a million dollars to replace named signs," he said.

The thing is, the county has already spent two years a lot of money replacing signs with one that are more reflective. They won't stop doing that, Ballou said, but they may hold off on changing the named signs for awhile.

"We're hoping they review it at the federal level and perhaps change it," Ballou said.

They just may, but as of now, several sign changes like font, and letter size are on the books that will cost cities and towns upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I think it's a waste of money," Driver Katherine Johnson said.

Government officials News Ten talked to Wednesday said they'd much rather fix the roads, than replace the signs above them.

It is not only a complete waste of money, it's the craziest thing I've seen in a long time. A lesson in the arbitrary nature of government power. Back in October, Nick Gillespie wrote a piece about this ("ALL-CAP Street Signs MUST DIE!") and he linked a USA Today piece that said the new sign mandate was a nod to the fading eyesight of aging Baby Boomers:

In a nod to the fading eyesight of the nation's growing number of aging Baby Boomers, the federal government is requiring communities around the USA to change street name signs from all capital letters to a combination of capital and lowercase letters. The government says that makes them easier to read.

And maybe after that they can have another session of group hugs and issue a new rule that the signs have to be pastel green.

Anyway, these cash-strapped towns have until 2015 to do it.

Or else what? The Tea Party guy I talked suggested that the mayor simply tell the feds to blow it out their ass.

This is tyranny, plain and simple. I'll skip the rhetorical questions about where in the Constitution does the federal government have the right to tell a town what kind of signs it has to have. I just want to know what would happen if the angry municipalities just started refusing to obey.

Let's hear it for middle class anarchy!

Bankrupt big cities like Detroit don't have to comply with no steenking rules, so why should small towns? Fair is fair. 

And if you think redoing all the signs is bad, another expensive issue facing virtually every cash-strapped municipality in this country involves new federal stormwater rules:

POTTSTOWN -- Changes to rules governing stormwater are quietly under way which could add thousands to even the most basic home improvement. And a group of Montgomery County townships and boroughs are out to make some noise about it.

The changes are an outgrowth of the federal Clean Water Act and are part of a package of rules known as MS4, which stands for "municipal separate storm sewer systems." The first phase of these rules, enacted several years ago, had to do with things like education and getting permits for large stormwater discharges.

Read it all. It's a nightmare.

The Tea Party activist told me that the new stormwater rules means that ordinary road repair is a thing of the past. It is no longer a simple matter of repaving the roads. Instead, they have to tear off the road and excavate the whole bed, all to install expensive and unnecessary new stormwater systems. Inconvenience everyone with road closures, bankrupt local businesses and force cities to spend money they don't have.

After all, we can't have the water that falls from the sky going where the EPA doesn't want it to go, can we?

And if this helps bankrupt cities, perhaps that's the plan.

Screw the feds.

I'm for middle class "anarchy" at the local level.

If all politics is local, then shouldn't anarchy be local too?

AFTERTHOUGHT: I should probably add that the federal government has become so malignantly totalitarian that even Alexander Hamilton would be an "anarchist" by today's standards.

(If people knew American history, that would be considered ironic.)

posted by Eric at 07:41 PM | Comments (5)

Rebelling against the rebels just keeps getting harder

Sarah's post about rebellion made me feel sorry for the children of the Baby Boomers. The rebels of the 60s and 70s had it easy in so many ways, not the least of which was how easy it was for them to rebel:

What you are looking at in fact - with the exception of some goth kids and others who do get treated like pariahs - are not the rebels but the good kids. They are doing what mommy and daddy want. They are dressing as their teachers expect them to. They are repeating the opinions and thoughts that are approved of.

Of course, realizing this requires awareness on the part of the older generation. It requires realizing you've grown older. You're the parents now. And both of these are hampered by the fact that the generation that came of age in the sixties was such a massive demographic lump it distorted everyone's perception and also by the fact we're a commercial society (not that there is anything wrong with that. No, really.) Catering to such a large demographic group changed the culture as all the advertisers tried to appeal to it, at each of its milestones. (I swear if I see one more add for a retirement program of some sort starting with 'we're the most important generation', I'm going to be violently sick.)

This means the culture froze several concepts, like "behaving like the young people of the sixties is what being young means", like "speaking truth to power", like "not selling out to the man."

Only, to quote the cell phone commercial - at some point you have to realize you ARE the man. And that everyone you think is speaking truth to power is - in fact - appeasing you and catering to your need to feel young and relevant. (Oh, don't feel bad. It is a perfectly normal reaction to growing older. Fifty is getting close enough for me to eyeball - only two years away - and it's forcing me to realize that not only am I not going to live forever, but that I'm the grown up, now.)

Of course most of your kids are going to do what you want. Most kids are good kids and well behaved. Outliers are called so because they are. It was arguably easier for the boomers to rebel because their demographic was so vast.

"It was arguably easier for the boomers to rebel because their demographic was so vast." Their children have it hard, because they want to please mom and dad, who often rebelled. 

It's hard for me to see myself as "THE MAN," as I never had kids. So it startled me the other night to find myself regarded as a sort of adult authority figure.

I have never really felt comfortable being part of "the" Baby Boom Generation, for it spans a period of nearly twenty years. (1945-1964.)

Which isn't fair because Generation X (1964 to no later than 1982); Generation Y, (1982 to sometime in the 1990s) and now Z (sometime in the 90s to the early 2000s) all get to have shorter time intervals. Why should the Baby Boomers have to drag on and on in a way that other generations don't? It would be one thing if it were just because of the demographic blip (the "pig in the python"), but there are huge differences between people born in the real post WWII period (who grew up in the 50s and became adults in the 60s), and those like me who grew up in the 60s and reached adulthood in the 70s. Or those like Barack Obama and Sarah Hoyt, who grew up in the 70s and reached adulthood in the 80s. These are vastly different periods in which to grow up, and this is reflected in the major differences in the people who grew up in them. 

Commentators have taken note of these differences, and proposed adding a sub-group within the Baby Boom generation called "Generation Jones."

Generation Jones is a term coined by Jonathan Pontell to describe the generation of people born between 1954 and 1965 (although some sources include 1966 and 1967). The term is used primarily in English-speaking countries.[1][2][3]

Jonathan Pontell defined Generation Jones as a distinct concept, referring to the second half of the post-World War II baby boom (1954-1964) [4] Its members are still usually identified with either Baby Boomers or Generation X'ers.

The name "Generation Jones" has several connotations, including a large anonymous generation, a "keeping up with the Joneses" competitiveness and the slang word "jones" or "jonesing", meaning a yearning or craving.[5][6][7][8][9] It is said that Jonesers were given huge expectations as children in the 1960s, and then confronted with a different reality as they came of age in the 1970s and 1980s, leaving them with a certain unrequited, jonesing quality.

While I would agree on 1954 as the dividing birth year, I think there is a much more important issue than the Jones term countenances. The biggest single divide in the Baby Boom generation revolves around the end of the Vietnam War and the related end of the draft. Those born before 1954 had to deal with it, and those born later did not. This is not to say that one generation is "better" than the other, but there was an emotional component to the rebellion of the earlier Boomer generation which faded dramatically -- to the point of near absence -- among later Boomers. Long hair went from being a protest statement to a meaningless fashion statement. Pot smoking went from being daring and defiant to being mundane and even boring. Denims and tie-dyes eventually became as conformist as the grey-flannel suits they had rebelled against. 

So I would call the pre-1954 Boomers the Draft Boomers (er, perhaps the Draft Dodger Generation), and I don't know what I would call the later ones (maybe the No-Drafters), but I am one. I well remember the sanctimonious attitude the older Boomers had about everything, how it was always how We Were There First! We braved the barricades, we burned our draft cards, we had long hair when it meant something, and we, we. we. They seemed to take themselves so much more seriously than the post-drafters, who tended towards irreverence, self-deprecating humor, punk rock, and even rebellion towards the culture of their slightly older brethren. (Hippies, meet yuppies! Har har.)

Even now I try not to care about these things. But then odd little things happen that I can't easily explain, like kids being afraid of me at a party. And because of her experience as a mom, Sarah understands dynamics that tend to be invisible to me.  

Nothing like moving to a college town to make you realize you're getting old.

FWIW, I felt more comfortable with Generation X than with the Baby Boom Generation. (In this town, they're equally old.) 

posted by Eric at 02:03 PM | Comments (7)

Surrender In The Sex Wars

Eric has written a post on how bad sex is leading to rape charges. I'm reminded of the old Albert King song "If It Wasn't For Bad Sex I Wouldn't Have No Sex At All". Truly a sad tale put to music. Don't listen to it. No one else does (you can't look it up). Too depressing.

Which got me to thinking about a piece Instapundit linked to: My Newfound Respect For Chivalry.

I saw other men treating their girlfriends and wives chivalrously and I envied those women. It looked to me like their men really cared about them, so much so that they were doing something supernumerary. As time went on, I occasionally dated men who behaved chivalrously, though usually I felt like it was just a front --"I'm trying to make a good impression" behavior. Then I had one boyfriend who was an Upper East Side prep school-type and treating women chivalrously seems to have been bred into him. There were times I liked his chivalry, but there were times I pushed up against it, too, because it still made me feel uncomfortable. It wasn't until I started dating Mr. Jessica that I consciously decided to ignore my discomfort--to push my natural fuss-making instincts to the side--and let the poor guy treat me how he felt. In Mr. Jessica's case, was chivalrously.

And that's when I learned that I really, really enjoyed it.

Which brings me to a point I have been trying to write about for a month. Are women naturally submissive? Ask the question to Google and you get 658,000 answers. Not quite up there with SEX (3,530,000,000 - that is over 3 1/2 billion), but still important if you want to go deeper. Even Amazon has over 190,000 results for sex. Which proves the old adage: sex sells. It all depends on supply and demand and marginal utility (and a couple other things) to set the price.

A little looking (at the first page Google turned up) produced this gem: Submissive Women are the Rule NOT the Exception - they just don't know it.

Those of you who've read the The Girls section of this blog will see that I've identified myself as a submissive woman, in fact, I say I'm not ashamed to say it. The reason I say I'm not ashamed is primarily because there is shame attached to the idea of being submissive to anyone in our present age. I also mention I'm girly - to me the two go hand in hand. Let me explain.
Well the lady gets all Biblical on us (it is part of the culture). And then goes on to say:
I believe the desire for a woman to be submissive to her man is innate, plus I believe women are wired to be submissive to proper authority in general. Submissive, as I see it, is described as agreement, respect, duty, or deference. I don't personally view it as meek, passive or tameness. I believe submissiveness is a feminine trait and I believe women have lost touch with this inborn need.
Some one Asks Yahoo if feminists are cool with submissive women and the answer they pick is from some guy who has theories. Amusing. In a perverted sort of way.

So how did all this happen? How did female surrender become taboo (at least in a large part of the culture)? I have a theory - women who had been raped and man hating lesbians took over the feminist movement. But there were always exceptions. I knew a guy back in the 70s who had a six month relationship with a strong feminist lesbian and her girlfriend. Boy did I get some stories. True? False? Who knows? But I did see them together around town a lot while it was going hot and heavy. Eventually the guy married the girlfriend and the lesbian got her own husband and started a family. Weird. If you are sure human nature is fixed rather than channeled. There is always some water outside the channel and no given drop of water can be guaranteed to stay with the flow all the way to the sea (Of Love).

My take on the whole question: only the strong can surrender.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:39 AM | Comments (7)

Another day, another inexplicably imbalanced inequality

I'm fascinated by the idea that bad sex can be considered rape. But after watching the video Glenn Reynolds linked in which Ann Althouse discusses the subject, I find myself worrying not so much about whether bad sex is rape (I don't think it ever is), but whether there is a double bad-sex-as-rape standard. 

It seems that in every case I've read about where there was bad sex, only women are heard to complain of being victims of the bad sex "rape!" This makes no sense, because as we all know, it takes two people (at least) to have sex, and bad sex can happen to anyone.

Think I'm being facetious?

Anyone who thinks men are not bad sex victims should think again. How many men have been heard to say "She was a lousy lay?" Sure, lots of women have said the same thing about men, but we are all human beings, and all of us who have sex -- men, women, straight, gay, whatever -- must face up to the possibility that a given sexual encounter might turn out not to be as enjoyable as we might have liked.

I don't know what the official statistics are (as I don't have Kinsey's Satanic Sex Bible on hand), but I thought to use the next best scientific tool available, which is Google.

To my astonishment, the phrase "He was a lousy lay" and "She was a lousy lay" each drew 20,000 hits.

If those figures are correct, then bad sex can strike anyone, without regard to sex! (I guess I might mean gender with the latter sex.)

Now, you might argue that men are more likely to complain about bad sex on the Internet (I should say "complain on the Internet about bad sex"), but I don't think any reasonable person would argue that men are not regularly subjected to bad sex.

So where are the cases in which male bad sex victims have lodged rape charges? Before we reach the question of whether bad sex victims can make a rape complaint, I think it might be worth looking into why the men aren't coming forward. Simple logic dictates that if both sexes are equally likely to become bad sex victims, then if bad sex is rape, male bad sex victims are just as likely to have been raped as female bad sex victims.

Something has to explain what looks like a systematic issue of underreporting.

I suspect that there is some sort of sexist double standard at work.

posted by Eric at 09:39 AM | Comments (5)

It's Revolting

In the art museum, in Denver, in the portrait section, there is a painting of a Spanish grandee, ambassador to some court or other, Lord High This and That, Keeper Of The Royal Watchmacallit. (Give me a break, I barely remember names for people who are alive!)

I like to linger in front of that portrait - very well executed as far as that goes, with a sort of photo-realism that's more real than mere photographs - because it is an example of rebellion; of speaking truth to power, to repeat a very old phrase.

Because I'm that sort of mother and they're that sort of kids, I asked my sons why this portrait is highly subversive. It took them a while. Well, it would. I mean, there's the miles and miles of satin, the lace, the sparkly noblesse-oblige bling.

But the shocking part of the portrait is in the face of the gentleman painted. It's nothing overt, of course. True rocking of social conventions rarely is - think about it. But if you look in the man's eyes, you catch a glimpse of fear, a suggestion of cringing, the certainty that the man trapped within the satin, the lace and the diamonds feels less than equal to his positions, and perhaps dwarfed by his resounding titles. You expect his tongue to come out and lick his lips. You expect him to duck his head.

Continue reading "It's Revolting"

posted by Sarah at 07:42 AM | Comments (7)

wussier moral grounds than my coffee

Via Glenn Reynolds, I found a classic reminder of the left's fondness for accusing the right of doing what it does.

First, here's what sainted leftist icon Frances Fox Piven considers worthy of praise and emulation:

...tens of thousands of protesters marched through Athens in the largest and most violent protests since the country's budget crisis began last fall. Angry youths rampaged through the center of Athens, torching several businesses and vehicles and smashing shop windows. Protesters and police clashed in front of parliament and fought running street battles around the city.

Witnesses said hooded protesters smashed the front window of Marfin Bank in central Athens and hurled a Molotov cocktail inside. The three victims died from asphyxiation from smoke inhalation, the Athens coroner's office said. Four others were seriously injured there, fire department officials said.

Lovely. And Frances Fox Piven is not only cheering them on, she's calling on Americans to emulate them, as she has been for years:

"Socialist advocate for mob violence complains she is target."

Ms. Piven, a City University of New York professor, has advocated the forcible overthrow of the United States government more or less continuously for the past 45 years. In "The Weight of the Poor," an influential call to arms for the activist left that ran in the Nation in 1966, Ms. Piven and her late husband, Richard Cloward, called upon activists to pack the welfare rolls in order to spread dependency, bankrupt the government and cause uprisings against the capitalist system.

Overburdening government bureaucracies would cause "a profound financial and political crisis" that would unleash "powerful forces ... for major economic reform at the national level," they argued in their article, which was so popular the magazine sold an unprecedented 30,000 reprints.

The poor have every reason to revolt, Cloward said later, because they would benefit more than other groups "from a major upheaval in our society." The poor make progress only "when the rest of society is afraid of them," he explained.

It is clear that this woman (described as a "committed revolutionary" and "honorary chairman of the Trotskyist-founded Democratic Socialists of America") has a long history of advocating violence when that benefits her side, and she is smart enough to know how many millions of people her side has murdered. 

Yet after calling for more left-wing violence, she and her supporters are the ones who complain -- about violence being threatened against Piven, ostensibly by "the right."

The basis for the complaint? Why anonymous comments allegedly left at a Glenn Beck web site.

Many of the most provocative comments have been removed from the site's comment section, but at one time they included such charming posts as: "Bring it on biotch [sic]. we're armed to the teeth." Or: "We're all for violence and change, Francis [sic]. Where do your loved ones live?"

Sorry, but because of its nature, an anonymous comment is not an authority for anything -- least of all for the identity of or alleged perspective of the anonymous person. Anyone can leave a comment saying anything or calling for anything.

Yet without a single verification of any commenter being the person he claims (much less anyone whose ideology or loyalty to Beck has been verified), anonymous and deleted commenters become "Beck fans rhetorically brandishing their weapons at Piven!"

But even that's not enough. "They" also become all "economically hard-pressed Americans":

...perhaps economically hard-pressed Americans aren't wusses after all. They may not have the courage or the know-how to organize a protest at the local unemployment office, which is the kind of action Piven urged in her December essay, but they stand ready to shoot the first 78-year-old social scientist who suggests that they do so.

This brings to mind an observation Sean Kinsell made earlier about wussdom:

What is wussy--and I'm surprised people on the right haven't jumped all over this, because it's one of the most outrageous sentences I've ever read--is to say, as Piven does at the end of her editorial, "We should hope for another American social movement from the bottom--and then join it." Got that, Nation readers? Don't bother risking anything of yourselves. Wait until the churls have been out getting their heads busted long enough to make the movement a going concern, then get in on it. No one who holds that attitude or lets it pass without comment has moral grounds for bitching that America is no longer a democracy.

They have no more moral grounds than my coffee grounds. But a little thing won't stop them from stirring up and goading on those at the bottom they claim to be for, and encouraging them to do more while at the same time accusing their critics of doing what they do.

If Glenn Beck behaved as they did, we should expect him to be endorsing the demands of "his" commenters and holding them out as exemplars for his listeners to follow.


Actually, I'm thinking I was wrong to say they have no more moral grounds than my coffee grounds.

Coffee grounds are not wussy. They reflect utilitarian value.

posted by Eric at 01:19 PM | Comments (2)

it's not for you decide who you hate!

An idiotic comment to M. Simon's earlier post (that "libertarians hate Christians") reminded me of an incident over a decade ago. The president of a socially conservative think tank had voiced a similar sentiment, and I politely reminded him that there is not only is there no contradiction between libertarianism and Christianity, but that there had been at least one book devoted to the subject of libertarian theology.* He was an honest man, but he had made an assumption along the following lines:

All libertarians are followers.

The "libertarian leader" that all libertarians "follow" is Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand was a devout atheist; and therefore,

All libertarians are atheists [who all hate Christians!]

The above is bad logic, and to his credit, the guy who made this assumption was enough of a gentleman to realize it was wrong, but I could tell by the look on his face that it was back-to-the-drawing-board time.

I suspect that most promoters of heavy-handed "conservative" ideology who consider libertarians their sworn enemies would like to define Christians and libertarians their own way, so that no "real" Christian can be a libertarian, and no "real" libertarian can be a Christian. (When means those calling themselves "libertarian Christians" are self hating oxymorons.)

Nice to have someone else define you for you, isn't it?

The way things are going, I won't be allowed to get away with saying I am anything.  

* It's probably fair to point out that the libertarian philosophy would be very unwelcome in the majority of mainstream Protestant churches because they adhere to a doctrine called the "Social Gospel" -- which is quite left wing. While I would never say that all Christians hate libertarians based on that, I doubt libertarians would be especially welcome in Social Gospel churches.

posted by Eric at 10:09 AM | Comments (8)

Teaching and Learning

Lately I've been thinking a lot about education, something that is eventually going to find its way to my blog, though probably not at Mad Genius.

I was thinking how for the first time I disagreed with Terry Pratchett's "overt nudge" at the end of I Shall Wear Midnight. Oh, not on the idea that the formation of schools is a good thing - in general, assuming schools that actually function - but the idea that the important thing is to "teach people to think."

Over the last few years I've become convinced this doesn't work. I don't know if it's possible to teach people to think. It is an unpleasant activity that most humans would prefer not to engage. In fact, most humans are far more willing to die than to engage their brains. (Examples would stray into demagoguery, because to support all of them would take months of posts. But if you look around you, you'll find examples aplenty.) Because no one knows how to teach it, it quickly becomes "teaching how to think" which we do know how to do. It's called indoctrination.


Continue reading "Teaching and Learning"

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

The Real Enemy

My friend Eric alerted me to a boycott of CPAC by Conservative Groups over the inclusion of a gay group at the CPAC convention.

Don't they know that the real enemy is the Andromeda Galaxy? They are sending viruses to destroy us. I saw it in a movieonce. We need to unite behind the real enemy. Andromeda. And if not Andromeda, at least can the Republicans unite against the Democrats? Far too much to hope for I guess.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:32 PM | Comments (5)

Bloody Mary

I love the way Alec Baldwin flubs his lines. The male chorus though is just outstanding. Carnagie Hall 2005.

The movie is good too.

South Pacific (Collector's Edition)

And to get you in the proper mood may I suggest this history.

Guadalcanal: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle


Tales of the South Pacific

posted by Simon at 02:03 PM | Comments (1)

In need of meds

Forgive my lack of enthusiasm the past couple of days. I am running a terrible cold which started last week and instead of resolving, has only gotten steadily worse each day. 

By yesterday it was much too late to abort the cold, but I did remember the trusty old Yin Chiao I've had lying about for over a year, and this inspiring commercial:

Would have been interesting to have started it last Friday. But what the hell. I'm combining it with GanMaoLing, Theraflu at night, plus sage tea. And of course, the usual acetaminophen, and Vitamin C. I dread having to step up to Sudafed as it has unpleasant psychoactive properties.

I hate the inconvenience, but I should consider myself lucky that I have not had a full-blown cold in a over a year. 

Also on the bright side, this is a blog, so I don't have to worry about spreading my rhinoviruses online. No amount of coughing, sputtering, or nose-blowing will harm a single reader!

There's plenty of serious news out there, but I am not in the mood right now. However, Glenn linked an article that reminded me of something I would like to take medication to forget. I attended a party of strangers more than thirty-five years younger than I was, and the moment I walked in they all looked up in fear. Seriously, they seemed genuinely afraid of an older person being at their party, which I found frustrating, as I am unaccustomed to being regarded with fear simply because of my age.

My guess is that they asssociate age with authority, and I might have been perceived as some sort of professor authority figure (which sucks as I am anything but an authority figure). Either that or they were raised by paranoid parents to fear and run from older strangers, and I certainly was that.

Things weren't quite the same when I was in college. People in the early 70s were more daring. (If we wanted to go somewhere and didn't have a car, we would hitch-hike.) Had someone 35 years older shown up at a party in those days, it would have added interest, not fear. An older person would have been greeted with perhaps curiosity, and maybe a little natural suspicion, but certainly not fear. He would have been engaged in discussion. Funny thing is, I'm a Baby Boomer but I really loved the Generation Xers, and worked with them for years. The Xers were also fearless and outgoing, as is supposed to be normal for young people -- but that just doesn't the same as the current crop of kids who are coming of age. I'm damned if these kids don't look as if they'd run away if you so much as said Boo! Perhaps that reflects the fact that they've been sheltered from actual reality, distracted by innumerable artificial realities, and then forced to take medication to cope with their inability to pay attention to things that aren't worth paying attention to.


Anyway, I shouldn't be generalizing based on a single incident, but the kids seem harder to reach, and I'm glad it isn't my job to reach them.

I don't mean to be judgmental. Seriously, if I'd been raised on Ritalin, I'd probably be fearful too. That stuff would make anyone paranoid.

UPDATE: As I tend to suffer from chronic cough, when I get a cold, the coughing becomes horrific. I have just tried out a new remedy: African Sea Coconut brand cough syrup. It's an old fashioned mixture that includes Ipecac and Squill, and while I can't say how, I can say that it really works. I'm quite surprised.


posted by Eric at 10:51 AM | Comments (4)

Eat Your Vegetables
Not Safe For Work

And a little Frank Zappa to go with your vegetables.

Not Safe For Work

And what was the point of all this? The girls eating vergtables and saying bad things about men are part of a PETA Super Bowl Commercial.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:37 AM | Comments (1)

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