Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Friday, April 30, 2004

Free Trade and Our Imminent Doom
Written by: Dave

Listening to your debates on free trade, it strikes me that regardless of who is theoretically correct, it's all kind of irrelevent now. The world economy, including America's, is built on and now totally dependent on free trade. I know Answerman hates analogies, and I also know this is an oversimplification, but if you looked at the world as a big manufacturing company, the U.S. would be its Headquarters and the IT department while countries like South Korea would be the industrial plants.

So let's say we reverted to protectionism. What good are a headquarters and IT department if you don't have anyone making anything? And how well would the disparate plants function without a headquarters?

My point is that our economy and the world economy are completely tied to free trade. Take away free trade, or American hegemony for that matter, and it will all go down the tube in a very unpleasant fashion.

Of course, that is what I think is going to happen. Which is why I think we are doomed, and why I think Answerman might be theoretically correct that we should have stuck with protectionism rather than make ourselves this dependent on the rest of the world. But it's too late now.

Hopefully I will get a chance to elaborate on all this later.

P.S. - I know this isn't exactly what you were arguing about, but I think it's the essential issue at this point.

Mexican Trucking
Written by: Answerman

Beck and Speculator, do you think we should allow Mexican truckers, with their crappy driving skills and pollution (oral credit to Roach), to trapse around our interstate roadways?

Tariffs and Taxes
Written by: Answerman

I've been holding this one in my quiver for some time, but now seems like the appropriate time to let it fly.

Modern governments have tended to finance themselves primarily by one of two means -- tariffs and taxes. Most recently, because governments have gotten so big in size, taxes has specifically meant income taxes. Prior to the income tax in the United States, when other types of taxes were rather low and inconsequential, the American government financed itself through the tariff. When we became rabid free traders, we were forced to turn to the income tax. It is no coincidence that the platform of early-century Progressives such as Wilson called for repeal of the tariff and amendment of the Constitution to permit an income tax. We forget the broader context of the old free trade debate these days; the debate was about HOW best to finance the government.

Now, I know that Beck and Speculator believe in free trade and incredibly low taxes. And that's just fantastic. But in case you haven't noticed, no one in power, oh, anywhere, has every advocated such a combination, much less actually achieved it. It has never happened, certainly not in a country of this size with a government of this size. Reduce the size of government, you say? Again, fantastic. Again, has never come close to happening. Anywhere. Ever.

Given this reality, an interesting economic question arises -- which would have hurt economic growth more, the old tariff at whatever rate we could reasonably expect it to have been set at over the years, or the income tax at the rate it has averaged over the years? I don't know the answer to this question, but I suspect neither does Beck or Speculator. I recognize it is a complicated one in light of indirect effects of both policies, etc. But if it has no clear answer, or if we don't know the answer, then we can't even say that free trade, AS IT EXISTS IN THE REAL WORLD, provides for greater economic growth, can we?

Again, political context and reality can really fuck up the musings of Adam Smith.

There is only one "great power"
Written by: Speculator

Answerman, I would counter that the current international environment is defined by a heretofore unseen phenomenon: a uni-polar dynamic. You detail that a great power is defined by a country that can affect the international scene via military and political power. We will all agree that one guarantees the other; France has arrived at political impotence not only because of its espousal of ideas that achieve incongruousness with common sense, but because its navy operates with a singular aircraft carrier, with an almost 40-year heritage, that spends 20 days in dry-dock for every day of ocean patrol.

Simply put, I completely disagree with the aggregate you labeled "great powers". There is little historical precedence, and I would argue none, for the dominance that the United States currently enjoys, both politically and militarily. Some say Rome. I say: Rome couldn't affect imperialistic plans across the globe in 36 hours with two men, a plane, and a refuel mechanism. Officials within the skeleton that remains the Russian military were in utter shock when they witnessed our ordinance-party last March. Yes Slakov - we can launch a single aircraft, which will go arguably wholly undetected from the middle of our land to your doorstep, non-stop, and deliver a bomb within inches of its intended target.

This creates a disparity in military ability that the world has never before seen. There is no other power in the world today that can come within, lets try to quantify this, lets say 60 cents, of what we can, were we to find cause, unleash.

There is only one great power.

Re: More Free Trade
Written by: Beck

First of all, you're absolutely wrong when you say that no nation has ever risen to a great power while pursuing a policy of free trade. The "Asian Tigers" of Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea all had very open trade policies. While you could say that they don't qualify as "great powers," Korea, at least, is the 11th largest economy in the world. Furthermore, the other three are all vastly more powerful economically than most nations relative to their size and population. And if you mean to stick to a much stricter definition of "great powers" to mean only such nations as those who are currently permanent UN Security Council members, my response is that the sample size is unfortunately too small to draw really meaningful conclusions about how things would have been with less protectionism.

The reason I say that America could have turned out similarly without early industrial protectionism is because the real advantage of America has always been a hard working, well educated, and relatively crime free population. So while we might have been more agrarian for a while, any time something in the world took off as the latest hot industry, Americans would have been entering those same industries. It's in our blood.

More Free Trade
Written by: Answerman

Beck says it's inconclusive whether free trade helps or harms developing nations. But does he mean economically, or politically? I accept that free trade helps developing nations as a matter of economic growth.

How can one not assume that the United States' comparative advantage would have developed differently in some key areas? There were obviously HUGE distortions caused by protection, and it seems reasonable to assume that the things we're "good at" today are the results of those distortions. This does not seem particularly controversial to me. My guess (as I've said, I obviously haven't researched these issues, though I would like to find a book addressing this particular theme) is that the broader success of free trade (as it impacts relative political power, and not just economic growth) is strongly correlated to a country's great-power status as of the time it begins trading freely as a policy. For those of us (including Beck) who care about more than the economic implications of industrial policy, this could be a critical corollary to free trade theory.

Can anyone point to ONE example in history of a country developing from a non-great power into a great power while pursuing anything close to free trade as an industrial policy? Hasn't happened. Ever. Not with us, not with Britain, not with China now. When I make assumptions, I try to make them conform to the past, rather than to some book a Scotsman wrote in the 1700s, in order to increase the likelihood of their accuracy.

More proof that your pets are gross...
Written by: Beck

When the 17 year cicadas emerge on the East coast this year, your dogs and cats will voluntarily be eating them.
The insects are protein-rich but their hard outer shells can cause vomiting and constipation in cats and dogs, said Randall Lockwood, vice president for the Humane Society of the United States.

"Imagine a yard full of chicken nuggets, that's sort of what it's going to be like" for dogs and cats, Lockwood said Tuesday.

You read that right, cicada = chicken nugget. Money quote for you:
The approximately 11/2-inch-long bugs "combine all the stuff that particularly dogs like to chase," Lockwood said. "They're kind of flying pet toys: They are loud, slow-moving, often low-flying."

Thursday, April 29, 2004

The damnedest thing happened on the way to the bank...
Written by: Beck

Checking my site stats, I can't help but notice visitors coming from a whole host of energy companies. Can't possibly imagine how that could have happened. But anyway, hellos to PSEG, CPS, Coral, Conoco, Choice Energy, and Duke. If your particular company wasn't listed, it's because the domain name is only showing up as an IP address.

Re: Priorities
Written by: Beck

How on earth? Maybe it's just because I really hate taxes. And I'm not saying it shouldn't be a priority for public policy, it's just that it's a priority about which I personally am not especially interested.

Written by: Answerman

How on earth can you not care (I don't mean emotionally, I mean as a matter of political policy) about the fact that our government sanctions the murder of millions of unborn babies, but get all worked up if our government charges people five bucks to look at strippers?

Speaking of Which....
Written by: Answerman

What the hell is up with neocons and their love affair with JFK? Ooooh, Kennedy cut taxes and didn't surrender to the Soviets; there's a Democrat we can fall in love with!

The guy was a drugged up, irresponsible, lying louse. No better than Clinton, he just didn't get caught, was dumber, and his personal life probably compromised his presidency more. Kennedy had a crappy Vietnam policy, a crappy so-called "civil rights" policy, and a bunch of crappy nancy-boy intellectuals running the government according to their asinine little utopian schemes dreamed up in a university somewhere. Yeah, definitely someone a conservative could admire.

This is Fun
Written by: Answerman

As I think back and match in my mind various presidents with their contemporanaous English monarchs, it really is unclear which system is producing better leaders. I mean, Elizabeth II easily beats Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Clinton. She gets beaten by Reagan and this Bush, and barely by the first Bush. And I'd take Edward VIII and George VI over Hoover, FDR, and Truman any day. George V clearly had a leg up on Wilson.

Another Hypothetical Question
Written by: Answerman

Yesterday I asked people to comment on Kerry vs. Buchanan. Today I'm doing one better. But allow me to recap first.

Several weeks ago I posted in response to a comment a flip observation along the lines that I didn't think the United States could do any worse under a king or queen than it's doing right now with hundreds of millions of idiots getting to select a president every four years. The more I think about my observation, the more comfortable I am thinking it's true.

So along those lines I ask all of you the following question -- If you had a choice between John Kerry being elected president of this country for the next four years, or Queen Elizabeth II (presumably the "proper" heir to any American throne) running the show between next January and her death, which option would you choose?

In all honesty, I'd go with the latter, because I think QE2 has bigger balls than Kerry.

Exit Strategies
Written by: Answerman

Rich Lowry on National Review Online is always carping about the problem he has with the term "exit strategy." That's because Rich Lowry is a fairy.

Lowry seems to think that an intervention premised on a particular plan for an exit is a misguided intervention, because the important part of the strategy should be accomplishing the goals of the intervention, rather than simply getting out. Well, I suppose that's true as far as it goes, but it has nothing to do with whether it's prudent to have mapped out a plan for ending the intervention based on certain conditions. Without an exit strategy, there's no strategy at all, because there's no set of defined goals and conditions that can be achieved and therefore no longer necessitate the presence of the American military in a particular country. Without an exit strategy, the intervention becomes bureaucratized and all about process, rather than about achieving specific things that caused the United States to intervene in the first place.

But that's what Lowry and his fellow neocons want. They want to premise an intervention on a defined set of goals and interests they can successfully sell to other conservatives and the American public at large. But then they want to stick around. Forever. Presumably slapping themselves silly and singing songs about Abraham Lincoln while hordes of barbarian morons participate in Kabuki-theater-like "elections" every couple of months. Isn't this basically what's going on in Bosnia and Kosovo right now? I have to admit I long ago lost interest in the daily goings-on in the Balkans, but I know two things for sure -- (1) we aren't leaving anytime soon, and (2) we aren't making things better over there. Talk about failed states.

Anyway, my point is that the neocons like intervening for intervening's sake, and they like sticking around to engage in their quixotic attempts to find the Somali John Adams and print ballots for the Mogadishu School Board. It's idiocy on a grand scale. But it's important because (1) these guys have a pretty big say in the Bush administration, and (2) it's instructive of the true differences between a conservative supporter of the Iraq war and a neocon. We all think it made sense to fight the war, but our perspectives on what to do now differ tremendously.

I want a smart and flexible exit strategy. Rich Lowry wants to participate in a junior high civics project.

I knew something was going on here...
Written by: Beck

Do you remember how during the 2000 presidential campaign, Gore made Bush's environmental record a major issue? Their one bit of irrefutable evidence that Bush was the environmental anti-Christ: during Bush's term as Gov. of TX, Houston moved into first place in the American city air-pollution rankings. Am I the only one who noticed you haven't been hearing any of that this year? Granted, the fact that it was during Bush's governorship makes it largely irrelevant, but you'd still expect to see jackasses like Al Franken to bring it up as a dig every day or two. Instead they just bitch and moan about things most Americans either don't care about, or actually think is a good thing (like drilling for oil in the Alaskan wilderness). I think I have an idea why.

By pure chance, I stumbled on this article at CNN this morning. It would seem California in general and L.A. in particular has retaken the lead in the pollution territory. I love that the nation's biggest hotbed of lefty looney enviro-Nazis is also the most polluted place in the nation.

For the worst smog category, Houston now comes in 5th. 1st through 4th are all taken by CA cities, with L.A. leading the way. Dallas-Fort Worth gets 10th place, with the only other non CA or TX city being Knoxville, TN in 9th place. For the Most Particle Pollution category, L.A. retains its grip on first place, with cities in CA taking up fully half of the top 10. Houston? Not even in the top ten. It dropped completely out of the rankings. Ditto for Dallas.

So to anyone reading who's inclined to sympathize with the fruits, nuts, and flakes in that giant cereal bowl California, I would simply invite you to suck on a car's tail pipe. Except that would be redundant.

Creeping Idiotarianism Watch...
Written by: Beck

Alert reader Phil pointed me to a story today that I feel the need to shine some light on (Jonah Goldberg has already blogged on this here, here, and here). The long and the short of it is that a student from UMass (an institution for which I bear great hatred) wrote an op-ed in some liberal rag saying that dead war hero Pat Tillman was an idiot.
Gonzalez writes that Tillman was a "Rambo" who probably acted out of "nationalist patriotic fantasies." In his own neighborhood in Puerto Rico, according to Gonzalez, Tillman would not have been considered a hero, but a "pendejo," or idiot.
Phil, in his email, put it best I believe:
My Spanish may be a little rusty, however I'm pretty sure the definition of a pendejo is a person who thinks they can infer a person's character from a couple of pictures on CNN and a 20 year old B movie. Of course, it is true the only way to truly show your patriotism in a just manner is to strap a flag to the hood of your Datsun as you drive around giving people the finger as you point to your Jesus fish.
I don't really get that last part, but it seems really angry, so it's right up my alley. The worst bit is that they've defended their decision to publish such inane drivel on First Amendment grounds. You always know that any time a member of the press starts shouting about their rights, it's a raging fucktard trying to defend a bit of bad journalism. The First Amendment guarantees the right to a free press. No one is saying that the Daily Collegian shouldn't be allowed to publish moronic tripe, people are saying that the Daily Collegian should get their heads out of their asses and not publish moronic tripe in the first place. You're called editors for a reason.

Update: Jeff G has a few words for Mr. Gonzalez.

Al Jazeera
Written by: Dave

When I was in Iraq, I saw piles of electronic gear being sold on the streets of Baghdad. One of the biggest selling items seemed to be satellite dishes. The people I talked to all seemed to think this was a good thing . I wondered though, how it could be a good thing when these dishes would all pick up Al Jazeera. The last thing we needed was for Al Jazeera and other Arab media to start shaping Iraqi public opinion.

A telling sign that this is indeed happening is the latest CNN opinion poll in the country. On an individual level, 51% say their families are better off than before the war, while 25% say they are worse off. But when asked whether the country as a whole is better off, the split is 42% to 39%. This dramatic disparity suggests that Iraqis' perceptions are being influenced by something other than their own personal experiences, and I am afraid Al Jazeera is that something.

I don't have time to comment too much more on this, but to sum it up, if I am right, this is a huge fucking problem.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Where Do Conservatives Go?
Written by: Answerman

Given the step I've finally taken in renouncing my identity as a Republican, I have been thinking about the associational options for disillusioned conservatives such as myself. Third parties are unrealistic barring some sort of cataclysm so random that it's not worth planning for. Those conservatives who dream of some "true" conservative party are being silly and fanciful, and I have no time for them.

But what does that leave? Republicans, Democrats, and independence? Republican usefulness to the conservative movement has long since peaked, and independence is very unsatisfying, because an independent is one who is part of no movement whatsoever. Democrats? I could never be one myself. Even if that party evolved in the next generation or so (against all reasonable projections of current trends, I hasten to add) into something entirely different and less loathsome that its current manifestation, I could never join up. Quite simply, too much hatred for the Democrat Party has shot through my veins for so long that I know the mere word "Democrat," whatever its substantive connotation, will always make me (1) recoil in horror and contempt and (2) want to kill someone.

But I must say that I think it imperative for conservatives to regain a say, however small and however long it takes, in Democrat Party politics. Until the late 1980s, there were flourishing conservative movements (different in outlook and type, for sure) in both political parties. But in the last decade plus, the Loony Left took full control of the Democrat Party and booted conservative Democrats like Zell Miller into either the Republican Party or the political wilderness (where their voices, like those of independents of all stripes, are quite meaningless in any long-term, philosophical sense). While most of you are likely to agree that this purge has been harmful to Democrats and helpful to Republicans, what it has most emphatically NOT been is helpful to conservatives.

Conservatism cannot be too closely linked to a single party, because then it becomes more bureaucratic in nature and less, well, conservative. Witness conservatism under the Republican big tent today as compare to 20 or 25 years ago. Conservatism is a state of mind and a political approach rather than a political ideology. Except in rare political contexts (the current context may be one of these), conservatism cannot exist as a political program. It's political power, then, comes from its ability as a movement to influence MULTIPLE political institutions, so that in the up-and-down nature of partisan politics, while Democrats may win one year and Republicans the next, conservatism can thrive continuously. The current situation, where almost any victory in any political race anywhere in the country by any member of one of just two major political parties spells a marginal defeat for the conservative cause, is untenable. Conservatism cannot thrive in such an environment. That's why, just as the Democrats need conservatives for their political well-being, conservatives need to have some of their own be Democrats for their philosophical well-being.

Look at the social rather than the political context, and you'll see how uncontroversial a premise the one I just outlined should be. No one believes that conservatism can thrive as a social force by channeling itself through one type of institution, such as the church. Rather, there must be conservatives in the church, in academia, and in all sorts of civic institutions in order for a healthy conservatism to have its say in our social lives and interactions. In my view, the same holds true in politics. If conservatives merely congregate in the Republican Party and hope to win every race on the ballot, they will fail. If conservatives can find their voice in the Democrat Party as well (and as they have throughout most of that party's history), they will have the opportunity to flourish.

For myself, I am consigned by my personal circumstances and prejudices to the political wilderness.

Free Trade
Written by: Answerman

I just remembered one question I wanted to discuss several weeks ago. I guess we never got around to it.

Beck, would you have supported the Alexander Hamilton/Henry Clay industrial policy of heavy protectionism, which the United States employed throughout most of the nineteenth century before it became a great power?

My New Political Mantra
Written by: Answerman

"Always vote for Republicans, but always make sure they know you hate them."

A Question
Written by: Answerman

I am curious about Captain Dave's, Speculator's, Beck's, and our readers' opinions on the following question:

If forced to vote either for John Kerry or Pat Buchanan for president this fall, for whom would you vote?

HINT: There is a correct answer to this question.

Declaration of Independence
Written by: Answerman

I would like today to mark my declaration of independence from the Republican Party. I have been considering this move for some time, but the White House and establishment conservative supported victory of evil incumbent Senator Arlen Specter over true conservative Representative Pat Toomey in yesterday's Pennsylvania Republican senatorial primary put me over the edge. This is not a party I want in any way to be associated with anymore. I will not give it money. I will not use its name. I will not run for office. And I will rarely say nice things about it. The Republican Party is a party of power-hungry hacks, opportunists, corporate lobbyists, effete suburban hypocrites, nut-ball Protestant fundamentalists, and most importantly, cowards. It wants to flood the America I love with hordes of legal and illegal aliens hostile to my values and way of life. It wants to brand as racist and evil anyone who speaks forthrightly about loving and defending those values and way of life. Oh sure, it waxes poetic about ITS view of American values and the American way of life, but that is largely a false view based on inside-the-beltway propositional notions of fairness and colorblindness and the like. The Republican Party long ago failed in its most important task -- the defense of American culture from those within this country who wish to change or destroy it. Now, the Republican Party fails even to make superficial gestures in this regard.

Pennsylvania Republicans had the choice yesterday between a liberal abortionist tax and spend liberal with a foul personality, and a true conservative legislator. Exit polls show that left alone, they would have chosen the latter as their candidate for the United States Senate. But the White House and alleged "conservative" Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum campaigned heavily for Specter, and he won a narrow victory. Well, the White House, Republican senators, and anyone still willing to march in an army behind these types of people can go to hell. They may be able to rationalize when Chairman Specter of the Senate Judiciary Committee has a large role in determining who the next three Supreme Court justices are, but I refuse to do so. The Republican Party has betrayed the conservative movement one too many times for me, and I'm through with it. Let the neocons and the so-called "moderates" have the whole rotten institution and duke it out with each other; I'm too disgusted to take part anymore.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

A spade is a spade
Written by: Beck

It occurred to me, upon reading this article, that my several posts about the great strides Libya is making towards rejoining the commonwealth of nations could be misconstrued as somehow pro-Gadhafi. That would be flat out wrong. My positive comments about Libya are intended to highlight the positive yield from the War on Terror. The correct inference from this is that I think Gadhafi is little better than a terrorist. So while the man definitely is making progress, he's still a complete fuckwad. Some highlights from his recent trip to Europe from the Washington Times:
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, once considered one of the world's most dangerous men, came to Europe for the first time in 15 years Tuesday, offering business deals and an olive branch - along with a veiled threat to return to the "days of explosive belts" if provoked by "evil" from the West.
That's the long and the short of it. Now for the weird:
The one-time pariah swept through the headquarters of the European Union like a movie star in brown Bedouin robes, flanked by female bodyguards in blue camouflage.
Naturally, only Europeans could treat Gadhafi like a movie star (Americans reserve such treatment for Castro). And all-female body guards? That's just bizarre in too many ways to count.
After three hours of talks, [European Commission President "Ray" Romano] Prodi declared himself "very happy" about the visit, which he said he worked five years to arrange.
Five years? Well haven't we been a busy little bee?
"It goes without saying this is a very historic meeting," Gadhafi began, speaking through a translator as three of his female bodyguards stood at attention behind him.
There are those female body guards again. There simply MUST be some sort of interesting story behind this that I just haven't heard yet.
"I hope we shall not be prompted or obliged by any evil to go back or look backward," he said.

"Hopefully nothing would force us to go back to the days when we use our cars and explosive belts, to put explosive belts around ourselves or on our women so we will not be searched and harassed in our bedrooms and in our homes as is happening in Iraq and Palestine.

"The victims are women and children, the battlefield in the kitchen and the bedroom. We don't want to be forced to go back to the days when we had do that," he said.
Ah yes, there's that North African fuckwad we know from ever so long ago. We were wondering what you'd done with the real Gadhafi. Nice to see they still let him out of his cage now and again.

Link credit to Ace-o-Spades.

You know you have...
Written by: Beck

Ever imagine what it would be like if Santa Claus were replaced by a guy who looked like an Italian 70's porn star?

Of course you have.

Cool things associated with Google...
Written by: Beck

I'm not sure just how common or how hard it is to get beta accounts for the testing of Google's vaunted new free email called "Gmail." It may be damn near anyone can get them. Regardless, I now have one. And it's neato.

First, the bits everyone knows. It offers up to 1gb of storage, and will send/receive attachments up to 10mb in size. Furthermore, Google scans all the emails in your account and uses the data gleaned from that for a few tastefully discreet targeted ads Google is so rightly famous for. The 1gb of storage space has the computer wonks/geeks/illuminati drooling in anticipation. The targeted ads have privacy wonks/geeks/activists up in arms. Inasmuch as I fit in the former category, I ever so hope those in the second category fail. It isn't that I don't regard privacy as being an essential right--I do. It's that I don't think Google's scanning of mail is an invasion of privacy at all. You are of course invited to disagree with me, but you will be wrong.

Now, for a review of the bits not everyone knows about. Pretty much every email program in the world has been homogenized and standardized to where they're all pretty interchangeable. You have an inbox, a composer, and myriad folders. And the extraordinarily creative people at Google are having none of that. There are three folders. Inbox, Send, and All Mail. When you're done with an email, if you don't decide to delete it, you just "Archive" it, and it gets sent to the All Mail department. Instead of filing away emails in separate folders, they have labels. As such, you can label emails under one or more categories you've made up for easy sorting and retrieving later. It works like a card catalog rather than a file cabinet. The All Mail folder simply contains all emails from all labels (and unlabeled as well). You can sort by libels, like I said, or by any of a number of other systems. Furthermore, you can search your emails using the Google engine and they'll be ranked by search relevance.

Another very cool feature is that it lumps emails into "Conversations" for easier reading. Thus if you're having an email exchange with one or more people, they'll show up neatly in line chronologically for more straightforward following of the thread. It's sort of like a series of back-and-forth emails where the writers keep including the entire previous email's text but without all the >>>> signs, better organized, and capable of handling numerous people at once. Also, though web based, Gmail supports a slew of "hotkeys" for one-key command execution. For someone willing to spend the time to learn the various tricks and tools, the sorting and handling options are fantastic. Perfect for someone running a blog who gets hundreds of emails a day.

So what I'm trying to say, here, is that I really love Gmail. It's a huge step forward in a field where incremental tinkering and stagnation are the norm. That, and I'm frigging sick of hotmail.

If you live in Pennsylvania...
Written by: Beck

Go vote in the Republican primary for Pat Toomey.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Creeping Stupidity watch...
Written by: Beck

Amish Tech Support links an article which, frankly, blows my mind. Here's the story: a movie in the works about cloning humans set up a fake website offering human cloning services. People immediately reacted with anger and rage, inasmuch as they actually concluded that an American company was offering full bore human cloning services. Once confronted with the knowledge that the website was merely a movie promo, they reacted as all humans exposed to the truth do: they rationalized. Some of them so much so that a Reuters article could, in all seriousness, publish the following:
But some Web surfers have begun petitions to close the site because, they claim, it is insensitive to people who have lost a loved one or family member and might actually be seeking to have that person cloned, which is the topic of the film.

That's right folks, you heard it hear first. It's illegal to behave in a manner which is "insensitive." Or at least some people wish it were. New addition to the liberal lexicon: insensitive - anything which is both valid and unpleasant.

Been to Houston lately?
Written by: Beck

The fair city of Houston is known for many things. While we may have some of the worst pollution in the country, we also have the most restaurants per capita. Furthermore, we have both the most and the best strip clubs in North America. Or so I hear anyway. Wouldn't know myself. So, when it comes time for state legislators to pick a target for things to fuck up, to what do they turn? That's right folks, you guessed it: Governor Rick Perry (R-Ass) wants to pay for public schooling with a special strip club tax.

You knew it all had to tie together in the end, right?
His plan would reduce property taxes and increase reliance on so-called "sin taxes" by charging a $5 tax to enter "adult entertainment" venues and adding a dollar to the price of cigarettes.

Perry said his proposal would maintain school funding while reducing the tax burden on homeowners.

Because everyone knows that tax shifting schemes like this A) make any kind of logical sense, or B) ever actually result in a net decrease in taxes. Anyone who rates themselves any kind of a politics watcher knows that those property taxes will be right back where they started before you can say, "Bloated bureaucracy." And it makes perfect sense for those seeking adult entertainment to be paying for others' school bills.

What's worse, Perry's strongest opponent of the plan, Carole Keeton Strayhorn (R-Bitch), opposes the plan not on any kind of tax grounds, but on the grounds that what the legislature SHOULD be doing re: school funding is putting the strip clubs out of business completely. And I'm not exaggerating. That is her stated goal.
On Wednesday, she attacked Perry for the strip club proposal and called for banning alcohol sales at such places to force them out of business.

"Today, this state says you can't drink and drive and you cannot walk into a convenience store with an alcoholic drink in your hand. Certainly we can say you can't get drunk while watching people take off their clothes in public to pay for education," Strayhorn said.

Now comes the scary part:
She said her office was working on proposed legislation to stop alcohol sales at strip joints and warned she would have the final say in any dispute because, by state law, she must certify the worthiness of all budget-linked bills.
There you have it. One woman who hates strip clubs will wield her power to completely override the wishes, desires, and preferences of state citizens, completely circumventing the democratic system in the process.

Legal Update
Written by: Answerman

Feel free to comment:

Lawyer says client's rooster owned drugs

A lawyer has told a court in the Philippines that drugs found in a rooster's cage belonged to the bird and not his client.

Manuel Urbina said defendant Francisco Armando Rivera didn't own the 67kg of cocaine or the gun that was found in the cage.

Urbina argued in the court in Managua that the rooster and two hens owned the drugs and the weapon. Rivera was arrested and charged with cocaine possession.

Prosecutors however have dismissed the claim as "absurd and impertinent," reports Australia's Herald Sun.

Urbina said: "The drugs were in the possession of a rooster and two hens and the law is very clear that whoever is in possession of the drugs is the one who should be accused."

Urbina said the prosecution must prove that the drugs actually belonged to his client.

Attorney General Julio Centeno called the defence case "an absurd joke."

Bob Herbert is a Moron
Written by: Answerman

Today's piece in the New York Times by Bob Herbert really pisses me off. I'm intentionally not linking to it, because I don't want to be responsible for it being read by anybody.

Now, to be fair, it's quite possible that Bob Herbert is mentally retarded, given how supremely ill-written and just plain stupid all of his columns tend to be. And I know it's mean to lambaste retarded people, but hell, if the Times is going to run his columns, then he's going to have to take the heat.

In today's column, Bob waxes poetic about desegregation, which is fine. Then he goes on to complain that we are now in a period of "resegregation" as a result of all the "reactionaries" being put on the federal bench. As an initial matter, it should be noted that NO ONE, least of all a reactionary of any sort, is being put on the federal bench these days, given what Senate Democrats and their feckless, power-hungry Republican cohorts are doing to the judicial confirmation process. But Bob never lets pesky facts get in the way of his racially-charged rants. Hell, he has enough trouble writing complete sentences. Plus, lest we all forget, John Kerry served in Vietnam.

Anyway, Bob ignores the most obvious reason explaining the phenomenon he, in his race-warrior mentality, chooses to label "resegregation" -- busing. That's right, busing. The courts stepped in and required schools to do it, schools did it, and it resulted in worse schools. Affluent white parents took their kids out of those worse schools and moved them to private schools and, lo and behold, we have "resegregation."

Shocking that the government's attempt to quickly socially engineer a solution to a complex social problem failed so miserably, and in fact produced the opposite effect from that intended. Geez, I bet that's never happened before! But no matter. Bob and his similarly-intellectually-challenged liberal friends won't figure it out, and they'll continue advocating such nonsense in the future. Will conservatives fight back, or will they cave in?

Liberals Tried to Assassinate Me This Weekend
Written by: Answerman

But they failed. On Friday, I had the poor sense to travel to Austin to attend a banquet honoring United States District Court Judge William Wayne Justice, liberal icon. The keynote speaker was Molly Ivins. I hope I need not say more.

In any event, I sat civilly through the function, unlike your typical liberal would if in reluctant attendance at an event honoring a conservative icon. About six hours later I began vomiting (& etc.), which I did not cease doing until Sunday morning. I vomited at least 60 times, more than I believe I had vomited my entire life combined prior to this ill-fated Friday. It was certainly the worst case of food poisoning I have ever had. And it ruined my weekend.

As any intelligent reader will surmise, the liberals are to blame for this near-death experience. I should never have let my guard down and dined in hostile territory. And I never will again. Let this serve as a warning to the rest of you.

In other news, I hear John Kerry served in Vietnam.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Stupid FCC tricks
Written by: Beck

Have you heard the one about the radio station DJs who prank called Castro and then put it on the air? They're being fined $4,000 by the FCC for the prank. Why? Because they didn't obtain permission from the person on the other end.
The hosts of the show on WXDJ-FM, Joe Ferrero and Enrique Santos, fed pleasantries to Castro before breaking in and calling him an assassin. The conversation ended after Castro denounced the callers with a stream of vulgarities.

The FCC concluded Friday that the station should be fined for the broadcast. It rejected the station's claim that a rule requiring people to be notified before their voices are used does not apply to people in Cuba.

Didn't Castro used to be an enemy or something? I thought it was a Good Thing to make him look bad. The question then arises, should the FCC then be making exceptions to the letter of the law? I ask you rather, is the law instead being arbitrarily enforced for reasons of pure bureaucracy politics? Were the prank call victim, say, Donald Rumsfeld, I'll wager that not only would there be no FCC censure, but Rummy would have to not press charges and down play it lest he come off as some sort of villain. Castro, of course, could never be a villain.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Nail meets hammer...
Written by: Beck

One of the smartest things to come out of Jonah Goldberg's mouth pen keyboard in a while, for your reading entertainment:
But just as millions of Americans were flat-out wrong about the urgency and necessity of fighting the Cold War, today there are millions of good and decent Americans who do not want to look the current enemy in the eye. They cling to polysyllabic professors who find clever ways to say the same dumb things over and over again. They look to America-detesting Europeans, mistaking cynicism for sagacity. And they look to politicians like John Kerry who proudly shift their opinions based upon the most convenient way of avoiding tough decisions, calling their zigs "nuance" and their zags "sophistication," promising to "stay the course" only if it's plotted as a U-turn.

I'll have to add "sophistication" to my ever growing liberal lexicon.

Brought to you by popular demand...
Written by: Beck

My email inbox has been overflowing with requests for a picture of a nun bowling. Ever eager to please readers, I present you with:

Because I am all about customer service.

From the Things-that-are-Just-Plain-Wrong Department:
Written by: Beck

I'm going to have to start keeping all of my grapefruit spoons locked up, as I'm going through sets of eyeballs way too fast. Yet another cool memory from the 80's has been irreparably shattered for me. Gouging out my eyes is really just collateral damage. Rambling's Journal linked to a web page that can't truly be described--it must be experienced to be understood. Jay Maynard went and made himself a costume inspired by the movie TRON. Did he take lots of pictures of himself to illustrate the process, you ask? Of course he did. Every step of the process comes complete with front, rear, and two profile shots. So it doesn't help that he's wearing a unitard--a garment whose entendres have never been more fitting (HAW!). Or that he's a good fifty pounds overweight. Or that he... no, words are failing me. Just go and look for yourself.

What a difference twenty-three years can make...
Written by: Beck

Ronald Reagan dropped bombs on Gadhafi's house. Gadhafi's angry anti-Americanism and overt, unashamed support of terrorists--along with all that line-of-death nonsense--catapulted Libya to the Club of Nations that America Really Fuckin Hates, previously occupied by only North Korea, Cuba, and Iran. I mean, sure, we weren't exactly big fans of the USSR or the Chi-coms, but that was largely just geo-politics. And while we definitely had no love for Vietnam, the fact that they'd sent us packing meant we at least had to grant them some measure of grudging respect. No, our dislike for those three four nations is personal. In the case of North Korea, it was over a war that technically never even ended (why exactly Vietnam isn't hated in the same fashion or to the same degree would make for an interesting topic on its own. Some other time perhaps). Iran overthrew the regime we'd set up, sacked our embassy, held a bunch of our citizens hostage for several years, set up a theocracy, supported terrorists, and took to referring to America as "The Great Satan." Cuba had the temerity to be a communist nation in the Western Hemisphere, not 70 miles from the Sunny State.

Well, Libya has now further distinguished themselves. They're the first of the four countries in the CoNtARFH to leave that august association. The writing has been on the wall ever since the fall of Baghdad when Gadhafi showed up at our doorsteps with several ship loads of machinery designed for the manufacture of WMDs. Still, Gadhafi is enough of a megalomaniacal America hating nutcase to screw it all up for himself somehow. Then Tony Blair made an historic visit to Libya which seems to have gone well. This Friday, however, will stand out as perhaps the biggest landmark in improving America-Libya relations yet. The Bush administration has lifted most of the sanctions against Libya. Fun facts for our fans:
The lifting of the sanctions does not detract from Libya's obligation to pay $2.7 billion, or $10 million per family, in compensation for the 270 victims.

The United States imposed travel and other restrictions on Libya in the early 1980s and added broad sanctions in 1986 after Libya was blamed for the bombing of a disco in Berlin, Germany, that killed two U.S. servicemen and a Turkish woman, and wounded 229, including 79 Americans.

The sanctions were expanded by the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996, which cited Libya's failure to comply with U.N. resolutions, support of terrorism and efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
At this point I'd put up a long explanation of how the War on Terror is yielding dividends. But since our readers are only of the highest quality, I'll just go ahead and assume you've already figured that out on your own.

Re: Disasters and Questions
Written by: Beck

Another update on the disaster in North Korea: the official DPRK news agency has come forward and admitted that there was an accident and even going so far as to state the cause. Long time DPRK watchers seem surprised by the speed with which the North Korean regime has come forward with facts. It would seem that power arcing from overhead wires (i.e. a major short circuit) caused an explosion in train cars carrying ammonium nitrate and oil. In other words, think of the Oklahoma City bombing, then scale it from a U-Haul up to train car(s) proportions.

CNN is reporting that at least 154 are dead and 1300 are wounded. Furthermore, at least 76 of the dead are said to have been students. And in case you didn't think the situation was bad enough already, an email being sent out by Norbert Vollertsen German doctor/activist who evidently worked in the DPRK makes it sound even worse (link credit to North Korea Zone blog:
"-Out of my own experience in the disaster area I know that the nearby hospitals in Sinuiju and Ryongchon are in a desperate situation : there is no medicine, no bandage material, sometimes even no soap and running water

- The North Korean doctors cannot give any sophisticated medical assistance for burnt victims - so what they are usually doing, sometimes even without disinfection, narcotics and with a simply razor-blade is donating their own skin like I did when I got my friendship medal [Emphasis mine].

Update: Some new statistics: the blast damaged structures as far away as 2.5 miles; between 1800 and 2000 homes were destroyed. And how can you not like pictures of railroad tracks which have buckled like paper-clips?

Friday, April 23, 2004

Hard to keep a good economy down
Written by: Beck

The latest numbers on the economy illustrate yet again why the Kerry campaign has completely dropped the economy as an issue. Considering the number of negatives working against the economy (fighting two wars, massive expansion of the bureaucracy, 9/11, waves of bankruptcies and corporate scandals), it's frankly astonishing that things keep bumping along so well. The big news:

The Commerce Department said Friday that US orders for big-ticket "durable goods" jumped by a surprisingly strong 3.4 percent in March after an upwardly revised 3.8 percent gain in February.

The reported orders for long-lasting items such as airplanes, cars and washing machines shattered Wall Street estimates for a 0.7 percent rise and suggested the US factory sector is stronger than believed.

These numbers are so huge (and, more importantly, unexpected) that talking heads all over Wall Street have had to put on their Emergency Back-up Pants.
"The economy is now firing on all cylinders. Consumers are spending, business investment is ramping up, exports are rising and inventories are being rebuilt," said Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo Bank, pegging first-quarter economic growth at five percent.

Citigroup currency strategist TJ Marta called the report "explosive" and said it "could put upward pressure on US interest rates," thus supporting the dollar.

Better get those houses refinanced now. Last chance 'til 2009.

Quote for the day...
Written by: Beck

"Political 'moderate' is a liberal code word for a slower walk to tyranny."
--Dan Belcher

Some other helpful liberal code words and their definitions:

Choice: the right to impose one's beliefs on others
Fascist: catch-all phrase for anyone to the right of the person using the word
Multicultural: political blackmail usable by any aggrieved group supportive of liberal causes
Nuanced: Oh, wait, I already defined this one earlier
Special Interest: applies only to groups giving money to conservative politicians. Groups donating to liberal politicians are known variously under such umbrellas as "minority," "union," "concerned citizens," etc.

If only I could un-see things
Written by: Beck

During my daily jaunt through the blogosphere, I came across this on Allah's web site. I now require eye transplants, as I have gouged out my original eyes via grapefruit spoon. You were warned.

In case anyone needs something amusing to bring them back to sanity (in other words, for those who clicked that link), have a look at the latest campaign offering from the Kerry camp (link credit, again, to Allah). That's right folks. John Kerry rocks. Also heard in the news: Huey Lewis wants you to know that it's hip to be square.

Update: According to MSNBC, Ralph Nader rocks too.

Re: Disasters and Questions
Written by: Beck

More news is coming out of North Korea now about the train disaster near the Chinese border. The picture has taken on a much more realistic appearance, as there were numerous aspects of initial reports from yesterday that didn't quite add up.

First, the number of dead is "hundreds," with the thousands listed initially being more mundane injuries. North Korean medical infrastructure, however, will be quite overwhelmed by the number of injured. Not only do they lack the facilities and personnel to treat so many people, they lack the ability to transport or even sufficiently shelter the injured. The International Red Cross and the World Health Organization are both rushing experts and aid to the scene. By the time it gets there, I fear, many further lives which could have been saved without difficulty will be lost.

Second, the accident was not the result of a collision, but rather, from a single train which was carrying explosives blowing up from sparks when a car touched a live power line. While I'm no expert, most explosives wont go up just by catching a few sparks. Still, it's a more likely explanation than a two-train collision. Finally, the fact that it was a single train accident makes it clear that there was no assassination attempt intended in all of this.
Kim only travels by train and all rail traffic would have been shut down in the area for several hours before and after he passed through the station.

"Because the blast occurred long after Kim passed we just think it is purely an accident," a source from South Korea's National Intelligence Service told Reuters.
Considering the magnitude of this disaster, I'm surprised it isn't getting much coverage, relatively speaking. North Korean hyper-secrecy is going to work against them in this case, as the publicity generated from an event like this would likely engender some measure of international sympathy. Regardless, North Korea Zone has a ton of info for the interested (link credit to Instapundit).

Thursday, April 22, 2004

On the home front
Written by: Beck

You know what's interesting about this story? I knew all three of those guys. Had drinks with them. Exchanged quips. Worked with them. To some extent anyway.

I'm just glad I no longer work at that company.

Anyone up for some charades?
Written by: Beck

Yeah, we care. No really. We care so much it hurts.

Disasters and questions
Written by: Beck

As most people probably know, two trains collided in North Korea killing or injuring an estimated 3000 people. While this is an amazingly horrific tragedy, there are some odd questions that immediately come to mind. The first thing I wonder is how on earth 3000 people managed to be involved in a train collision. Both trains appear to have been carrying flammable materials, so if the trains were going fast enough, it's not hard to imagine that everyone aboard could well have been killed, or at least seriously hurt. But 3000 people? I guess it's possible. It's not that I doubt the reports, it's just that it's a flabbergasting number.

The bigger question, though, is whether or not this was actually an assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. The CNN article I linked above mentions that Kim had passed through on a train of his own just a few hours earlier, but doesn't suggest anything beyond that. Reporters on Fox News, however, are openly speculating that this could have been an attempt on Kim's life. If so, one must wonder if there isn't some significant faction of disaffected leaders in North Korea actively seeking to topple the regime. Speculation along these lines, unfortunately, will simply remain speculation, as no official reports are leaving North Korea, and likely never will. This article mentions that immediately after the accident, North Korea cut all international phone lines to keep word of the incident from leaking. The only news agency reporting primary information on this is South Korean, and their sources are from the Chinese side of the Yalu. Still, one can only hope that the Kim dynasty will come to an end sooner rather than later, finally freeing from some measure of tyranny the millions of people living under the poorest, most backward, and most oppressive regime in the world. For some reason, I always think of the world as portrayed in Ayn Rand's novella Anthem whenever I imagine life inside North Korea.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Shocking? Yes. Surprising?
Written by: Beck

I'm not sure which to be more surprised by--that Texas Governor Rick Perry's head of Texas-Mexico relations turned out to be a Mexican citizen, or that the state is now trying to crush the whistle blower who has brought it to the peoples' attention. Actually I take it back--I'm not genuinely surprised by either fact. Perhaps I should in fact be surprised that the issue has generated so little interest. I only found out about it because Reason Online brought up the story as published by the Houston Chronicle in their Daily Brickbats section.

Essentially, this is what has happened. A conservative activist by the name of Mary Williams received confidential documents demonstrating that the Gov's head of Mexican relations, Helena Colyandro, is a Mexican citizen. The conflict of interest here proclaims itself so loudly it scarcely deserves mention. Afterwards, a slew of anonymous letters went out to influential Texans with some rather exact copies of said documents. Then the state demanded she hand them back, saying they should not have been released. Williams denies sending the anonymous letters, and states further that she hasn't even read a copy. Somewhere around this point, a slew of heretofore non-disillusioned Texans' heads exploded. At least I'm assuming that's what happened. Nearly happened to me, and I'm disillusioned in spades.

The Onion on Libertarians
Written by: Answerman

Libertarian Reluctantly Calls Fire Department

CHEYENNE, WY--After attempting to contain a living-room blaze started by a cigarette, card-carrying Libertarian Trent Jacobs reluctantly called the Cheyenne Fire Department Monday. "Although the community would do better to rely on an efficient, free-market fire-fighting service, the fact is that expensive, unnecessary public fire departments do exist," Jacobs said. "Also, my house was burning down." Jacobs did not offer to pay firefighters for their service.

Fight the power!
Written by: Beck

Lew Rockwell has a new article up at the Mises Institute's website worthy of consideration. He asks the important question, "What should freedom lovers do?" His answer is three-fold. First of all, he advocates the traditional values that conservatives in the first half of the twentieth century knew seemingly instinctively. In short: work hard, better yourself, and raise strong families.
In the first half of the 20th century, libertarians knew how to oppose statism. They went into business and journalism. They wrote books. They agitated within the cultural arena. They developed fortunes to help fund newspapers, schools, foundations, and public education organizations. They expanded their commercial ventures to serve as a bulwark against central planning. They became teachers and, when possible, professors. They cultivated wonderful families and focused on the education of their children.

His second point is for those who seek to take an active roll in changing government. The message, as spelled out long ago by Misesian patron saint Murray Rothbard: never compromise.
The Rothbardian approach to a pro-freedom strategy comes down to the following four affirmations: 1) the victory of liberty is the highest political end; 2) the proper groundwork for this goal is a moral passion for justice; 3) the end should be pursued by the speediest and most efficacious possible means; and 4) the means taken must never contradict the goal--"whether by advocating gradualism, by employing or advocating any aggression against liberty, by advocating planned programs, by failing to seize any opportunities to reduce State power, or by ever increasing it in any area."

The bulk of the article, however, touches on something which I realized long ago without ever formulating any of the detailed arguments behind it. One cannot reform the state by becoming an employee of the state. I've been asked by many people why I never sought a government job. When I was younger, everyone thought (for surprisingly logical reasons) that I would find ultimate happiness as an employee at NASA. Once older, with a degree in international economics under my belt, people assumed that any number of government jobs would be towards the top of my list of suitable professions. I recoiled from the thought. As I have oft ranted about (though perhaps not in this particular forum), there is less difference between working for the government and working for the mafia than one might think. In fact, working for the mafia is in many ways preferable. They at least are honest about what they do, and the pay is better. Rockwell goes to great pains to spell out the reasons why working for the government is never the solution to successful reduction of government power or successful increase in liberty. Some samples for you:
If often happens that an ideological movement will make great strides through education and organization and cultural influence, only to take the illogical leap of believing that politics and political influence, which usually means taking jobs within the bureaucracy, is the next rung on the ladder to success. This is like trying to fight a fire with matches and gasoline. This is what happened to the Christian right in the 1980s. They got involved in politics in order to throw off the yoke of the state. Twenty years later, many of these people are working in the Department of Education or for the White House, doing the prep work to amend the Constitution or invade some foreign country. This is a disastrous waste of intellectual capital.

It is particularly important that believers in liberty not take this course. Government work has been the chosen career path of socialists, social reformers, and Keynesians for at least a century. It is the natural home to them because their ambition is to control society through government. It works for them but it does not work for us.
It is a long struggle but it is the way the struggle for liberty has always taken place. But somewhere along the way, some people, enticed by the prospect of a fast track to reform, rethought this idea. Perhaps we should try the same technique that the left did. We should get our people in power and displace their people, and then we can bring about change toward liberty. In fact, isn't this the most important goal of all? So long as the left controls the state, it will expand in ways that are incompatible with freedom. We need to take back the state.

So goes the logic. What is wrong with it? The state's only function is as an apparatus of coercion and compulsion. That is its distinguishing mark. It is what makes the state the state. To the same extent that the state responds well to arguments that it should be larger and more powerful, it is institutionally hostile to anyone who says that it should be less powerful and less coercive. That is not to say that some work from the "inside" cannot do some good, some of the time. But it is far more likely that the state will convert the libertarian than for the libertarian to convert the state.
And then the massive apparatus of the state lives up to its juggernaut status, chewing up and spitting out such fighters for liberty.
We've all seen this a thousand times. It rarely takes more than a few months for a libertarian intellectual headed for the Beltway to "mature" and realize that his or her old ideals were rather childish and insufficiently real world. A politician promising to defang Washington later becomes the leading expert in applying tooth enamel.
He concludes the argument with this:
We can learn from this. The thousands of young people who are discovering the ideas of liberty for the first time ought to stay away from the Beltway and all its allures. Instead, they should pursue their love and passion through arts, commerce, education, and even the ministry. These are fields that offer genuine promise with a high return.

A good sign
Written by: Beck

Corporate naming rights--they're not just for stadiums anymore. While school choice vouchers are still a long way from becoming a reality in most places, and completely privatized schooling still seems purely like a pipe-dream, schools in New Jersey have nonetheless found a way to allow a little free enterprise to shine in through the murk of state-funded mandatory schooling. Of course, considering the loathing with which most school-age children regard their daily visits to classes, I wonder if companies really want to associate themselves with... ah, who am I kidding? It's a great marketing opportunity.
"Anything a school can do to be entrepreneurial, so much the better," said Dana Egreczky, a vice president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
Couldn't have said it better myself.

Because I care
Written by: Beck

Another busy day today, so I can't promise much content. So, for lack of the intelligent, I present you with a sample of the baffling. Money quote:
Pat Skinner, 69, had part of her colon removed at Sydney's St. George Hospital in May 2001. But she said that she continued to suffer intense pain in her abdomen for months after the operation.

Eventually, she demanded doctors x-ray her abdomen. They did and discovered the 6.7-inch pair of scissors, which were removed in October 2002.

Bumper Sticker Signals Our Doom
Written by: Dave

I live in the city of L.A. An excellent sign of our culture's imminent doom is the public service bumper stickers you see on public vehicles in this city. One of my favorites says "Stop abusing Seniors!".

I am not sure which is more telling - that we have reached the point where people have to be reminded that this is wrong, or that someone in the city government thinks that some young hoodlum on his way to beat up Grandpa will think better of it because of what he reads on a bumper sticker.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Terminator Coming True Watch...
Written by: Beck

It was neat when they built those Predator drones. Unmanned spy planes are cool. It was neat when they retrofitted them to carry weapons as well. They weren't originally designed for it, however, and they were far from the ideal delivery vehicle for munitions. But now, Boeing has built an unmanned plane specifically designed to fly itself to target locations & drop precision guided munitions. The plane flies itself 100% of the way, from the look of the article, including take-off and landing.

There's a new flag flying over the Austin federal courthouse...
Written by: Beck

Don't Poop On Me!

And Christopher Gadsden wept.

Woodward's story changes
Written by: Beck

OK, so maybe Saudi Arabia didn't say they were going to crush oil prices prior to the election to benefit Bush. Essentially, it seems, some of the content of Woodward's new book Plan of Attack came out rather skewed during his 60 Minutes interview. Here's what he has to say now:
"I don't say there's a secret deal or any collaboration on this," Woodward told CNN's "Larry King Live" Monday. "What I say in the book is that the Saudis ... hoped to keep oil prices low during the period before the election, because of its impact on the economy. That's what I say."

And yes, the Saudi's have been saying all along that they wouldn't let the price of oil skyrocket. They've been saying it publicly since before the war in Iraq. It took 60 Minutes to make it sound like this was some sort of secret deal between the White House and the Sauds. Quoth Bandar bin Sultan,
"We hoped that the oil prices will stay low, because that's good for America's economy, but more important, it's good for our economy and the international economy," he said. "This is nothing unusual. President Clinton asked us to keep the prices down in the year 2000. In fact, I can go back to 1979, President Carter asked us to keep the prices down to avoid the malaise."
Then he added, "Saudi Arabia does not live on the moon. When the world economy gets hurt, we get hurt also," Bandar said.

Monday, April 19, 2004

New Really, Really (Not) Important Debate Topic
Written by: Dave

Hi, sorry for not contributing lately, I have been very busy. In my few spare moments, however, I have been outlining what will be a tremendously long essay on why we are all doomed. It may still be a while before I publish it, so try not to get too excited.

In the meantime, here's the next really, really (not) important debate of the week. We'll stick with the States theme. We didn't get much debate on the Texas-California question, so I will try to make the answer to this one less obvious.

OK, the U.S. has to grant full statehood to one of the countries below (assume that all of the countries have voted in favor of annexation). Which one should it be?

a) France

b) Mexico

c) The Democratic Republic of Congo

I know Beck hasn't put up the survey on the page yet, but that's all right, we're supposed to discuss first.

Written by: Answerman

I used to be a libertarian, and I'm not proud of it.

Let me explain. I grew up a typical conservative and moved toward libertarianism during my late high school and early college days. My beliefs in low taxes, deregulation, and a drastic reduction in the size of the bloated collection of morons, criminals, and reprobates many of you refer to as the U.S. government hardened into a nonchalant dislike of any law that addressed concerns beyond the protection of people from physical interference by others. Libertarianism was attractive because it was simple; it offered a global explanation for everything wrong with politics. If the principles of freedom and individualism were simply applied consistently, we would be so much better off.

Well, that's a bunch of crap. Libertarianism is an adolescent philosophy rife with problems. First, it refuses to look at any issue from any perspective other than a political, or perhaps merely economic, one. Troublesome little details like culture and history and morality are ignored out of deference to overly-simplified notions of Natural Rights and the Rational Man.

Second, libertarianism is a metaphysical disaster. What exactly constitutes a "direct" violation of another's rights? A libertarian would make it illegal for me to punch you in the face, but what about me waving my hand two inches from your face but never touching it? It's certainly not legitimate for the government to regulate handguns, but how about the private possession of nuclear weapons? Can the law prevent that, or can it only prevent their use? These inane hypotheticals can go on and on, and they prove how bereft libertarianism is of the texture and layers that necessarily prop up most other political philosophies.

Finally, libertarianism is woefully utopian. It seeks to throw away all cultural and religious, and most legal, restraints on human behavior out of a blind sense of faith in man's inherent rationality and goodness. Are you kidding me? Libertarianism would eliminate the rich differences among societies, legal systems, and the like in favor of a dreary sameness that has a zero percent chance of resulting ultimately in anything other than chaos and death.

Roach has provided dead-on commentary on the problems with libertarianism: "Libertarians often go far beyond what government should and should not do; a culture of indifference to the choices of others arises. The flaws of others become proof of the impossibility of moral greatness; everyone is a hypocrite and thus we should all just do whatever we want. Any concern whatsoever for the effects of others' choices is labeled as creeping statism and puritanical nosiness. This is unfortunate; it is a skeletonized account of what a philosophy needs to tell us about what we do, how we spend our money and free time, and what types of activities should be hidden behind closed doors or openly flaunted as morally neutral 'choices.' "

In my view, there is a huge conceptual difference (in other words, something quite different from a mere difference in degree) between a conservative skepticism toward government and libertarianism. A conservative knows that when a government uses the blunt instruments at its disposal in an attempt to tackle a big, complex social issue, it tends to fail miserably, worsen the problem, and create new problems to boot. A conservative is therefore skeptical of social engineering and tends to favor more organic tools from within existing social institutions and civil society in his attempts to "fix" problems.

A libertarian rejects the notion that there is a problem that needs worrying about, much less "fixing." The libertarian does not discuss how to address an issue; rather, he considers the very discussion of said issue politically illegitimate. This is a huge distinction.

Even in the last few years, far removed from my libertarian days, I have referred to myself as a libertarian-leaning conservative. No longer. I may often agree on ends with certain libertarians, but for widely divergent philosophical reasons. Libertarians are not conservatives, and we insult ourselves and them by pretending they are.

Slow news day...
Written by: Beck

Two quick items for you, and then I return to "work."

First, I'm not sure what to make of this yet, but Bob Woodward, in his newest book, claims that the Saudi's have said they'll crush the crude market towards November to help Bush's re-election chances.

Coincidentally, I'm also not sure what to make of this, but laughed my ass off anyway (not as fun as it sounds, believe me). Try not to think about the title of the Minister's Quartet album too much.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Fine, you got me
Written by: Beck

I couldn't go the whole weekend without putting up at least one hot-topic post. It would seem, as most of you likely already know, that Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the new head of Hammas since the detonation of Ahmed Yassin a month ago, has himself been taken out by the Israelis. They've really got this whole "surgical helicopter strike" thing down to a science.

For a whole ton of links and updates, see Allahpundit.

I wish it was Sunday, 'cuz that's my fun day.
Written by: Beck

No comments about Cyndi Lauper's use of the subjunctive please.

In the news: Astros 6 Brewers 1. The Rocket is 3-0 now. He also managed to get on base during an at bat where the Astros already had two outs, ultimately creating several runs. The weather was perfect too, in case you were wondering.

In other news: I saw Kill Bill Vol. 2 a couple days ago. I'll follow with a review, at some point, but until then allow me to simply say that it was excellent.

Finally, for lack of anything in the current events department to share with you (I'm sure there's plenty going on out there, I just haven't had the time or inclination to investigate), allow me to quote for you a brief excerpt from the book I'm currently (re)reading:
That socialism so long as it remains theoretical is internationalist, while as soon as it is put into practice, whether in Russia or in Germany, it becomes violently nationalist, is one of the reasons why "liberal socialism" as most people in the Western world imagine it is purely theoretical, while the practice of socialism is everywhere totalitarian...

If the "community" or the state are prior to the individual, if they have ends of their own independent of and superior to those of the individuals, only those individuals who work for the same ends can be regarded as members of the community. It is a necessary consequence of this view that a person is respected only as a member of the group, that is, only if and in so far as he works for the recognized common ends, and that he derives his whole dignity only from this membership and not merely from being man. Indeed, the very concepts of humanity and therefore of any form of internationalism are entirely products of the individualist view of man, and there can be no place for them in a collectivist system of thought.
Gotta love Hayek.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Quote for the day (weekend?)
Written by: Beck

I don't have much for you today, oh faithful readers, and I believe that at least three of the four writers here are currently nursing hangovers. So rather than inundate you with a wave of brilliant analysis and social critique, I instead present you with a brief little ponderable.
"The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But, under the name of "liberalism", they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day America will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened".
--Norman Thomas, former US Socialist Party presidential candidate

So sit and chew on that one for a while.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Omarosa accusations redux
Written by: Beck

Everyone is familiar by now with the saga on reality show The Apprentice wherein fired applicant Omarosa accused fellow contestant Ereka of calling her a nigger (I refuse to euphemize by saying "the N-word." It's so childish. Why are people so afraid of the word?) Tonight, I happened to watch Howard Stern's show on E!. His guests were three of the ex-apprentices, including Ereka. While Ereka naturally seemed to have anticipated that the issue would come up, what she couldn't have anticipated was Howard sending her off into a separate room with a lie detector test and an administrator.

She was asked a lengthy battery of questions. The first half were what you would expect as a consequence of the controversy. "Are you a racist? Have you ever called anyone a nigger? Did you call Omarosa a nigger?" Then followed more stereotypically Stern style questions. "Have you ever had a lesbian encounter? Have you ever had a lesbian fantasy? Have you ever had a sexual fantasy about Howard Stern?" She answered "no" to everyone one of those questions. She was found to have lied on one of them. Which one you ask? You guessed it.

It turns out, she actually HAS had lesbian fantasies about other women. But she never called Omarosa a nigger. Meanwhile, on the final episode of The Apprentice, Omarosa was cornered on several overt lies that she made, which they had the tape to prove were lies. Unfortunately, I don't expect this controversy to be put to bed now, nor do I expect Omarosa to drop from the spotlight as she should.

It's about a Frenchman, an Italian, and three Japanese, but it ain't a joke
Written by: Beck

The sudden rash of kidnappings in Iraq makes one wonder why the Iraqi insurgents took so long to think up the idea. Regardless, they've used the recent unrest for cover and shelter and abducted (and in some cases released) a whole slew of people. This article has some updates.

Of note, the three Japanese who were to be burned alive should the Japanese SDF troops not be pulled out were set free (and the Japanese troops did NOT pull out, more power to them). Further, French journalist Alexandre Jordanov managed to secure his own freedom by convincing his captors he was from one of the countries not participating in the occupation. "He proved he was French by drawing a map of France." Most significantly, and also most disheartening, four Italians have been taken captive, and one of them has already been executed. I think pretty much everyone else in the blogosphere has already quoted this one, but it bears repeating again.
"This boy, as the assassins were pointing the gun at him, tried to take off his hood and shouted: 'Now I'll show you how an Italian dies,'" Frattini said. "He died as a hero."
It is reassuring to see how Italy has responded to this. They are outraged, and they are united. Their behavior should serve as a lesson not only to Spaniards, but to all of us. The Italian left, which greatly opposed Italian participation in the occupation, now stands behind their troops.
The national trauma has at least temporarily unified Italy, which has been bitterly divided by his support for the war. "We must not recall our troops because a band of assassins have demanded it," Francesco Rutelli, leader of a center-left opposition party, said.

"The vile blackmail by a band of criminal kidnappers must not be given the dignity of a political response. Italy is and must remain unified and together."

Why didn't I think of this sooner?
Written by: Beck

So I'm watching TV with a friend, and an ad for Pentax digital cameras comes on. I wasn't paying any attention until I saw their tag-line: "The Official Digital Camera of the Internet." It was at this point that I flew into a rant, the long and tedious point of which was that you can trademark any phrase you want, but trademarking a statement doesn't make it true. "Hell," I spat out, "I could get a trademark for 'Official Straight Male Porn Star of the Internet,' but that wouldn't--" and then the light bulb went on.

And so, it is with great pleasure that I announce to you that not only am I a frenetic blogger of the right wing fringe, a co-conspirator of the VRWC, and a dashingly clever man, but I'm also the Official Straight Male Porn Star of the Internet(tm). Ladies, better get in line now before I'm all booked up. Why waste time with amateurs when you can be with the professional?

Calling a spade a spade
Written by: Beck

The Daily Show's Ed Helms did the likes of Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman a disservice by reading out loud from the stage notes of the world's media organizations. To paraphrase, "Remember, the first rule of journalism is: fact checking is for pussies."

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Why, oh why...
Written by: Beck

...did I have to go to a school that had no Greeks? A link from Fark led me to this little author interview of a new book about the debauched behavior that goes on at sororities. Here is the indisputable money quote of the interview:
What kinds of things did you witness?
I really hadn't expected to find the level of "Animal House" campiness that I did in some groups. They had a tradition called boob ranking where pledges had just a limĀ­ited amount of time to strip off their shirt and bras to examine each other topless so that by the time the clock was up, they were basically lined up in order of chest size in order of the sisters to inspect. Some sororiĀ­ties hold what they call "naked parties," during which after a few drinks sisters and pledges strip off their clothes and basically run around the house naked, some of them hooking up with each other before they let the boys in.
Are you reading this Dudley? Methinks you might have a few pointed questions that need asking.

Only in America...
Written by: Beck

Am I the only one who finds it strangely encouraging that in Iraq there's currently a black Marine Corp soldier from Detroit playing the bagpipes in a kilt for his fellow soldiers? He was inspired to take up the bagpipes by, naturally, a "small Hispanic" man. Here's the money quote:
"Kilts are something that fighting men wore many years ago, and we know that the Marines are fighting men. So real men wear kilts. And they are pretty comfortable too," he said.
Note to Scotland: look out, we're coming.

Europe finds their cojones
Written by: Beck

Well I'll be damned (no comments from the peanut gallery, please). Europe has soundly told Osama to get bent. Some highlights:
From Italy:
"It is completely unthinkable that we could start negotiations with bin Laden. Everyone understands that," Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters.
From the EU:
European Commission President Romano Prodi said there could be no negotiating under a "terrorist threat."
From Britain:
"One has to treat such claims by al Qaeda with contempt, which they deserve," Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said.
From Spain:
"There is no sense to terrorism. There is no policy in terrorism. There is just terror, death, blackmail," said incoming Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
I suppose there weren't any good public statements coming out of France or Germany, as this was all the CNN article had to say about them:
Leaders in France and Germany also rejected any such offer.
Which is still promising, considering the source. Hell, even 89% of CNN readers are opposed to negotiation. Does this qualify as "bipartisan" then? How about multilateral? Nuanced? Sorry, I went too far with that one.

Timeless Adams...
Written by: Speculator

Reading through some notes the other evening, I came across a few lines that I thought particularly fine. They were penned by a young John Adams in the fall of 1755, a newly minted Harvard graduate employed as a school proctor...

"All that part of Creation that lies within our observation is liable to change. Even mighty states and kingdoms are not exempted. If we look into history, we shall find some nations rising from contemptible beginnings and spreading their influence, until the whole globe is subjected to their ways. When they have reached the summit of grandeur, some minute and unsuspected cause commonly affects their ruin, and the empire of the world is transferred to some other place."

I wonder: did Adams ever foresee a unipolar world similar to the one of today? (Both my immediate and then more considerate suspicions are no) If it should ever come to pass that this empire expires, would there be residual capacity for transfer? Or has the world quite simply evolved to the point of owning our fortune? It seems interesting to me that the world has found it prudent to place upon us such incredible amounts of trust, and far less obvious, hope. But perhaps prudent is not the right word, as this level of requirement, that is, their requirement of our sustenance, has been built in effect, but not formally recognized. This is to say that this requirement was built by way of individually and in their time strategic motives, but in aggregate waxes towards dependence.

Furthermore, the ever increasing hostile environment of the international space towards the United States must only serve suffering to the marginal beneficiaries of our benevolence. If our country should happen to fall victim again, and then again, we ain't gonna be as willing to host Favorite-Hawaiian-Shirt day down at UN Headquarters - and it may come to pass that that parcel of Manhattan Island has found greater economic utility, and a lease falls un-renewed.

Dumbass Democrat Hypocrisy
Written by: Answerman

Query: If Justice Scalia is unfit to hear a case involving the vice president in his official capacity because he and Cheney were once part of a large hunting party in Louisiana, then why is Jamie Gorelick fit to determine the "causes" of 9/11 when her memo creating a wall between law enforcement and counter-terrorism officials was likely a huge contributing factor to our nation's lack of preparedness?

Answer: Because Democrats are unserious hypocrites interested in defaming the administration, not discovering what went wrong before 9/11 and how we can do better.

Unless Maureen Dowd can take a break from her Hooked-on-Phonics tape long enough to give a different answer?

Sullivan on Osama
Written by: Answerman

Let's give Andrew props for his analysis of bin Laden's latest foray into international diplomacy:

MEMO TO OSAMA: Re: the "truce." Go fuck yourself.
- 2:02:57 PM

Al Qaeda and Europe
Written by: Dave

The Al Qaeda offer of truce to Europe brings to mind three things that I have been reflecting upon lately.

One, it proves that the Spanish retreat has had a huge effect on the terrorists' appraisal of Europe and its place in the war. Many are now convinced that Europe can be scared off, enabling them to focus on America and then come back to mop up Europe later.

Second, I wonder whether the terrorists realize that France is their de-facto ally in the short term, in so far as France is undermining our efforts in Iraq and France is trying to push Europe away from America.

Third, are the terrorists truly able to coordinate a strategy, and are they able to deal with issues such as those raised by points one and two? There are obviously a lot of disparate groups within the Islamic terrorist movement that are hard to control, but at the same time, they can see the value of a common approach and share many of the same motivations.

I am fairly confident that if the three month deadline passes without European compliance, there will be more significant terrorist attacks in Europe. I wonder where they will be and what the European reaction will be (the latter will be largely dependent on the former).

Something everyone should read but few will
Written by: Beck

English libertarian Sean Gabb wrote a little ditty titled "The Enemy Class and How to Destroy It: A Manifesto for the Right" that is absolutely worth reading. Inasmuch as it's seven pages long, I have to imagine that few people will actually have the patience to get through the whole thing. So for the benefit of the lazy and the time constrained, I present you with a few highlights.

Essentially, he provides a roadmap for how conservatives and libertarians (who in England seem to have more in common with each other than in America) could reshape the political order in their country. The problems facing England (and America, and the entire world) are largely the result of an elite class of vested interests whose primary goal is to propagate themselves at the expense of the working masses. Gabb labels these people the Enemy Class. His definition:
What I will call the Enemy Class exists in and around the public sector. It comprises the great majority of those administrators, lawyers, experts, educators and media people whose living is connected with the State... They articulate and advance the interests of perhaps a million other people--from television producers and heads of executive agencies, down through the university lecturers and social workers and white collar bureaucrats, to the lowest grades of civil servant and local government officer. Add to the list all the racism awareness and anti-aids consultants and the workers in those non-government organizations that receive money and status from or via the State. These are the people who really govern the country. They are the ones who decide what statistics to gather and how and when to publish them. They decide what problems can be identified and what solutions can be discussed. They advise on policy and implement policy. Because of their numbers and education and beliefs, and the formal and informal bonds that hold them to each other, and because of their ability and willingness to give and withhold benefits, they set the tone of society. They can require not only external conformity to their will, but can even to some extent shape the public mind so that conformity seems right and natural. They provide the boundaries and language of debate. They define the heretics and schismatics, and arrange for them to be persecuted. They are the modern equivalent of an established church. More precisely, they are what Coleridge called the Clerisy.
He then goes on to define how it is that the Enemy Class has gone about gaining and maintaining control of society, and how they're consistently working to steer it towards a world of their liking.
They are the Enemy Class by virtue of their legitimizing ideologies. While many of these contradict each other, and while some may overlap at their fringes with positions accepted on some parts of the right, they all have in common that they are essentially ideologies of state activism. It is belief in an active, interfering state that justifies the collective power, money and status of the Enemy Class. And though some conservatives still romanticise state power, the activism we have faced for at least the past hundred years has been directed almost wholly to the destruction of both freedom and tradition. Using various justifications--national efficiency, racial hygiene, socialism, the war on drugs, environmentalism, "modernization", to name only a few--the Enemy Class has taxed and watched and controlled us. It has abolished organic, voluntary forms of association, and replaced them with bureaucratic centralism. It has obliterated old boundaries and jurisdictions. It has remodeled the currency, and is now fanatically trying to impose the metric system. At the same time, it is merging what remains of our Constitution into the unaccountable power structures of the European Union and the New World Order.
He further elaborates on how educational institutions generally and the media specifically are used as tools of control by the Enemy Class. They alone shape the dialogue, control what language can and cannot be used, and manipulate political outcomes (a long rant about the evils of the BBC follows, you can read it yourself if you're interested--it's quite entertaining).

His plan for destroying the Enemy and restoring the nation to its free and rightful ways?

I suggest that within days of coming into power [this is a hypothetical in which the Conservatives win a decisive national election], we ought to shut down large parts of the public sector. We should abolish the Foreign Office, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Department of Education and Training, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, plus whole divisions of other ministries. We should shut down most of local government--especially anything to do with child welfare, consumer protection, racial equality, and town and country planning. At the same time, we should abolish all the statutory agencies. This includes English Heritage, the Arts Council, the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Health and Safety Executive, whatever has replaced the Health Education Authority, the Serious Fraud Office, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, all the regional development councils, and all the "self-financing regulatory agencies" without exception. The fact that I have mentioned some organizations and not others does not indicate that these others are to be saved: the schedule to our Act of Abolition and Repeal should run to hundreds of pages. We should abolish functions, destroy records, sell off physical assets, and sack people by the tens of thousand. Pension rights could be respected according to law, but at least a third of government should no longer exist after our first month in power. [Emphasis mine]
He elaborates at much greater detail, all of it worth reading. One final extremely perceptive observation he makes is that the use of statistics and information, while never beneficial to the cause of freedom, consistently undermines conservative positions.
Following from this, I suggest that our government of the right should stop gathering and publishing official information. We should want no more censuses, or balance of payments statistics, or epidemiological surveys--no more government reports or future projections. Though useful to historians, none of this is essential to the sort of government we on the right wish to run; and all of it is at least potentially dangerous to that government. Information is the health of the Enemy Class. It provides the factual underpinning of its legitimizing ideologies. Much of this information is unproven or untrue--look at the claims about global warming or the harmful effects of passive smoking. Much of the rest is true in the technical sense, but is so selective and deprived of context that it does not qualify as information. Look at the statistics on drinking and driving. The dangers are exaggerated by including accidents that involve drunken pedestrians and passengers; and no comparative figures are gathered on the possibly worse effects of driving while tired or after drinking large amounts of coffee. What we have here is an example of socially constructed knowledge. It looks like neutral fact, but really exists to support some ideological bias: in this case, it exists to support an attack on the alcohol industry and to make the rest of us feel guilty about enjoying the products of that industry.
I hope this hasn't been too long for you all to digest. It's a big pill to swallow, but some times strong medicine is required for fighting dangerous diseases. On a final note, a bit of advice to Mr. Gabb, and any others thinking of making such documents in the future: Adobe Acrobat documents look pretty, but they're not at all user friendly to those wishing to cut & paste sections of documents into their own material. Very messy formatting. That is all.

Link credit to Samizdata for bringing this to my attention.

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