Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Leaks or Disinformation?

Today Tony Blankley explores whether the round of leaks in the mainstream press are true leaks by doves in the Pentagon or disinformation designed to confuse Iraqi war planners. It seems to me that a more reasonable explanation is that it is all part of a domestic propoganda campaign designed to confuse the American public as we go into the home stretch of this election cycle.

If these are truly leaks by general staff designed to influence the administration, the name for it is treason. Say what you want about self serving careerists in the ticket punching world of the Pentagon, but traitors, they're not. And, in my humble opinion, Iraqi war planners are more"with it" than most Americans when it comes to military matters and the use of power. They know their own vulnerabilities better than our war planners do, and understand the bias and agenda of the various American media outlets better than most members of the American voting public. Survival in the Byzantine world of Saddam Hussein's Iraq requires a political shrewdness that is very unusual here, since, in Iraq, if you miscalculate, you die. The fatuous have been weeded out long before today. The agenda of the NYT and WaPo is clearly one in which any lie which benefits the democrats is allowed, since they clearly believe that, while Iraq is a threat to America, republicans in power are even more dangerous.

In any case, we will know for sure in the next few months. I read somewhere today (sorry, can't remember where) that the administration has indicated to congress in no uncertain terms that there will be no October surprise. If the Administration is unable or unwilling to attack SOMEONE before November, they have a huge motive to make it look like war is imminent, in order to retain the House and regain the Senate. And if there is one thing we know about politicians, it is that they will do anything to acquire, retain, or increase their power.

In war on fat, it's the food's fault

Some extremist may be predicting the banning of beef, but today Kathleen Parker is writing about the imminent "new hefty-man lawsuit against four fast-food companies" that threatens to make a hamburger more expensive for everyone. You see, when the forces of darkness succeeded in demonizing tobacco users, making smokers the only group against whom social discrimination is socially and legally acceptable, open season was declared against any group which a) constituted a minority b)was not already "protected" by having previously being declared a "victim" by the politically correct minions of the nanny state, and c)spent an amount on their activity, product, or vice a large enough amount of money to be attractive to the plaintiffs bar. Which means, in English, scumbag lawyers who will take on any case, regardless of merit, where one third of a possible settlement or verdict would be in the millions of dollars.

I don't blame the lawyers. They are only using the system as it exists, even though they had a lot to do with the way it has become, except the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in this case were not personally responsible for the tort system in this country. The system is the way it is because the American people like it this way, and are the only people in the world who would stand for it. Spill coffee on yourself, and McDonald's owes you two million dollars. Worse, the stupid woman who spilled the coffee on herself becomes a hero to those who still have to work (yes, incredibly, the woman who won this lawsuit retired. She felt wealthy, not disabled. By the time of trial, she had made a 100% recovery. Since lotto winners spend a lot on lotto tickets, I wonder, does this woman spend a lot of time, well, spilling a lot of stuff on herself, hoping to "win" again?)

In 1609, the earliest settlers on this continent were growing and exporting tobacco, and by 1620 the government in England had warned the public that tobacco use was harmful to one's health, and indeed could kill you. 378 years later, juries started awarding cash to "victims" who were "fooled" by tobacco companies into smoking the dangerous weed. (don't get me started. I have triaged tobacco away, anyway, as has the tobacco industry, who settled their lawsuit) Then hot coffee was declared to be dangerous to the tune of millions of dollars to a single woman, who spilled it upon herself. As a coffee drinker, my quality of life has been adversely affected by this debacle, since I can not purchase truly hot coffee anymore. Sunny side up eggs and rare hamburgers have similarly been banned by the thought police, although I admit I could go home and cook them myself. So far....

And now fast food. In these pages I have already noted that beef may be the next target of the politically correct thought police. Being on a low carbohydrate diet gets me some very funny looks when I order at restaurants already. Now, I am no shrinking violet, and funny looks will not deter me from eating unpopular health food. but there is a real threat to me, and anyone else who pursues politically unpopular foods. Where does this madness stop? Because I am white, jewish, and of comfortable means I don't qualify as a victim, although all three categories constitute minorities. Yet women, maybe the only true majority (well, Christians also), have managed to acquire victim status. Why aren't smokers considered a victim class? Who is making these rules?

Me, I am waiting for disposable diaper users to be declared the next pariah group... Naaaah, Never happen. Women like disposable diapers. Less work for mother. Maybe women who wear lipstick and heels will be made the outcast group. Put them on an island. I'll go with them.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Security or Power Grab?

I am proud to note that Phyllis Schlafly has gone on record as being just as alarmed about the intentions of the government to restrict our freedoms in the wake of 9/11 as I am. She sums it up:
Some people seem to think it's acceptable to profile the bank accounts of law-abiding citizens, but not acceptable to profile Middle Eastern Muslim aliens who might hijack an airplane. Americans must not allow the 9/11 terrorists to turn America into a police state. The job of the federal government is to stop suspicious people at the border.
I could not have said it better myself. Just in case you missed it, Ms. Schlafly is one of the most accomplished women of her generation. Her bio says it all, but Anne Coulter says it better.

Monday, July 29, 2002


A good friend of mine, a philosophy professor, and I just had an argument about what is wrong with the world. As usual, I found him unbelievably dense, if not dumb, as I seem to find much liberal thought. But this is a really bright guy. He's not dumb. I'm not evil. But, in the heat of argument, he seems to think I am. He says that I want my children to breathe filth. I say that he wants to render our country into poverty. Today, we can't agree upon -- beef.

He says that beef contains too many bacteria. I say that humans are a carrion eating species, and I like my beef well aged and tender. He says that I want to kill the children, I say let them pay for quality, or eat rice. If Ralph Nader's beef standards are instituted, they won't have any choice. Today, they have the choice. In fact, they have more choices than any children in history. I say that excessive regulation only serves to raise the price of beef, and will only drive the children to a bread and water diet. And I'm the elitist? He says that people like me should pay extra so that the children of the less fortunate can enjoy more beef. I say that there is nothing wrong with the beef supply, that new regulations are not needed. He says that one thousand people die from tainted food every year. I say that if they die from food bought in an American supermarket, they were about to die from something else anyway.

This debate goes to the heart of what freedom means. This is the essence of our national debate. The divide between socialism and barbarism. My friend is no socialist, but an entrepreneur (there isn't enough money in philosophy to make it as a full time gig, and support his lifestyle). I am no barbarian (if you don't read my email). Neither of us wants to see anyone die of food poisoning. But I favor freedom in the way he favors safety. He would have everyone with a sufficiently large income to pay for everyone to be completely safe. I think he's innumerate. The cost of such safety would be enormous. If we made my friend king, even he would have to make tradeoffs between cost and safety.

Beef is on my mind these days because I am on a low carbohydrate diet. Meat and cheese make up almost my entire menu these days. Rib eye steak runs about $8 per pound, and I don't want to pay $10 or $15. Carbohydrates are cheap, but if I ate more of them my cholesterol would go up to where it was before I got on this diet. (that's another subject... My friend wants to make my entire diet illegal, but then he wants to ratify Kyoto, and... that's another subject.) But this little colloquy shows part of the reason why we can't all just get along. We humans are incredibly opinionated, which means that we magnify our differences when we argue. But this is marginal subject matter. The debate is given great weight when the single issue people get into it. The meat packers, farmers, retailers, and others have huge amounts of money riding on the fine print in any new regulation scheme that affects their businesses. The public advocacy groups have their leaders' (and staff's) careers dependent for their very survival on pushing new regulations and showing a victory against the evil, greedy purveyors of poison. Both sides hire lobbyists and lawyers to cajole and sue and generally make a big fuss over the beef issue. Of course there are ordinary Americans who are energized by the beef debate, but they are few: most people find many issues to be of greater importance. But, whatever side we take, the other side is suspicious of our motives. Do I wish to sacrifice the lives of my children in pursuit of cheaper food for myself? Does a mother of small children desire to extort money from me in order to eat higher up on the food chain at my expense?

I may plead the case vociferously, but I know in my heart that market forces will not solve all the problems of mankind. I (try to) believe that my friend would balk at a proposal to regulate the contents of human mother's milk. In the heat of the moment, it doesn't sound that way. But the heat from my barbeque is calling me, we'll talk more on this later.

T.I.P.S. Tabled

1984 has been postponed, at least for a while. Just between you and me, it's not coming back. There is a backlash coming against giving up freedom, at least until the government shows that it can accomplish something beyond searching grandmothers while allowing Egyptian males unmolested access to aircraft.

Anything that Dick Armey and Nat Hentoff can agree upon meets the very definition of wide appeal across the political spectrum, but what happened to the middle? The moderates, centrists, and mainstream writers all seemed to give a big fat yawn to the idea of establishing a Stasi-like arrangement of spies within the land of the free and the home of the brave has disconcerted (scroll down to last entry) me since I heard about it. Even though moderates are, in my opinion, people without serious political convictions, they do make up the majority of voters. That's why our last presidential race ended in a statistical tie, with the margin of victory within the rounding error.

The founders of this great nation were gravely worried that the vast middle would trade away its freedoms for a little more safety, but usually our extremists, plus our spirited national debate, have (so far) preserved our Union, at least insofar as the fact that this is STILL the greatest nation on the planet, as well as the best place to live and bring up a family. Most citizens have their hearts in the right place. The greatest threat to our way of life is the political class. ironically, they are our only hope. we have given them the ultimate power over us. It is up to us to show them the boundaries, the forbidden zones that they dare not enter. While a vast majority seemed acquiescent to T.I.P.S., the far left and the far right (and I include Glenn here) made enough noise to get their attention. Hay, vigilance is the cost of freedom and all that.

Osama Dead?

The lead says it all:

Osama bin Laden's eldest son, Saad, has taken over as leader of al Qaida, the suspected terrorist network, according to the London-based Arabic daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat.
If the guy's son is taking over, just how alive could Osama be? Those of us who have been saying this since about New Years are starting to look just a little bit vindicated.

Saturday, July 27, 2002

Truth and Islamic Culture

The western mind, or the mind of a person brought up in one of the democracies of Western Europe and North America, is formed in culture that reveres life above all, and truth not far behind. I've got a western mind, and the preservation of life, mine and others, is my primary consideration in a tight spot. Truth is, to me, an absolute requirement of civilized discourse, even though truth can be hard to find, sometimes hard to recognize when it's staring you in the face. Freedom is maybe the third most important to at least this western mind. In my country, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have been declared to be the highest goals to aspire to.

The Islamic mind, or the mind on a person brought up in one of the predominately Muslim societies, is formed in a culture where the primary consideration is submission, of giving one's self up entirely to the will of God. My understanding of this in not academic, for I have lived among them for long periods of time. I have spent many hours in debate with Muslim friends and acquaintences over the question of the difference in our priorities. Against my love of life, the Muslim will place several considerations above it, as we have seen so much in recent months. To die in the service of honor, God, family, or country is a higher aspiration than successfully raising a family. Death is preferable to shame or dishonor. This may sound noble, but what westerner would rather die than be laughed at?

In war, a western soldier will fight to survive, and to keep the guy next to him alive. In islamic warfare, the fighters want only to kill, and death in this pursuit is considered the highest possible outcome. The Islamic concept subordinates the individual to the nation totally. Life, liberty, and happiness are optional, and maybe not even desirable.

Truth, to the Islamic mind, is a tool to be used, a frangible substance that can be used as a weapon against those who can be made to believe. This was stated beautifully be former Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak (the one who offerred Arafat an almost total capitulation to Palestinian demands and was rebuffed) when he said:
"Palestinians have no compunction about telling lies and see truth as irrelevant They are products of a culture in which to tell a lie... creates no dissonance," Mr Barak says. "They don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judaeo-Christian culture." "Truth is seen as an irrelevant category," he says."There is only that which serves your purpose and that which doesn't. They see themselves as emissaries of a national movement for whom everything is permissible. There is no such thing as 'the truth'."
They have a different sense of honor as well. In Afghan society the greatest champions of their national sport, Buzkashi, won by cheating, which is considered more praiseworthy than merely being the best. I could not find a suitabl link for this contention, but, believe me, I have attended at least a dozen games, and, in a game apparently without rules, the sneakiest moves are cheered the loudest, and the story of their national hero, whose name escapes me, revolves around his winning of the once a year Royal Buzkashi by violating the two rules that the game does have. He was also a lone rider in a team sport. I repeat, this is their national hero. My western mind found this very hard to understand at first. But I came to understand the Afghan ways, and to this day Afghanistan and its people are very dear to my heart. In the 1970's, this Jew found many friends among the Afghans, and Afghanistan is considered the most devout of Muslim countries. I cry for the children of Afghanistan, and pray that their condition improves, and am proud that it is my country that is trying to help.

But the Afghans are not out to kill me. The Arabs are. They laugh at the way we, and I include the people of Israel, believe their bald lies, their profession of a desire for peace, when anyone can see that they want only death, first to their enemies, and then themselves, if need be, to accomplish their aims. Their willingness to sacrifice does not make them more noble, only more dangerous. They exploit the cultural differences between us to destroy us. We allow dissidents among us to hold publicly funded professorships, while their dissidents are shot down and dragged through the streets. That's why the friendly fire casualties over Shehada's death are cause for deep soul searching amongst the Jewish people worldwide, while the Arabs gloat with joy over the dissonance caused in the camp of their enemy, achieved with the unimportant lives of a few of their replaceable children (their sentiment, not mine!).

For those who want to study the culture of our enemy, I found a great resource at Philosophy in Wartime,a great reading list of online source materials. Unfornately, I get a lot of my sources from books and personal experiences, both of which are very hard to link to. If you like to read books, I highly recommend The Dream Palace Of The Arabs, by Fouad Ajami, and anything by Bernard Lewis.

Friday, July 26, 2002

Zero Base Baseball!

Proof that Zero Base Thinking brings results that go against the common knowledge, a mathmatician has analyzed various batting order combinations, and, out of the 360,000(!) possible lineups of the 9 players, found that having the team slugger bat 2nd, and the weakest hitter bat 7th or 8th instead of 9th could be worth 10 more wins per season!

I wonder how long it will take for a major league manager to put this math to the test? Don't be surprised if it never happens. (How can a geek ever know baseball better that a baseball professional?) Hidebound thinking is one of the hallmarks of people with power. I would expect that years of positive results in the minors will precede any move to test this out in the majors. Still, with all of the pressure to win, you never know. I'll be watching.

Link via Paul Hsieh at Geek Press. Scroll down to Monday. Read as you go. Enjoy!

Daschle a Hypocrite?

The Times today has an article on that paragon of virtue, Tom Daschle, who was apparently dicsovered to have slipped into a spending bill a provision that would exempt his state of South Dakota from environmental regulations, for the purpose of allowing the Forest Service to make the forests safer from fire, while being safe from a lawsuit from the environmental groups that use lawsuits like I use toothpaste.

Isn't this just typical? Let the 49 other states burn, continue to receive all of that Sierra Club money, but buy some votes for his re-election. He got caught this time. That doesn't happen often, and no Senator deserves it more than little Tommy.

Link via JSPS. Blogger archives seem to be messed up again, so scroll down. Better yet, read the rest of John's fine blog.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Moral Equivalence

There's been a little storm over on Bill Quick's Daily Pundit over the friendly fire casualties in Israel. When the USA targeted a bunker in Baghdad that killed hundreds of families, and Saddam wasn't even there, there was no outrage over it that was anything like this. Why the huge furor overa dozen innocents that get in the way of a war? I deplore the killing of anyone, even my enemies. But if you are about to murder me or mine, say hello to Allah. What bothers me more than that are the vicious lies, that acquire currency with repetition, which are promulgated by the enemy

Arabs, like leftist extremists, have little respect for truth. They prefer feelings and attitude to truth. Truth can be so inconvenient. The Geneva Convention, International Law, and U.N. Resolution 242 EXPLICITLY allow for almost everything Israel has done. The settlements are in a grey area of these rules of international conduct. I wouldn't like anyone to confiscate my land. But is this really the issue here? Not a single acre was confiscated until the Arabs, in violation of the U.N. decided to finish the job Hitler had failed at, in 1948. My parents were Zionists, and assure me that they bought every scrap of land, and fully intended and expected (the fools!) that they could live in peace with Muslims, who historically had been a haven of relative refuge in a world where killing jewish children was a common (European) diversion. Once the Jewish State was declared, however, the Mufti in Jerusalem and others evacuated their own people in preparation for a war of annihilation. Those Arabs who did not obey orders to leave are the only non-immigrant Arabs in the world today who are citizens of a free and democratic state. I defy anyone to show differently.

Some may feel lucky to have this opportunity to be able to pursue an agenda that continues this historic, thousands of years old effort to destroy the Hebrew race. They may even not be in touch with the origins of these feelings, deep within their own souls. Maybe even God is still out there making my people suffer. But Western people, who should know better, are beneath contempt when that see an equivalence between targeting innocent children on their way to school, with the death of children that a man who is guilty of horrendous acts deliberately places in the line of fire.

To join in the discussion, as I did, click on over to Daily Pundit

Where Is Al Qaeda?

What has happened to the thousands of killers bent on murdering Americans? I normally distrust, if not outright disregard, statements put out by bureaucrats, because their agenda, justifying their own existence, CYA, runs so strongly in anything they say or do. But I just finished reading a book, Inside Al Qaeda, by Rohan Gunaratna, which is widely considered to be authoritative, about the details of the organization behind 911, The Cole, Khobar Towers, Beirut, and many other bombings and terror attacks worldwide. It reveals a network of organizations that just boggles the mind. The sheer number of murderers, would-be murderers, and sychophantic followers is enormous. Why have they been unable to complete even one itty bitty attack here in the last 10 months?

If you're waiting for the answer, I don't have one. I have ideas, but the idea that the FBI, CIA, and the rest of American alphabetland have become, all of a sudden, competent, seems ridiculous, given their past, keystone kops, antics. I'll never forget the video of the Reagan assasination attack, where the secret service agent didn't even know how to deploy the Uzi he was carrying. So competence is out as an explanation, at least for me. That leaves incompetence. Not ours, but theirs.

Without resorting to stereotyping the enemy, is it possible that these massive efforts to disrupt a technological state are simply beyond their ability? Could Ashcroft's approach (arrest 'em all, let God sort 'em out) have stilted their C&C (command & control) apparatus sufficiently to hobble them? Surely so, at least for a while. But as we have seen in Israel lately, while killing and bottling up their leaders slows things down a bit but, like any criminal organization, there are always others waiting in the wings ta assume the mantle of power. Maybe not people as talented as the ones they are replacing, but talented enough to pull triggers, give orders, and get a decentralized network to function somewhat.

Clearly some combination of the above, plus European alphabet people, Interpol, plus Israeli Shin Bet and Mossad intelligence, are keeping the enemy off balance. They also want to make their next attack a really big show, which is more difficult by an order of magnitude than getting a single lunatic to light his shoes on fire, and doubly so when the fuses refuse to light due to incompetence in shoe-bomb assembly. But I wouldn't write them off. What they lack in competence, they make up for in numbers and the sheer level of hatred they have for us.

And we need to give ourselves a little bit of credit. Osama(RIP) and his goons were too successful for their own good when the WTC collapsed. They awakened a sleeping giant: the American People. We know that they are out there. We know that we can't rely on the police anymore. We now take direct action. We keep our eyes open, We are no longer afraid to speak up when we see something that looks wrong. We don't need a T.I.P.S. bureaucracy to organize us. The enemy is disorganized, our defense must be similar. Everywhere. Vigilant. Ubiquitous. We don't dare to call 911 and wait for the nanny state to take care of us.

This is where America is so great. We should all be so proud. The last 30 years were a peaceful time. We thought, some of us, that history itself had been repealed. We know better now. What is ours, is ours again.

But, if you want to sleep soundly, or enjoy your next vacation, don't read that book!

Jim Traficant Expelled

It's clear to my readers that I don't care if they expel the whole house. The corruption, venality, and selfishness exhibited by congressmen, except a very few, mostly rookies, is unlimited by normal human rules of shame and conscience. So I will not for a second argue that Jim traficant is innocent of all charges, or that jail is not a place where he will fit in. But there is an element of his criminal case that is shown in the vote to expel him, that I find chilling.

I followed his case all along, and here's my distillation of what really happened: He, as a maverick democrat who actually voted his conscience, made few friends on the hill. But he did put his name on some significant pieces of legislation, the effect of which was to make the IRS and the FBI look bad. The language he had inserted into a tax bill virtually eliminated the practice of the IRS taking away homes from suspected tax cheats, and he was instrumental in strengthening our right against self-incrimination viv-a-vis the tax man. (to me, these had been two of the few bright spots I have ever seen coming out of Washington) Also, he humiliated the FBI in his previous trial, where he won acquittal. (the feds see ANY acquittal as a humiliation. The fact that he was also a high profile congressman only made it worse.)

Six of the key witnesses against him would be in jail today were it not for their testimony against him. That's how the feds operate. You can see it in all their cases. They buy testimony; their currency is freedom from prison. You can see it in yesterday's Adelphia case, or ANY other. They always grab some peripheral players, say, the guy's secretary. then they threaten her with an indictment that carries a maximum sentence of 97 years. Can you trust her testimony to be the truth? I don't know about you, but if the feds grabbed me and threatened me with never seeing my family again without bars between us, I'd be willing to testify that the Pope raped my children, or whatever other script they put in front of me, to make the nightmare go away. Look deep inside yourself before you judge this statement. Would you lie, especially if you thought that the guy was probably guilty anyway, to preserve your way of life, or that of your children? Would you lie to save your country?

I am not defending him. He's probably guilty anyway. But then, look at last night's vote. Only 1 vote in his favor. All he was asking for was to wait until his appeal in September. Certainly many of those votes were made on the merits. But do you think that it's possible that some of those paragons of virtue voted against him due to their fear of the IRS, or the FBI? Call me crazy (join the mainstream) but I think that the Congress was blackmailed into this massive repudiation of one of its own. I fear for my country. Things may be worse than even I thought.

I am an optimist. Things might get incrementally better. This is still the best nation on Earth. But in the corridors and anterooms of power, truth and justice seem to have no place. And the rest of us, the little people, are the bright hope, the real power behind the powerful. If we ever awaken, we could turn these frightened bozos out of office anytime we want. Now, where can we find suitable replacements for them....

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

They Really Don't Get It

This morning, in the little local paper on my little island in the Pacific Northwest there is an article on why "toll roads are inevitable." They go on to describe the reasons why the state does not have the money to "maintain and expand" the roads in the state. While this is unbelievable on its face, there was a credulous acceptance of this "fact." The entire puff piece was credulous. but what got my goat this morning was their insistence that, "certainly within ten years," when every car has a GPS transceiver in it that deducts tolls, their only conception of "fairness" was class warfare based, designed to make "the rich" pay more than their full share. They plan to continue their social engineering program with HIGHWAY TOLLS! "The Rich", and the routes they travel, must pay the highest tolls. And no debate will be considered. Well, not yet, and not by them. But others will consider, and debate, and attend meetings, because freedom is breaking out all over, in my opinion. I may be a skeptic, but I'm still an optimist.

Why is it that the intelligentsia of this nation will not accept that we all make choices in this life, and they all have, or should have, a cost. Anything free, or subsidized, will become scarce. The law of supply and demand is stronger than the second law of thermodynamics. All planetary water shortages will disappear when everyone must pay the real cost of water. All electricity shortages will disappear when we all have to pay the full cost of electricity. And all highway shortages will disappear when we all have to face the actual cost of our roadways. Traffic will disappear: poof!

Stop laughing, and I'll convince you (if you are logically deficient enough to be laughing in the first place!). Right now, the cost of highways is borne by: 1)The gasoline tax. this is levied on each gallon of fuel sold for highway use. In the federal system, the congress, as usual, steals the money for parks, railroad stations, and anything else any congressman needs to ensure his re-election. I have even heard that the reason that this theft is a good thing is that, get this, if they spent the entire gas tax on road construction and road maintenance, the ARE NOT ENOUGH BULLDOZERS AND DUMP TRUCKS IN THE WORLD to accomplish that amount of work! I kid you not. I don't write material that good. They have the right to steal it, because we lack the means to spend the money ourselves! How about knocking off, say, a nickel a gallon, especially when we have price spikes that can and do cause hardship. But Nooooo! There is now a railroad museum in Sen. Robert Byrd's state of West Virginia that no one (almost) ever visits because it's so far in the boonies, that was paid for entirely with your gasoline tax (stolen) money. According to this morning's article, the state fuel tax money goes entirely to road building and maintenance. Just for the sake of facilitating this argument, I'll allow that this is true.

So they hide the cost in the gasoline price, which we pay so eagerly that the feds get to steal some of the money, and we make hardly a peep. But that cost is transparent compared to the bigger cost which is almost entirely hidden, which is: 2) lost productivity due to traffic slowdowns. When you sit waiting in traffic, or the toll booth line, you are a pure consumer. (You might accomplish something by being on the phone, but that is a relatively recent option, and the same batty legislators are trying their damnedest to make that illegal as well). You are not at work, or even at your daughter's soccer practice. If you are exempt from hourly, your company pays you for doing nothing. If your pay is based in any form on performance, you don't get to perform. And then there is all of that gasoline that you waste right up the pipe. These costs can be estimated (pretty accurately, according to the statisticians), and the amounts are staggering.

Now, for the magic solution to all of these problems. Since we are all getting GPS transceivers anyway, why not merely charge us for what we consume? What a concept! Cars pay a rate optimized for weight, (which relates directly to roadway wear and tear) and pay that rate for every mile travelled. Pay a higher rate for the more desirable time slot. Maybe a different rate for bridges, tunnels, or any stretch of roadway that either carries a higher deterioration and maintenance rate, or is more desirable from a time to destination basis. What do you thing would happen? That's right; gasoline goes down to a dollar, tolls become a significant cost of driving, and everyone will tailor their driving habits to their pocketbook. That's called choice. That's called freedom. Freedom to do whatever you want on our nation's highways. In a hurry? Take the short cut. It is not gonna be crowded, because most people go the other, cheaper way. The toll on that stretch could be adjusted to discourage enough motorists to balance traffic flow. Or build another couple of lanes. If that's what people want, they will pay. If not, not. Trust me. That's how it works. In New York City, the free bridges are far less convenient than the toll bridges and tunnels, yet get plenty of traffic. And the city always cries the poor mouth when the subject of the need for any improvement comes up. No money available, yet the bridges are free of tolls.

Why is this such a controversial, a radical idea? Beats me. I can see where some might say that we need to give "the poor" a lower rate. I disagree, but I'm considered a whacko right wing looney by those who give their lives to public service. (Did I get that wrong? Does the public serve them?) Do the poor live relatively further from their places of employment than the rich (anyone making over @230.00 per week)? If so, isn't that a choice they made? they could move, or they could seek their low paying employment closer to home. Or maybe even (horrors) strive for a higher income! Take some classes. Take in a roommate.

Phase the program in over a few years to allow everyone to get used to it, and you're all done.

Of course, there will always be certain places where the organic traffic flow is too great for any reasonable engineered improvement. In those cases, it may take many years for traffic levels to go down, and traffic jams may persist for years. Or maybe the local people may decide, for their own reasons, that thay don't want to build more lanes or raise any tolls. That's freedom also, for they would have decided for themselves to put up with traffic jams. But my point is, that if we are getting the technology for the perfect solution anyway, and the professionals in this business have already spent a fortune studying and discussing this problem, why is there no official discussion of an alternative to business as usual. It will come, but, in a world where charging for two airline seats that a person will use both of, is controversial, paying for one's use of the public highways is dangerously radical, indeed.

Whew! This solving the problems of the world is tiring stuff. especially with these tight deadlines. And this is only one, little bitty problem we solved today. Gotta go. Sorry about no links, I just don't have the time right now to find and code all that stuff. If you want more of this, email me.

Dean's World Redux

The post below this maybe was sent in a little bit of haste. I wrote my comments after reading just one post off an archive reached off of a link. Subsequently, I visited his main blog. This will not be much of a retraction, but I will say this much: the type of liberal thought that I so detest, is mostly missing from this self-described "liberal" site. The guy thinks for himself, and doesn't seem to be much of a lefty looney, as I first thought. To atone for my sin, I'll blogroll him, until he pisses me off with lefty garbage (like I did to Flit), then he's toast. While I recommend and practice reading the writings of the enemy, on this page, I only offer righty garbage, (since I'm a libertarian looney myself).
I was just over at Dean's World, a liberal world where, it seemed that there might just be a bit of balance. Then he started defining all ideas as "new," and the post degraded after that. I just had to leave my droppings there, and I quote them in their entirety for those of you who will never get through his long post to get to my comments:
You liberals really do think that all good ideas are new? And republican ideas are new too? Well here's a shot of reality for you: the very basis of the conservative movement is to bring back the good old days, when a man could stand on his own two feet, and could shoot a burglar or an alligator who entered his home to do mischief.

The problem with you progressives is that you don't realize that, in the words of Khan; "it's surprising how little man himself has changed." Power still corrupts everyone. Show me ANY congressman (sorry, congressperson) running for re-election to his third term who has even a shred of the ideals left that spurred his (oops, I guess you politically correct types would prefer that I write here, incorrectly to a wordsmith like myself, their) first decision to enter public service.

The bald truth is that, humans are very much still like the Elk: those who acquire the power still want to keep all of the women (er, I dunno, women mostly don't seem to want harems of men. Help me out, what am I supposed to say here to make this statement gender-neutral?) and eat the best food, live in the biggest house, etc. Look what happened to the communists (and, for that matter: every single utopian community ever created, after the idealistic founders aged and the younger generation took over, failed).

So go on and pursue your "new" ideas. The 1960's are far behind us. The old reactionary right (like me) have a few decades to go, at least. Look at how even Europe in tending further and further to the right. There is more power in freedom than there is in an endless posting of "new" rules, new laws, new restrictions on our liberty. In fact, what really "new" idea has the left ever floated? It's mostly repackaged old trash, on both sides. The difference is, our trash smells better.

Judging by the dearth of hate mail, my guess is that few lefties visit here. I imagine that few of us visit them as well. This is a mistake. One needs to understand the other side even better than one knows one's own.

So click on over, and leave some droppings of your own. I am sure that Dean will appreciate the traffic.

Chaim Potok 1929-2002

Death celebrates life. All of us share it. Hopefully, not too soon. Some add to the common experience more than others, Chaim's death sent me climbing through my library, where I found a copy of The Chosen to add to the little pile of books I need to read. Sorry, but his History of the Jews will have to wait for quieter times for me.

As one of my teachers, Miss Mereson, once said of my work, searching for a reason to give me a decent grade, "there's not much here, but what you have is good." Chaim Potok was not prolific, but what he had was good, indeed. And it's all still here, waiting to enrich us.

Obituary ... Biography ... Link via Amygdala

Wall Street

I can't keep away from this story. The impending tragedy in Washington that will make things really tense on Wall Street and everywhere else is just dominating my thoughts. And now Paul Craig Roberts has a column out today that just sums the situation up perfectly. It smells right to me. Government had no small part to play in the downturn in the capital markets that is occurring right now.

If you are not familiar with Roberts, maybe you should check out his biography before you read the article. This guy knows his stuff. At least, as well as any economist knows anything. Since the experts seem to know nothing (whoever does know about capital markets has too much money to be writing a column) I figure that my opinion is a likely to be as right as any expert's, but to see a heavyweight like John Paul Roberts seeing this thing pretty much the same way I do makes it all the more frightening.

He starts this column with:
While Washington fuels -- and the media fans -- a fiery corporate witch hunt, the economy and investing public burn.

The witch hunt permits government to sate, temporarily, its greed for power under the guise of "reform." The media is the only financial winner: scandal coverage boosts ratings and advertising revenue.

Did you know that the current accounting scandals have their origin in government rules? The public needs to know the real cause of the scandals before Washington inflicts yet more damage on our institutions.

I hate to be discouraging, but if Paul and I are right, things will get a lot worse before thay get, inevitably, better.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Bush's Stasi

So it seems that, once again, I am in the distinct minority on my fears for the diminution of our cherished freedoms. That's the problem with Zero Base Thinking. When one thinks for oneself, one will always come out against the common knowledge, which is almost always wrong, by the way.

Zero Base Thinking in anything but cynicism. It's not even contrarianism, although it leads one to contrarian conclusions most of the time. Zero Base Thinking is a mindset without mental cliches, (although I use literary cliches). It is merely a system of thinking for one's self, with a skeptical eye to anything called "fact." Many, if not all "facts," are lies. Ditto statistics, times nine. Everyone, including me, has a bone to pick, an agenda to promote, beliefs that, we would feel better, if they were shared. I learned critical thinking in my high school debate team. I can argue most anything either round or flat. That helped a lot in my business career. But here, now, only my vanity is on the line. I can only argue the truth these days. Whether you believe me or not. Even if I'm wrong (it's possible), I need to cut through the lies and the bullshit. And there is no greater bullshit lie in the world today than that we need to fight terrorists with American spies in the Midwest. The fight is in the Middle East. Here, we have enough police forces to enforce laws against pot smoking, speeding, and sex acts between consenting adults. If we have enough police agents to arrest Hugh Grant for getting a blow job, why do we need millions of spies to find men with guns and bombs? Here's a fact for you: There has been not a single terrorist attack in the USA since 911. Our police have been totally successful at stopping terrorism in this country. Why do we need to emuate a police state now?

Thank God for George Bush. He's not Al Gore. He didn't need to study what to do on the 12th of September. No blue ribbon commissions. No breast beating over "cowardly criminals." No cruise missiles. No high altitude strikes. No plausible deniability. WAR. TERRORISTS. EVIL. He had all the words. Fought the good fight. He even had the courage to do the right thing by Israel.

What happened to him? Why can't he veto anything? Why can't he lead anymore? This snitch program is not the first boneheaded idea he's gone along with. The education bill he signed is shameful; no other conservative in history would have signed it. He's about to criminalize and regulate Wall Street, whose biggest problem, from a conservative point of view, is over regulation. And he's the Conservative Hero? Just remember, the last running conservative, serving liberal president, was Richard Nixon. The last republican president to abandon first principles, and lose his base and his job as a result, was Bush Senior.

Maybe he has a secret plan to end the war. Just like these two predecessors, maybe he will just declare victory and end the war. Then we won't need millions of secret, amateur spies. But he'd better act fast. T.I.P.S. begins next month.

More Options

I received a bit of email regarding my ignorance in accounting and economics by some people with greater expertise than I. I think that they missed my point.

I am not an accountant, but I have issued and exercised options. We were printing money. The public supplied the cash. The cost to the corp was negligible: one of printing and administrative. And this was in the 80's before the exuberant 90's and the tech bubble, or whatever it was that just happened. In those olden days, if the corp performed, the stock rose and options were exercised. If not, not. I do appreciate the technical points my readers made, but the point of my post was that, from an amateur's perspective, and lawmakers are nothing if not credulous amateurs when it comes to business, the importance of expensing out of options is a POLITICAL issue. Economists can argue the merits all they want, but the result of such debate will only acquire the force of law if congressmen and senators find an issue that will enhance their re-election chances.

For a truly cogent explanation of what is going on in Washington today on these matters, Jack Kemp captures the gist of it in a column out today.

Saturday, July 20, 2002

A Nation of Snitches?

Now we can see more than a few opinion pieces decrying the new TIPS bureaucracy. here and here and here. These are the same people, some of them, that called me hysterical for noting the erosion of our essential freedoms in previous government responses to 911. While I hate to use "slippery slope" arguments, the one that is always true is that one about power corrupting absolutely. Also instructive is that the giving of an inch usually costs a mile.

What were the people thinking when they acquiesced to the previous incursions. First the airport shuffle. the effective suspension of "the great writ." A slew of unanimous Senate decisions. Who is really surprised, now that Bush and Co. are implementing a plan that would make the STASI proud? Not me. I don't even blame Bush. The American People have demanded, in almost unanimous numbers, that their rights and freedoms be lifted, and demanded only the slightent incremental safety in return. There are dozens of cliches and bons mot for this situation, but I'll just go for the old Ben Franklin line about those who would trade freedom for safety deserve neither. I'll skip the nasty ones about easy women, but the truth remains: when one gives up something really, easily, with no resistance, one should not be surprised when unexpected orifices are penetrated.

Not unexpected to me. If Bush & Co. are not stopped on TIPS (which goes into effect, in a 10 city test, next month), we can expect something even more extreme. Otherwise intelligent men can get really stupid when presented with a partner so compliant that she seems, not only willing, but excitedly eager to pursue activities that one has only fantasized about. The American people have seemed very eager for a proper rogering, and the administration fully expects us to wholeheartedly embrace this, as well as their next plan for taking power out of our hands and into their own. It is the nature of the beast. When one devotes one's life to "public service," subtle changes take place within the brain. At the earliest levels these changes manifest themselves as a need to expand the budget, as can be seen in not almost every, but every single bureau department head. Then, as the career progresses, larger responsibilities are granted along with better sounding jobs. One can go from, say, heading a little oil company to running a big baseball team, then a really big State, and before you know it, leader of the "free" world. Bush and Ashcroft are no better than Clinton and Reno, except that we are now living in more dangerous times.

Any bureaucrat would do the same things, given that the American people have granted them seemingly unlimited leeway. No man's character survives re-election, well, almost none. Some, like John Kasich, resign before they lose themselves in the 24/7 power grab called national political office. He's a mensch. But the Senate, the House, and the White House are filled with venal, small souls who actually believe that they are better than us, and that the old rules don't really apply to them. They know what is good for us, since we are too stupid to manage our own affairs. Now they are implementing, not debating, not considering, not planning, but implementing a new bureaucracy that seeks to empower MILLIONS of fellow citizens with the ability to make your life miserable. Don't you think that this power will result in some of these cable guys and meter readers to abuse their power? To put you down on the "suspicious" list for some imagined sleight, like failing to be polite enough or (horrors) failing to give a big enough tip.

Am I being hysterical? Again? First they came for airline passengers, Then they came for Jose Padilla. Now they are coming for YOU.

Drug War Lite

I have previously (July 10th below) blogged my feelings on the drug War, but this item is genuinely hilarious. It seems that in Malaysia, where they execute druggies, the poor dope fiends have found that they can get high by sniffing cow dung! And get this: the really, really big problem for them is not that cow shit is poisonous, or that users might die, but "[W]e are worried as this method means addicts can get high for free."

A Freudian slip or what? The prohibitionists themselves admit that their real agenda is merely to increase the price! Public safety, and public health, are seemingly secondary to this central concept that feeling good must be made to be expensive. In this singular moment of clarity, the truth stands revealed.

Friday, July 19, 2002

Stock Options

On Bill Quick's fine Daily Pundit, I posted the following: The question of expensing out the granting of options is an arcane accounting consideration. The real-world truth is that the cost of options granted is borne by all stockholders in proportion to their holdings. It is not, in any real sense, a cost to the corporation. While the value of one's stock is theoretically diluted by the issuance of additional shares, stock price is of no effect to the (revenue vs. expenses) performance of a company.

The steamroller crashing through Congress today, while threatening to criminalize more elements of corporate behavior, is also making a mockery of the work of specialists and experts, who have derived and written the rules and laws that govern corporate behavior over the past many decades. The idea that 97 Senators, falling over each other to avoid being seen as pro-business, would be very funny if it were not so tragic. Those whose understanding of the capitalist system is cursory believe that money and profit are a zero-sum game. That is, one's gain must reflect another's loss. This is not even remotely true. It comes from the liberal impulse to lead with one's feelings, rather than taking time out to think things through. When the stock price rises, no one loses, all stockholders gain (except speculators in the options markets, perhaps). The reverse is true for share price declines.

The granting of stock options may, indeed, make money for the recipient. This is not, however, a cost to the corporation. It is a cost to the stockholders. Granting a tax-deductible expense to a corporation for the granting op such options makes no sense, from any perspective, except perhaps an emotional one that can be used by those who want to whip up a frenzy against "corporate greed" amongst those who will not take the time, or don't have the inclination, to understand the issues involved.

For those who will smirk and see this change as effectively a tax reduction for corporations, you should realize that the entire corporate tax paid is actually LESS THAN THE COMPLIANCE COST! In other words, the expense of the lawyers and accountants who seek to reduce the amount of corporate tax paid is GREATER than the actual tax.

Thursday, July 18, 2002


Dennis Prager has an article out today in which he laments the state of race relations today. Like many liberals and ex-liberals, his righteous feelings about equality of the races blind him to his own racism.

A little history: Back in the 1950's, there were indeed serious problems in the way race relations were handled in this country. I remember, in 1957, while my family was visiting Washington, DC, a sign at a public restroom read: NO dogs, NO niggers, NO jews. At least it didn't refer to us as kikes. I'll never forget that sign. In our nations capital, no less. Something had to be done. The civil rights movement began to pick up steam. With great leaders like M.L.King and Malcolm X, the blacks demanded equality of opportunity. King saw a future America that would be color blind. Malcolm saw a proud people which would keep its pride in a separate society within the larger nation. Pride and equality were the goals.

Then, in the 1960's, as much progress was being made, Black Muslim fanatics gunned Malcolm down, and white fanatics did the same to King. A great people no longer had great leaders. Those who took their place were more concerned with power and money than pride and equality. Things began to go downhill. Affirmative action and diversity were the new goals. Integration became a tool of oppression.

How's that? Well, when Leroy and Shakira are told that they can not possibly get a good education unless they were in the same classroom with Brent and Buffy, what does that do to the pride a black child should feel for his or her people? If "separate cannot be equal" is a true statement, what does that say about black intelligence? If blacks must be hired and promoted based on their skin color rather than their ability, is that empowerment? Or is this a statement that institutionalizes black inferiority. Nixon (and Prager) agreed to foist affirmative action on the American people due to their own blindness to their own racism. Many now see their mistake. Integration and affirmative action only make sense if one believes that blacks are inherently inferior to whites. For whites, this is merely a manifestation of their own, hidden, racism. They'll get over it. To blacks, this is a tragedy.

What happened? Jesse Jackson, Julian Bond, Al Sharpton, and a host of other race racketeers, that's what. Self promoters who live large, who require that the black race in America be marginalized, have feasted on the feelings of inferiority that integration and affirmative action have foisted on a generation of black children. They have developed a huge amount of political power that, I submit, is used today to continue to oppress their own people. With the black vote a monolithic block for the Democrats, there is no reason for the Democrats to do anything to empower the blacks. When has a Democrat administration given cabinet positions that are other than tokens to blacks? The Republicans, with no hope, it seems, of ever getting substantial black votes, give position to blacks for merit (there can be no other reason, as Bush got less that a tenth of the black vote in 2000). That's why Bush's foreign policy team is dominated by blacks (Powell as Secretary of State, Rice as National Security Advisor), while Clinton, the "First Black President," gave them token positions in the less important cabinet positions (Espy at Agriculture, Herman at Labor, and Brown at Commerce).

Why don't blacks use their political power to help themselves? Are they really better served by racial extortion rackets like the "diversity" industry than school vouchers? When Jesse Jackson and Alexis Herman shake down corporate America (One of Jackson's specialties the last decade or so has been threatening boycotts of major corporations unless they show their appreciation for diversity -- by hiring Miss Herman as a consultant. So Alexis Herman raked in bucks as a ``monitor'' of quota ``covenants'' between Jackson and companies like Burger King and Coca-Cola), are the few jobs that result worth more than a good education for everyone? Maybe not, but it sure does help them make their mortgage payments. Mfume, Bond, and Sharpton live pretty good, as well. These people rely upon the Democrat Party to continue with these failed policies, fuelled by white liberal guilt over their own racism, so they continue to demagogue and try to destroy their own nascent awakening. There are plenty of blacks today who are willing to nurture equality of opportunity, knowing that to have equailty one must give up some of their hard-won entitlement. Leaders like Clarence Thomas and Ward Connerly; commentators like Tom Sowell, Walter Williams, and Ken Hamblin, regularly have their character assasinated by the black and liberal establishments.

Without great leaders, great changes cannot be wrought. With otherwise brilliant and well-meaning men like Dennis Prager actually believing that "integration" is the answer for the blacks (Prager himself does not believe that his own people, the jews, should be "integrated" within the larger white society), and Ward Connerly being widely demonized by black opinion leaders for his stand that blacks are inherently equal, the prospects for King's dream coming true, any time soon, are bleak. But I have hope. The young generation, in recent polling, sees its problems as less the result of white racism than their elders do. With public opinion coming around, I hope that a colorblind society is possible within my lifetime.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Talk Turkey

The independent secular democracy spanning the Bosporous is more and more in the news these days. This is nothing new, for Turkey, for many reasons, is a very important geopolitical link between East and West. Its principle city, Istanbul, ancient Constantinople, capital of the Ottoman Empire, is actually two cities: Is, which is in Europe, and Stamboul, which is in Asia. But it is a crucial link for far more reasons than its mere geography.

Historically the Ottoman Empire was the last gasp of Islam's greatness. Istanbul was the seat of the Caliphate, and it is the dream of OBL and his followers to revive the Caliph, i.e., a single ruler over the entire Islamic world. But the Turks willingly gave up the Caliphate, and the reasons for it are crucial to one's understanding of what is about to happen in that part of the world.

At the end of the Great War in 1918, the Ottoman Empire, which had the terrible misfortune to be on the losing side in that conflict, was dismembered by the victorious countries, otherwise referred to as the "Colonial Powers." Britain and France took especially large chunks of it in the Middle East and North Africa, but that is a story for another day. How Turkey, and the Turkish people handled this period of their history is very instructive if one is to understand what is about to happen in the region.

Basically, the new leader, Kemal Ataturk, wanted to start with a new slate. He, and his people (most of them) realized that they needed a big change, that this world domination thing had not worked out so well for them, as their Empire had been in decline for centuries (ever since, in the mid-17th century, Caliph Suleyman the Great had failed to take Vienna, things had been going downhill for them.). Seeing that Imperial aspirations were more of a problem than they were worth, further pretense to empire was expressly renounced. Since empire and domination of other nations are central tenets of Islam, they went secular. Not only did they remove religion from government, they even went so far as to make the wearing of traditional clothing a crime! In modern Turkey, it is rare to see anyone wearing a fez, let alone a turban. They even use toilet paper.

When you read that they are "the only Islamic country in the coalition," you must realize that, while they may look Islamic to us, based upon their demographics, the Islamic world doesn't see them that way. While the American people mostly eschew the lessons of history, the Islamic world does not. Indeed, they largely live in the past, and many of their aspirations revolve around repeating the past. Turkey, as a secular state, does not satisfy our enemies as an Islamic State. However, Islam is its own nation, therefore geography and nationalism have a different meaning to them than they have to Western sensibilities.

So when I read in today's Washington Times that: "Turkey is a lone example of what the Islamic world could yet with luck become", I see a basic disconnect between the Eastern and Western mentality. We see a secular future for the Muslims. Like we did the Soviets, we want to make them more like us, so they don't want to kill us any more. But the Russians had a long history of wanting to become more western. Islamists see secularization as destruction. To their mindset, when we say that we want them to become more modern, like Turkey, they hear our call for their termination.

Islam means total submission (to God). Read their book. The Koran is a rulebook and a guidebook. The point is to dominate the world. what can't be dominated must be destroyed. The "moderates," as told in Friday's New York Times say: "Well, of course I hate you because you are Christian, but that doesn't mean I want to kill you."

At the dawn of the last millenium, we fought a defensive war against Islam, a war we eventually lost. ( The Crusades). We may be, at the dawn of this millenium, be about to do the whole thing again. Let's hope that we win it this time.

Monday, July 15, 2002

An Open Letter in Support of the People of Iran from the Weblogging Community

(As seen on Random Jottings)

We are not politicians, nor are we generals. We hold no power to dispatch diplomats to negotiate; we can send no troops to defend those who choose to risk their lives in the cause of freedom.

What power we have is in our words, and in our thoughts. And it is that strength which we offer to the people of Iran on this day.

Across the diverse and often contentious world of weblogs, each of us has chosen to put aside our differences and come together today to declare our unanimity on the following simple principles:

*That the people of Iran are allies of free men and women everywhere in the world, and deserve to live under a government of their own choosing, which respects their own personal liberties

*That the current Iranian regime has failed to create a free and prosperous society, and attempts to mask its own failures by repression and tyranny

We do not presume to know what is best for the people of Iran; but we are firm in our conviction that the policies of the current government stand in the way of the Iranians ability to make those choices for themselves.

And so we urge our own governments to turn their attention to Iran. The leaders and diplomats of the world's democracies must be clear in their opposition to the repressive actions of the current Iranian regime, but even more importantly, must be clear in their support for the aspirations of the Iranian people.

And to the people of Iran, we say: You are not alone. We see your demonstrations in the streets; we hear of your newspapers falling to censorship; and we watch with anticipation as you join the community of the Internet in greater and greater numbers. Our hopes are with you in your struggle for freedom. We cannot and will not presume to tell you the correct path to freedom; that is for you to choose. But we look forward to the day when we can welcome your nation into the community of free societies of the world, for we know with deepest certainty that such a day will come.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Security or Boondoggle?

I really want to believe that President Bush is that rarest of flowers, a politician with a conscience. A man who will act with moral clarity, not just make morally clear speeches, while pursuimg the same ol' politics as usual. Then along came his plan for Homeland Security. No FBI. No CIA. And now the Congress gets its mitts on the idea. According to Reuters Still, the basic thrust of the plan remains untouched: To implement the biggest government overhaul in a half century to better coordinate defenses against terrorism, but then they reveal that the Coast Guard and FEMA have been stripped out of the deal. So how exactly are we to defend ourselves without the Coast Guard or any other armed service? And FEMA? The Federal Emergency Management Agency is the federal unit tasked with, among other things, managing our internal response to any attack upon this country by weapons of mass destruction.

So what exactly is the Department of Homeland Security going to do? Under Bush's plan, the new agency would have nearly 170,000 employees and a first-year budget of $38 billion. That's what they are going to do. What a disgrace. A cat with no claws, rounded fangs, but a really big budget. A cynic would say that this is a boondoggle; just a scheme to increase the money and personnel in the executive branch. But I'm not a cynic. I'm a skeptic. Things might be improved in Armey's committee. The whole house may set things aright. Bush might threaten a veto.

I'm still a skeptic.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

War On What?

First we had the war on poverty. Then we had the war on drugs. Now we have the war on terror. We can expect similar results with the new war as we have seen with the previous "wars".

The simple fact is that our government works primarily through a system known as "single interest politics". This is a system where, in order to advance their "single interest" legislators (and lobbyists) recruit support from others who have a different single interest, and assemble a coalition to pass the target legislation. The one single interest that almost all legislators share is their own reelection, with the additional need, common to all bureaucrats, to increase their power and therefore their budget.

For example, take the drug war. There are a few puritans who can't stand the idea that someone, somewhere is having a good time.(sorry Puritans. I believe that there are religious people who call themselves Puritans who are wonderful people, but the name of their movement has come to mean, well, people who can't stand the idea that someone, somewhere is having a good time.) There is another group who honestly feel that drugs are harmful, and we need to be protected from exposing ourselves to drugs by the threat of imprisonment. These forces alone, however, do not constitute a majority of legislators. Why would African Americans agree to continue such a powerful tool of oppression against their community? Rep. Charlie Rangel is on record as saying that drugs constitute "genocide" against his people. He can't possibly believe this, however. Most studies show that under legal "harm reduction" schemes the deleterious effects of drug abuse can be mitigated far beyond the wonderful sequelae of incarceration of massive numbers of his constituents. He is against repeal of anything that would reduce the profit margins of the drug trade(this point is not debatable, but his reasons for doing so might be), which is the largest income generator in his district. So he is squarely on the side of the puritans. Similarly, other groups with a single interest in maintaining prohibition are police, prosecutors, prison guards, and communities surrounding prisons, all of whom profit from current law, and would lose substantially under repeal. So they side with the puritans as well.

For another example, take the war on poverty. Nobody wants anyone to live in poverty. Lyndon Johnson passed the raft of legislation that is now called "the war on poverty" through blackmail (now referred to as "arm twisting"), as the recently released tapes show. No congressman could reasonably expect to be reelected if he is shown to be against poor people having enough to eat. Those who would have taken a principled stand in favor of teaching the poor to fish were stampeded into supporting the world's largest fish give away. Yet poverty continues, even if the bureaucracy needs to periodically move the bar by increasing the amount an American family can earn while still being declared poor.

For another example, take the "violence against women act". Please. Who can fail to take a stand against violence against women. Even though everyone knows that violence against women is already illegal. Assault and murder have been against every legal code since before Hammaurabi. (the ten commandments came along much later). Yet those who would make more laws, thereby increasing the power of the government into the area of thought crimes (usually called hate crimes) make common cause with women's groups without any showing that such law would make the safety of women any more secure. Their safety isn't even a significant part of the debate. There is no rational reason why a man who harms a woman because she cheated on him should get more jail time than a man who harmed her during a robbery, so such legislation gets enacted for irrational, i.e. emotional, reasons.

And now here comes the war on terror. Who is not against terror? Who can stand in the way of the juggernaut? But does terror require the suspense on the constitution? The rights of the accused are there for a very good reason. The more power the police get, the more they abuse that power. Yet the plan currently on the table even includes the suspension of the freedom of information act, as well as the protections afforded to whistleblowers. How do these suspensions enhance our security? And what use is a "Homeland Security" agency that does not include the FBI or the CIA.

The constitution grants to Congress the right to declare war. They have refused to do so in the present circumstance. When the executive declares war without the authority such a declaration, and the Congress goes along implicitly, history shows that, while the bureaucracy grows, and the authority of the executive is increased, the safety of the citizens is not enhanced. One definition of insanity has been defined as the predilection to repeat behavior already known to have no good or positive results. It is also a definition of addiction. If we are, as a nation, addicted to pursuing undeclared wars rather than seeking specific means to combat certain threats, we need treatment. But, I'm afraid that this nation will seek treatment only after getting just one more shot. Let's just hope that this shot of "homeland security" does not hurt us too badly.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Is the Oil Running Out?

According to the World Wildlife Fund The world's ticking timebomb Earth 'will expire by 2050'.(as previewed in the Observer). While this has been disproven time and time again, based upon the additional resources people add to the equation, new science shows that, in the case of petroleum at least, we will never run out.

Economocs tells us that oil will never run out anyway, but the price can be expected to rise. As the price of petroleum rises, more reserves will come on line. For instance, oil shale deposits that are known today can provide enough oil for the next 500 years, but at a higher production cost. But new discoveries in the science of hydrocarbons show that there is an unlimited supply of high quality oil avilable, just a little deeper down. pdf or html

It seems that oil is not a "fossil fuel" at all. Hydrocarbons are one of the most abundant substances in the universe. 90 per cent of Jupiter, for instance, is fuel. There is an entire class of asteroids that are made of hydrocarbons. And today, an oil field in Kuwait is being observed to be refilling itself from below.

Sorry, doomsday people. If your political agenda is to weaken and impoverish the West, neither fantasies of global warming of resource depletion will be enough to ensure your victory. Now, if you guys could come up with something that was actually true....

Scanners mistake chocolate for bombs

Just another example of government's desire to legislate everything. It's no joke that they would legislate the weather if they thought that they could get away with it. In this case, they passed a law that said that ALL baggage would be checked, by the end of the year. While they have already realized that they can't meet the deadline, the simple fact is that it is impossible to check ALL baggage while retaining air travel as a viable means of transportation.

Why can't we just emulate those (Israel) who have been successful at stopping hijackers by attempting to catch the terrorist instead of the weapon. Like all gun laws, regulating the weapon does nothing to stop the crime. Just as laws against drugs don't stop (or, apparently, slow) drug use. Laws against murder don't stop murderers. Laws are only a means society uses to punish lawbreakers after thay have committed their crime. Stopping acts before they are committed requires demotivating the actor, not his tools. Laws are a poor vehicle to accomplish this. People's attitudes might, but the profound mistrust (contempt?) that our government has for its citizens make this approach unlikely to take hold with the regulators. As recent history shows, the way to stop terror is for the citizens themselves to take matters in their own hands. (shoe bomber, Flight 93)

Sorry to tell you this people, but the idiot proof society is not here yet. In the meantime it is up to us to make our world a little safer. While the FBI is waiting to amass enough evidence to be sure of a conviction at trial, any whacko can shoot up an air terminal, or blow up his shoes, unless we citizens step up to the plate and take a swing.

Friday, July 05, 2002

Clash of Civilizations

(the following is a comment I made to a post on little green footballs and I post it here as well)

We are seeing a great clash of civilizations, all right, but not a biblical one just yet. The jihadis need a leader who reflects their values. OBL fit their needs, but I'm afraid that he's in heaven now with Moe. Neither Saddam or Arafat are believers in the eyes of the islamists that are our principal enemy. Only a true believer will satisfy their need for a holy war to be waged by a holy man.

Watch out, however, for the appearance of an individual who takes upon himself the mantle of Saladin. He may be referred to as a Mahdi or, in loose translation, a messiah or prophet. Such a leader who makes a deal with Saddam or other dictator to act as the great general of islamic forces could create a horrendous amount of trouble for the entire world.

Remember that the enemy is fundamentalism, and I surely include our own home-grown Christian fundamentalists, who also believe in, and want to see the coming of, a new messiah or rapture or armageddon. It takes two to organize a proper dance, and the fact that Bush is a born-again bible thumper himself makes only the identity of his opposite number a mystery. When we know his name, things will start to get VERY interesting.