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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, February 28, 2011

EGYPTIAN NEWS UPDATE

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

Revolutions are funny things. Consider the perception of revolution on the left and on the right. The left tends to romanticize revolution and embrace it as a wonderful means of achieving victory and justice. They often idealize the concept as a golden era of achievement and equalizing unfair circumstances, of the oppressed overthrowing the oppressor, and of the weak being empowered.

Meanwhile the right tends to be suspicious of revolutions. Almost none end well for the people involved, often ending up with a situation as bad or worse than the one it replaced. The litany of miserable, horrific revolutions is long and well known with examples such as China, Cuba, Russia, Vietnam, and France. Eventually, with enough time, France ended up being better off, but not from revolution as the root cause.

Conservatives by nature are happy to see people longing to and reaching out to embrace liberty, but fear that quick change rarely works and that the people who are great at leading revolution are rarely good at running a country when they've won. So while the left was overjoyed watching the Egyptian people rise up and fight for liberty, the right was more cautious in its praise.

The legacy media tended to brush over, ignore, or downplay the bad side of events, and leftist leaders tended to treat real concerns with a shrug, even to the point of President Obama's intelligence chief claiming that the Islamic Brotherhood is mostly secular in its outlook and non violent. He later claimed he hadn't studied the data and got his ideas from watching TV reports of Egypt.

Conservative pundits and writers spoke of hopes that Egypt would be truly free and not taken over by radical Islam like Iran before it - a country which was quite similar in situation to Egypt and whose revolution had much the same character. The left mocks this and acts like the right doesn't care for democracy and change, being so very conservative.

Now that Hosni Mubarak is out of power and the army is in charge, the press has largely moved on to other areas, such as Libya. What is happening in Egypt these days? Here's a few stories to give some impressions.

First we learn that the Muslim forces and even the ruling Army are attacking Coptic Christians. This is nothing new, as the Copts have dealt with anger, hate, and violence for centuries in Egypt:
For the second time in as many days, Egyptian armed force stormed the 5th century old St. Bishoy monastery in Wadi el-Natroun, 110 kilometers from Cairo. Live ammunition was fired, wounding two monks and six Coptic monastery workers. Several sources confirmed the army's use of RPG ammunition. Four people have been arrested including three monks and a Coptic lawyer who was at the monastery investigating yesterday's army attack.

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

"When we tried to address them, the army fired live bullets, wounding Father Feltaows in the leg and Father Barnabas in the abdomen," said Monk Ava Bishoy. "Six Coptic workers in the monastery were also injured, some with serious injuries to the chest."

The injured were rushed to the nearby Sadat Hospital, the ones in serious condition were transferred to the Anglo-Egyptian Hospital in Cairo.

Father Hemanot Ava Bishoy said the army fired live ammunition and RPGs continuously for 30 minutes, which hit part of the ancient fence inside the monastery. "The army was shocked to see the monks standing there praying 'Lord have mercy' without running away. This is what really upset them," he said. "As the soldiers were demolishing the gate and the fence they were chanting 'Allahu Akbar' and 'Victory, Victory'."

He also added that the army prevented the monastery's car from taking the injured to hospital.
This is just one such example. During the rioting and revolt, some Muslims took advantage of the chaos to loot, attack, and kill Coptic Christians and their places of worship.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Army is not putting up with any dissent. Egyptians took to the streets again, trying to pressure the interim government to guarantee the liberties they revolted for to begin with. The military responded:
But by early Saturday, the military made it clear there would be limits to further dissent as soldiers and plainclothes security officers moved into the square, beating protesters and tearing down their tents, witnesses said.

In a day that had begun with equal parts carnival and anti-government demonstration, protesters’ called for the quick cancellation of the Emergency Law, which for three decades has allowed detentions without trial, and the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force general appointed by Mr. Mubarak days before he stepped down.
...
Salma Said was asleep in a tent when it began to fall down on top of her. Outside people were screaming, and she emerged to see people being beaten by soldiers and armed plainclothes security officers wearing masks.

“They had their faces covered like criminals,” she said, “They only showed their eyes.”

“One of the officers threatened to shoot us and said he was going to set our tent on fire,” she said.
The military tried to stay neutral earlier, but now they are in power, they aren't putting up with any disagreement.

Sunni cleric Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi was exiled by the Mubarak regime for being too inflammatory, anti-Semetic, and radical. He has returned, and is no more moderate than before. Meanwhile, common TV interviewee and "face of the new Egypt," Google employee Wael Ghonim tried to speak about a moderate, modern Egypt and was kept off the stage by al-Qaradwi's security forces.

Some fear that Qaradawi is Egypt's Khomeni, who took over Iran and turned it to radical Islam. The problem, as renowned and respected Middle East Historian Bernard Lewis explains:
Lewis, 94, set out his thinking on the current Middle East ferment in a conversation with me before an invited audience at the home of the US Ambassador to Israel, James Cunningham, a few days ago. Excerpts:

Does the current wave of protest in the region indicate that, in fact, the Arab masses do want democracy? And is that what we’re going to see unfolding now?

The Arab masses certainly want change. And they want improvement. But when you say do they want democracy, that’s a more difficult question to answer. What does “democracy” mean? It’s a word that’s used with very different meanings, even in different parts of the Western world. And it’s a political concept that has no history, no record whatever in the Arab, Islamic world.
...
This happened again and again and again. You win an election because an election is forced on the country. But it is seen as a one-way street. Most of the countries in the region are not yet ready for elections.

Yet in Egypt now, for example, the assumption is that we’re proceeding toward elections in September and that seems to be what the West is inclined to encourage.

I would view that with mistrust and apprehension. If there’s a genuinely free election – assuming that such a thing could happen – the religious parties have an immediate advantage. First, they have a network of communication through the preacher and the mosque which no other political tendency can hope to equal. Second, they use familiar language. The language of Western democracy is for the most part newly translated and not intelligible to the great masses.

In genuinely fair and free elections, [the Muslim parties] are very likely to win and I think that would be a disaster. A much better course would be a gradual development of democracy, not through general elections, but rather through local self-governing institutions. For that, there is a real tradition in the region.
President Bush pushed hard for democracy and freedom for the people of the middle east, believing that if they were truly free, then the radical segments of Islam would lose their power and influence and the problem of terrorism could be done away with from within. This was part of his three-pronged doctrine: destroy the ability of terrorists to wage global war, intimidate their supporters into backing off, and democratize the hotbeds of terrorism from within.

However, the Bush era programs and efforts were either ended or slashed in spending once President Obama took office, leaving them unable to continue working and the revolutions to take place without assistance and guidance from nations who do have such a history and concept in them. It isn't that these areas cannot be free or self-governed, its that they aren't ready yet and need help achieving that. Without that assistance, they all too easily will fall into the very familiar pattern of another strong man, another tyrant, but this time a Muslim one.

For the pattern of how this works out, consider the palestinian settlements, where when Hamas took power the people were told that they were Muslim but would let people live as they wished. Now, that has changed, and Hamas is beating and imprisoning people who dare vary from their idea of Muslim life. Even if they started out honestly meaning not to do this, their radical faith requires it, in the end.

GAS PAINS RETURN

"People are going to be spending more on gas than they are on groceries, and that's not a sustainable choice."

Not so long ago, when gas was pushing $5.00 a gallon in the United States, it was the number one news story in both the old and new media. Every day you'd get another report on how high gas is going, what could be done, how it hurts people, what its doing to other prices, what happens next, how it got there, and so on. Some pundits were predicting six, even seven dollars a gallon by this year.

But then, that was when the president was Republican and his name was Bush. As gas prices continue to rise over the last year, the news stories are scant, and the human interest "here's how high gas prices hurt this family" stories are nowhere to be seen. In fact, its difficult to find a story about gas prices going up at all, let alone how those rising prices are impacting the price of food and other goods as a result.

As revolution and unrest spreads in the Middle East and Northern Africa, that uncertainty is causing gas prices to rise even more. Speculators who invest in gas futures are calculating that these troubles will cause gas prices to rise, and the price for crude has pushed over $100 a barrel for the first time since those high gas prices during the Bush administration. The more this unrest spreads, the more gas prices are expected to rise, pushing the price per gallon higher.

Already there are reports out of Libya that Khadaffi has started sabotaging oil facilities and gas lines, and Libya's primary export (other than terror and weapons) is oil. The present average price of gasoline in the United States is just over $3.00 a gallon, rising thirty cents in the last four months, according to the Department of Energy.

Gas prices over the last 30 months
Reporting again is on predictions based on unrest in the Middle East, not on how it impacts regular citizens in the United States. These are dry analytical pieces in the money section of the news, not breathless stories with human interest angles on the front page.

Why the difference? Well the main one is obvious: the legacy media has an ally in the White House and Democrats controlling half of congress. Reporting on high gas prices and economic damage is useful for damaging their political opponents but not useful when their friends are in power. Getting people too upset about gas prices will make these allies look bad.

Another reason is less obvious. The last time gas prices rose too high, President Bush signed an executive order letting oil companies start drilling around America, and congress started work on unblocking some oil fields around the nation.

President Obama did the opposite. One of the first things he did upon taking office was reverse President Bush's executive order, blocking that drilling again. Obama's administration also blocked all drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and continues to enforce that ban, in defiance of a court ruling that noted he lacked the authority to do so.

When running for the presidency, Barack Obama was asked about the high gas prices he responded that he'd have prefered they went up more gradually. Obama's energy secretary said "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe" ($7-$9 a gallon) not long before he was chosen by the president for that office. For President Obama, there's no reason to dislike gas prices going up, just not as fast as they did because it caused problems for people's earning power. He wants fuel prices to rise, just not so rapidly. His energy secretary by policy wants higher gas prices.

As president Clinton's head of the Energy Information Administration said, "There's no way we can create a better future without the price of [fossil-fuel-based] energy going up." Why? Not only will it make people drive less, but it will drive all energy prices up so high that inefficient and poor alternatives become less excessively costly by comparison.

The left sees gas as a problem which they want to see people move away from and high prices can do that. They want to see alternative energy such as wind and solar which cannot sustain the nation's industry and infrastructure, let alone its population, and people will not change their lives unless forced by painfully high fuel and energy prices.

So for the press, high gas prices isn't in its self a bad thing, in fact, it will help move people away from driving so much and besides nobody drives in Manhattan anyway. So, like economic tough times, they'll report a bit on it, but not so much as to actually harm political allies.

*This was originally posted on the Washington Examiner Opinion Zone blog.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


This is a picture of my mom (second from the left) and her sisters, in the early 1940's. My grandpa was sometimes really grumpy and I can see why after years of trying to chase all the boys away.

Quotes of the Day

“If you would understand what communism was, you would pray on your knees that we would someday be communist.”
-Jane Fonda

“Thank God for communism! They say communism may spread all over the world. I say, so what?”
-Charlie Chaplin

Friday, February 25, 2011

WORD AROUND THE NET

"Those of us in the private sector don't have to worry about our jobs annually like teachers do. We have to worry about them daily."

Pooh Movie
New Zealand was rocked by a 6.3 earthquake, centered on the port town of Lyttleton. The quake was close to the surface and has caused widespread devestation, particularly as it was so close to Christchurch, the capitol and largest city in New Zealand. Power outages, collapsed buildings, massive waves, and more have resulted in thousands without homes at least 65 deaths. World relief efforts are already underway. In the midst of our political struggles, every once in a while God reminds us that there are more important things to consider.

The same legislator who wants to ban children in trailers behind bicycles in Oregon has other ideas as well. For example, he offers up House Bill 2233 which would outlaw cigarettes and cigars unless a doctor prescribes them (and levies a $6,000 fine and a year in jail for possessing an illegal cigar). House Bill 2644 would put a sin tax on soda pop to help pay for health care costs that drinking them allegedly incur. Representative Greenlick, the author of these bills, is a Democrat from Portland, Oregon, something the article linked fails to note.

Seattle's public school system set up a fund to encourage minorities and women compete for government contracts (how that has anything to do with education is anybody's guess). The program was run by Silas Potter, who has resigned because of an investigation into the fund. It turns out that this fellow was directing funds to friends who didn't even provide the services they contracted for, costing the city $1.8 million dollars.

Treasury Secretary Geithner admitted to the Senate Budgetary Committee recently that the budget President Obama submitted to congress was "unsustainable." Here's the exchange with Senator Sessions (R-AL):
Let's talk about our interest situation under your budget. The interest increases every year. It was $187 billion in 2009. Under your proposal, the interest increases to $844 billion. And would you not agree that that's a stunning figure, perhaps the fastest growing item in the budget? And all of that is a direct result of the debt we're running up, and only a modest expectation of interest rate increases."

GEITHNER: Senator, absolutely. It is an excessively high interest burden. It's unsustainable.
Sessions characterized the budget as "a plan not for 'winning the future,' but losing the future."

Disney is working on another Winnie The Pooh animated feature, but this one is back to Christopher Robin the boy rather than Darby the girl, who apparently has been ret-conned out of the entire continuity as an apparent mistake. This will be the first full motion picture release of a Winnie The Pooh story in 33 years rather than a straight-to-video computer animation special, and it features background art very reminiscent of the original E.E. Milne illustrations (although the character art is all strictly Disney). A bit of trivia: "Winnie Ther Pooh" is actually a nickname, his actual name is Edward Bear (and, according to the book, he's supposed to have a gruff voice, being a bear and all).

One of the favorite leftist talking points when taxes come up is to cry "Clinton raised taxes and we got a surplus!" Putting aside how the budget which resulted in these surpluses was forced upon Clinton by the Republican-controlled congress after multiple attempts, Dan Mitchell has a fact- and chart- filled post at Big Government explaining how it was not the tax increases which resulted in better government revenues at all. It was, he shows, the tech bubble, the balanced budget, and significantly less spending compared to tax revenues that did it. I'd suggest that before anyone calls for Clinton-era taxes, we dial back the federal government to Clinton-era spending, at the very least.

While the legacy media is gleefully emphasizing and replaying the prank phone call by scumbag journalist Ian Murphy, they seem to have almost totally ignored a congressman calling for bloody conflict by union workers, as Scott Whitlock points out at Newsbusters. I'm sure it was a harmless oversight.

President Obama has directed his Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court cases. Effectively this means the United States government has decided to stop enforcing a federal law, because as Attorney General Holder puts it:
As described more fully below, the President and I have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny and that, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under state law, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.
Personally I think the DOMA is questionable constitutionally, and if the executive department has a valid, good faith conviction that a law is unconstitutional, then they have a duty to not enforce it as part of the concept of checks and balances. Others disagree with my idea of Republicanism here, though and I think they make good arguments.

Providence, Rhode Island has fired every single teacher in the school district. The theory is that their contract was unsustainable, that there are too many poor teachers, and that this allows rehiring with pay and benefits that are more reasonable while winnowing out teachers who don't do the job well, which the union previously had made very challenging, to say the least. Like most states, Rhode Island is heavily in debt, and the school district is $40 million in the red.

*UPDATE: From Right Wing News we get this sadly predictable story. Three months ago, the "Eco-Ark Classroom" was opened in northern London. It was specially designed to capture solar energy and run on renewable resources, it was cutting edge "green" technology which was to show the way to the future, built of renwable, recycled, and "sustainable" materials. And it was just shut down. Why? The solar panels can only run a few lights, and the room is freezing cold. If only Al Gore had been right and it was going to get warmer, maybe this would have worked. Charlotte Linacre, Campaign Manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, quipped "All this will teach kids is how poorly planned and costly local authorities projects can be." That and how lacking and incompetent the "green industry" concept is.

And that's the Word Around the Net for February 25, 2011.

OBAMA'S RELUCTANCE

"But I also want to make clear that we -- our thoughts and prayers are with the families of victims in Libya."
-Obama Press Secretary Carney

Obama Votes Present
In the last month or so, the Middle East and North Africa have been torn by revolt and unrest as the people of nations long held by tyrants have had enough and want change. This has been driven by a wide variety of factors, such as President Bush's attempts to spread Democracy in the region, hunger brought about by foolish biofuels initiatives, and greater information available to the people in these areas through the internet. All through these revolts, going back as far as last year's failed rebellion in Iran, President Obama has failed to really step up and take a strong stance in favor of the people.

It is true that he's made a few speeches of general well wishing and desire that violence stop and people not get hurt, but there's been no leadership from the president. It isn't that the administration does nothing, and recently press secretary Carney stated that they are weighing all options for how to respond to these events, which of course includes "do nothing." Yet even in this announcement, the administration seems vague and uncertain:
You have a policy for if this were to happen in Jordan, if this were to happen in Saudi Arabia, if this were to happen in Morocco? You have plans for all of these different countries?

CARNEY: I'm not sure what you mean by "plans."

A strong stance of support for democracy and for the people seeking freedom could have made a difference, and having the United States stand for freedom as a shining city on the hill like Reagan describe it would have helped the perception of the country worldwide.


When Khadaffi, known terrorism monger and brutal tyrant who is shooting and bombing his own people to retain power, faces ouster, President Obama gave a statement of tepid support for the people and never named Khadaffi once. His press secretary claimed that despite so much time going by and so much blood from murdered protesters on the streets of Libya, the president was having scheduling conflicts and couldn't quite fit in a statement about the situation, much less support for the slain seekers of liberty.

So why didn't the president do more? Why is he so reluctant to condemn tyrants and stand for liberty, why can't he bring himself to actually state the name of these men and criticize their treatment of the people? I can't read President Obama's mind, and he's never sat down and explained it, but I think I know based on his other statements, background, and ideology.

The first reason is that President Obama believes that America is not and should not be a world leader. As an academic leftist, he believes that it is arrogant of America to stand up and try to show the world what things should and could be like, and that America is no better than any other nation, perhaps worse. If America is the shining light on the hill, that means other nations are not, and this is unacceptable to the multiculturalist and cultural relativist.

Second, President Obama is no leader. He's simply not able and skilled at standing up and taking a position of leadership to guide others and show the way. His preferred style is to motivate others to do the job instead, to manipulate and use others to accomplish goals, and taking a clear, bold stance of leadership is simply not a part of the man. Unable to manipulate and use people overseas, that means he's incapable of doing anything but make a speech.

Third, President Obama is a politician foremost, and that means he wants to benefit from good things but not suffer when they go bad. That means not taking a risk, and standing up publicly and boldly for liberty is a risk. If it fails, he looks like he failed; people might, and probably would, associate his attempt to lead and encourage with success or failure. So he gives tepid support and thus cannot be associated with failure, but can claim his speeches brought about change (or, more properly, his supporters and staff can).

Fourth and most significantly is his basic foreign policy position. President Obama believes that the reason Muslims and most of the Middle East are so very upset at America and burn flags, shout hatred, and even attack the US through terrorism is because of our actions. Had the US not interfered in the area, had not upset the Muslim population, and had not taken actions that upset them, well they'd be fine with us, even friendly; so goes the theory at least.

So President Obama doesn't want to do anything to rile up the Middle East, he doesn't want to give the appearance of interfering with the people and especially leaders there. If we can just stop meddling and causing trouble there - oppressing the minority "other" in these lands, the academics say - then eventually they'll stop hating us and we can all get along and sing Kum Ba Ya in a group hug.

So that's what we end up with: a leftist president in the leading nation on earth, the world's only real superpower and bastion of liberty, standing back and making minor statements barely supporting desperate crowds seeking basic human rights and liberties which the left claims to cherish and defend above all else.

*UPDATE: I forgot one major contributing factor to the Obama administration's slow and tepid response to middle east turmoil. President Obama is one of the most egotistical, arrogant men on the planet, and for him nearly every single thing that happens is about him. Remember during the Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, when he complained that this was interfering with his agenda? That's what these events do; they get in the way of what he really wants to be doing, they interfere with his carefully planned sequence of government activity.

A CERTAIN FAILURE TO LEAD

"I'll wager any complaining school board official will be a registered Republican."

Dr's Note
When it was revealed that doctors from the University of Wisconsin, were going to teacher protests and offering to write up notes for the protesters, the initial response of the left was to claim it was a right-wing lie. In time, everyone began to realize these events were real, driven by the fact that teachers could not take the time off to protest or go on strike by contract unless they were given a physician's note explaining medical reasons for their absence.

It appears that the University is going to investigate these doctors, but since they are all faculty and leadership at the university it isn't clear that anything will come of the efforts. As Ford Vox writes at the Atlantic in a piece otherwise breathlessly supportive of the unions:
After viewing the videos at my request last night, Dr. Arthur Derse called me up exclaiming, "Holy mackerel! It's much worse than it looked in the paper. I'm stunned, absolutely stunned." Dr. Derse is the Director of Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities a the Medical College of Wisconsin. "When all's said and done, it's really the profession of medicine that has the black eye in this case," he says.

There is no question these doctors are masking political opinion in the white coat of the medical profession, Dr. Derse believes. "The videos are pretty damning."
Yet this problem goes beyond the medical profession. Certainly doctors look pretty bad here, as these were clearly willing to lie and distort their profession, violating ethics if it benefits their politics, but they are not alone here.

Teachers are showing little ethical backbone as well. How often has a teacher had to question or deny a child's note from a doctor when its plainly false? How many times have teachers had a fake note handed to them and had to call the student on it? What is their language, what do they tell the student then? Its bad to lie, you shouldn't try to defraud the system, this hurts people who really are sick, its bad for you to miss school. Yet what have these teachers just done, except exactly what they condemn students for trying and teach them not to do? What example are these teachers setting for their students, except that its right to lie if you think you'll gain by it?

Education, we're told, is critical for students, that the future of the nation and our world rests in the hands of students who must have the best. Teachers should be paid more because of the immense burden they carry, and how important it is for them to educate these young minds for our future. Its all for the children, we're told. Yet what have these teachers done by taking off time from school merely to advance their political cause?

I understand these teachers are upset that they have to take an effective pay cut by paying into their pensions and health care when it was previously free. I get that they're afraid this is an attempt to break their union, or as Ford Vox puts it:
Fears over becoming hostage to soaring health insurance premiums has Wisconsin's teachers and other public employees protesting in downtown Madison for the second week running. It's a very real threat to their economic stability, one they'll be ill-equipped to tackle without the unionizing rights proposed legislation would deny them.
The fact that this legislation does nothing to damage unions or attack their rights is irrelevant, that's what the fear is, that's what the unions are telling them. So I understand their fears and what motivated them.

The question I have is what are they teaching their students by their actions? How important is education truly to these teachers if they take day after day off to march around with signs and yell about pay? How seriously should their students take their alleged dedication to education and the future? If the children are so very important that we all should sacrifice and education is so critical that all kids should be compelled by government to attend some form of school, what are we to make of teachers who blow off school - using fake doctor's notes - to protest about a small change in pay?

In the end, all that rhetoric about the students and all that talk about the future and education was just that: talk. When it comes down to what really matters, these teachers made their statement loud and clear with their actions: what matters is their pocketbook and the safety of their union.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


...and I'm not so certain Audrey Hepburn was all that classy in private, either. But she was a darn sight better looking than Paris Hilton.

Quote of the Day

"The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear."
-Herbert Agar

Thursday, February 24, 2011

AGING UNGRACEFULLY

He said, "You don't need no strength, you need to grow up son"
I said, "Growing up leads to growing old and then to dying
And dying to me don't sound like all that much fun"
-John Mellencamp, Authority Song

An aging population
As my hair has started to get more white than its dark brown of youth, I chuckle when I see ads for darkening your hair. I understand that vain and youth-seeking men will want this sort of thing but I'm proud of my hair color and it has taken me over 40 years to earn it. I don't want to cover it up.

When I was younger I thought I'd have life figured out by this age, and from watching my parents I thought they had everything worked out. Now that I've gotten this old, I realize that I am still confused by most of life and the main thing I've gotten better at understanding is how little I truly understand. As I age, it is odd because I view myself as fundamentally the same as when I was much younger. I am just a little slower and less energetic. What has changed, however, is wisdom.

As I have experienced various joys and horrors and sorrows and the ordinary pace of life, I've learned things which I could not have learned any other way. There are certain lessons and keys to living which only come to you through experience and travail, and that takes time. Older people should, by their very age and experiences, be wiser and more understanding than younger people. I have, much to my surprise, gained some wisdom over the decades, not the least of which is a better perspective on time; a year really isn't that long to wait. I have a long, long ways to go, especially compared to my mom who has decades on me, but I'm a long ways ahead of that youngster I used to be looking forward at the future.

Because it isn't some secret knowledge of life that makes everything fall into place you pick up, but little things like how to read situations, why people act the way they do, how to deal with problems and situations, and what to avoid that we learn most as we age. Unless we're truly fools, we learn that fire burns and not to touch it again.

It used to be that when you looked at an older person, you had more than a reasonable assurance that they would be wise and have experience to pass on. The elderly were respectable as well as respected. Today that's not so much the case.

It is impossible to characterize every single member of a generation in a certain manner, but few have been so uniformly similar and distinct as the Boomers. The Baby Boomer generation is starting to age past 65, and as they do so, they demonstrate the same restraint, wisdom, responsibility, and maturity that they've showed their entire existence. The main thing for them is to not actually get old, or at least if they do to not admit it.

Advertisers are struggling with this. Like it or not those hippies are starting to need arthritis medication, adult diapers, and all those other fun things they used to mock in their elders. Yet how do you sell this to a generation of Peter Pans? Ellen Byron in the Wall Street Journal recently wrote about this dilemma:
"We don't do anything to remind boomers that they are getting older," says Ken Romanzi, North America chief operating officer at Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc., which has targeted the health-conscious generation as its primary consumer base.

Surreptitiously, companies are making typefaces larger, lowering store shelves to make them more accessible and avoiding yellows and blues in packaging—two colors that don't appear as sharply distinct to older eyes.

Invesco Van Kampen Consulting, an arm of Invesco Ltd., suggests financial advisers offer coffee cups with handles instead of Styrofoam (easier to hold), use lamps instead of overhead lights (less glare), and turn off the television when clients visit (background noise hampers hearing), says Scott West, a managing director.
Grab handles in showers are being repackaged as subtle "belay handles" like the aging boomer is climbing a mountain. Depends is redesigning their packaging to look like underwear. Companies are changing packaging to be opened easier with elderly hands, but don't announce it because that might upset the boomers. Shelves are being lowered and carpet added for less chance of slipping and falling in stores.

All of this is being done without announcement or fanfare because if they said anything, boomers would get upset at being reminded of their advancing age. Because to the narcissist who focuses on youth, getting old is the worst thing on earth. To a generation that considered anyone over 30 to be the enemy, tradition an evil, and older people a failed group of angry, bitter clingers who had to pass on for real change and revolution to take place, getting old is a nightmare.

This isn't an ideological split, Boomers both right and left are united on this. Read Instapundit where Glenn Beck writes and see if a week goes by without a mention of anti-aging research. Getting old makes you weak, ugly, and closer to death. Death is the absolute end of everything to someone who has been raised a naturalist -- someone who denies anything they cannot sense or test with science -- the dominant worldview of the Boomer generation.

Wisdom for the Boomer generation translates into "old, traditional, and past" rather than a greater understanding of the world around you which can only be gained through experience and revelation from the world around you. Wisdom tells you things that science and senses and even logic cannot explain, like "why its bad to sleep around." Wisdom argues that some things which seem so great and pleasurable ultimately are not. For the Boomer that cannot be true: if something feels good how can it be bad, they ask.

So the previous generations who saw aging as an exchange between vigor and wisdom now see aging as the enemy, wisdom as a flaw, and youth as superior. Now, when you see an older person, chances are they're taking viagra, coloring their hair, using contacts to disguise aging eyes, and getting plastic surgery and using cosmetics to cover up their wrinkles and sags. Maybe if I don't seem old, I won't really be!

That appearance wouldn't matter so much -- its certainly good to try to stay healthy and active rather than just give up and crumble -- if it wasn't indicative of a worldview which rejected mentally aging as well. Maturity is more than a number, it is how you grow and change both mentally and physically. Maturity doesn't stop at 20 or 30, it keeps going until you die, and it should bring greater wisdom, restraint, and a clearer understanding of life. The WW2 generation understood this, Boomers and later generations do not.

And that's the key: you can look like a 18 year old if you want to waste the money and time, but don't act like one. And someone who thinks they should look half their age will almost certainly act it as well.

*See also: Maturity and Neoteny

UNION FRIENDS

"This time its personal"

Its hard to turn anywhere without seeing news and getting someone's opinion about the Wisconsin chaos. The left unequivocally supports the unions, the right supports the governor. For the left, this is about unions having the right to exist and against cruel attempts to destroy unions. Leftists consider this an attack on working families and teachers. For the right, this is about trying to reduce the state's crushing debt load and asking union workers to pay their fair share, to give a little so that the state has a future.

Both sides have a point, and both are in error, as I see it. The left's biggest mistake is presuming that the governor simply wants to destroy the union and is cruelly ripping them off after a fairly negotiated contract. They demand that the state honor the contract and not cut their wages or benefits in any way. In this, they do not seem to want to realize or cannot understand that the state is unable to continue paying these wages and benefits and that the teachers are, in fact, very well paid and compensated. So much so, in fact, that its bankrupting the state of Wisconsin and cannot continue.

The right however makes a mistake by lumping all membership and the concept of unions in with the problems. The rank and file regular folks who happen to belong to a union may or may not agree with its politics or its decisions. They are just people who have to belong to the union in order to work in a field, and as such pay their dues and go to work. While many of them are on the streets protesting, most of them aren't holding up idiotic signs and saying stupid stuff on camera or deliberately ignoring CNN reporters when asked pointed questions. They're just out there because, lets face it, nobody likes pay cuts. And that's what the governor is asking them to take; a cut in pay.

We as conservatives have a responsibility to the truth and should show integrity even if (and when) the left will not and does not. It is not the union membership that we should have a problem with here. Its the union leadership and the Democratic Party who is their partner that is the problem. Union leadership in association with a long Democratic Party domination of the Wisconsin government has year after year acted as if the money was always going to be there, that meaning well trumped ability to pay, and that what unions asked for was not just reasonable but a moral imperative.

Union leadership takes the dues of its membership and spends it on themselves first, their political schemes second, and what the membership needs and wants last. The leaders are very well paid and comfortable while they leach off the membership of the union, taking a portion of their pay without giving any benefits in many cases. They're the ones who are stirring up the most trouble, refusing to even consider the cuts to help the state survive.

The concept of public unions is problematic to say the least, it turns the concept of unions on their heads. As Doug Ross puts it:
The historical basis of unions revolved around workers receiving a reasonable share of a company's profits. But that tenet is nonsensical when applied to public service. Governments don't make profits; they simply assess taxes.
Public Service unions pay and work for their bosses to get voted into position, then the bosses reciprocate by coming up with contracts and payment for the unions. This is, to say the least, conflict of interest. However, in our concerns about the union structure and our ire at how the union leadership behaves and is costing the states they wish to control we have to remember that the union membership is simply our neighbors, our family, our friends, and our fellow citizens working at a job.

*This originally ran at the Washington Examiner Opinion Zone blog.

PICTURE OF THE DAY

Quote of the Day

"Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary,”
-Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA) addressing union members

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NEW PIRACY

"When you respond to pirates with kid gloves as we have, this is what you get."

Pirates
In the past I have argued here that the Somali pirates were not cut from the same sailcloth as Captain Morgan and Blackbeard. These pirates did not tend to sack any ports, murder passengers, or steal ships. All they were doing was taking a ship hostage, getting paid a ransom of more money than their entire family had seen in the past 100 years, and letting people go. When faced with stiff opposition, they would run away.

Things changed, recently. Four Americans who were going from port to port handing out Bibles were taken hostage from their boat and executed during negotiations with the US for their release. After gunfire was heard on the boat, the US stormed the ship, capturing 13 of the pirates and killing two.

Previously, because they were largely non violent, were not taking lives, and were not acting as rapcious and bloodthirsty as pirates of old, I argued that a lawfare approach was best, along with a strong show of US presence to intimidate these men. Now that lives have been lost, that all changes.

Now the US has a responsibility to step up as Britain did centuries ago, and deal with this swiftly, decisively, and in a manner which prevents anyone from thinking its a good idea to try being a pirate. Because make no mistake, piracy is evil and wrong. Modern men think of Johnny Depp when they think of pirates, zany and entertaining, but mostly harmless. The real pirate is a brutal thief and murderer, no better than a home invasion crew or carjacker that kills people.

In the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, the British Navy trying to stop piracy are the bad guys, something even the producers of that series realized was not very tolerable so they invented an absurd all powerful corporation version of the British East India company, which didn't exist at the time the movies are supposed to be set (roughly the late 1600s although they are riddled with anachronisms).

The British Government had a policy: piracy was punishable by death, always. If a captain did not have a reasonable expectation of getting pirates back to the British government (often the case with their navy going to all parts of the globe), they were authorized to execute the pirate on the spot. All pirates taken back to England were tried and executed, unless very unusual circumstances were involved. Their bodies were prominently displayed to help discourage other pirates.

Now the world should respond in the same manner. Every pirate caught should be tried and rapidly executed. Every pirate base should be sacked and destroyed. Every pirate ship should be obliterated. The source of their weapons should be tracked down and defunded, blocked, and the people selling them imprisoned. No one should ever pay a single dime of ransom for their ships or people; the pirates involved should inexorably be hunted down and executed.

The problem we face is that for now the risk of piracy is extremely low and the rewards are immensely high. This arithmetic needs to be reversed immediately, making the risk immense and the reward extremely low. President Obama, as a man who calls himself black, has a unique position to act against Somali pirates without being called racist or anti-African.

I don't want to see Somalia turned into glass, I don't want to see the coastal towns obliterated and everyone killed, and I don't want to see ships shelling Somalia in response. It should be targeted, specific, and ruthless so that pirates are dealt with in such a conspicuous and shocking manner that it discourages others from even considering the option. To continue as we are now is unacceptable and simply encourages more of this behavior, because Somalia isn't the only place this is happening and now they have blood on their hands.

SACRIFICE BEGINS AT HOME

Budget Solutions
This is in a nutshell the problem so far with the GOP. They've gained in power over the federal budget, but are not using this power wisely. They're working on legislation to cut off funding for many of President Obama's swarm of czars, working on legislation to defund the US' contribution to the UN's international panel on climate change, working on legislation to defund parts of the Government Health Insurance Takeover Act, but not really working on cutting the deficit or the debt.

If they want to show voters that they are serious about cutting spending, they'd start at home. do they really need that big a salary? Do they really need all that staff? How about those freebies, all the benefits like workout rooms in the capitol building, the limos, the plane trips, the junkets? If they made conspicuous and specific, direct cuts to themselves, people might sit up and take notice.

It isn't that President Obama does not have too many czars doing the work of the cabinet, it isn't that the IPCC is a waste of US money and unconstitutional funding, and it isn't that the health insurance bill doesn't need cutting. The problem is all of this is showboating and sticking a thumb in the eye of their enemies rather than addressing the real issues they were elected to deal with.

People want jobs, they want spending cut, and they want to have at least the slim hope that crushing debt the Democrats mountained on the future will be trimmed back. That's where these guys need to immediately and aggressively be working, not all this other junk.

And to extend this further, states which are facing financial crisis need to do the same thing. What can they specifically cut in their own offices and staff? Where in their budgets can cuts be made and sacrifices be undertaken? What could Governor Walker be doing in addition to dealing with the immense cost of public employee unions?

And when we mention unions, its time for them to do the same thing. What could their leadership be doing to cut their costs, trim their spending, reduce their budgets? By doing so they could reduce individual dues and even contribute to help offset the increased cost that states are now requiring them to pay for.

Because that's what responsibility is about, not demanding other people - be they unions, political enemies, or wealthy voters - get you out of the mess you got yourself in to. Start with yourself and what you can do, then maybe its time to start demanding others make sacrifices.

Quote of the Day

"Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it's cowardice."
-George Jackson

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

RAGING WITHOUT A CAUSE

Communist Power
Rage Against the Machine is one of those hard rock protest bands that showed up in the late 90s and early 2000s. Most of their songs are about fighting the "man" and they seem to subscribe to just about every faux anarchist "corporations run the world" conspiracy that exists. Here are a few of their lyrics:
  • You justify those that died by wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites
  • Instead I warm my hands upon the flames of the flag
  • A yellow ribbon instead of a swastika/Nothin’ proper about ya propaganda
  • Fear is your only god on the radio
  • The present curriculum/I put my fist in ‘em/Eurocentric every last one of ‘em
  • Our freedom or your life/Lord, I wish I could be peacful
  • Now tha city of angels does the ethnic cleanse
  • They don’t gotta burn tha books they just remove ‘em/While arms warehouses fill as quick as tha cells
...and so on. Like their name suggests, they have no solutions, no ideas, and they are perpetually outraged and angry at everything, everywhere. The overwhelming theme is that we're too white and European and did everything wrong in America. They also mistrust authority, government, and those in power... in theory.

Like most leftist faux anarchists, however, they seem to be perfectly fine with government and authority of a certain kind. Rage Against the Machine's guitarist Tom Morello was in Wisconsin recently in support of the government worker unions not having to pay for a small part of their benefits. Sure, teachers get an average pay of over $50,000 a year for 9 months work, plus benefits that ramp up to about $90,000. Sure, they don't have to pay for their health care or pension benefits. But they're fighting against the man, apparently. Even though they are the man, as they are government workers, the very teachers and authorities that Rage Against the Machine continually rails against in their songs.

And here's the basic problem I have with protest professionals and today's faux anarchists. They aren't against power or the system, they're against power and the system they disagree with. They're perfectly willing to reverse their positions to align themselves with the left, even if what they say is completely opposite what they have said recently. The reason for this is that their goals have nothing to do with any overarching principle or objective ideals, but with the ever-changing efforts of "progress" which means rejecting what has been and reaching for something different, even if its the reverse of what you previously fought for.

Those in power cannot be trusted, unless they are in a union. Teachers are idiot propagandists we have to fight, until its time to back them and march with them against a Republican governor. Rage Against the Machine? How about Rage Against Consistency and Logic.

A COMPROMISE

"The encouragement and support of public telecommunications, while matters of importance for private and local development, are also of appropriate and important concern to the Federal Government;"

VOA
Voice of America (VOA) was set up in 1942, broadcasting first on February 1st. The service was primarily directed at Germany, promising to tell the truth, even if it was bad news for America. As allies won territories, broadcasting was expanded to those, blanketing more of Northern Africa and Europe. In 1946, the US State Department took over VOA, and began broadcasting into Russia to try to counter some of the more troubling propaganda by the Soviet government.

By the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union and freedom came to Eastern Europe, VOA had expanded to cover many other languages and areas such as Tibetan, Kurdish (to Iran and Iraq), Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, and Macedonian. Today, the service broadcasts video and audio and is available on the internet translated into 44 languages.

CPBThe Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was formed in 1967. According to their website, CPB’s mission is to facilitate the development of, and ensure universal access to, non-commercial high-quality programming and telecommunications services. Among the goals in the foundation of the CPB were these ideas, taken from the legislation that created the corporation:
  • Encourage the growth and development of public radio and television
  • Encourage diversity of programming on both local and national levels
  • Encourage public telecommunications services which will be responsive to the interests of people both in particular localities and throughout the United States
  • Address the needs of unserved and underserved audiences, particularly children and minorities
  • Address national concerns and solve local problems through community programs and outreach programs
  • Ensure that all citizens of the United States have access to public telecommunications services through all appropriate available telecommunications distribution technologies
  • Ensure maximum protection for telecommunications from extraneous interference and control
  • To avoid bias or political slant by creating a board which represents multiple viewpoints
In 1970, National Public Radio was created to extend these ideas to radio, and the Public Broadcasting System was created to apply them to television. Both receive funding from CPB as well as private donors and corporations.

President Obama's new budget cuts the funding for Voice of America by $8 million and is canceling its China broadcasts entirely. Meanwhile, he is increasing the funding for the CPB by $6 million (incidentally, the BBC is ending its Mandarin broadcasts as well).

NPR's radio programs tend to appeal to older, more wealthy and educated clientele, with an average age of 50 years and an annual income of $78,000. The radio service has about 27 million listeners per week. PBS targets children and fans of British television and classical music, with an average viewer of 45 years of age and older, making an average income of $60,000.

Based on this information, the stated goal to reach a diverse, non white, poorer audience has largely failed as public broadcasting has become a specialty niche for academic, white, and more wealthy audiences who are older and tend to be college educated.

Conservatives have long pointed to bias and slanted coverage of news both on NPR and PBS, and it is plain that the goals of being diverse in opinion and unbiased have failed as well. The need to create diverse telecommunications which reach the whole country has undeniably, absolutely been met. And in any case, the flood of programming and channels on cable and available through the internet has negated the need for a government corporation which makes available less-common and minority-flavored public broadcasting.

To sum up, every single one of the goals and intentions for the CPB has been completely met or failed systematically for its whole existence. Meanwhile the internet and social media flood has negated radio as a primary means of reaching other nations with a counter to their government's propaganda. So Voice of America has become outdated and largely irrelevant.

The left tends to consider VOA as a propaganda effort, at best embarrassing and gauche. The right tends to view CPB as a propaganda effort as well, primarily driven by leftists and its news efforts obviously slanted.

So I'd like to offer a suggestion. The time for public broadcasting has ended, and the cold war which prompted the extension of Voice of America has ended as well. I will offer the complete shutdown and ending of VOA and related broadcasts (such as Radio Free Asia) in exchange for the complete shutdown of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS, and NPR. Neither of these ideas are needed any longer and are actually not allowed in the United States Constitution as federal government expenditures, however noble and well-meaning they are.

The total savings for these two broadcast arms would be minimal compared to a 14 trillion dollar deficit, with CPB at $430 million and about $671 million for VOA, but every piece of the spending mess we clean up, no matter how small, contributes to the total effort. And while either program would be missed, they aren't constitutional and we could do without them and save some money at the federal level.

PICTURE OF THE DAY


Pretty good analysis.

Quote of the Day

"The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place [in the public sector]. A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government."
-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Monday, February 21, 2011

HEADPHONES

"are there any comfortable earbuds?"

I used to listen to music more or less every waking moment. I had a tape player I'd lug around on my bike and headphones and the whole world had a soundtrack. I got pretty good with making mix tapes, especially when my brother brought home a little mixer so I could work between 2 CD players and fade them. Over time I've come to appreciate silence more, particularly when I'm working, but I still pull out the player when I go traveling. If I could afford an MP3 player, I'd probably get one of those.

The biggest complaint I had was that the headphone wires get snarled. Eventually they always end up twisted so much it looks like a braid, even if the cords aren't in knots. I figured that by now we'd all have remote headphones so we wouldn't have to deal with cords but the I-Pod ads made cords seem cool to hipsters and easily influenced advertising viewers so here we are.

Zipper Earbuds
Until those remote jobs become more feasible and cheaper, there's the zipper headphones. Yanko Design has crossed a zipper with ear buds in a simple good idea. Basically you can zip the two cords up into one for storage and leave the separation as wide or short as you desire with the controls which are a pull for the zipper. There's no reason someone couldn't come up with a radio headset that consisted of nothing else, but these are meant for MP3 players.

Zipper Earbuds
I love this kind of invention, its one of those "well that's kind of obvious" things that you only recognize as obvious once someone else has thought of it.

BOOK THOUGHTS

"You do not pay a royalty to anyone who is doing day-labor. All book production should be done for a flat fee."
-Michael Stackpole

As some of you already know, I've written a couple of novels. I have one in print from Publish America (Snowberry's Veil) and one edited and shopped to agents for over a year. So far out of over 100 agents, only one was slightly interested, but declined. However, as I've been studying and reading and as technology advances, I'm beginning to understand that the whole agent-publisher system is just not good for writers and never has been.

Even if you somehow get an agent, they don't always manage to sell your book, even if they fall in love with it and use all their contacts and experience. Even if you manage to sell the book, you're a new author and you won't get much shelf space. They have to make room for Snooki's book and the latest of 85 books by William Johnstone. To promote it they expect you to travel doing book signings, talk shows, interviews, and so on. Basically the only thing publishers do is some editing, they do the cover art, print it, and distribute it. If you're already known, you get some advertising.

For that, they want a pretty big slice of the pie. You get 25% of the net (so about 17% in real life), the sellers get about 30%, and the publisher gets 55%. Forever. They do the initial work and ship your book around, you're the talent. You get less than half of what they get. Without you, they have no product. Without them, you have a harder time getting your product out. That seems a bit... backward to me. Its like having someone build your house, then paying them rent until the house falls down.

Thankfully there are alternatives. As the electronic book market grows, there are more and more people who are looking for cheaper downloads of books than actual physical books. From a bibliophile's perspective this is tragic, but from an author's it is gold. There are publishers who'll work with you to put your stuff online and Borders even has a system where they'll help you get your book published as an e-book, but they still take that lion's share and give you a nibble off each book.

If you publish through Borders BookBrewer or a standard publishing house, you'll get 25% of your book's value, each sale.

If you self publish, you get more based on the price you charge, about 70% of each book. The dealer (Amazon, etc) gets the rest.

Further, publishers charge quite a bit for each book, 10-15 bucks on average. You can sell your book for significantly less, and thus tend to sell significantly more. Most people won't pop $15 bucks for an E-Book, let alone one from an unknown author. More would for 10 bucks, but if you sell for $5 or $3 (or, to introduce people to your book, 99 cents) you can get even more buyers. Because the less of a risk for the buyer, the more likely they are to try your work.

Its not that there isn't a place for books, I love them and will always collect them. Its that you don't have to go through a traditional publisher any longer. There are plenty of places out there such as Lulu.com which will print a real hard copy book for you on demand, for a price per copy. They get the lion's share, but you'll have a real honest book in your hands.

Which brings me to music.

At present, a new CD costs about 10-20 bucks and is mostly crap. When its not autotuned crap its 90's era rehashed crap. There's a catchy song once in a while and usually a pretty good beat, but that's it. If you want to buy the songs individually, you can download them for 99 cents or $1.29, at most. Since a typical disc is 8-12 songs, that's often cheaper than the purchase price, but still more than most are worth.

What I can't figure out is why the e-book reader thing is taking off (its 15% of the online book market right now), but the musical equivalent is not. I'm not talking about I Tunes, I mean the independent unknown musician market. Music has to be more expensive than books, it only took one of me with a laptop to produce a book. Music tends to be several people each with an expensive instrument, a producer, and rental for the studio (or the expense of building your own). That all adds up, but still, why aren't people shifting more and more to online downloads of music rather than gobbling up the crap being handed them by music videos and CD stores?

Every quarter that goes by, e-books are taking up more of the market share. Every year that goes by, Netflix gets a bigger share of the video market, crushing giants like Hollywood Video along the way. Isn't it time the record companies got the same treatment? They are outdated, give us inferior product, charge too much, and are almost insane in their need to make money off every single possible aspect of their work. Record a CD to listen to it on your MP3 player? They want a piece of that. Make a mix tape to send to your sweety? They want a piece of that.

The next step in copyright and artistry is here; its time to embrace it all, even though it means the death or decline of things we love so much in our past. Riding a horse is a heck of a lot more romantic than riding a car, but the car is clearly superior.

GREEN MISERY

"Ethanol doesn't burn cleaner than gasoline, nor is it cheaper. Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5 percent of our gasoline consumption -- yet it consumes twenty percent of the entire U.S. corn crop, causing the price of corn to double in the last two years and raising the threat of hunger in the Third World."
-Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone Magazine

I have lived in Oregon all but six years of my life. Growing up in Oregon during the 1970s was a period when ecology was all the rage, and there was a strong push to clean up pollution and care more for the environment. Governor Tom McCall pushed the "Keep Oregon Green" campaign and we were taught in school to pick up trash and care for the world around us. On television, faux American Indian Iron Eyes Cody cried and begged people to Keep America Beautiful.

It all worked pretty well; I pick up trash when I see it, I return cans and bottles, and Oregon has less trash and junk on the roadsides and in camps than any place I've been across America. We grew up wanting to keep our home beautiful and to fight pollution. The modern green campaign is a bit different, though. Having won the battle to fight pollution and clean up our lakes and rivers, Greens want more. It isn't enough to have cleaner air and more environmentally conscious citizens, they want to change policy, economics, and world government.

Unfortunately, most of their new ideas don't work. Consider the push for compact fluorescent bulbs, which contain mercury vapor and have to be disposed of in a very expensive and special manner to prevent them from poisoning the ground. The response has been to move toward LEDs which provide considerably better light for even less energy, but they have problems too:
Their findings? Low-intensity red lights contained up to eight times the amount of lead allowed under California law, but in general, high-intensity, brighter bulbs had more contaminants than lower ones. White bulbs had the least lead, but contained high amounts of nickel.

"We find the low-intensity red LEDs exhibit significant cancer and noncancer potentials due to the high content of arsenic and lead," the team wrote in the January 2011 issue of Environmental Science & Technology.
The failures continue. Representative Nancy Pelosi, when she became speaker of the House in 2006, pushed for recyclable, renewable flatware in the House cafeteria. The big solution to that wasteful washing and the soap that gets into the sewers was to use compostable flatware made from cornstarch. The result was tableware which was too soft and flexible to pierce salad and ultimately was no savings at all:
It turns out that the composting program not only cost the House an estimated $475,000 a year (according to the House inspector general) but actually increased energy consumption in the form of "additional energy for the pulping process and the increased hauling distance to the composting facility," according to a news release from Lungren.

As far as carbon emissions were concerned, Lungren concluded that the reduction was the "nominal ... equivalent to removing one car from the road each year." He plans to switch the House to an alternate waste-management system recommended by the Architect of the Capitol, in which dining-service trash would be incinerated and the heat energy captured.
Those darn Inspector Generals, they keep getting in the way of good intentions by revealing painful facts. Then there's the new dish soap. Have you noticed that your dishwasher doesn't seem to be doing the job it used to? A lot of people have:
It so happens that in the last six months, a lot of people have suddenly discovered their dishwashers don’t work as well as they used to. The problem, though, isn’t the dishwashers. It’s the soap. Last July, acceding to pressure from environmentalists, America’s dishwasher detergent manufacturers decided to change their formulas. And the new detergents stink.
The new "Green" soap doesn't work nearly as well as the old kind. But their heart is in the right place. How did this happen? One state banned phosphates in their detergents (Washington State) and because its more expensive to create and ship special product to only one state than to just change them all, we all suffer.

So because of greens we have anemic shower heads, dim, expensive, poisonous lights, dirty dishes, and toilets that you have to flush several times. Its all for our own good, you see. And when you factor in the increase in food costs and shortages because of the failed, mistaken bio fuels subsidies, well life is changing a great deal for the worse because of a small, loud group of people crying wolf.

*This was originally posted at the Washington Examiner Opinion Zone.

Quote of the Day

"There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”
-Calvin Coolidge

Friday, February 18, 2011

WORD AROUND THE NET

"When is a debt not a debt? When you have no intention to pay it back."

Frozen Turbine
Curveball was one of the sources that the world relied on for intelligence from inside Iraq. Working for the German intelligence forces, he claimed that there were still the huge stockpiles of WMD that the UN found inside the country after Desert Storm in 1991. Now, he claims he was lying all along, although his motive in doing so isn't clear. My response is pretty much like Ace, where I saw the story first: even if he was lying, that doesn't negate the fact that we know Iraq had WMD at some point in the past, and that the best intel at the time, acted on in good faith, said that he still did. And you know, the coalition didn't invade Iraq for just one reason. There were actually 23 reasons, one of which was WDM, which we did actually find some of.

Something that frustrates me is that we spend so much money on intelligence in America - especially after 9/11 - and get so lousy results. I know that intelligence is largely educated guesses, but with all those people, all that money, and all that time spent you'd think they'd get it right more often. Having the Obama cheif of intelligence admit that he gets his info from the press about Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood isn't exactly encouraging. Michael Waslh in the New York Post runs down some previous humiliating failures:
Of course, the CIA failed to see the coming collapse of the shah's government in Iran as well as the fall of the Soviet Union -- not to mention the entry of Pakistan and India into the nuclear club. Then came 9/11
Left out was Clinton's aspirin factory shelling. It keeps happening and with the stakes this high and the cost so great, maybe its time to reexamine who's in charge, what they're doing and why.

The King James version of the Bible was finished four hundred years ago at the behest of young King James. This version, updated occasionally for linguistic changes, has been in print continually and is the best selling book in the world, in all of history. There's no denying the amazing literary and linguistic beauty of the King James translation, even if its as hard to follow as Shakespeare can be at times.

Ethanol has proven to be a debacle in nearly every way. It has driven up food prices, been demonstrated to be at least as ecologically destructive as ordinary fuel, caused food shortages, and in some blends is actually destructive to engines. That's where fifteen different groups ranging from Calfornia Dairies to the Small Business & Entrepreneurial Council are calling for the shift to greater Ethanol mix in blended gas be stopped. The EPA Plans on requiring this increase soon in the name of global warming and the will of Gaia. Scientists, car makers, and food manufacturers all agree its a bad idea.

The Heritage Foundation filed a Freedom of Information request with the Obama administration. Their goal was to see a Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA) report on the Yucca nuclear storage facility. As readers here learned months ago, President Obama shut the place down (although courts ordered him to re-open it as they ruled he lacked the legal authority under the constitution). The NRA report contained a study of its safety and feasibility, and when Heritage got the report finally they were excited to learn what it told. When they opened up the report, they discovered that both the executive summary and the NRA conclusions had been redacted: blacked out and unreadable. If this data had been favorable to the president's cause you can be sure that it would have been available to study and read.

The EPA has been up to an awful lot lately, trying to control what we do, how we do it, and every aspect they have any remotest oversight for in a vain effort to change the weather. At Redstate, Lady Impact Ohio has a rundown of all they're trying lately, including these lowlights:
  • EPA pulls permit for Arch Coal mine in WVA citing “Clean Water Act” abuse. Aleady in use. WVA is second in coal production in the country.
  • Troubled Massey Energy is bought by Alpha Natural Resources. George Soros had 59,800 shares in Massey. No wonder Arch Coal lost the bid. Soros is now the proud owner of MOST of WVA coal mines.
  • Chevron, who has been embroiled in a lawsuit in Ecuador for 18 years, and was a couple days ago ordered by an Ecuadoran court to fork over $8.6 billion announced it is exiting the coal business.
  • Shell, who was the sole grantee of a permit for oil exploration in the Beaufort Sea after Dept. of Interior announced it’s moratorium was slapped down by the EPA who pulled their air permits. Shell has apparently decided it ain’t worth the hassle to fight the EPA and is pulling the plug on offshore drilling in Alaska.
They're getting help from shows like CSI that ran a hilariously pedantic tract about Fracking and oil production this season (also known as "the last straw" for me).

New Brunswick Canada spent $200 million on a new wind farm, with wind turbines build to generate power for the province. In a turn of events completely unpredictable at that latitude, the farm has been shut down for weeks because of ice buildup on the turbines. I sympathize with the desire to build these things and I'd love for them to work but... too often they don't.

Mark Hertsgaard wrote a book about global warming, and was scheduled to talk with James Hansen who for some reason is still working at NASA after doctoring temperature information to make it look like its warmer now than at any time before in the last 200 years (the 30s were actually warmer). Hertsgaard is a fellow at the Soros organization Open Society, whose web page ran a note telling that the event had been called off. Why? Excessive snow and blizzards canceled the Global Warming discussion. There is no hint of irony in the report.

Meanwhile, the Orange County Register notes that an unusual, but known combination of tides, weather, and currents are causing "King Tides" to hit the western American coast. Their response is to ask people to take pictures of this event to try to depict what future flooding due to global warming-caused rising oceans would look like. They really put the "news" in newspapers down there, eh?

President Obama released his budget to congress, and its a whopper. Containing billions of dollars in spending increases, it ignores almost every single suggestion of the president's own Deficit Commission. President Obama claims it won't increase the debt or deficit, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) says that by will create "primary balance" in the budget by 2017. Wait, what does that mean? Byron York explains at The Washington Examiner:
A balanced budget means government revenues and spending are roughly equal. But a budget in “primary balance,” according to the Obama administration, occurs when revenues and spending are equal -- excluding all the interest the government pays on its enormous debt.
In other words, if you ignore some of the expenses it all balances out! Andrew Stiles at National Review Online has a breakdown of some of the increased spending which will somehow reduce the deficit.

Scientists think they may have discovered a cure for baldness. They weren't trying to, they found it while studying stress reducing hormones in mice. But they also found out that the mice grew lost hair back when under the treatment. Perhaps in a few years we'll see real, functioning hair loss treatments - but what will the side effects be? Many major discoveries were the result of something totally unexpected found in unrelated research.

Iraq is looking for some repairs. As part of the effort to control the rebuilding process and fight terrorists and foreign insurgents, the coalition army built huge barriers to segment Baghdad and caused some damage to the streets with heavy, powerful Humvees. So Baghdad is asking for a billion dollars to fix the damage and normalize their streets, and wants an apology. Some are suggesting that they take the money out of the almost 800 billion it cost the US to liberate the country, and perhaps even give us that money back in the form of discounted oil.

Debka is an Israeli news source that often has Middle Eastern news that few other outlets carry or have learned. Unfortunately, sometimes this means they have information that's not entirely accurate. For example two days ago they reported that Iran had moved warships into the Suez Canal. Later examination proved this to have been simply Iran stating their intent to do so. Its events like this which remind me how untrustworthy almost all news sources can be at times, particularly those which try to "scoop" everyone else with unique information.

Augustin Blazquez is a director, you've probably never heard of him. He does independent work, primarily documentaries. His latest is called Che: The Other Side of an Icon and it examines the rest of the story: Che's brutality, murderous nature, cowardice, and his extreme, racist radicalism. Unsurprisingly, this violation of the carefully-crafted Cuban narrative is being opposed by the left, the press, colleges, and Hollywood (but I repeat myself). Basically, nobody wants to show it, anywhere.

The Obama administration has decided that decades of UN attacks on and contempt for Israel is a great bandwagon, so they've hopped on. Colum Lynch reports at Turtle Bay:
The U.S. informed Arab governments Tuesday that it will support a U.N. Security Council statement reaffirming that the 15-nation body "does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity," a move aimed at avoiding the prospect of having to veto a stronger Palestinian resolution calling the settlements illegal.
Because colonizing areas owned by Israel is cruel to the terrorists in the palestinian settlements.

We're told emphatically by the legacy media that potential disaster from alleged human-caused global climate change needs to be reported on because its so important. Yet when it comes to the certain disaster caused by excess spending by governments, the media suddenly wants to quiet it down, deflect, and argue against it. Instapundit reader David Gamble puts it this way:
Somehow protecting future generations from possibly having to endure the hardship of an extra tenth of a degree over the next century is a high moral calling, while fighting against the certainty of mortgaging their financial future with trillions in government debt is the work of the devil. Odd.
Well, this is more about the narrative and power - who it hurts and who it helps - than the truth.

Fox started out its TV network with just a few shows, among them 21 Jump Street, which launched Johnny Depp's career, along with several other people. There's a reboot in the works, updating the show about young-appearing cops working inside schools posing as teenagers and the captain is being played by Ice Cube. I've never understood why it is that so many rappers who do raps about how they hate cops and how cops are so evil end up playing them so often. Also on the show is Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, whoever that is.

When Lara Logan was assaulted by a crowd of "youths" in Cairo, what went unreported in almost every outlet was that they were chanting "Jew! Jew! Jew!" Reporting that might upset people and stir animosity against brutal extremist Muslim rapists, though.

Vice President Joe Biden has long been a proponent of trains, particularly high speed rail, so he probably was overjoyed when President Obama spoke at length about the need to build just such a thing in America in his State of the Union speech. However, nobody really wants this to be built, its the wrong time to try to build it, and rail simply doesn't work well in America, nor does it anywhere else. Robert Samuelson at Real Clear Politics went into some detail about why this is such a bad idea:
Consider. In 2010, Amtrak carried 29.1 million passengers for the entire year. That's about one-twenty-fifth of annual air travel (2010 estimate: 725 million passengers). It's also roughly a quarter of daily automobile commuters (124 million in 2008). Measured by passenger-miles traveled, Amtrak represents one-tenth of 1 percent of the national total.

Rail buffs argue that subsidies for passenger service simply offset the huge government support of highways and airways. The subsidies "level the playing field." Wrong. In 2004, the Department of Transportation evaluated federal transportation subsidies for the period 1990-2002. It found passenger rail service had the highest subsidy ($186.35 per thousand passenger-miles) followed by mass transit ($118.26 per thousand miles). By contrast, drivers received no net subsidy; their fuel taxes more than covered federal spending. Subsidies for airline passengers were about $5 per thousand miles traveled. (All figures are in inflation-adjusted year 2000 dollars.)
Here's something for President Obama to consider: if you want to actually cut the deficit and reduce spending as you claimed in that speech, a new gigantic spending debacle is probably the wrong way to go about it.

NASA reports that they may have been successful in creating prototype solar sails. This is an old science fiction concept in which gigantic "sails" are unfolded in space which reflect solar radiation (solar "winds") to move the space ship like ordinary sails move using air. Due to the scant physical motion of these winds, the sails have to be gargantuan. Two of the paper-thin aircraft which consist of little more than just the sail, have been launched out of the space shuttle.

Economically, things are looking a bit more troubling again. After a few months of at least no contraction, we're seeing anemic growth or stagnation combined with inflation (called "stagflation" by economists). Reuters reports that core wholesale prices have risen faster than at any time in two years, and food costs continue to rise as the price of gas keeps climbing. Meanwhile, Jobless claims are rising again (file in the "unexpected news" category). Administration pundits and some economists are trying to claim this isn't much in the way of inflation but I suspect you've noticed it as much as I have.

Austria is doing its best to appease their growing Muslim population by enforcing blasphemy laws. This time it was against a woman who noted that Muhammad, by having sex with a 9 year old, was a pedophile. Their ruling was that this was defamation of religion because she stayed married to Muhammad past the age of 18. Thus, they reasoned, he wasn't a pedophile. Yeah, well maybe it makes more sense in German.

Struggling to help his friends in the recording and movie industries, President Obama's justice department is shutting down file sharing sites. Yet in the process, they're also seizing domain names of these websites. That's like shutting down a fraudulent business, then taking over the copyright and trademarks of that business. I understand stopping theft but domain names?

And that's the Word Around the Net for February 18, 2011.