October 31, 2007

Agrarian Virtues

Victor Davis Hanson writes
...My maternal grandparents lived to be 86 and 91; their two professional daughters, my mother and aunt, died at 66 and 49 respectively. My paternal grandfather lived to be 81, his son, my father died at 75. The older generation lived pretty much in one place, rarely if ever traveled, and set their schedule by the natural year. They worked within sight on their farmhouses, ate much of what they grew, and were up at 4 and in bed at 9 or 10.

My parents, in contrast, entered the rat race and all that entailed, and toward the end of their lives understood the toll it took. I don’t want to romanticize farm life; I found it brutal and dangerous, but the wear is of a different sort.
Even if a virtue is made out of necessity, it is still a virtue.

A critical question--no less critical for being obvious--for individuals and civilizations: how, if at all, can the indispensable time-tested virtues be created without the harshness and brutality of necessity?

October 30, 2007

Ungrateful Peons

Not surprisingly, Randstad is a business-staffing firm that deals in temps and contractors.
Eric Buntin, managing director of marketing and operations for Randstad, said the survey indicated people had not changed their behavior as office layouts changed, becoming more open, so people heard colleagues talking and knew more about their home lives.

"If you were sitting in your office with the door closed no one would be able to hear you unless you were very loud but if you open the door then people hear everything, blurring the lines between personal and work lives," Buntin told Reuters.

"People are not taking into account that the workplace is very open now and they need to think about that interaction with their colleagues."
Are office layouts changing because of vast impersonal forces like encroaching Ice Age glaciation?

Randstad has announced that
Randstad Holding nv has fully completed the acquisition of the German staffing company Team BS as announced on September 14, 2007.
Sounds like a good fit.

October 27, 2007

Socks the Cat

Dinocrat comments that Socks was once a Clinton prop but has now become anti-Clinton ammunition.

The moral: there's more than one way to spin a cat.

Amendment 5a to the US Constitution

This story started normally:
Three Sentenced to Prison in Microsoft Fraud Case

The trio were involved in a scheme to purchase more than $29 million worth of software that was steeply discounted for academic institutions, and selling it to non-academic entities, in violation of the Microsoft agreement. These convictions were the result of "Operation Cyberstorm," a two-year undercover investigation into software piracy and related crimes by agents from FBI, IRS and REACT Task Force.
Fair enough, but the kicker is the last sentence:
...A fourth defendant, William Glushenko, 66, pled guilty to a charge of misprision of a felony—knowing of a crime and failing to report it—and was given one year probation and 100 hours of community service.
What?! The Fifth Amendment protects people against self-incrimination, but not incriminating others is a crime?

There may well be legitimate extremes like misprision of terrorism, but at first blush this strikes me as inconsistent with a free society.

Oh yeah, I forgot: if you're innocent, you have nothing to fear.

October 13, 2007

Toward 'Transnational' Internet Control

A few years ago there was a push for 'transnational' control of the Internet. Is that President No-Small-Ball's next Big Idea? (Keeping my fingers crossed: sarcastic hyperbole about this administration can be hard to achieve.)

As it happens, the administration has just contributed to the transnationalist case:
After a Marin County website was hacked to redirect users to a pornographic Web site, the GSA stepped in and obstructed every state and local website in the state of California
For the children of course:
The General Services Administration, which shut down the sites, apologized for the inconvenience on Thursday and said it would try to find a more targeted solution for similar problems in the future.

"GSA is responsible for the integrity of all the .gov Web sites it manages," the agency said in a statement. "The potential exposure of pornographic material to the citizens and tens of thousands of children in California was a primary motivator for GSA to request immediate corrective action."
If I were reading this in Frankfurt, Tokyo, Beijing, Rio, etc., I wouldn't be feeling very supportive of the USA as a fiduciary for domain-name registration.

October 11, 2007

Doris Lessing on Isms

I know Doris Lessing primarily by reputation--a reputation which has just been enhanced--, but some time ago I came across this:
"Great things have been achieved through feminism. We now have pretty much equality at least on the pay and opportunities front, though almost nothing has been done on child care, the real liberation.

"We have many wonderful, clever, powerful women everywhere, but what is happening to men? Why did this have to be at the cost of men?

"I was in a class of nine- and 10-year-olds, girls and boys, and this young woman was telling these kids that the reason for wars was the innately violent nature of men.

"You could see the little girls, fat with complacency and conceit while the little boys sat there crumpled, apologising for their existence, thinking this was going to be the pattern of their lives."

Lessing said the teacher tried to "catch my eye, thinking I would approve of this rubbish".
See also her essay 'Unexamined Mental Attitudes Left Behind By Communism'.

October 9, 2007

KGB's Penalty for This Would Be...Severe

The NY Sun (HT: Instapundit) reports
WASHINGTON — Al Qaeda's Internet communications system has suddenly gone dark to American intelligence after the leak of Osama bin Laden's September 11 speech inadvertently disclosed the fact that we had penetrated the enemy's system.

The intelligence blunder started with what appeared at the time as an American intelligence victory, namely that the federal government had intercepted, a full four days before it was to be aired, a video of Osama bin Laden's first appearance in three years in a video address marking the sixth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. On the morning of September 7, the Web site of ABC News posted excerpts from the speech.

But the disclosure from ABC and later other news organizations tipped off Qaeda's internal security division that the organization's Internet communications system, known among American intelligence analysts as Obelisk, was compromised.
Shock and awe. Slam dunk. Mission accomplished.

Our elected officials understand that the aforementioned intelligence community needs to be fired pervasive power:
Saying that "we live in a dangerous world" and people "want to have security cameras," Mayor Bloomberg is making the case that New Yorkers need to get used to being watched.
During a demonstration of the surveillance control room in a police precinct in London's "square mile," which has a camera on every corner, Mr. Bloomberg said New York is "way behind" when it comes to cameras on subways and buses. He said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority "just has to get us this kind of technology."
Once upon a time we were warned that the USA lagged the Soviets in military and space technology. Today we are warned that we are behind the curve in constructing a police state.

October 8, 2007

Fixing Dysfunctions with Dysfunctions

Sheila Bair, the head of the FDIC, is a lawyer who apparently has never held a private-sector job (afaic "Senior Vice President for Government Relations of the New York Stock Exchange" doesn't count as such). However, she knows how to solve the housing crisis: if creditors track down debtors and offer them easier terms on their mortgages, all will be well. In particular, ARMs should not be reset and teaser rates should be made permanent.

Bair is "frustrated" that creditors are not getting with the program:
For instance, for owner occupied housing where the loan is current ... just convert that subprime hybrid ARM into a fixed-rate mortgage. Keep it at the starter rate. Convert it into a fixed rate. Make it permanent. And get on with it.
Compassionate conservatism to the rescue!

The political class is running the country not by solving problems, but by offsetting them with new problems and aggrandizing power in the process. Unless we change course, the day will come when all reserves of societal capital are exhausted.

October 7, 2007

(No) Snap UK Election

Apparently Gordon Brown is not calling one. While Labor's recent fumbling and slipping in the polls obviously have a lot to do with the decision, maybe Brown has decided to ram through the cession of additional UK sovereignty to the EU. The longer the furor about that has to die down, the better Labor's electoral chances will be.

Incidentally, a Tory pundit declares:
Gordon’s colour now will be yellow
Why not tell Brown to keep his cotton-pickin' fingers off British sovereignty? (Its very well-wishers have called the GOP the Stupid Party. Apparently the syndrome extends across the Atlantic.)

October 2, 2007

Senate Resolution on Partitioning Iraq

Gateway Pundit (HT: Instapundit) criticizes the Biden resolution, which apparently has caused an uproar in Iraq.

Reasonable people can disagree about the resolution--I have qualms about some of the wording--, but it claims to be consistent with the Iraqi constitution. If Iraqi politicians are really atwitter about it, maybe, per some GP comenters, it's because they prefer to blame others for their troubles instead of solving their own problems.

However, the Senate parses the Iraqi constitution while routinely flouting ours. Do as we say, not as we do?

Maybe the Senate advocates a strong national government only when that's easy, e.g. enabled by a law-abiding or docile public. Would the Senate acquiesce to future US separatist agitation that invoked PC multiculturalism? De facto, maybe it already has.