December 29, 2008

Obama's Chiseled Pecs

The Anchoress comments.

Is this the subliminal message that Obama's MSM acolytes are trying to convey? Talk about a photoshop op!

Last year similar photos of Putin appeared. Is it just me, or does his body look more brutally functional than Obama's?

December 7, 2008

This Man Hath the Right Sow By the Ear*

Secular Right commenter Polichinello:
IOW, an argument for any given issue–abortion, gay “marriage”, euthanasia, etc–should not start and end with “Because God said so.” It should be based on and explicated with evidence and reason available to anyone, and if you can’t do that, then so much the worse for the argument.
He's commenting on Kathleen Parker, a columnist about whom the little I know leaves me with no wish to know more.
-----------
*H/T: Henry VIII.

December 3, 2008

Good News! No Depression Ahead...Probably

Intrade currently has the chance of a 2009 US depression as less than one in seven (down from one in five around election time).

At the moment the contract is currently on the front page. Alternatively, click on 'Financial' in the lefthand column of the front page. Then click on 'Economic Numbers' in the subheading.

Addendum. Back when all seemed under control, NYU Professor Nouriel Roubini sounded the alarm about the crisis and earned the nickname 'Dr. Doom'. He believes the worst is still to come but does not expect a depression.

Addendum 20081225. The Intrade chance of a 2009 depression has risen to 30%.

Ho ho ho.

November 29, 2008

The GOP's Parasites Still[1] Remain in Charge

The House Republicans just defeated a leadership proposal to forego earmarks for three months.

To the devil with those worthless parasites.

Speaking of the devil, Mike Huckabee, "the Christian candidate", has stated that libertarians are a threat to conservatism and the GOP. Yes, libertarians.
------------
[1] Original post here.

November 22, 2008

Trickle-Down Biotech?

Glenn Reynolds:
But what’s really nice about today’s world is that lots of things that were luxuries a few years ago are cheap — flat-screen HDTVs for under $500, for example. It’s possible to live quite well, even luxuriously in many respects, by the standards of previous decades on not all that much money, if you don’t insist on having the biggest, latest and trendiest.
This should be a model for the research and deployment of medical treatments.

Should be but won't. The political demagogic class will never tolerate having a life-saving treatment restricted to "the rich" even though the restriction is temporary--and the alternative, if any, is a slowed development cycle.

November 20, 2008

Million-Year Plan

The EPA has changed its mind about requiring a ten-thousand year assurance that Yucca Mountain will be a safe nuclear repository. It now requires a million-year assurance.

Are these people being paid off by interests like the Saudis, are they treasonous fanatics, are they callous cynics feathering their nests at the expense of society, or are they plain stupid? (Some of each, presumably.)

November 19, 2008

Piracy

An Iranian grain ship is the latest to be seized.

Fortunately, the intelligentsia is on the case:
Roger Middleton, a Horn of Africa specialist at the Chatham House think-tank, said that the capture was a crucial escalation. “Now that they have shown they are able to seize an enormous ship like this, it is beyond a military solution. You won’t fix this without a political solution.”
Actually, you could create a desolation and call it peace. On both practical and moral grounds, I don't favor that course at the moment, but you aren't thinking clearly if you don't put it on the list of options.
*************
Wait till pirates seize a cruise ship and demand a billion-dollar ransom.

Obviously there are not too many cruises near Somalia, but Haiti and similar Caribbean hellholes are possible staging areas.
************
The linked story claims that the Somali government is about to collapse as regrouped Islamists converge on the capital.

Was this in effect a repeat of Iraq? Did we engineer the ouster of the Islamists without giving thought to what would happen next?

Addendum 20090426. The foregoing was in the ballpark:
The captain of an Italian cruise ship carrying 1,500 passengers says his security staff fought off a pirate attack in the Indian Ocean with pistols and a water hose.
I underestimated either the pirates' technology or the cruise line's imprudence. Thank heaven the pirates were repelled. I hope, but am not confident, that there will not be investigations, by governments or NGOs, of 'disproportionate response'.

November 18, 2008

Cloning Frozen Mice

Japanese scientists have done it with mice that had been frozen for 16 years..

Will extinct species be next? The article quite properly expresses daunting reservations, but I remember when freezing supposedly did irreversible damage to cells.

The prospect of restoring the mammoths gives me chills.

Addendum. According to the NYT, a mammoth might be (re)created for as little as $10M. A Neanderthal might be possible although the means currently available, if I understand the article correctly, exacerbate the serious ethical issues.

Coming Soon: Living in a Computer Simulation

Mirror's Edge is an action video game. Its body-centered perspective is so realistic that players are said to vomit from vertigo.

Much much more is coming along such lines. For example, climb mountains in a virtual-reality body suit at reduced (or increased!) gravity. Climb Olympus Mons, for that matter.

And who needs human modes of locomotion? Maximize efficiency by training drivers, pilots, and operators to have a vehicle- or machine-centric perspective.

And who needs human bodies when just the brain is doing the work?

Etc. Much much more to come.

November 17, 2008

Obvious Words, Well Written

Bill Kristol writes that the GOP governors' meeting was constructive but somehow failed to confront the failed Bush economic legacy:
From 1933 to 1980, Republicans repeatedly failed to convince the country they were no longer the party of Herbert Hoover — the party, as it was perceived, of economic incompetence, austerity and recession (if not depression).

Only two Republicans won presidential elections in that half-century, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon. Both were able to take the White House only because we were mired down in difficult wars, in Korea and Vietnam. And Ike and Nixon were unable — they didn’t really try — to change the generally liberal course of domestic and economic policy. The G.O.P.’s fate on Capitol Hill was worse. The party controlled Congress for only 4 of those 47 years.

That’s what happens when a depression begins on your watch and when you can’t offer a coherent explanation of how and why it occurred and what you are going to do differently. That’s what happens when instead of having such an explanation, you spend decades in quarrels between pragmatic but unimaginative moderates who seek to be better tax collectors for the liberal welfare state, and principled but fanciful conservatives who hope for a wholesale rejection of that welfare state. And the fact that there were many successful Republican governors in those years didn’t much change the party’s status nationally.
The whole piece is worth reading.

Gitmo: Mend It, Don't End It

Next time the executives of a bailed-out bank give themselves bonuses while assuring us that government dollars weren't used...whoosh!

As for the prosperous respectable people, well hidden in the shadows, who suborned the government to open the border and flood the country with illegal aliens: lock 'em up! (Not the illegals, but the people who invited them. The fact that the illegals were invited is one of the toughest aspects of how to deal with them.)

Addenda. Who else deserves to go?

Bush, obviously.

Phil Gramm.

Barney Frank.

I'll give Greenspan probation because he voluntarily admitted he was wrong.

November 13, 2008

Hedge Fund Day at the House of Representatives

The House Committee on Oversight is holding hearings on the financial crisis. Thursday was Hedge Fund Day. According to George Soros,
The race to save the international financial system is still ongoing. Even if it is successful, consumers, investors, and businesses are undergoing a traumatic experience whose full impact on global economic activity is yet to be felt. A deep recession is now inevitable and the possibility of a depression cannot be ruled out. When I predicted earlier this year that we were facing the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, I did not anticipate that conditions would deteriorate so badly.
Otoh, Soros the trader is known to change his mind in a twinkling and reverse his positions accordingly.

(An old hand at testifying before Congress, Soros used the occasion to market his latest book. Not to be outdone, Indiana Republican Mark Souder took the opportunity to rant in favor of the War on Drugs.)

Addendum.The first link above is a generic link to the committee's continually updated hearings page. The committee held hearings on Lehman, AIG, rating agencies, regulation, and hedge funds.

November 12, 2008

Good Humor

Americans have always despised each other, so I'm not unduly upset by the elites' putdowns of flyover country; what gets my goat is the cloddish way the supposed sophisticates go about it. The NY Times' photo of 'Jeb Mason, the Treasury’s liaison to businesses...32, a lanky Texan in black cowboy boots who once worked in the White House for Karl Rove' is an artistic exception.

November 9, 2008

Toward Regeneration of Body Parts

The technique is called nanoscaffolding. The latest progress comes from US Army efforts, but research is ongoing around the world.

Wow. It's impossible to resist speculating where this might go:

What about replacing body parts lost to disease or surgery? What about in vitro?

November 5, 2008

Minor Afterthoughts to the Election

Kathryn Jean Lopez quotes a National Review staffer. The whole thing is worthwhile but this caught my eye:
2) Where was Bush? Once again, and right to the bitter end, he let his passion for "loyalty" supersede what was stragetically right for the party, not to mention what was best for the country. I think his reputation has nowhere to go but down; yes, he got one big thing right, but he got everything else wrong. Enough of this family in our country's politics!
If Bush had campaigned, IMO the loss would have been bigger, and I don't know how his passion for loyalty played a role in the election. Above all, this requires a correction:
I think his reputation has nowhere to go but down; yes, maybe he got one big thing partly right, but he got everything else wrong.
Fixed it.

And I couldn't agree more with the good-riddance to Liddy Dole. My immediate and never mitigated reaction to her was instinctive loathing.

November 4, 2008

Shielding Space Travelers From Solar Storms

Apparently the Europeans have devised a compact magnetic shield. A simulation was reported here. Preliminary measurements are reported here.

I've read that passengers on a space elevator passing through the Van Allen belts would be endangered by radiation, and that strength of the elevator material could be endangered by radiation-produced defects. Might the magnetic technology be adapted to this situation?

November 3, 2008

The Palin Prank

Ouch: here, here, here, and here.

I don't want to believe she's a hick with a glassy smile & cheerleader persona, but you don't always get what you want...

Sarah Quaylin?

November 1, 2008

Atlas and I

Jennifer Rubin interviews Orrin Hatch. The whole piece consists of Hatch warning how bad the Democrats are. Rubin does not report what Hatch said about why the GOP lost Congress in 2006, or what the GOP is doing to regain the confidence of the electorate. I suspect that Hatch had nothing to say because the Republican establishment does not care as long as they retain their privileged positions. Given their criticism of the MSM for their being in the tank for Obama, I hope Pajamas Media asked Hatch such obvious questions.

The phrase 'Atlas Shrugged' is being revived to describe how productive Americans may react to a redistributionist Democrat government. It also describes my reaction to a GOP which feels entitled to my support because, supposedly, they wouldn't wreck the country quite as fast as the Democrats would.

October 31, 2008

This Is Victory?

McClatchy reports:
WASHINGTON — Two years ago, President Bush hailed Najim al Jabouri as a symbol of success in the battle to curb Iraq's sectarian violence. Today, Jabouri is a symbol of how uncertain that success is.

Last month, Jabouri quietly left Tal Afar, an ancient city near Iraq's desert border with Syria where he was the police chief and the mayor, collected his wife and four children and flew to safety in the United States.
Unfortunate, but at least the war was self-financing, right...?

And things are going great in Afghanistan, right?

And we showed Iran who's boss, right?

October 27, 2008

A Throw of the Dice for the Alaska GOP?

Ted Stevens has been found guilty. The conventional wisdom is that he will now lose his reelection bid and the GOP will lose the seat.

Suppose, for the good of the country and the party & in order to concentrate on the next phase of his his defense, Stevens pledged to resign after being reelected. Would Palin appoint his replacement? Would that sway Alaska voters? Could Stevens be...incentivized...to pledge resignation and held to his commitment?

Addendum. According to Alaska law, Palin could appoint a temporary replacement but a special election would be held within 2-3 months.

October 26, 2008

Bush's Economic Stewardship:
A Grudgingly Mitigative Point

Until recently, the S&P 500 has been well above its historical norm.

Which in no way excuses the spending...

Palin and the Campaign Staff

The Politico reports:
And the final straw for Palin and her allies was the news that the campaign had reported spending $150,000 on her clothes, turning her, again, into the butt of late-night humor.

"She never even set foot in these stores," the senior Republican said, noting Palin hadn't realized the cost when the clothes were brought to her in her Minnesota hotel room.
The McCain campaign retaliates:
A second McCain source says she appears to be looking out for herself more than the McCain campaign.

"She is a diva. She takes no advice from anyone," said this McCain adviser. "She does not have any relationships of trust with any of us, her family or anyone else.
So, Senator Gang-of-14, how does the maverick stuff feel when you're on the receiving end? (Assuming you're even aware of what's going on and what your staff is leaking.) CNN:
Palin's 'going rogue,' McCain aide says

"Her lack of fundamental understanding of some key issues was dramatic," said another McCain source with direct knowledge of the process to prepare Palin after she was picked. The source said it was probably the "hardest" to get her "up to speed than any candidate in history."
And what did you expect when you picked a low-population-state governor who'd served less than two years of her first term?

Back to the Politico:
Palin's loyalists say she's grown particularly disenchanted with the veterans of the Bush reelection campaign, including Schmidt and Wallace, and that despite her anti-intellectual rhetoric, her closest ally among her new traveling aides is a policy adviser, former National Security Council official Steve Biegun. She's also said to be close with McCain's chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, who prepared her for the Oct. 2 vice presidential debate.
That's a constructive sign. If Palin is to have a positive future, she needs to create an intellectual basis for her instincts.
-------------
I've been getting disenchanted with Palin, but, okay, I'll give her a pass about the clothes and the make-up. My concerns about her spending and her immigration position remain.

My concerns about McCain have been resolved: I flat-out think he shouldn't be President.

A Dinocrat Rarity

A bad post.

Iirc Yahoo! Finance was flogging this "issue" a few days ago. The linked Bloomberg article is terrible too. Then again, 'Hedge Funds Experience Redemptions Despite Outperformance' would be a less gripping headline than 'Hedge Fund Withdrawals Stress Market; Citadel Reassures Clients'.

It opens with:
Oct. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Hedge funds are aggravating the worst market selloff in 50 years as they dump assets to meet investor redemptions and keep lenders at bay.
Aggravating a selloff...tsk, tsk, naughty, naughty. Record mutual fund redemptions...not mentioned.

"With the average hedge fund down 18 percent this year", you'd think that Bloomberg would add that the typical mutual fund is down about twice that, as is the S&P 500. Bloomberg doesn't.

I hope that the Bloomberg article is merely slovenly reportage and not the kind of agenda-driven "journalism" that is so flagrant this election year.

Redistribution Preview

A server at a restaurant wore an Obama tie, but he was not happy when told his tip would be given to the homeless person outside who "needed it more".

This might be an even more effective demonstration, if a legal way to do it could be found: the customer tips the waiter; then, as the waiter leaves the table, a couple of heavies waylay him, take away the tip, give some of it to the homeless guy and some back to the waiter, and keep the rest as expenses for services rendered.

Pit Bull Mike Huckabee with Lipstick?

USA Today reports:
WASHINGTON — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin calls herself a fiscal conservative who wants to "rein in government spending." She says she "reformed the abuses of earmarks in our state." Republican John McCain said during the last debate that his running mate has "cut the size of government."

But Palin didn't cut the size of government as mayor of Wasilla, and she hasn't done so as Alaska's governor, city and state budget records show. Spending in fast-growing Wasilla increased by 55% during her tenure from 1996-2002, records show. In nearly two years as governor, she has presided over a 31% spending hike by a state government that sought earmarks from Washington even as it reaped billions from higher oil prices and Palin-backed tax increases on oil companies.

Bill McAllister, a governor's office spokesman in Alaska, said the state lived through painful budget cuts in the 1990s when low oil prices restricted revenue. "There's an element of catch-up here," he said.
The rate of spending growth in Wasilla is up to twice as high as the rate of population growth.

Why didn't the Democrats cite facts like this instead of making vicious personal attacks against Palin? Maybe some Democratic constituencies perceive such facts as positives. Maybe Camille Paglia perceives them instinctively.
-------------
Paglia's Palin piece includes:
I remember how John F. Kennedy (the first politician I ever campaigned for) electrified young people and transformed our political reality, which was about to emerge from the long, grey slog of the Cold War.
Bay of Pigs. Cuban Missile Crisis. Vietnam. Czechoslovakia. Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That's a lot of emerging...

October 24, 2008

Pit Bull Trent Lott with Lipstick?

During the first half of October, the McCain campaign's single biggest personnel expenditure was for Palin's stylist.

Curious behavior for a populist. Is Palin being a dutiful soldier following the McCain campaign's instructions, or is she exhibiting a Pelosian sense of entitlement?

October 23, 2008

Fashion Plate Palin on Illegal Immigration

The Corner and View from the Right point out that she's for it. Another compassionate conservative. John Derbyshire, correctly, doesn't take excuses.

A child of destitute non-English-speaking refugees, I am strongly pro-immigration, but I am even more strongly for the rule of law[1]. A nation that pursues things like the War on Drugs but refuses to enforce its borders...well, I'll just say the USA's prospects looked bleak in the 1970s but that time we experienced a renaissance...

Enough is enough. I will do nothing to help the McCain-Palin ticket win this election. "McCain-Palin. We'll Wreck the Country Slower." is not a slogan to make me tap my precarious financial resources.

Note to McCain: Duke Cunningham was a war hero too.

Afaic this is now beside the point, but what in heaven is McCain thinking?
---------------------
[1] Strongly as I am for the rule of law, I am just as strongly against a metastasized legal code choked with crimes which are little more than malfeasances of which an influential pressure group disapproves.

/rant

Addendum. Strongly though I am for closing the borders to intruders, I recognize that most of the people who are here illegally were de facto invited. A realistic decent policy should take this into account, but I'm not ready to talk about it until the borders are secure. Using the current illegals as an excuse to keep the borders open is outrageous hypocrisy in defense of the government's criminal behavior on behalf of special interests and against the American public.

October 22, 2008

Panicking is Patriotic

Liz Ann Sonders, who is Chief Investment Strategist at Charles Schwab, says a recession began in December 2007, and she sees signs of the panic selling that usually accompanies a market bottom.

The RNC Strikes Again

Mark Tapscott reports that the Republicans are decking populist Sarah Palin out in six-figure Saks finery (as Tapscott predicted, the Politico did not decline to follow up):
And then they wonder why the American people - most of whom for a dozen years looked to the GOP to fix America, as the party had been promising to do for decades - have mostly decided Republicans are no longer to be believed.
Whatever possessed McCain to turn the newly nominated Palin over to handlers associated with Bush?

But that's the Republicans. Since 1988 the pattern has been to do just enough to arouse my enthusiasm and support, and then WHAM! I was on the verge of sending the Republicans money after the Palin nomination, but this time I held off and I'm relieved that I did.

Unfortunately, this puts a bit of a cloud over Palin. We're entering a recession or--heaven forbid--worse, and Governor Hockey Mom is touring the country as a fashion plate. Is she just being a dutiful soldier following RNC orders, or does she consider the designer outfits her due?

Tapscott concludes:
Short of a top-to-bottom transformation in leadership, ethics, intelligence and principles, it's difficult to see a future for this bunch.
Look at it this way: George Bush will go down in history as a transformational President...

October 19, 2008

Ayers' Class Gets Him a Pass

Dinocrat quotes the Weekly Standard's Sam Schulman:
Why is Bill Ayers a respectable member of the upper middle class and Sarah Palin contemptible?
I've wondered about that myself, but I finally understand.

Ayres isn't a domestic terrorist; he is a nobleman gone wrong. Naturally, all is forgiven.

I suspect that applies to a number of 60s radicals.

October 18, 2008

Space Elevator

A few weeks ago, the Japanese announced they are getting serious about a space elevator. The Russians[1] may be stirring too.

Since the Japanese are currently the world's best engineers, they might pull this off.

It would probably be a game-changer insofar as the world balance of power goes. Accordingly, the USA doing it would be preferable afaic, but that's almost beside the big-picture point. What is essential is that humanity do it.

Just as during the chaos and pessimism of the 60s and 70s, the building blocks of the information era were being created,...?
---------------
[1] Although Tsiolkovsky had the original idea of a space elevator, the headline of this piece is unsupported by the text. I don't see corroboration that the Japanese will subcontract manufacturing to the Russians.

Traitor to My Class?






(H/T: Iowahawk)

October 17, 2008

Dreams from My Ghostwriter?

There are claims that Bill Ayers made essential contributions to Obama's auto(?)biography (H/T: Dinocrat).

Is there pattern-recognition software that could help to reach a conclusion? I seem to recall hearing about programs that test for plagiarism by professional authors or copying/plagiarism by students.

(It might be too late in the game for something like this, even if shown to be true, to turn the race around. It could have been a difference-maker if McCain had been running a coherent campaign instead of indulging in a series of stunts: some brilliant and others erratic, discomfiting, arguably self-disqualifying. Still, 'a week is an eternity in politics'.

I want Obama to lose, but McCain's temperament worries me and I question whether he has campaigned well enough to deserve to win. And a society that appoints a Bill Ayers to be a Distinguished Professor of Education at a state university...what does it deserve?)

Addendum. This looks like a job for a forensic linguist (H/T: Althouse commenter Pogo) or a stylometer: a courageous one, given how Joe the Plumber is being pilloried. In fact, since free software is available, I wonder if Rathergate debunker Charles Johnson is cranking away.

Addendum 20090429. The creator of the above stylometric software does not believe that Ayers ghosted 'Dreams from My Father'.

Addendum 20131203. The above link is dead, but not the post; see here.

October 16, 2008

Japan's PM : US bank bailout is 'insufficient'

Bush and his enablers got the Europeans looking down their economic noses at us. Now it's the Japanese:
Japan is sitting on more than $950 billion in foreign exchange reserves, second only to China's $1.9 trillion. Together, they control a major pool of funds that could come to the rescue of the West's severely strained financial industry. Options range from helping to provide credit to strapped financial institutions to cash infusions in return for ownership stakes in them.

Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said Tuesday that Japan would be willing to contribute to a rescue led by the International Monetary Fund.
They'll help the ignorant barbarians--for a price, of course.

The IMF (or is it the World Bank?) imposes budgetary restrictions on banana republics it bails out. Might that kind of national humiliation would give our worthless political class a clue? I doubt it.

Addendum. The Chinese, too, are sneering at us. Dr. Doom agrees:
Our new $1 trillion annual deficits will likely cause Russia, China, and the other countries who are funding our spending spree to say, hey, wait a minute, why are we funding this banana republic.

October 15, 2008

Nationalization, Not Investment or Bailout

The financial crisis has seemed too serious to nitpick about, but I won't ignore the government "investment" in the banking sector.

A number of the big banks didn't want government money, but for practical purposes it was mandatory:
Under a programme described by President Bush as "unprecedented and aggressive", the US treasury will buy minority stakes in nine leading banks including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Bank of America and Citigroup. Thousands of community banks will be eligible to follow.

Many of Wall Street's top banks were unwilling to take the money, fearing it would be seen as an admission of weakness, but they were given little choice by the US treasury secretary, Henry Paulson. In a televised address from the White House, Bush stressed that the measures were temporary and that banks would buy back the government's shares once the economy recovers: "These measures are not intended to take over the free market, but to preserve it." [hyperlink is mine, not the Guardian's--gs]
So it is necessary to destroy the free market in order to save it. Having stuck its nose under the tent, the camel will be content. Uh huh.

Intrade or somebody should start a long-term contract to see just how "temporary" those measures will be, especially with an Obama administration.

Addendum 20081018. This piece recalls that "emergency" Depression-era farm bailouts remain in place todday, and the programs have largely changed into corporate welfare from their original purpose of bailing out family farms.)

October 13, 2008

Three Words: Dollar. Cost. Averaging.

Dinocrat is relieved about today's jump in the markets, but notes:
Of course, it wasn’t until 1954 that the Dow undid the damage that had been done in 1929.
Not to be pedantic, but it took almost 3 years for the October Dow to bottom from its 1929 high. Come to think of it, I do hope my point is pedantic with no relation to the immediate future.

It's been too long since I read The Intelligent Investor, but iirc it states that an investor who began dollar-cost-averaging at the 1929 high would have compounded his money by an annual average of 8% by the time the market returned to the high.

October 11, 2008

Solitary, Poor, Nasty, Brutish and Short?
Cool! When Can We Start?

The WSJ reports how the Swiss--the hardheaded Swiss for heaven's sake--have voted plants' rights:
Beat Keller, a molecular biologist at the University of Zurich,...recently sought government permission to do a field trial of genetically modified wheat that has been bred to resist a fungus. He first had to debate the finer points of plant dignity with university ethicists. Then, in a written application to the government, he tried to explain why the planned trial wouldn't "disturb the vital functions or lifestyle" of the plants. He eventually got the green light.

The rule, based on a constitutional amendment, came into being after the Swiss Parliament asked a panel of philosophers, lawyers, geneticists and theologians to establish the meaning of flora's dignity.
...
"Where does it stop?" asks Yves Poirier, a molecular biologist at the laboratory of plant biotechnology at the University of Lausanne. "Should we now defend the dignity of microbes and viruses?"

Seeking clarity, Dr. Poirier recently invited the head of the Swiss ethics panel to his university. In their public discussion, Dr. Poirier said the new rules are flawed because decades of traditional plant breeding had led to widely available sterile fruit, such as seedless grapes. Things took a surreal turn when it was disclosed that some panel members believe plants have feelings, Dr. Poirier says.
This is a willing return to primitivism. It is much loonier than Lysenkoism or Algorism, which at least have the virtue(!) of being frauds.

Ecuador rolls back the Western imperialist heritage:
In another unusual move, the people of Ecuador last month voted for a new constitution that is the first to recognize ecosystem rights enforceable in a court of law. Thus, the nation's rivers, forests and air are no longer mere property, but right-bearing entities with "the right to exist, persist and...regenerate."
Back to Dr. Keller:
One morning recently, he stood by a field near Zurich where the three-year trial with transgenic wheat is under way. His observations suggest that the transgenic wheat does well in the wild. Yet Dr. Keller's troubles aren't over.

In June, about 35 members of a group opposed to the genetic modification of crops, invaded the test field. Clad in white overalls and masks, they scythed and trampled the plants, causing plenty of damage.

"They just cut them," says Dr. Keller, gesturing to wheat stumps left in the field. "Where's the dignity in that?"
Yeah right, sneer I, channeling the Progressive Soul. And I bet Dr. KKKeller believes says Sarah Palin is a woman and Clarence Thomas is black.

Addendum. The Swiss Constitution is here. See in particular Articles 78 and 120.

October 9, 2008

Why Liquidation Selling?

Maybe global investors are expressing no confidence in the US government after a $150B bribe to Congress was needed to get the bailout bill passed.

Somebody should do a skit about what it would take to get a declaration of war if today's Congress was in session after Pearl Harbor.

Hopefully we won't see a real-life demo. Would these clowns manage to authorize counteraction against a Mexican incursion into the Southwest? Even if they did, would the courts overrule it?

October 2, 2008

Ptoi! on Compassionate Conservatism

Great evil is upon us, wails the religious right[1].

They brought it on themselves. Compassionate conservatism is a gateway drug to socialism.
----------------
[1] The Anchoress:
...this election has been co-opted by something dark that has too many tentacles, and too many mindless ant-workers, in too many places.
Too many tentacles? Got it:
Obama == Cthulhu
Something dark with too many mindless ant-workers? Got it:
Michelle == Shub-Niggurath
<serious>The Anchoress would never stoop to race-baiting</serious>, but here's a helpful suggestion to those who would: replace or complement the Cthulhu Mythos with voodoo and the mindless ant-workers with zombies.

October 1, 2008

Complexity-Induced Decline?

According to a Dinocrat commenter, we're experiencing "how complex and elderly social systems decay and collapse."

I've been meaning to read Joseph Tainter's archeological study of that process. Cf. Glenn Reynolds:
The bailout bill -- once three pages long -- is now the length of a novel and larded with "sweeteners."
Supposedly innovation can counteract complexity-based decline. Unfortunately, much contemporary innovation involves the deliberate fabrication or manipulation of complexity to the overall detriment of society.

September 30, 2008

Revealing (Imputed) Bush Quote

Bush chairs the meeting with Congressional leaders about the bailout:
After some more give and ake, Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, presents a five-page list of 192 economists and business school professors who oppose the plan. Bush isn't impressed. "I don't care what somebody on some college campus says," Bush says. Instead, he says he trusts Hank Paulson, who, he says, has more than 35 years of experience and access to more information than those academics on Shelby's list. [Boldface imine.--gs]
Adam Smith? J.M. Keynes? Friedrich Hayek? Milton Friedman?

There's a hint here about what went wrong with the Republican party[1]: the lack of an intellectual foundation[2]. Not just the lack, but the belief that it is unnecessary and even contemptible.
----------------------
[1] The stupidity of addressing a political ally this way during a bipartisan conference is beside the point I'm driving at.
[2] Gingrich may have one, but it's annulled by his being such an obvious opportunist jerk.

September 28, 2008

Krugman & Meself?!

Three weeks ago, I tainted the Next Right site with "false doomsday preaching"--
Twenty years ago we were the last best hope of man. Ten years ago we were the locomotive of the world economy. Ten years from now, will we be a nuclear-armed banana republic?
Last week, Krugman wrote:
As a friend said last night, we’ve become a banana republic with nukes.
Not the first time I've wondered if I should switch sides...

September 27, 2008

McCain Surges...Then Stumbles

Proposition. A politician good enough to pull off the upset against Obama would have been good enough to defeat Bush for the nomination in 2000.

The contrapositive is...

"Prison for Dummies"?

Buy it here.

Addendum 20081012. Santos is a convicted drug dealer who has set out to rehabilitate himself within a prison system which is uninterested in rehabilitation. Being radically libertarian about the Drug War doesn't mean I admire drug dealers. Nevertheless, I believe in rehabilitation and wish Santos well with his extraordinary efforts. However, this gives me pause:
"Inside" could earn Santos a lot of money, but federal law prohibits him from profiting off his crimes. He has gotten around the rule by giving the manuscript to sister Julie, who now owns it. If she chooses to set aside the proceeds for her brother for when he is released, that's her prerogative.
That may be her prerogative, but will the government agree that it's his prerogative to accept the money?

September 26, 2008

Parker on Palin

With a friend like Parker, who needs enemies? Money quote:
Palin’s recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity, and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League.
This ignores a crucial distinction.

To be unready for prime time is not necessarily to be out of one's league.

(Notwithstanding some interleaved constructive advice, Kathryn Jean Lopez piles on:
And, frankly, if it turns out that the “authentic” Palin of rallies and the Republican convention is just good speech delivery in a woman with some good spirit, I want to know that sooner rather than later
To repeat, unready for prime time is not the same as out of one's league)

Addenda:
1. I'd been looking for 44-year-old Palin to get on the national stage in 2012, 2016 or later. Given achievements like her successful negotiation of a new Alaska pipeline, I believed she could climb the learning curve by that time. However, her early entry runs the risk that she may get permanently discredited before she gets her bearings.

2. Gibson and Couric were overtly and covertly hostile, but were they unfair? Palin's pit-bull-with-lipstick joke was a challenge to bring it on. Well, they brought it...

Where is the Turkish Army When We Need Them?


Appalling

Didn't Barney Frank block reform of the housing GSEs?

This morning's news:


Frank blames House GOP for breakdown of deal

Who has the majority?

I've been relentless against Bush and the Congressional GOP for not getting things done when they controlled the government.

Now it's looking like the Democrats will be just as bad if not worse.

Time to Rise above Principle?

A long time ago I heard that expression attributed to Senator Robert Kerr of Oklahoma.

My worry is that, after six DeLay/Lott years of spending like a drunken sailor who just won the lottery, Congressional Republicans may have chosen the
absolutely worst possible time
to begin insisting on frugality, limited government powers, letting the market work, etc.

We might all be much better off if they continue prostituting themselves for just a little longer. Then again, who knows?

September 24, 2008

'Country First' or 'L'√Čtat, C'est Moi'?

Press release from McCain headquarters:
Senator John McCain announced today that, in order to focus on his search for a clue leading the country out of the financial crisis, he is suspending his presidential campaign and replacing running mate Sarah Palin with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. "I thank Governor Palin for her willingness to serve, but Andrew is the man I need," declared McCain. "Who understands the housing disaster better than Bill Clinton's HUD Secretary?"
Kidding aside, McCain's action might be credible if his recent responses to the crisis had been cogent. They weren't and it isn't.

Do we want the loonie or the empty suit?

September 22, 2008

Is McCain Unfit to Be President?

Consider Will Collier's and Stephen Bainbridge's, and Robert George's comments on McCain's rants about the mortgage crisis. I chime in here and with the third comment here.

George Will:
It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?
The point can't be made any better than that.
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I took an online quiz which presented choices between the candidates' anonymously presented positions, and I overwhelmingly preferred McCain's.

Then again, I know what a Republican politician's solemn commitment is worth.
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McCain is slipping on Intrade--and he deserves to.

Next-Day Addendum. The right blogosphere did not exactly explode in indignation at Will's column.

We Need a Commission

There's plenty of blame to go around for the current financial crisis, but I'm not sure whether it should be evenly distributed. Here's a high-grade amoral ploy: the faction that primarily caused a given problem makes political hay by pinning the blame on the faction that tried to prevent it[1].

Something like the Challenger Commission or 9/11 Commission is needed, i.e. a council of elders composed of people with reputations for objectivity and integrity. Put some credentialed foreigners on it too.

Who were the Republican legislators that helped the Democrats block the regulatory Fannie proposals that failed a few years ago?
***************
Nobody seems to be talking about putting the federal budget so we're better positioned to deal with the next crisis when it comes along.
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[1] Not that I wrote "a given problem". There are plenty of problems and plenty of responsibility for them, and I don't doubt that both parties and multiple factions are trying the ploy I mentioned.

Flagrant Market Manipulation

SEC Press Release Friday September 19, 2008: "SEC Halts Short Selling of Financial Stocks to Protect Investors and Markets; Commission Also Takes Steps to Increase Market Transparency and Liquidity" How does banning short selling increase liquidity? That would be 799 financial stocks, btw. SEC to market makers: never mind, short away!

SEC Press Release Sunday September 21, 2008: "Statement of SEC Division of Trading and Markets Regarding Technical Amendments to Short Sale Order"--
...However, this exception now requires that, for new positions, a market maker may not sell short if the market maker knows a customer or counterparty is increasing an economic net short position in the shares of the Included Financial Firm.
In effect, they're not allowing investors to buy puts.

Doubtless entirely of its own volition--
The SEC has delegated to each national securities exchange the authority to identify additional listed companies that qualify for inclusion in the list of companies covered by the revised prohibition.
--, the New York Stock Exchange has added 31 companies to its do-not-short list, including major foreign banks, General Motors, and the icon General Electric.

Such flailing around does not increase my confidence in the powers-that-be. If things are really serious, they should close the market and coordinate a coherent response.

September 21, 2008

Indicators?

During the Friday bailout rally, a number of ETFs--SPY, QQQQ, MDY, XLF, etc.--closed below their opening prices (which, of course, were up sharply over the previous close). Now premarket prices are down close to 2%.

Was This a Smear of Obama?

After this column, the right blogosphere was aflame with accusations that Obama had violated the Logan Act, which forbids unauthorized US citizens from intervening into American diplomatic disputes.

Oops. Never mind...

I must say that the right blogosphere hasn't exactly been cluttered with retractions...

September 19, 2008

The Corner Thinks This is 'Brilliant'?!

Or is Palin starting to believe her own hype?
Gov. Sarah Palin is now talking about "a Palin and McCain administration."

I've also heard her refer to McCain as "my running mate" -- a term I don't recall ever hearing a VP nominee use when discussing the guy at the top of the ticket.
This is the first meaningful negative I've seen about Palin--and it's a big one.

Ambition is healthy. Overweening ambition is dangerous. That applies to Palin every bit as much as it applies to Obama.

The jury remains out, but maybe Krauthammer will get to say "I told you so" after all.

Couple this with McCain's ignorant demagoguery against the SEC Chairman, and you see serious mistakes by a campaign that needs to play a near-perfect game.
**********
Two quibbles about Palin (but quibbles count in a close election):

1. All her photos look more or less the same.
2. When I'm in a bad mood, she looks like a younger version of Harriet Miers.

Award a Point to Obama

"John McCain can't decide whether he's Barry Goldwater or Dennis Kucinich."

Wham! That oughta leave a mark.

(Via Jake Tapper, or see here.)

September 17, 2008

A Modest Proposal for a Stock Market Regulation

If we're going to regulate, let's regulate effectively:
No common or preferred stock shall be sold in the United States except at a profit to the seller.
This way stocks will only go up!

Embarrassed afterthought. Mea culpa.

If an investor acquired a stock sufficiently under the current price, of course the price can decline while he sells it at a profit.

I don't have this securities-regulation thing down pat yet, but if first you don't succeed...

The correct answer lies in the uptick rule. Don't just reinstate it. Give it teeth!
No common or preferred stock shall be traded in the United States except at a price greater than or equal to the preceding price.
Take that, you unAmerican pessimists!

I'm Not a Fan of Larry Kudlow

Kudlow, one day before the AIG bailout (see here or here):
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is the man of the hour. This weekend he drew a clear line in the sand: no more federal bailouts. Not for Lehman Brothers. Not for Merrill Lynch. Not for anyone, at least as of this writing.
At least he's noticed that we're no longer in the Goldilocks Economy with King Dollar...

Uptick Rule, Again

One of the country's most famous traders, who spurned incredible wealth to heed a call to public service, has advocated--in a laudably measured manner, whether one agrees or not--reexamination of the uptick rule.
*********
Seriously:

Assume for the sake of argument that the market is locked into a downward spiral and a catastrophic crash can only be avoided by external intervention.

Ad hoc, kneejerk regulatory responses are even more transparent attempts at manipulation than what short sellers are allegedly doing. At worst, such responses, coming on the heels of political/bureaucratic incompetence and phony reassurances from Fannie, Freddie, Lehman, et al, will only aggravate the panic. At best, kneejerk regulation is likely to lock in distortions that will impair the competitiveness of US markets going forward.

If the threat is not catastrophic, let the market do its work of creative destruction[1]. If the threat is catastrophic, close the market for a week or two and coordinate a solution with a critical mass of domestic and foreign heavy hitters.
-------------
[1] There is also the alternative of letting the market unwind the mess even if the threat is catastrophic.

Preciousss, We Sstill Hatesss Nasssty Short Sellerss

I keep saying the following. The markets should treat buyers and sellers evenhandedly. To that end, the SEC prefaced its repeal of the uptick rule with a crackdown on naked shorting, and the agency continues to implement that crackdown. I don't favor reimposition of the uptick rule, but if the rule is brought back it should be balanced by a downtick rule on margin purchases.

Dinocrat notes that Jim Cramer has resumed slamming the repeal of the uptick rule. Jim Cramer readily went long-short when he ran a hedge fund but his current customers are retail investors who primarily go long (and his stock is down over 60%). This Jim Cramer:
The last two market tops -- one in the spring of 2000, the other last October, when the Dow pushed through all-time highs -- had little in common...(p)Here's what both market tops did have in common, at least for Cramer: He buried his head under the pillow and pretended logic made no sense. He told investors to discard everything they'd learned over the years as nonsense. He told investors to keep buying stocks just because it felt good. Without peeking, I'm sure you can guess the outcomes.
Cramer is an energetic entrepreneur, but I don't find him credible as a policy wonk. Where were his calls for the uptick rule while the oil price was dropping?

Vodkapundit's Will Collier notices somebody else who is not cut out to be a policy wonk:
Just When I Think It’s Safe To Stop Holding My Nose…McCain goes and says something really, really stupid:

John McCain said in an interview with CNBC Tuesday that...regulators also need to “do a better job in reining in short sellers.”

Unbelievably dumb. Nancy Pelosi dumb. Herbert Hoover dumb.
Yep. Couple that with McCain's sneaky campaigning for immigration amnesty, and I'm glad I restrained my impulse to donate when McCain picked Palin.

September 15, 2008

Who's Responsible for the Mortgage Mess?

My uninformed guess is that the Democrats started the corruption, but support or acquiescence from key Republicans was essential to keep it going past the danger point.

We know where the buck is supposed to stop[1].

The longer we go without ubiquitous comparisons to Enron and without Congressional calls for prosecutions, the likelier it is that the primary malefactors are Democrats. Nevertheless, the Democrats might succeed in finessing the issue so as to seize the White House and increase their Congressional majorities[2]. Addendum: See here.

Addendum: See here.
*************
[1] The administration has long been aware that the mortgage situation was precarious. Did it back off as a quid pro quo for Congress's going along with George's Excellent Nation Building Adventures?

[2] But they'll fix it once they have power. Sure they will.

September 14, 2008

The Correct Line of Attack on Palin

Palin mania on the right is nowhere nearly as extreme as the left's Obama mania, but a comparison does come to mind.

The McCain used mockery to counteract Obama mania. IMO direct attacks would not have worked; if anything, they would have boomeranged. I suspect that the Obama campaign was prepared for direct attacks, but derision caught them flat-footed.

So what is the left thinking as it hysterically spews deranged venom at Palin? An element of truth is an essential ingredient of successful mockery. They should be working along the lines of SNL and Lisa Nova.

IMO McCain still has an uphill climb to the Presidency. All the Democrats have to do to win is recover their composure and campaign competently. All they have to do is not be the 1986 Red Sox...but Gore's managing to lose in 2000 is not an encouraging precedent.

Afterthought. As an antiPalin hit piece, the Lisa Nova interview skit is too blatant. The skit's Gibson actually comes off better than the real Gibson did. The perfect touch would have been to make fun of Gibson too while keeping the balance of disadvantage with Palin.

Chinese CPUs

CNET reports that the Chinese are developing their own computer chips:
..."Their motivation is pretty clear. They don't want to be totally dependent on the outside world for something as important as microprocessors," said Tom Halfhill, an analyst at In-Stat. "The most interesting part of the chip is that they're adding about 200 new instructions to assist with x86 compatibility...It won't be an x86 processor. But the 200 instructions will optimize the (Intel) performance...I don't think they're doing this to compete with (Intel) x86 per se (but) If somebody has to run some software that's only available to x86 you can do it."
Halfhill may be indulging in wishful thinking. On the other hand, to date Chinese economic expansion has been based on pricing more than quality. The Chinese may (or may not) find that building something as complex as a CPU is harder than they anticipate.

September 12, 2008

Gibson vs. Palin

Charles Johnson has posted a ten-minute clip.

Both by body language and occasional quavers in her voice, Palin seemed nervous. She kept trying to shift into the person-to-person informality in which she is comfortable, but gravitas was needed. Palin did about what might be expected from a first-term governor who has unexpectedly been thrust into a hostile national spotlight. Her insecurity is the counterpart of the teleprompter-less Obama's uh's and um's.

Gibson was a pompous jerk who deserved a cream pie in the face. IMO Palin's objectively best move was to counterattack like George H.W. Bush did during Dan Rather's 1988 ambush interview. She doesn't yet have the experience to be confident about using such a tactic, but it might have worked anyway.

Hostile interviewer Gibson underperformed more badly than Palin did. Most of us have had to endure sessions with smug, arrogant, unfair, entrenched, incompetent authority figures--teachers, bosses, interviewers, reviewers, bureaucrats, etc.--, and that's how Gibson came across. Many voters, women in particular, may get so angry at Gibson that they will overlook Palin's deficiencies. Gibson made a much stronger case for media bias than he made against Palin.

There is considerable merit to Glenn Reynolds' suggestion that candidates bring their own cameramen to interviews. I can't help wondering if the VP debate will be manipulated via preferentially leaked gotcha questions.

The Gibson interview was an early round of a match between a fast-learning rookie and a bunch of know-it-all veterans. Hopefully Palin will correct her deficiencies faster than the MSM correct theirs.

Addendum. My impression is consistent with UPI's Martin Sieff's:
...Tactically, she made the mistake of trying to be friendly and informal with Gibson, who assumed a superior, professorial and critical stance toward her. She would have been far better going on the attack to rattle him.

September 11, 2008

Never Forget

If life had gotten differently, I might very possibly have been near the top of the Towers that day.

September 10, 2008

Psychological Threshold?

As I write, for the first time the Intrade odds have shifted to slightly favor McCain (although they are essentially tied).

Clearly McCain has taken the initiative, but he has had no setbacks for quite a while whereas Obama has been stumbling.

The debates are still ahead. The political terrain favors the Democrats, but they can no longer win merely by avoiding mistakes (unless the Republicans make serious ones).
************
Perhaps the worst outcome for the country would be to have Obama eke out a very narrow win: e.g. via the House or the courts, or while losing the popular vote. Coming in a strongly Democratic year, that would delegitimize his Presidency before he ever took office.

September 9, 2008

A Modest Proposal to Democrats and Republicans

People people...all this squabbling about Obama's and Palin's limited experience...tsk tsk. A little sweet reason is needed here.

Consider that Vladimir Putin was only a field-grade officer, but he became a popular and successful president.

Thank you.

On the Academic Elite

A long time ago somebody said to me, "It doesn't bother me that academia is crazy. My neighbors are crazy, but their quirks tend to cancel each other out. What bothers me is that most academics are crazy the same way."

September 8, 2008

It's Still Early...

...and a week is an eternity in politics, and there will be setbacks, and I don't want to jinx the McCain-Palin ticket (about which I still haven't fully made up my mind).

It's a real battle now, but the terrain still favors the Democrats.

But if McCain pulls it off, the only comparison that comes to mind is Dewey-Truman.

Nevertheless,...

September 7, 2008

And the Beat Goes On...

I looked at Yahoo! Finance to check on Fred and Fannie.

There was a headline about the auto industry. Last year an energy bill authorized $25B in loans. I hadn't known that energy independence can be achieved by government subsidies to noncompetitive US automakers...

But that wasn't the headline. The headline was that the industry wants $25B ($50B?) more.
The White House said last week it was talking to members of Congress and the industry about the financing.
Thanks, Dubya! Btw, what's next year's deficit, you fiscally responsible Harvard MBA Republican you? $400B? $500B?
*******************
Twenty years ago we were the last best hope of man. Ten years ago we were the locomotive of the world economy. Ten years from now, will we be a nuclear-armed banana republic?

Assuming we're not one already.

September 4, 2008

Sarah Palin's Debut

Successful speech. Two thoughts:

1. Her attacks on the Democratic ticket might have seemed excessive if she herself wasn't being attacked so viciously.

2. Afaic Larry Kudlow correctly asked where the emphasis on the economy is.

I've been noting for a while that the S&P 500 is below its value at Bush's inauguration: that is, below its value in a dollar which has itself become debased. The media are starting to notice.

The Palin nomination was a game-changer, but IMO the failure to address the economy (unless McCain's speech does so) leaves the Democrats positioned to pivot to that issue. Note to the Obama brain trust: anyone for 'It's the economy, stupid'?
********************
Dinocrat:
There continues to be something surreal about this year’s presidential campaign...What’s going on that people experience such intensity of feeling about mere politicians?
Part of it might be emotional reaction to the perversion of political discourse begun by Read-My-Lips Bush, continued by the Clinton-era GOP Congress, and consummated by the Bush administration (and by today's Democrats of course). The public knows the country is on the wrong track, but the wise guys have set the system up so adult speech is political suicide.

Addendum 20080925. Not just speech, behavior.

The public knows the country is on the wrong track, but the wise guys have set the system up so adult behavior is political suicide.

September 2, 2008

McCain and Palin

Dinocrat asks:
Why do so many commentators (enthusiastically, instantly) jump to a conclusion when there is so much evidence yet to be considered?
IMO her enemies want to knock her out before she gets her bearings on the national stage. They have no case for disqualification on the merits, so they have to be fast, sustained, and dirty. Apparently some of the mud is starting to stick.

Palin is competitive and a quick study, but she can’t learn instantaneously.

Once McCain picked her, afaic it became his responsibility to protect her in the early going.
**************
Intrade’s odds that she’ll be withdrawn currently are above 10%.

Currently there is no sign of Palin on the convention front page.
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I was about to donate…and then I remembered ‘Read my lips’.

Jack Risko’s call for restraint is spot on. I trust that my unease is groundless.

I trust, but I’ll verify.

Palin Today

The good news is that Obama has been forgotten and Palin/McCain are getting all the publicity.

The bad news is that the publicity is about Palin's 17-year-old daughter's pregnancy[1]--and about Palin lawyering up for Troopergate (documentation is here and here) and being threatened with a subpoena.

I want to believe that McCain is ready for this. It's important that he promptly demonstrate control of the narrative.
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[1] Young Bristol has my sympathy and I hope things work out for her. Perhaps she was foolish or perhaps an accident occurred. If she made a mistake, it seems a youthful and human one. Take care and good luck, young lady.

As for Supermom, maybe she could have spent less time being super and more time being mom.

August 30, 2008

Why Palin?

Some think that McCain is trying for a blowout win.

I disagree. While I wouldn't go as far as the Politico, IMO McCain realized he had made a fight of it but was still on track to lose. Therefore he took a risk. He increased his chance of winning at the price of increased risk.

My cognition coldly informs me that the Palin thing could fall flat or blow up. Nevertheless, it's been twenty years since I've felt enthusiastic about anything the Republicans have shown me.

This is not the best-known passage from 'The Man in the Arena', but it is a good one:
Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength.
When John McCain introduces himself to Theodore Roosevelt on the Other Side (if there be an Other Side), he can look him in the eye.

August 29, 2008

Palin

I thought that Palin needed seasoning and that remains a concern--how will she do against Biden abetted by a vicious media?--, but I endorse the decision now that it's made. (The AP's "news report" is chuckle spitting venom: very auspicious sign.)

McCain knows he's running in a heavily Democratic year. He's made a race out of it instead of the Obama runaway that might be expected, but the odds still favor the Democrats. (And they continue to do so even after the Palin pick, but the Democrats' after-convention glow has been cut abruptly short.)

To make it to the Oval Office, McCain must continue to be bold--and he was. Not only have I been a Palin well-wisher, but my assessment of McCain's Presidential quality has climbed sharply.

The Republicans have let me down so often that I'm not going to get carried away, but this might be more than the lesser of two evils. This might be a ticket I can affirmatively support.

Brilliant choice!

Addendum. Charles Johnson reports that Palin is a creationist.

I didn't know that and it probably won't change my vote, but I need clarification before giving the 'affirmative support' mentioned above.

IMO for all his faults, Bill Clinton was trying to look toward the future. One of my many criticisms of Bush is that his America seems like a multiracial version of the 1950s. I've repeatedly posted that today's financial markets tell us that the country's future looks worse than it did when Bush took office.

Our opponents and enemies will progress technologically even if we choose not to.

There's a saying in some circles that 20th-century technology was driven by physics whereas this century's will be driven by biology. That's too glib to be correct, but it has elements of truth.

Sometimes it's correct to stand athwart history yelling Stop!...and sometimes it's not.

Addendum #2. The surge in energy on the right blogosphere is palpable. Instead of chanting their planned exegeses on the holy words of the Obamessiah, the left is diverted to attack Palin.

McCain was likely on track to lose narrowly--quite a feat under the circumstances--, but, per an LGF commenter, the VP pick could be a game-changer.

Even though he's a centrist, with one stroke McCain might be resurrecting the Reagan coalition.


Addendum #3. Apparently Palin favors teaching creationism in public schools. I'm with Althouse commenter Alan:
Why is it when the GOP puts forward a pro-life candidate he or she seems to always carry additional kook baggage?
This is probably a showstopper for me. I'll sleep on it, but I don't think I'll be able to vote for the McCain-Palin ticket.

If America wants to turn itself into a backwater--a nuclear-armed backwater, heaven help us--while the rest of the developed and emerging worlds moves into the 21st century, my conscience requires me to speak up but it does not demand more.

Update #4 (20080901). If Charles Johnson, who is at least as adamant against teaching creationism than I am, is mollified, so, for the moment, am I. See also a thread at Chicago Boyz.

August 26, 2008

The Good Ole Elastic Claws

The NYT reports:
A woman who worked as a part-time booker for the escort service that the authorities say was patronized by Eliot Spitzer pleaded guilty on Monday to a conspiracy charge.
A part-time booker for victimless crimes. From Tanya Hollander's confession:
...by continuing to work for QAT Consulting in this capacity, through to approximately March 6, 2008, I caused to be used facilities in interstate commerce which facilitated the carrying on of an unlawful activity, namely a business enterprise involving prostitution offenses.
Let's repeat:
...I caused to be used facilities in interstate commerce which facilitated the carrying on of...prostitution offenses.
A regular Dillinger, this woman!

Hopefully the judge will have the common sense to give Hollander a slap on the wrist and let her go. Unfortunately, the American Gulag is always looking for bodies. Michael Farkas is Hollander's lawyer:
Mr. Farkas said after court that Ms. Hollander had also offered her assistance, but that prosecutors “did not see fit to offer her a cooperation agreement.”
And there are always prosecutors looking to pad their stats. Of course, it's possible that there is material prejudicial to Hollander that did not make it into the news reports; it's possible that the prosecution recommended a lesser penalty than jail time but the Times did not report it. Nevertheless:
...I caused to be used facilities in interstate commerce which facilitated the carrying on of...prostitution offenses.
Maybe the legislators who are busy manufacturing crimes should create an elastic offense called abuse of prosecutorial discretion (willful or negligent).

Update 20100927. As it happens, Holder did not go to jail. She was put on probation; the prosecution had requested a sentence of six months of home confinement.

Afaik such common sense from the bench and the prosecutors does not always happen.

August 24, 2008

Another Reason They're Called the Stupid Party?

For a party that is on track to get whacked in the Congressional election, trails slightly in national Presidential polls, and trails significantly in Presidential betting odds, the GOP seems awfully cocky.

I don't mean determined and upbeat. I mean cocky.

August 22, 2008

Another 'Successful Test' of Missile Defense

Chicagoboyz report and tsk-tsk Obama's opposition.

Twenty-five years after Reagan's speech, they finally discriminate between a warhead and a single penaid.
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The Left has global warming. The Right has missile defense.

Concern about global warming might motivate development of geoengineering technologies that can cope with serious climate change if and when it occurs.

SDI was so easy to defeat that for the longest time I couldn't formulate a guess as to why it drove Soviet negotiators berserk. I suppose it's because a technological breakthrough, however unlikely it might seem, would completely tilt the strategic balance. Addendum: Maybe even back in the mid-1980s, the Soviets recognized, in effect if not in so many words, the emerging importance of Moore's Law.

Unfortunately, both global warming and missile defense are heavily influenced by special interests whose agendas are distinct from the ostensible issues.

August 21, 2008

Barry, Milt and Fred

Obama in Time:
...I was reading Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayak [sic: Time misspells the Nobel Laureate's name], and I was growing up when Ronald Reagan was ascendant. So the political culture of my formative years was much more conservative.

It partly explains why, if you look at not just my politics, but also I think who I am as a person—in some ways, I'm pretty culturally conservative. I was always suspicious of dogma, and the excesses of the left and the right. One of my greatest criticisms of the Republican Party over the last 20 years is that it's not particularly conservative. I can read conservatives from an earlier era—a George Will or a Peggy Noonan—and recognize wisdom, because it has much more to do with respect for tradition and the past and I think skepticism about being able to just take apart a society and put it back together. Because I do think that communities and nations and families aren't subject to that kind of mechanical approach to change. But when I look at Tom DeLay or some of the commentators on Fox these days, there's nothing particularly conservative about them.
Obama plays on libertarian/conservative dejection under the Bush/Rove/DeLay/Lott regime. "They've been playing you for suckers ever since Read-My-Lips Bush," he implies[1], presumably with voter suppression in mind. "Are you going to fall for it again?"

Obama about growing up overseas:
If anything, it has reinforced my belief in American exceptionalism. One of the things that happens when you live overseas is you realize how special America is— our values, our ideals, our Constitution, our rule of law, the idea of equality and opportunity. Those are things that we often take for granted, and it's only when you get out of the country that you see the majority of the world doesn't enjoy those same privileges.
It wasn't an accident that this guy beat the Clinton machine[2].

[1] I'm putting words in his mouth, not quoting.
[2] But I bet that Bill would have taken him.

August 12, 2008

Georgia on Their Minds

RealClearPolitics has collected Bush's, McCain's and Obama's statements about Georgia. RCP left out the White House correction of Bush's gaffe.

Of the three, McCain is the only one to attempt to present the crisis in terms of America's national interest.

McCain and Obama both support NATO membership for Georgia. That has also been Bush's policy.

If it's not in our interest to help Georgia when it's attacked, what were we thinking when we accepted their troops in Iraq? (IMO it's plausible that we have airlifted aid.)

August 10, 2008

Georgia on my Mind

In his own way, Zbigniew Brzezinski is as wacko as his former boss Jimmy Carter.

Dinocrat has a series of informative posts here, here, here and here.
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Two rhetorical questions:

1. If we've known for years that Saakashvili is a loose cannon, why was George Bush trying to get Georgia into NATO?

2. As Putin leaves Beijing to direct the Russian onslaught against an American ally, why is George Bush letting himself be photographed with bikini-clad volleyball amazons?

Maybe he knows some tremendously good news of which the rest of us are not yet aware.

That's one possibility. There are others.
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Even thuggish imperialists can have arguable pretexts. Consider how supportive the Enlightened Nations were of Kosovo's secession from Russian ally Serbia.

Cold comfort is better than no comfort. The Russians are paying lip service to the diplomatic process.

Addendum 20080811. Putin has compared Saakashvili to Saddam:
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday harshly criticized the United States for airlifting Georgian troops from Iraq back home.

Putin said the U.S. move would hamper efforts to solve Russia's conflict with Georgia over the breakaway province of South Ossetia.

"It's a pity that some of our partners, instead of helping, are in fact trying to get in the way," Putin said at a Cabinet meeting. "I mean among other things the United States airlifting Georgia's military contingent from Iraq effectively into the conflict zone."
...
"Of course, Saddam Hussein ought to have been hanged for destroying several Shiite villages," Putin said. "And the incumbent Georgian leaders who razed ten Ossetian villages at once, who ran elderly people and children with tanks, who burned civilian alive in their sheds — these leaders must be taken under protection."
There is still a threadbare reference to due process, but it sounds like Putin may intend to install a puppet government.

I have no problem with throwing Saakashvili to the wolves--to the bear, actually--if that's part of a deal that will prevent that outcome.

Second Addendum 20080811. Bush's recent statement is here. The White House site also has a video.

Wretchard offers his usual clear-eyed insight and, notwithstanding the armchair generalissimos among them, I found his commenters worthwhile. For example, one asks what the US intelligence community was doing during the Russian build-up, which begs the question of what that community is good for going forward.

This is pathetic (see also Bush's gaffe):
Rice spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov by telephone yesterday, one of several conversations the two have had since Friday on resolving the crisis, and Khalilzad referenced their exchange in an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council.
...
Lavrov, Khalilzad said, told Rice "that a democratically elected president of Georgia -- and I quote -- must go." And the U.S. ambassador challenged Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin, "Is your government's objective regime change in Georgia, the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Georgia?"

"Regime change is an American expression," Churkin countered. And he scolded Khalilzad for revealing the contents of a secret diplomatic discussion.
(Cf. also Bush's gaffe in the statement mentioned above.) It pains me to say this when my country is in a confrontation, but why the devil are our diplomats publicly quoting confidential discussions?! Protocol exists for a reason; some of it is silly and anachronistic, but some of it is important. (Hey, we're the good guys and we're for freedom and stuff. That's alright then. Nevermind.)

The WaPo piece I just linked quotes McCain as calling for revisiting the decision to withhold NATO membership with Georgia. I was unpersuaded because the degree of our national interest is not clear to me. Remarkably, McCain's full statement addresses the point. I'm still unpersuaded, but my opinion of McCain has risen. Even if I don't agree, I can support a President who demonstrates competence and policy coherence.

Infrastructure

Glenn Reynolds links to a StrategyPage post about the Central African Republic:
August 9, 2008: The lights have gone out, literally. Over half a century of poor maintenance and neglect, the power grid of the Central African Republic has collapsed. The capital has gone dark. Two nearby hydroelectric power stations, which provide most of the nation's electricity, have failed from years of neglect. The government is calling on foreign aid donors to fly in generators for hospitals and other essential services. Generators that have been brought in previously have not been maintained, and wear out quickly. This is not an exceptional event, for colonial era infrastructure, from roads to power plants, are collapsing from decades of post-independence neglect. This causes more unrest, as factions battle for a dwindling supply of resources.
He cautions:
In the West, people take the smooth functioning of infrastructure for granted. But it's only through continuous hard work that things work well here. Slack on that, and they go down the tubes pretty fast. But politicians value shiny new things more than unglamorous maintenance here, too. Be warned.
Not only that, but I suspect that the Central African Republic got its independence in a burst of idealism that was shot through and undermined by incompetent opportunists (incompetent, that is, at everything but aggrandizing personal power). Therein lies cautionary note regarding blandishments concerning quality of life, conservation, and sustainable growth--blandishments spoken by idealists and incompetent opportunists (incompetent, that is, at everything but...).

The collapse of the C.A.R.'s physical infrastructure was made possible by its inadequate cognitive infrastructure.

IMO the Western cognitive infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly.

August 5, 2008

That Didn't Take Long #2

Rumor has it that Jindal will be the keynote speaker at the Republican convention.





Jindal for President


Exorcism.

Castration.

Intelligent Design.



July 30, 2008

Obama: America's 'Tragic History'

Jack Risko discusses Obama's latest gaffe. A fatigued Obama made a slip that he immediately corrected. The concern is that the tired slip is what he actually meant.

“I personally would want to see our tragic history, or the tragic elements of our history, acknowledged,” the Democratic presidential hopeful said.

So is our history itself tragic or is it a history with the tragic elements that all national epics have? Which one is it, Senator?

I'm pretty sure what Obama actually thinks (apparently Michelle was speaking for both Obamas). I'm pretty sure what he'd say if asked directly. I'm pretty sure that his campaign tries to screen out anyone who might ask him.

And isn't part of American exceptionalism the opportunity to transcend those tragic elements? While that's small comfort to the casualties of history, it should not be allowed to blot out the big picture.
*************
The Star Bulletin's Obama quote continues:
"I consistently believe that when it comes to whether it's Native Americans or African-American issues or reparations, the most important thing for the U.S. government to do is not just offer words, but offer deeds."
Reparations, eh? By all means let's have an election about reparations.

I felt uneasy back when 'equal opportunity' morphed into 'affirmative action', and am aghast at government sponsorship of 'diversity'. Unfortunately, just because we're approaching a reductio ad absurdum doesn't mean the craziness will stop.

Addendum. Obama has come out against reparations. As is commonplace these days when a politician takes a position, his supporters and his opponents and people on both sides of the issue question whether he means what he says.

To not jump all over Obama's apparent endorsement of reparations was the right move by the McCain campaign. They're not going to win the independent vote by looking like 'mean-spirited' kneejerk obsessives. It's Obama's overall credibility that they have to bring into question. By preemptively addressing the matter, Obama probably made his best available move too. Nevertheless, another flip-flop is on tape, and the McCain campaign can use it as they choose.