June 30, 2008

What's Wrong with America?

Among other things, retribalization.

A half-century after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, people seem more conscious than ever of their involuntary differences. Good intentions have gone awry--and some nominally good intentions were pretexts. Nondiscrimination is simple justice IMO, but there has been a slippery slope from 'equal opportunity' to 'affirmative action' to grievance-based identity politics.

Obviously things are far better today than they were fifty years ago, but tension is rising. Is the center continuing to hold?

June 28, 2008

That Didn't Take Long




Jindal for President

Give Bobby credit for honesty. His views probably aren't very different from those of Bush and many of the people behind him.

Give him credit for honesty, but keep him far away from national office.

Jindal was a Rhodes Scholar. That in other respects he is, well, blatantly nuts should be a cautionary note about deferring to the judgment of nominally smart people. Especially when they band together into elites. I'm talking about you, 'reality-based community'.

And, of course, it should be a cautionary note about one's own judgment, especially when the opinion is deeply felt.

Afterthought. Speaking of loopy Rhodes Scholars with an eye on national office, there's also Wesley Clark.

In fairness, the loopy Rhodes Scholar who made it to the Oval Office had a relatively successful presidency--possibly despite himself.

Nowhere to Hide?

Dinocrat notes that money is flowing into commodities:
Becasue they’re so safe, right?
Once upon a time people who didn't like the looks of the stock market would liquidate into bonds or cash and wait for the storm to pass.

Today, is there any stable asset class in which an investor with a global perspective can take refuge? If not, is this the first time in modern history that such has been the case? What are the implications?

Afterthought. It's not just, and maybe not primarily, the instability off assets. Maybe modern transportation and communication make a global perspective more common than it was in the past.

June 24, 2008

Reynolds the Epigrammatist

In regard to the practice of medicine becoming such a hassle that physicians are demoralized or leave the field:
In this area, as in so many, Atlas, tired of being taken for granted, is quietly shrugging.

June 22, 2008

Hope and Change are Coming to Oil Markets

Obama has released his plan to curb energy speculation. Oil executives are designated as "independent experts" when their views support Obama's. On the agenda:
*Ensure That U.S. Energy Futures Cannot be Traded on Unregulated Offshore Exchanges

*Work with Other Countries to Coordinate Regulation of Oil Futures Markets
A conscientious regulator's job is difficult because there are legitimate interests pro and con any change in the degree of regulation; moreover, there is a plenitude of domestic and foreign wise guys waiting to pounce on any regulatory misstep. In my inexpert opinion, inadequately regulated markets tend to become rigged or manipulated; in a globalized economy, over-regulated markets tend to move offshore (as IPOs have done because of Sarbanes-Oxley).
The regulatory measures are part of Obama's "comprehensive plan to make America a global energy leader", but I gather that the 'comprehensiveness' does not involve drilling.

Plan A is to regulate and tax. Is Plan B, currently not openly spoken of, to ration? Plan C, to nationalize?

Update. The people who want to sue OPEC are also proposing regulations. From Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.:
Stupak countered by saying the new proposed legislation is "the most comprehensive approach" that has yet been offered. He suggests closing all loopholes, including bilateral out-of-market trades, foreign trades on the InterContinental Exchange, swaps, and hedging exemptions. As a result, he believes excessive speculation will be stopped by complete oversight of the markets.
As I read that paragraph, Stupak is asserting jurisdiction over every single oil transaction in the world.

And if the rest of the world ignores us? Well, we'll just stop buying their oil. That'll show them.

Instead of ignoring us, they might make us a low-priority customer. The American price of oil would thereby become greater than the international price. Accordingly, there would be no reason to express the international price in dollars.
Opponents of domestic drilling say that it would take ten years for the new oil to come online. (How long would it take "alternative" energy?) It would take much less than ten years to make a bad situation worse.

A cautionary note: historically, the term 'speculators' has been used in an antisemitic context.

June 19, 2008

June 17, 2008

Malthus versus and/or the Singularity

Both scenarios characterize (exponential) compounding as unsustainable[1]. Malthus culminates in calamity and the Singularity in transcendence.

HT to Glen Reynolds, who links to John Tierney's "Malthus v. the Singularity".

Is the Singularity a deus ex machina that descends at the last moment to foil Malthus by snatching us into a higher plane?
[1] Sherlock Holmes said, "Indeed, I cannot think why the whole bed of the ocean is not one solid mass of oysters, so prolific the creatures seem," but he was feigning delirium. What would he think today? Victorians were optimists and IMO Holmes would wager on the Singularity over Malthus.

June 16, 2008

In the 90s, Single Men Had Best Wear Natural Fibers. Today, It's...

Green f**king, aka environmentally conscious dating.

In fact, the whole blog is a trove of insights like that.

June 13, 2008

Supreme Court Power Grab

From the Constitution, Article III:
Section 1. The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

Section 2. The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;--to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;--to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;--to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;--to controversies between two or more states;--between a state and citizens of another state;--between citizens of different states;--between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have directed.
Seems pretty clear to me that Congress is intended to be a check on the Court; the Supreme Court is not intended to be a law unto itself.

Yet in the Guantanamo case, Congress passed legislation denying the Court jurisdiction. The Court (blatantly, flagrantly IMO) disregarded it.

Perhaps unnecessarily since an Obama presidency is likelier than not, and McCain wants to close down Guantanamo.

Unnecessarily, that is, except to grab power for themselves.
I'd give more credence to Scalia's dissent if he hadn't produced similar tortured logic to allow the Feds to attack medical marijuana.

June 10, 2008

"Laura Bush defends Michelle Obama"

Michelle Obama has a new defender from those who say she isn’t patriotic enough — First Lady Laura Bush. In an interview with ABC News, Bush said that Obama’s February remark that she was proud of the United States “for the first time in my adult life” was misconstrued.

“I think she probably meant ‘I’m more proud.’ That’s what she really meant,” Bush said from Afghanistan.

“You have to be really careful in what you say because everything you say is looked at and in many cases misconstrued,” she said.
Never mind the decades of attendance at Trinity Church. Or will Laura also defend Jeremiah Wright as misconstrued?

Lady, go model a burqa.

The practice could come in handy. If a Democratic administration finds a pretext to throw your husband in the slammer, the Saudis will probably offer the Bushes sanctuary.
Thanking heaven for miserly favors. Whenever I fear that an Obama administration would be even more inept than the current one, something like the above hits the news.

June 8, 2008

Bush, Carter, and Obama

Obama's rhetoric indicates that he, like Bush and Carter, has delusions of grandeur. Obama's off-teleprompter performance suggests that he, like Bush and Carter, lacks the gifts and temperament to bring his visions to fruition. Unlike Bush and Carter, Obama has charisma. What kind of a presidency would ensue? We may be about to find out.

. Obama is Bush with a baritone?

Left-of-center Americans are well inoculated against traditional revivalist rhetoric: they associate it with the religious right. Send them such rhetoric from the left, especially with an African-American flavor, and they swoon.

Also, a smoker's rasp has become so rare among public figures that it may be perceived as a glamorous novelty. It may contribute to Obama's attraction.

(Is it a good sign or a bad sign that Obama has been unable to quit smoking? Better to be a nicotine addict than a dry drunk.)

June 7, 2008

Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud

Alice Walker:
I made my first white women friends in college; they were women who loved me and were loyal to our friendship, but I understood, as they did, that they were white women and that whiteness mattered. That, for instance, at Sarah Lawrence, where I was speedily inducted into the Board of Trustees practically as soon as I graduated, I made my way to the campus for meetings by train, subway and foot, while the other trustees, women and men, all white, made their way by limo. Because, in our country, with its painful history of unspeakable inequality, this is part of what whiteness means. I loved my school for trying to make me feel I mattered to it, but because of my relative poverty I knew I could not.
There's a grievous, entrenched wrongheadedness about this. Which point is more important: that they're all trustees or that Walker alone takes public transport?

What's next, Harvard Law graduates complaining about their lot? Okay, I'm indulging in hyperbole.


June 5, 2008

My Wake-Up Call for the Election

I've forgotten the details, but some time ago I caught an egregious error of fact by David Frum and I've ignored him since.

It didn't break my heart to read that Limbaugh is criticizing him for 'watering down conservatism'. Frum responded:
It is Rush, not me, who has repeatedly mused that he would prefer to see Republicans lose this election if McCain were nominated. So who is the advocate of "surrender" here? And since Obama has pledged early and unconditional withdrawal from Iraq, it’s not just an election that Limbaugh equably contemplates losing – it is a war.
[boldface mine--gs]
My instincts are libertarian rather than conservative. My opinion of Bush, the late Republican Congress, and the GOP is harsh, especially in view of the party's blasé reaction to the 2006 election. I believe the Republicans richly deserve to get creamed in November.

But Frum's point stopped me in my tracks and has me thinking twice.

It's not just about an election that a corrupt incompetent political party deserves to lose. It's about America losing a war.
Addendum. Bill Quick's retort to Frum is valid too:
... the surrender of the GOP to the forces of liberalism and the marginalizing of conservatism as a political force. That is what you, and all the rest of the establishment power-brokers are all about, with your support of John McCain, who no more protects against the loss of Iraq than does your former boss George Bush, who refuses to even attempt to win the War on Islamofascism, and whose failed and feckless policies, which have given us a nuclear North Korea, an entirely untouched terrorist Saudi Arabian regime, a Syria at open war with us and our allies, and will give us a nuclear Iran, are a monumental example of pre-emptive surrender.
The Iraq operation has never made sense to me. If the enemy is Islamofascism, why attack a secular regime? Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time, wrong enemy.

But IMO losing would gravely compound the error.

The Anchoress and The Second Coming

The Anchoress riffs on the first verse of Yeats' poem. She's a worthier soul than I, and a person of faith, so I didn't want to leave her a negative comment without a clear reason. (But see wgmeisheid's remark that the appropriate image for the current situation is not a gyre but a whirlpool. brr) I'll record my reaction here.

Her post brought this to mind:
Bolt and bar the shutter,
For the foul winds blow:
Our minds are at their best this night,
And I seem to know
That everything outside us is
Mad as the mist and snow.

Horace there by Homer stands,
Plato stands below,
And here is Tully's open page.
How many years ago
Were you and I unlettered lads
Mad as the mist and snow?

You ask what makes me sigh, old friend,
What makes me shudder so?
I shudder and I sigh to think
That even Cicero
And many-minded Homer were
Mad as the mist and snow.

June 3, 2008

C*ap and Trade

Dinocrat notes the bipartisan support for the cap-and-trade greenhouse scheme scam:
We thought it could never get this bad, politicians willing to hurt the economy, and thus the average citizen, to the tune of hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars to solve a problem that may well not even exist.
As a means to benefit the nation and public, cap and trade is counterproductive. As a pretext to expand the power and prerogatives of the upper castes, it is serviceable.

When a critical mass of power is localized in a critical mass of unprincipled hypocritical opportunists who perceive a mutual interest, no explicit conspiracy need be articulated.

No populist politician has seized this obvious issue. It would be interesting to identify the obstacles that have been put in place--quite deliberately, I have little doubt--to prevent such a ball from getting rolling.