Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Denial of Service Attack on iFeminist

For those who have wondered what has happened to and Both sites have been down for a couple of days now. Everyone associated with the sites is fine but email has been out. As I understand it a bot network attacked the sites and server leading to this problem. The service provider is trying to deal with it.

So, bad news, the sites are still down. Good news, all are healthy and well, but frustrated.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Good in a godless world.

I begin with the premise that there is no god, no supreme being, no deity. I begin with that premise because I have found no persuasive evidence to indicate such a supernatural being exist.

What does that leave? Apparently it leaves us in a godless world, one with natural, not supernatural explanations. That would mean that existence is impersonal, without care, concern, or any emotion.

A lecture I was listening to today, about debates between skeptics and believers, throughout the ages put it this way: Maybe there are just some people doomed to go their whole life without being happy. And the universe just doesn’t care.

But does that mean we live in a universe devoid of caring, concern, love or similar things? It does not. My very first thought was this means that we are obligated to provide these things.

Prayer is useless when action is needed. If there are people in the world who hunger we can’t appeal to a god, we must find a way to feed them. If there are people who are oppressed and mistreated, then we must work for justice.

But just as my thoughts went in that direction I realized I was engaging in another fiction, one not dissimilar to the assumption of a deity. We can’t do anything. There is no us. There is just me, at least in my case. In your case there is just you. There are only millions of “I’s.”

There is no collective brain, no one body shared by the many. If action is taken then someONE takes it. SomeONE wills it. SomeONE encourages others, who cooperate but each of them chooses to act as another ONE. Working in harmony does not negate the fact that individuals, not collectives, choose to act.

Nor am I saying that some sort of collective action is impossible. Politics is the attempt to make non-consenting collective action possible. True, some degree of collective political action can achieve a smattering of the objectives that those who coordinate it wish to achieve. But, it is too easily corrupted. As I have long argued the concentration of power, which is what politics is, works to the benefit of the powerful, not the powerless. When we cease to act as individuals we corrupt the very good we are attempting to do.

The system of coercive coordination is inherently counterproductive and riddled with perverse incentives. Not even the best of intentions can save the process. The problem is systemic in nature. Having the right desires will not change the system. It is not a matter of changing personnel, it is a matter of changing methodologies from that of coercion to that of cooperation.

State action is not cooperation, but the opposite of cooperation. The slave didn’t cooperate with his master; he obeyed him. A woman doesn’t cooperate with a rapist, she submits to a greater force. Cooperation, that is non-coercive coordination, exists only because individuals consent to act together.

Not only is the god concept a fiction of a similar kind to the collectivistic concept; they also share another trait in common. Both are attempts to evade responsibility. If action must be taken then I must take it. If injustice is to end then I must work to end it. I can’t pass this responsibility off to a deity or to the collective “we.”

A godless world does not mean a loveless world, it means that what love exists in the world must come from each of us as individuals. It is not possible for me to love everyone, but I can love where it is possible. It is not possible for me to develop the whole world and create universal prosperity. But it is possible for me to help one small part of the world to develop economically and to help make that portion of the world a better place. I can’t heal the sick, but I can help make healing possible. I can’t end all injustice, but I can fight it where I see it. I can’t be all-things to all-people, but I can be something to someone.

True, when famine sends children to bed hungry, or worse, the universe doesn’t care.

But I do.

When that great collective action, known as war, rips families apart, rains devastation on vast numbers of people, and sends young men to premature and senseless deaths, the universe does not care.

But I do.

When bullies beat someone for being black, gay, Jewish, or just different, the universe doesn’t care.

But I do.

When organized bullies of moral majoritarians do the same to those they hate, through the political process, the universe does not care.

But I do.

And because I do, I must act. I can’t pass that off to a god who isn’t there, or the collective “we.” I must make the choice to take action.

I can hope that everyone will act the same way, but I must act as if no one will. I can’t choose for others, I can only choose for myself. And I choose to act.

What choice do you make?

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Signs that the culture war is all but over.

The joke used to be that Lydon Johnson declared war on poverty and poverty won. Conservatives declared a culture war, and lost. I have long been convinced that we have entered a post-Christian America. I have argued that the independent voters are more libertarian than either Democrats and Republicans. With these shifts social attitudes will change.

Quite amazingly a recent poll showed men are now more sympathetic to equality of rights for gay people than women. For just about forever polls showed the opposite to be true.

Symbols are important in a culture, they send cultural messages to people which help them to form their values. So consider a couple such symbols.

The Chicago Cubs play at Wrigley Field, built in 1914. It is on the north side, not far from New Town, and only a few blocks from an apartment where I lived for a few years. The New Town was the chic, heavily gay area of the city, not so much where I was at, but more toward the lake. And it is in this area of the city that the annual Gay Pride parade is held.

The first gay pride festival I ever saw would have been in Chicago and I refuse to remember how many years ago it was. So, there you have Wrigley Field, the symbol of Chicago baseball, of masculine sports. And there you have New Town, dubbed Boy's Town by many because of its heavily male population. And, for all the time I lived in the area, never the twain were to meet. There was Wrigley Field in its isolation, like some giant fortress hung over the neighborhood and there was Boy's Town, as different as night and day.

This Sunday something different will happen as the Gay Pride parade weaves through Boy's Town. In the parade will be a float from the Chicago Cubs. Sports Illustrated noted that just that gesture alone would have won them new friends and fans. But the Cubs went farther than that. Riding the float will be Mr. Cubs himself, the legendary Ernie Banks.

In the world of symbols this gesture tells us just how much America has changed—and I think for the better, at least in this regard.

Chicagoans take their sports seriously and they have been a happy lot since the Chicago Blackhawks won hockey's Stanley Cup in a 2010 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers. A group of gay hockey players sent a letter to the Chicago Blackhawks inviting them to the Pride parade and the team accepted.

The decision was made to take the Stanley Cup into the Pride parade and display it along the route. Defenseman Brent Sopel volunteered to represent the team and will accompany the Cup. Sopel has said he intends to bring his wife and his four kids, Jacob 12, Lyla 8, Jayla 6, and Paul, 20 who was adopted three years when he lost both his parents. Sopel said he wanted to do this and is honored that he can.

Sopel said he was doing as his chance to honor Brendan Burke, the son the Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. Brendan, who played hockey and helped manage a team at university admitted he was gay and many in the hockey world openly showed their support for him. He was killed in a tragic car accident not long ago. Sopel said:

"When Brendan came out, Brian stood by him, and his whole family stood by him, like every family should," said Sopel. "We teach our kids about accepting everybody. Tolerate everybody, to understand where everyone is coming from."

Blackhawks President John McDonough says he understands the symbolic power of the cup and "we recognize the importance of doing this." He made special arrangements to have the cup flown into Chicago, it was on display at the NHL draft in Los Angeles, earlier than scheduled because, "It's important for the city and important for the franchise."

Toronto will be holding its Pride parade as well and Brian Burke will be there. He will be marching the parade route with the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays group. Many people don't realize that the U.S. Olympics hockey team all wore name tags saying: "In memory of Branden Burke."

These are all just symbols but behind the symbols there is a shift of gigantic proportions taking place in America.

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Put on your best sheets—the GOP rides tonight.

Jane Brewer, the Grand Wizard in Arizona, also known as the governor, has come out with the most absurd statement of her campaign yet.

You must understand that Brewer was doing quite poorly in the polls because she had pushed through some major tax hikes, during a recession when people couldn't afford it. Republicans hate taxes, except when they get to spend the money. But the rank and file Republican was unhappy and Brewer's poll numbers took a nose dive. In response Brewer decided she only had one drum left to beat that would rally the party faithful to her side: hatred for immigrants. So she started crowing about the brown menace. Her poll numbers approved among Republicans who are quite willing to forgive tax increases provided you are hateful enough.

Brewer has now claimed that the majority of immigrants coming into the U.S. without bureaucratic permission slips "are under the direction and control of organized drug cartels and they are bringing drugs in." This is better than it could have been. She might have alleged they were under the control of the Learned Elders of Zion. She claimed: "The majority of them in my opinion, and I think in the opinion of law enforcement, is that they are not coming here to work. They are coming here and they're bringing drugs. And they're doing drop houses and they're extorting people and they're terrorizing the families."

Previously this geriatric Barbie doll claimed that undocumented workers were putting Arizona under a "terrorist attack" by coming in.

Brewer just makes this shit up. Yet, as you will see below, she simply claims "we all know" that immigrants are all drug dealers. All blacks are lazy, all Jews are cheap, all gays molest children, all blonds are stupid, all women are bitchy, all sports players are dumb, etc.. Folks get out your best sheets the GOP rides tonight!

I am very opposed to violence, especially violence against women, but I can't say I would have been too upset if someone bitch-slapped the old moron, just hard enough to knock off a couple of inches of the make-up.

The head of the union that represents border guards says that the experience of border agents doesn't correspond with the racist remarks of Brewer. T.J. Bonner said, "The majority of people continue to come across in search of work, not to smuggle drugs. Most of the drug smuggling is done by people who intend to do that. That's there livelihood.

Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democrat, said that Brewer "does not understand the difference between illegal immigration and the organized criminals who are members of the violent drug cartels who pose a very real danger." False, Brewer ad her fellow Republicans do know the difference, but this is campaigning and you scare the public in order to secure votes. So, while they know the facts, they prefer to lie, the truth is not politically advantageous.

The Republican klavern seems to ignore the reality of the war on drugs. It is the illegality of drugs that creates massive profits and massive drug smuggling. Every so-called victory in confiscating drugs merely pushes up the market price making it more profitable to smuggle drugs and thus encouraging the very thing they wish to stop. In this sense drug smuggling is like socialism, the more of it you have the more counter-productive it becomes.

If there has been one clear tactic of the Republican Right in Arizona it has been to purposed conflate the results of the war on drugs with immigration. But then Republicans are wrong on both counts.

And this brings us to the Washington Post basically forcing David Weigel out of his post as a blogger about Right-wing politics. Privately Weigel had post remarks about the rampant bigotry in the American Right today. He said it more strongly but it reflected things he has said publicly all along. Some Right-wing web sites took the remarks and claimed this proved that Weigel was biased and demanded his firing. Of course, he is biased—just like every god-damned reporter on the planet, including the conservative ones. There is NO SUCH THING AS OBJECTIVE REPORTING.

I don't like Weigel, I don't like his writing and I don't care for him as a person. I have read his descriptions of events I witnessed and thought he did a piss-poor job of getting his facts straight. He once put words in my mouth that hadn't come out of my mouth. I stopped reading him because I didn't like his style and didn't trust his "facts."

But, what put the Right into a frothing, foam mass of hysteria was that Weigel called them bigots. For once Weigel gets his facts straight and he's punished for that!

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

The moronic ramblings of a drug warrior

In a recent episode of Stossel the war on drugs was being debated—Stossel is on the side of the angels in this one. There is a very interesting question from a young man in the audience. He asks the drug warrior, Paul Chabot, about the constitution and the war on drugs, at 2:55 minute spot. The young man notes that to make alcohol illegal the government needed a Constitutional amendment. Prohibition was passed, failed and repealed. So, he wants to know where the goverrnment gets its power to wage a war on drugs. Now I suspect legal scholars have concocted such an argument but it is a worthy question.

So how does the drug warrior answer it? He doesn't. He goes into some self-aggrandizing response about how he fought in Iraq and how the "surge" worked—which is why we have left Iraq, all the troops are home, and the country is a free, liberal, democracy. NOT! That aside, the question was about Constitutional authority. This smug drug warrior says "let me answer that this way" and then goes on to not answer it. He doesn't even try. Instead he tries to invoke the love of war and partiortism, the smell of napalm, which is an aphrodisiac for conservatives.

Chabot is a self-declared "conservative Republican" which means he has no concern for the Constitution at all. He campaigns using photos of himself in uniform from when he was in Iraq, a violation of military policy, but the law is for the little guys, not for conservative Republicans. And from what I could see his endorsement are mainly cops, drug warriors and other criminal gangs who assault the American public on a daily basis. Of course, someone so enamoured with the thug element would be a conservative Republican. His motto is: "Send a military and law enforcement veteran to fight for you in Sacramento." Me, I'd rather send him to Folsom.

Chabot seems to think that the only reason that people should vote for him is that he went to Iraq to kill people. I bet he routinely mentions Iraq in as many answers as possible, especially for questions where he has no idea what he's talking about. So, if you asked him about whether he was enjoying the sunny weather he'd say: "Well, let me answer it this way. In Iraq, where I served, it was sunny. It's sunny here as well. But the sun in America is American sun and better than the sun in Iraq, where I served in the military. In the military, when I was in Iraq, we would discuss the sun, and in Sacramento, if elected I will serve there just like I did when I was in the military in Iraq. Because, in the military in Iraq we serve, and we do that because that's what we do, in Iraq, when I was in the military."

Stossel did ask him a second time about the actual question, which Chabot ignored and Chabot ignored the question the second time as well. Stossel was too polite in letting it drop. He should have at least said, "So, in other words, you won't answer the question. In that case lets move on."

Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, and Chabot is a scoundrel.


Mother Nature comes calling

I love the wild, but I prefer it stay in the wild. I used to love going out to the bush in Africa for a hike. And, to be quite honest, didn't worry very much about what I might stumble across, unless I was near water; then I worried about crocs and hippos, both of which are quite happy to attack people and very efficient at it.

It just bothers me when the wild doesn't stay in the wild. I don't mind visiting it, I just don't want it visiting me.

Not long ago a bear was found in our general vicinity. That, I admit surprised me. I didn't even know there were bears anywhere near here, let alone in the city. Now, I'm told a mountain lion has been spotted roaming the city. I have to say, I think I liked them when they were a little more endangered, and hence less likely to come a'callin'. Much to my surprise a google news search shows quite a few mountain lion spottings around the country.

That said, America's wildlife doesn't worry as much, not compared to living in Africa. Certainly we heard of cobras being found in the neighborhood there on a fairly regular basis—far too regular. One rather large serpent made an appearance in the parking lot on my property. (Yes, there was a parking lot on the property itself, enough for about 15 cars easily.)

I had an extension being built onto the garden cottage, where I used to have a car port. The builders got all excited and the maid came running in to tell me that a very large snake had made an appearance. I rushed out to see what was happening. It had crawled through the wire fence into the hillside for the cricket pitch at the sport's club next door. What I could see, in the weeds, was the middle of the snake. It was very, very green in color, about 10 inches in diameter, and the section I could see was about 4 feet long. How much was left at the front of the snake, and how far it was to the tail, I couldn't be sure, and I had no intention of trying to get close enough to find out.

We have a baboon in the general vicinity at one point and they can be nasty creatures. I was done on the Cape, going out to one of the lighthouses when a whole bunch of tourists who had hiked up to the lighthouse came running down the hill screaming. Apparently they had stupidly walked up the hill with ice cream cones and a gang of baboons mugged them for the cones. The baboons would literally hide in the bushes and watch for people with food, they would come out, attack the people and steal the food. And to think some people didn't believe me when I said crime was rampant there.

The baboon in our area actually brought about some rather funny calls to the police. In one spotting a woman reported a hijacker hiding in the bush outside her house. It was the baboon, who generally speaking is actually less dangerous. In another case a maid at one of the houses reported a potential rapists hiding in the backyard. That baboon managed to escape capture for several months. No one is sure how it got into the city.

I worried more than most people because my house bordered on a large field area where the local sports club was located. The area behind my fence went behind four houses in total and then down to the river. I don't remember the name of the river and apparently Google maps doesn't show it. You can see it in the satellite version, but it isn't mapped. That river was wild on both sides of it pretty much the entire distance and it was perfect animal highway into the city. Still, it was the human animal who worried me most.

Wildlife encounters in the US have been mercifully few in numbers. As a young kid my family spent a summer in Florida. We rented a house not far from the Everglades themselves. There was a canal that ran behind the house. I stupidly went into the water and stepped on a snake that was under the water. That is was underwater at the time seemed to help as it pulled away and swam off. It was a water moccasin. I didn't go swimming there again. On another occasion the woman next door was sunbathing in a lounge chair and fell asleep. When she woke up she scream, and ran to my father begging him to help. Apparently an alligator had come into her yard and was sunbathing a few feet from her chair.

I did run into bears a few times, but it doesn't count. I was in the middle of the woods when that happened. Though one big beaver did scare the hell out of one day when I was in high school. We lived on the edge of a forest with a large lake area in it—the whole wild area is now suburbs, including the swimming hole. Walking out there one afternoon this massive beaver appeared on the path, it slammed its tail into the ground several times, making one very loud bang each time, and then ran into the bush. I practically wet myself as I hadn't seen it until it started slapping its tail into the dirt.

As a kid I came across garden snakes all the time near the house and used to catch them frequently, terrorizing the neighbor ladies by showing the snakes to them. Around age 7 I handed one such snake to a babysitter, who just instinctively took what I handed her. She stared at this snake in her hand and started screaming, loudly. Good thing snakes don't have ears. Her problem was she couldn't figure out what to do with the snake. She was afraid to hold it and terrified to let it go. I did find it rather funny, still do in fact. She eventually dropped it and ran. To say the least, she never would come into my room from that point on. Alas, the music teacher was not so inclined and she ended up stealing my coin collection. She probably works in the administration now.

When in Africa, I didn't mind walking the bush, but I wasn't about to camp there. I did have standards, after all. So I'd rent chalets in the various parks for the weekend. For the most part these were safe havens. But not always. I did have a photo of my travel companion feeding a piece of toast to a warthog while we sitting on the patio having breakfast. That one was unusually friendly, though skittish. The warthogs are the great cowards of the bush, though they will get very nasty if they feel cornered, otherwise they run like hell with their funny bottle brush tails sticking straight up in the air.

Monkeys, however, were a plague. One visit I was with a friend who had gone to the main lodge for something. On the way back a young boy came out of a chalet and begged him to help. Apparently the boy had left a patio door open and the monkeys had gotten into the chalet and were ripping it to pieces. The boy was around 12 and when he tried to chase them out the monkeys ganged up on him, terrorized the poor kid, and chased him out of the chalet. My friend, however, was around 6'1" and built large enough that he played rugby for fun. All he had to do was open the door and the monkey beat a quick retreat.

One chalet I rented—it was my favorite actually and I stayed there often—was off in a section of the park that was entirely private to just this chalet. I liked my privacy and usually told the resort not to send cleaning staff to do the dishes, or anything. It was down a long, private, dirt road but it was fantastic. There were three buildings in the camp and you would rent all three together. They were also built up off the ground, among the trees, so there were walkways between the three buildings with the ground about 12 feet below.

One morning, very early, a huge ruckus woke me. It seemed the monkeys were on the roof and chasing one another about rather energetically. I went outside and they disappeared into a clump of trees a bit in the distance. One of the peeked up through the branches at me and when it saw me, would quickly hide again. I then squatted down and it would pop up again. When I popped up to see it, it would squat down again. That went on for a good two minutes, like some giant teeter-totter. If my head was up, the monkey's was done. I my head was down, the monkey's was up.

On one other occasion we heard the worst possible racket coming from directly under the chalet. This was in the middle of the bush in Kwa-Zulu Natal and there were no towns or houses for miles around, no decent sized city for many miles. So when it was night it was very, very dark, especially when the moon wasn't reflecting. And that night there was no moon at all so it was pitch dark. The sound, in pitch black night, was actually quite frightening. We turned on porch lights and eventually discovered that two wildebeest were fighting under the chalet. Since they can get up to 600lbs in weight, they can do a lot of damage.

And all that brings me to posting, again, one of my favorite videos of Kruger Park, though I believe it was given a more PC name recently. Here are water buffalo being pursued by lions. The lion grabbed a small calf, as is routine for them. But before the lion get to devour the poor calf it is snatched from them by crocs lurking in the nearby waters. At this point the lion and crocs are each trying to pull the calf from the others. And then something rather amazing happens, the victims gang up on the victimizers. You have to watch it. Even if you've seen it before, it's worth seeing again.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Another dog murdered by violent cops

Police came to search her house because they said her grandson was involved with drugs. The woman says her grandson hasn't lived with her for 12-years. She asks the police if she can put her dog out in the backyard or in the bathroom. They tell her the bathroom is fine. So the dog is shut up in the bathroom. A cop opens the door to the bathroom and shots the dog, claiming as they always do, that the dog attacked them. Why is it that in case after case, other eyewitnesses to such incidents have stories that almost never correspond with what the cops say? Could it be that cops routinely lie? I think the answer is a resounding yes.

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March of the Theopublican Loons

I read the current issue of Reason magazine today, where Brink Lindsay, from the Cato Institute, makes the case for why libertarians shouldn't ally themselves with the Right. I agree whole heartily. He pointed to the bigoted Tea Party types as one example of why this strategy is bad for libertarians. Matt Kibble tried to pretend that Brink's view is merely based on "liberal" media distortions. Sorry Matt, it is precisely the sort of rampant bigotry that I personally witnessed at one of the largest Tea Party rallies in recent months.

The other day I was invited to speak to a small group of people. The host was a friend, who was at the Tea Party rally as well. He made a point of telling me how disgusted he was with what he witnessed there. His observations were the same as my own, as were two other libertarian friends at the same meeting. All four of agreed that the Tea Party is not for libertarians.

And neither are Republicans. Consider this tidbit from the Theopublican Party of Texas, in their 2010 platform. They claim to believe that "Realizing that conflict and debate is a proven learning tool in classrooms, we support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories, including, evolution, Intelligent Design...." Intelligent Design is theology not science. But that aside, do the Republicans of Texas really believe in debate and equal treatment of all sides? The same platform says: "We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until heterosexual marriage."

So they want open debate when theology pretends to be science, but demand closing all debate and conflict as a "proven learning tool" when it regards sex. They are the typical conservative frauds, the typical conservative hypocrites. They only want open debate for their side until they control an agenda and they want to stifle debate and discussion entirely.

They claim to believe in, "the sanctity of human life, created in the image of God, which should be protected from fertilization until natural death." So, all human life is sacred and must be protected until natural death? Well, no. "Properly applied capital punishment is legitimate, is an effective deterrent, and should be swift and unencumbered." Hell, why even bother with a trial? Clearly not "all human life is sacred" and some lives must be ended unnaturally by execution though all life must be protected "until natural death." Of course, they are Republicans. They see it completely natural for governments to kill people.

As for sex offenders, well, they want to turn a large percentage of teens into criminals. First, they demand that an "'affirmative defense' when there is less than 36 months of age difference" be abolished. That way all teens who have consenting sex with one another are deemed sex offenders if they are the same age. Second, they demand that age of consent in Texas be raised to 18, so that even more kids will be classified as sex offenders. And they claim to be pro-family. It's enough to make one vomit. This is under they "sexual assault" section and the first thing there says they demand punishment options "should include death." More of that all life is sacred bullshit.

Yet, while they are busy demanding laws to incarcerate kids for sex, and perhaps execute a few of them, they claim they are in favor of limited government. Really? Limited by what principle?

How limited is the small government they claim to believe in? Here are a few more clauses from the platform showing exactly how big they want government to be.
We encourage state and federal governments to severely prosecute illegal dealers and manufacturers of addictive substances and pornography.

We urge the Legislature to rescind no–fault divorce laws.

We support legislation that would make it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple and for any civil official to perform a marriage ceremony for such.

We are opposed to any granting of special legal entitlements, refuse to recognize, or grant special privileges including, but not limited to: marriage between persons of the same sex (regardless of state of origin), custody of children by homosexuals, homosexual partner insurance or retirement benefits. Note: notice that they claim that adoptions, buying insurance, having retirement benefits voluntarily offered, are "special rights" in their view.

We oppose the legalization of sodomy. We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy.

We urge our governmental bodies to enforce laws regarding all forms of pornography. We urge more stringent legislation to prohibit all pornography including virtual pornography and operation of sexually–oriented businesses.

We urge the FDA to rescind approval of the physically dangerous RU-486 and oppose limiting the manufacturers’ and distributors’ liability.

We oppose sale and use of the dangerous “Morning After Pill.”

We believe rental of a woman’s womb makes child bearing a mere commodity to the highest bidder and petition the Legislature to rescind House Bill 724 of the 78th Legislature.

We support legislation that requires doctors, at first opportunity, to provide to a woman who is pregnant, information about the nervous system development of her unborn child...

Furthermore, criminal penalties should be created and experimenters prosecuted who participate in the cloning of human beings...

We support a ban on research that alters human DNA in living human beings at any stage of life, including the altering of artificial, manufactured, and natural genes and chromosomes.

We support raising the age of consent for consensual sex to 18 years.

We also believe that no homosexual ... should have the right to custody or adoption of a minor child, and that visitation with minor children by such persons should be prohibited but if ordered by the court limited to supervised periods.

Moreover, we oppose any further legalization, government facilitation, or financial guarantees relating to any type of gambling including casino, riverboat, video lottery terminals (VLTs), slot machine, video keno, eight-liners, multi-state lotteries, and other games of chance including on Indian reservations.

The real kicker is that these morons claim to support individual rights and individual freedom.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Can more regulations solve the problem of failed regulations?

I’ve been highly critical of Big Energy, which is the term I use to refer to what the Left calls Big Oil. But Big Oil stopped being Big Oil, the moment the Left started pushing subsidies for “alternative” energy. Profiting from subsidies is often more lucrative than profiting by actually doing something productive. And, as I have argued, they can use the regulator process to force competitors out of certain areas, and redistribute wealth to themselves. The big example of this was ethanol, which I have covered on this blog many times.

Big Oil, or Big Energy today, has always used its cozy relationship with Big Government to secure for it things it could not have in a depoliticized market. Historically one of the worst offenders has been British Petroleum. Their history of using state power is well known and shocking.

The oil rig blowout in the Gulf is not something easily blogged about, not if one really wants to offer something pertinent and useful. That doesn’t stop a lot of people, but it did stop me. The problem for me is that one has to do some reading of the technical, engineering problems associated with oil rigs. Any “simplistic” response I could give would be rather useless if I don’t know the facts. Of course, that didn’t stop others from giving simplistic advice. Either saying, “let the market take care of it” or saying “there ought to be a regulation” is a simplistic, unthinking response. Most comments I’ve read from the Left and Right suffer from such simplism.

I don’t have a lot I can say with assurance because of the technical issues. But I can make some broad comments that might be helpful. And they are open to adjustment as I broaden my knowledge.

The first thing I can say with some assurance is that the government has limited liabilities to oil companies for damage done by accidents like the one that is causing such devastation in the Gulf. In the quest for progress it is necessary to take risk, but the cost of the risks ought to be fully covered by the risk-taker. Anything else distorts incentives.

But somewhere along the line the politicians, in their infinite wisdom, decided it was a good thing to subsidize risk. Sometimes this is done directly, sometimes indirectly. In the case limiting liability it is an indirect subsidy. It tells risk-takers that they won’t have to cover all the costs of their risk taking, that they can pass it on to others. In this case the politicians decided the risk takers could pass on costs of a disaster to the victims of the disaster. However, the politicians have also decided that the profits from such ventures belong to the risk-takers. They have privatized profits but socialized risk. We see this same, flawed strategy used in field after field. If there are risky credit applicants who want to buy houses the government promises to cover the losses while the banks get the profits. Bad loans are bad by the boatload and when something goes wrong there is a huge wave of defaults creating a crisis that spreads from there. Take away the downside risk, but leave intact the upside profits and you are asking for disaster. I would actually argue that disaster, under those circumstances, is inevitable, it is merely a matter of time.

So off the bat, I knew that the limitation on liabilities that government handed over to Big Oil/Big Energy was a bad thing.

The second thing I realized, that was a problem, is that industries regulated by government tend to capture the regulatory agencies and have undo influence on them. This is, I think, inevitable. Obama actually criticized the cozy relationship between the oil companies and the regulators. The problem is that this can’t be solved by more regulations. At all times the regulators who deal with oil drilling in U.S. waters will be of more interest to oil companies than they will be to us. You aren’t going to lobby them for what you think ought to be done, but the oil companies will. The law of capture means that eventually the regulators will be useful idiots to the companies they regulate and that regulations will be more likely to limit competition, and raise profits, than to do anything useful for the average person. And the politicians won’t say much about it because the same companies donate more to their campaigns than does the average resident of the Gulf region.

At the same time BP very successfully influenced major environmental organizations. BP has been one of the biggest funders of the environmental lobby around. Certainly donations to groups pushing for subsidies for ethanol proved very lucrative to BP. They had environmental groups literally begging politicians to take money from taxpayers and give it to BP. BP didn’t mind that at all.

The third thing I had to wonder about was that oil rigs operate in U.S. waters, which are exclusively and totally under the control of the federal government. No oil drilling takes place without government permits and contracts with the oil companies. When a contract is involved they can pretty much ask for what they want as a condition for using “public” waters to drill for oil. That is, you don’t need to wait for regulations to be passed. Like any landlord you can put stipulations into your agreement as to what must be done, or can’t be done, with the property you control. So, what would legislation add to the process that can’t already be done in the contract stage? Perhaps someone can give me information I don’t have which will tell me why this is not possible. If so, I will have learned something. This part is more a question than a statement, but it is one worth exploring.

In reading some material in the Wall Street Journal it was quite clear to me that BP officials on site took short cuts. The Journal outlined several concerns people had along the way with how BP was acting. If a fraction of what the Journal exposed is true BP deserves to have the pants sued off of them. This is precisely why liabilities must not be limited for risk-taking. It encourages unwarranted risks.

Another point is that we have no evidence that another regulation would have solved the problem. To say that more regulation is the answer is a faith statement not a rational one. We don’t have evidence that is the case. In fact, the Journal article made it clear that regulators were lax about regulations that were already in place. So existing regulations were ignored. If the law of capture tends to mean regulators will become too cozy with the objects of their regulations then it means that they will themselves tend to ignore certain regulations. That seems to be the case here, at least in part.

Today’s New York Times discusses the failure of certain safety measures that are routinely put in place. One such measure is called the “blind shear ram” which cuts off the supply of oil in a disaster. The ram is supposed to cut off the supply but it repeatedly failed to do so in this case. At this time no one is sure why, and won’t know until they can look at it. But there was too much confidence put into this device and many companies have already taken additional precautions.

Because they assumed that a certain number of these shears fail, sometimes hitting in the wrong spot, for instance, they have gone to installing the device twice, in different locations so if one fails they have a backup. Experts have suggested two such devices are needed. So wouldn’t a regulation forcing it solve the problem? Perhaps, but why wasn’t it done? According to the Times,
The federal agency charged with regulating offshore drilling, the Minerals Management Service, repeatedly declined to act on advice from its own experts on how it could minimize the risk of a blind shear ram failure.
They also said their study showed: “ that the Obama administration failed to grapple with ... the well-known weaknesses of blowout preventers.” Reports were on file showing that there was a problem and the regulatory agencies and the politicians ignored them. Even the company involved here, has been equipping their rigs with double shears as a precaution. This, unfortunately, was not one of those rigs. The Times says that every other rig under lease to BP supposedly has the double shears.

So, it was widely known that double shears were a needed safety precaution, and most rigs already had them installed, the process was on-going to put them into all rigs, and this was one of the unfortunate exceptions. And all this was being done prior to the feds actually mandating it. I fully expect this mandate to be put into place, consistent with my theory that most reforms pushed by government are instituted ONLY after the private sector has already primarily implemented the reforms voluntarily. If the Times is correct, most rigs already have the double shears. And no doubt the politicians will take credit for what has already been done privately, for the most part. Those who cherish regulations for their own sake will no doubt give all the credit to the public sector and ignore the fact that the private sector has already implemented this reform on most new rigs, without a regulation requiring it.

Blowout preventions sometimes fail but government tests of blowout preventers almost always approve them. Out of 90,000 such tests conducted by the government they gave passes to all but 62, which the Times says “raised questions about the effectiveness of these test.” I’m not sure that the regulators would actually do a better job merely by being given more regulations to work with.

The Times notes that MMS did institute a new regulation which said that all companies had to provide test data showing the blind shear ram would work in each well. This was supposed to be a requirement for a drilling permit. Yet the regulator “approved BP’s permit without requiring proof that is blowout prevent could shear pipe and seal a well 5,000 feet down.” The regulator who authorized the permit, in violation of regulations that already existed, said: “When I was in training for this, I was never, as far as I can recall, even told to look for this statement.” So, not even a basic regulation that already existed was being enforced. Would another layer of regulations change that?

In confirmation of my theory that reforms by government take place after the reforms are no longer needed, the Times notes that the federal agency ignored a report about there being two blind shear rams in each rig. “The agency made no such requirement. Indeed, it waited until 2003 to require even one blind shear ram. By then, the industry had already started moving to two blind shear rams....“ By the time the government regulators required one blind shear ram virtually all rigs actually had one and one-third of the rigs had already moved to two. In other words the regulation had almost no impact.

As the Journal noted BP cut corners repeatedly. Rep. Henry Waxman pontificated on this in Congress. But the Times notes that, “Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive repeatedly told Mr. Waxman’s committee last Thursday, many of these decisions were approved by the Minerals Management Service.” In other words, “federal regulators did not see any problems” with the corners that were being cut, even if employees on the rig did see problems and complained. With federal regulators giving BP the go-ahead guess what happened? So why exactly is this only blamed on a failure of private industry? Why isn’t the fact that regulators failed being talked about as much? Surely this is a case of regulatory failure in spades.

Even bad politics got in the way of the clean-up efforts. Wendy McElroy brought to my attention that Voice of America reported that US companies are now using “sweeping arms that attach to a boat and help gather large amounts of oil.” These devices, however were offered to the US by “a Dutch company with years of experiences in such operations, but instead of using the Dutch ships and crews immediately, when The Netherlands offered help in April, the operation was delayed until U.S. crews could be trained.”

The VOA says the Obama administration turned down the offer of help to clean up the mess “partly because of the Jones Act, which restricts foreign ships from certain activities in U.S. waters.” So federal regulations in one area prevented the clean-up of a mess caused when regulators ignored their own regulations in another area. However, when Katrina hit “the Bush administration waived the Jones Act in order to facilitate some foreign assistance, but such a waiver was not given in this case.”

So the Jones Act, which delayed clean-up measures in this disaster, was left in place even though the Obama administration could have waived the act during the emergency. In addition the Dutch “offered assistance with building sand berms (barriers) along the cost of Louisiana to protect sensitive marshlands, but that offer was also rejected, even though Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal had been requesting such protective barriers.” The Dutch embassy says their offer to help still stands. The White House says there are no delays in accepting such offers even though the White House rejected such offers. And the Dutch say that they can do the job at twice the speed of “as the local companies contracted for the work, if allowed to do so.”

Basically Obama is more worried about unions and “protecting” American jobs than preventing damage from the oil. VOA says: “U.S. policy has favored the use of American companies and employees in dealing with the oil spill, even though that may have caused delays in protecting sensitive shoreline.” But U.S. firms have little experience in these areas, so regulations meant to encourage jobs creation in the U.S. do so by preventing more efficient companies from doing the work. Of course, jobs creation measures often mandate inefficiency by requiring jobs be done by less efficient local employees than by more efficient foreign ones. The politicians, who only have to win local votes, often ignore that. But in this case, the tendency toward labor protectionism means great destruction to fragile Gulf shore areas.

Meanwhile, it appears that even local American workers were being prevented from doing cleanup work by another government agency—the Coast Guard. ABC News reports that barges that vacuum crude oil from water "were sitting idle" because the Coast Guard said they "needed to confirm that that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board, and then it had trouble contacting the people who built the barges." Gov. Jindal has been trying to get the bureaucrats at the Coast Guard to move on the issues but complains: "Every time you talk to someone different at the Coast Guard, you get a different answer." Alabama's governor said there is no one who can give a "yes" or "no" answer. He also said each time the Governors from the area "develop plans with the Coast Guard's command center "things begin to shift when other agencies start weighing in, like the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service." He described it "like this huge committee down there, and every decision that we try to implement, any one person on that committee has absolute veto power." Welcome to reality of political regulation.

Again, I must wonder, if political control is literally endangering Gulf shore areas, by delaying clean up in order to give U.S. companies a preference, why precisely does anyone think more political control is the solution here?

A private company, used to its cozy relationship with Big Government failed. Laws that limit liability subsidized its failure. It failed because it took short cuts that were approved by regulators. Regulations that were put in place, in order to prevent such problems, were not enforced by the regulators. And the regulations that are in place were only put in place after the safety mechanism had become the typical standard in oil rigs and after many rigs had already imposed a secondary safety mechanism. So regulations followed private safety measures, they didn’t create them. Even now the double mechanisms are becoming common prior to any regulation requiring them. The regulatory system, which is in place already, failed. And no one is explaining why more such regulations will make a difference when the enforcers ignored current regulations. On top of that, cleanup measures have been slowed down significantly because politicians interfered by passing laws meant to protect less-efficient local jobs. Those jobs are being protected,If but the expense of massive damage to the Gulf.

I don’t want to pretend this is be-all and end-all on this matter. It isn’t. It is my thinking out loud on a topic about which I am only now familiarizing myself. And it isn’t meant to be anything more than that. One purpose of this blog is to “think out loud” and this is one example of that.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fucking disgusting.

Watch at your own risk.

I am going to have to trust the descriptions given by others. If this video shows what they say it shows then I simply can't bring myself to watch something this disturbing. Here is what I understand happened.

A bulldog had barked at some children. Someone called the police (which is my mind is always an invitation to trouble—never invite violent, gang-members to help you, if you can help it). A woman tied the dog up, an indication that the dog was more bark than bite otherwise the woman would not have easily restrained the dog.

Members of the Men-in-Blue gang show up on the scene, always anxious to shoot someone or something, just to prove that they really do have big dicks and an IQ over 78. The gangmbember puts a leash on the dog, again no resistance by the dog. Then the gang members try to use a long, metal rod to hook the dog. Where the dog no doubt has seen ropes or leashes before the long metal rod upsets the dog, who is still safely restrained but barks.

The gang member stops trying to snare the dog, the dog stops barking and lies down peacefully. A second attempt to snare the dog succeeds. The dog struggles and than stands still, doing nothing aggressive. Then gang member Doug Howell, who thinks we should recognize him as an "officer", pulls his big gun out and shoots the dog in the chest. The dog falls to the ground and then the gang member pumps a bullet into the dogs head. No doubt he had an orgasm during the process.

I have zero respect for cops—none, not as cops. They are violent, they are dangerous, they are authoritarian. This is the job that schoolyards bullies grow up and salivate over. It appeals to people who like to push others around, who like to hurt others, to show off their pea brains by killing whenever they think they can get away with it.

My rule is treat a cop is like a cobra. Only highly trained individuals should handle them. Otherwise avoid them, never let one into your house, never invite them to come to your aid. Never go to the aid of a cop and do your best to avoid cooperating with them in any way. If I saw a police officer in a struggle I would turn and walk in a different direction. I would not summon help for him, I would not offer help to him. If I saw a police officer chasing someone, and I knew which direction the "suspect" ran I would have memory failure if the police officer asked me, unless I personally witnessed the suspect hurting another person.

I read too many news stories where these thugs are bullying people, killing dogs, lying in court, faking evidence and generally behaving like criminals. I am not interested in the few "good cops" since they are too few to worry about. It is the good cops who cover up for the bad cops. Other cops know when cops misbehave but they have each other's back. In that case, they don't have my support, unless I have incontrovertible evidence that the person they are engaged with is a worse human being than the cop, I will not cooperate. However, based on my experiences in life my assumption is that the cop is more likely to be scum than the person he is arresting. His "suspect" is quite likely guilty of a victimless crime or something minor, but cops regularly commit major crimes—that is they violate the rights of peaceful people regularly.

I don't come to my position lightly. I have three family members who are cops, who I hope are not typical cops. Just as some cobras might be cute and cuddly I will go with the odds. And the odds of violent, deceitful, thuggish cop is high enough that I take the view I do. I accept that even a majority of cops would not personally act in the manner I describe. But their compliance or consent is necessary for the minority to get away with such things.

The odds of getting involved with a bad cop is significant higher than the odds of a terrorist attack, winning the lottery, or being struck by lightening. I have run into more bad cops than I have had serious traffic accidents. But just as I wear seat belts and take precautions in case of an accident, I also take precautions when dealing with cops—which means I don't call for them if I can at all help it, I try to avoid them when I see them, I would not stop to assist one, help one or given them the time of day (I know people who did and regretted it). I would not give police information that would help them apprehend someone, as I consider the odds that they violating rights to be higher than the odds that they are protecting rights. And, if I know that the odds have shifted in one particular case, then I will shift my position to assist them. But assisting cops has to be justifed to me by clear evidence otherwise my attitude of total non-cooperation persists.

And, in my view, if this video is accurately described, then I hope this cop is ostracized by his community. He deserves to be put in the most violent, dangerous prison around, with the word "cop" tattoed on his forehead and a welcome sign stapled to his ass. I look at cops the way I look at violent criminals and rapists. I have no sympathy for them , for the same reasons. The differences are too minor to worry about.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Republican: Separation of church and state is Nazism!

The Republican in this video is Glen Urquhart, a Republican running for Congress in Delaware. Listen as the history teacher said that the phrase "separation of church and state" came from a letter. Urquhart denies this, says it isn't true, and then makes the claim that Hitler originated the term! Actually the letter Thomas Jefferson sent to the Danbury Baptists said: "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."

Where did this theocrat get this idea? From another theocrat, of course. They rarely think for themselves. The source for this claim is Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association. You will remember we had a video of him claiming the Nazis were really all gay because Hitler couldn't get straight people to be so violent and vicious, only homosexuals are so nasty as to push Jews into gas chambers.

Fischer outrightly says that the slogan "separation of church and state" does not come "from Thomas Jefferson or from the mind of the Founding Fathers" but "straight from the mind of Adolph Hitler" Jefferson's authorship of the term "a wall of separation between Church & State" is not questioned by any historians.

Another Republican, seeking the same office, Kevin Wade, said: "My jaw dropped when I heard it. And he was emphatic about it—it was not like a slip of the tongue. He got applause from half the crowd, and that disturbed me. I'd say half the room was stunned and the other half applauded." This was to a Republican audience and indicative of just how uninformed and ignorant Republicans are these days. They welcomed fundamentalists with open arms and are ow controlled by morons.

I wonder what Mr. Urquhart would say about these photos:

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Who's deceiving now?

Ever since Bjorn Lomborg came on the scene the Green Left has hated him. I don't. Certainly not as a person, any interactions we have had have always been pleasant. I liked him when we meet and still like him, which is not to say I always agree with him. The Green Left does not share my opinion, but that is not surprising.

So they are quite excited that one of their own has penned an attack on Lomborg, merely because it attacks Lomborg. It is being hyped and praised by all the usual suspects. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation claims that Howard Friel, author of The Lomborg Deception, has "read Lomborg's books and thoroughly checked hundreds of Lomborg's sources and references" and "has concerns." Actually he wrote a hatchet job, which is more than being concerned. George Monbiot, in an attack on science writer Matt Ridley says that that Lomborg made so many errors "that an entire book—The Lomborg Deception by Howard Friel—was required to document them." That's an implicit endorsement of Friel's work though Monbiot's logic is bad. That an entire book was written doesn't mean that an entire book was needed to document errors. In fact, it is clear that Friel spends a great deal of time rebutting things Lomborg didn't say, or going off on tangents unrelated to what Lomborg actually did say. Newsweek gave The Lomborg Deception a less than rousing endorsement but said people should read it if they read Lomborg, much the way if you read the Talmud you ought to have Mein Kampf on hand, I guess.

This is just a blog, not an encyclopedia, so I can focus only on a small portion of Friel's "rebuttal" to Lomborg. Friel was particularly upset that Lomborg had said that the glaciers in the Himalayas would run down toward the end of the century, not much earlier. And he claimed that Lomborg only referenced the decline of the glaciers as being the result of the end to the Little Ice Age. Lomborg had quoted a scientific source for the claim that the end of Ice Age started the decline of the glaciers butFriel says that Lomborg "chopped' off the quote to delete a reference to human caused warming being involved. The problem was that the entire quote from Lomborg actually did mention global warming. Lomborg is less of a skeptic than I am, he does think there is human-induced warming and has said so. He even says it may have serious impact on humans, even though Friel claims to the contrary.

Friel quite specifically says that Lomborg was guilty of "misstating the projected life expectancy of the glaciers" in the Himalayas. Friel then goes on to say that Lomborg ignores the fact that: "Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of the disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate." Friel, in his "scientific" rebuttal to the bad science of Lomborg makes this claim repeatedly.

He says: "the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high," and "the Himalayan glaciers will disappear 'by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner,' and not 'toward the end of the century,' as Lomborg wrote." And Friel claimed "the glaciers may disappear by 2035...." Four times in his rebuttal he attacks Lomborg for not saying the Himalayan glaciers will disappear by 2035 or sooner. And his source for this claim is the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change itself along with the World Wildlife Fund. Actually the IPCC was quoting the WWF so there weren't two sources and it is a tad bit dishonest to pretend there were.

Of course, Friel's "scientific" rebuttal falls apart because even the IPCC was forced to admit that the 2035 melt date was grossly in error and wasn't based on a peer-reviewed paper. It was a typographical error that just kept getting repeated by the alarmists. Let me recount the story of the 2035 claim. New Science magazine, it turns out, was the original published source used for this claim and they confessed that the claim was a "speculative comment" never submitted to peer review. And they were horrified that the IPCC printed the claim, second hand from the WWF without bothering to check it. They said: "We are entitled to an explanation" as to how this could happen, saying this was further damaging the reputation of the IPCC.

It also appears that the 2035 claim was floating about because of a paper by one V.M. Kotlyakov which estimated the shrinkage of the glaciers and said it expected them to melt by the year 2350. Someone, somewhere along the line, transposed the year 2350 into 2035. In fact, major glaciologists had all attacked the figure as being grossly out of line with the facts. The BBC reported that Michael Kemp of the World Glacier Monitoring System said that it is "not plausible that that Himalayan glaciers are disappearing within the next few decades."

The IPCC eventually admitted that the claim they had made was unfounded and unscientific. They released a statement saying that "clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by IPCC procedures were not applied properly" allowing "poorly substantiated estimates of rate and recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers" to appear in their publication. The Guardian newspaper reported the "IPCC has said it regretted the mistake" and blamed it on "human failure."

So, according to Friel, one of Lomborg's major egregious "deceptions" was that he didn't realize the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035, as was documented by WWF and the IPCC. But Friel is the one who is wrong and not even the primary source he uses, to prove Lomborg was deceptive, actually thinks the evidence is accurate. Certainly on these claims Friel was wrong and Lomborg was right to not use the discredited claims.

I should note that this blog first reported on this error in 2009. I covered it again earlier this year, and then again a little later in 2010. Yale University Press published Friel's book in March, 2010. This means that it was already public knowledge that Friel's claim was wrong three months prior to the publication of his book, at the very least. Yet it was still published with Friel's accusations, based on totally bogus data, in place. Newsweek's review of Friel, the one that said people should keep the book on hand when reading Lomborg, says Friel got "tripped up" over the glacier assertion, acknowledges the IPCC admits they were wrong and says: "Friel criticizes Lomborg for saying they would disappear by the end of this century, arguing that he should have accepted the IPCC's date of 2034. Oops."

In reply to the "oops" comment from Newsweek, allow me to quote Arnold Beckoff, the main character in Torch Song Trilogy, in relation to "whoops," which is close enough for the point I want to make:
Ed, did you say "Whoops"?

"Whoops" is when you fall down an elevator shaft.

"Whoops" is when you skinny dip in a school of piranha.

"Whoops' is when you accidentally douche with Drano.

No, Ed.
This was no "Whoops."

This was an "AAARGH!".
But this "oops" raises some questions. Why is Friel being promoted as someone who thoroughly checked out all the facts to rebut Lomborg? Clearly, on something as obvious as the melting of the Himalayan glaciers Friel couldn't have bothered to check out the facts when he was attacking Lomborg. Had he done so he would have investigated what experts said about glaciers and quoted them. And they were rounding condemning the IPCC for getting the facts wrong. So what kind of checking did Friel do?

I suggest that all he wanted to do was show Lomborg "wrong," not because the research he had done proved this, but because he already knew Lomborg had to be wrong and went out searching for evidence to back up his conclusion. He was the proverbial judge with the death sentence already in his book merely seeking what charges to lay against the accused. To show Lomborg wrong he went no further than the IPCC. Yet, the moment the IPCCs was subjected to just a small amount of scrutiny it fell like a house of cards. Even this blogger knew this claim was false. So why didn't the meticulous, thorough, debunking Friel realize the error was wrong? Why did he include it in his book? The only answer I can give is that he didn't actually bother to subject the IPCC's claim to any scrutiny whatsoever, he took it on faith, the way fundamentalists believe the Bible. This isn't an "ooops," not by any means. It's an aaargh!

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Yes, Obama is an articulate Bush. Whoopie!

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Does God have better taste than his followers?

One of the frightening things I noticed amongst born-again types, at least during my years in the church, was the utter lack of good taste. Really folks, the evangelists would show up with white shoes and white belts and really did think it looked spiffy. But then, if you believe in virgin births, walking on water and resurrections, it is not that much more absurd to think white shoes and belts actually look good. Apparently this fundamentalist church in Ohio had this rather tacky statue in front of the church and a bolt of lightening set the thing ablaze. I would have to suggest that their deity has better taste than these folks.

Speaking of belts, did you hear the one about the Republican Congressman Aaron Schock. Schock is followed by lots of rumors, and I mean lots. These aren't even whisper campaigns, but outright claims that Mr. Schock, a conservative Republican is gay. Of course, that NEVER happens, if by "never" we mean all the time. When Schock appeared at a picnic, dressed a bit spiffy for the crowd, the photo went viral around the net, with many thinking that this was just "too gay" for a Republican. Schock sent out a Twitter with his response: "Never thought a pic of me w/ my shirt on would go viral. Learned my lesson and burned the belt." I hope he's kidding, after all burning the belt would be a classic over-compensation technique, almost as desperate as the busty babe with her mammary glands hanging over one's head. And no one would do something that desperate!


Republican says law can use "sixth sense" to finger illegals

I continue to stand by my view that the Republican Party is the party of organized hate in America. The Democrats may be in the clutches of the greedy, unions of government employees, who are helping bankrupt America while giving us lousy service, or unnecessary service, but general speaking the bigots are attracted to the GOP. Once the Republican Party embraced the fundamentalist Christians it was bound to head down the bigoted road on numerous issues. I have long noticed that someone who is bigoted against one group tends to be bigoted against several groups.

The odd thing about haters is that people who dislike people for being black are more likely to dislike people who are Jewish, or people who are gay. They are more likely to see women as inferior to men. They tend to be more authoritarian, even if they pretend they support "less government."

Listen to Republican Congressvermin Steve King justify police using racial profiling to target "illegals" by comparing it to a taxi driver giving him a ride. The taxi driver saw King leave a government building, tapped his horn to see if King wanted a ride and King responded positively. That proves we are "profiled" all the time.

What King neglects, and which too many politicians neglect, is that there is a world of difference when government acts in this way. The taxi driver does not have a legal monopoly on the use of violence and force against others. He is not the State. Police agents are government, not private individuals offering services, but individuals who have the power to use force against other people.

I remember standing on the platform of the U-bahn in Berlin when the tracks were being repaired and the trains were being diverted. I saw a couple who looked very confused and were speaking English to one another. They had American accents and I assumed they were confused by the changes that were implemented. So I walked over and explained how the trains had been changed and asked them where they were going. I was getting off at Zoologischer Garten, and they had to go a couple stations further so I suggested they follow me. When I got off the train I explained they had to go two more stops for the station they wanted.

In a vague senses that was profiling. But I have no ability to restrain people. I couldn't violate their rights, only offer them assistance. When the power to violate rights, which is inherent in policing, is linked to entirely non-objective traits, such as King's "sixth sense," you have removed all concepts of the rule of law from the policing system.

Imagine a police officer stopping a man on the street because his "sixth sense" tells him the man is some sort of criminal. The officer demands ID based on his sixth sense. Legally speaking we are supposed to still have the right to walk the streets sans government paper. So assume our man is without ID. He tells the officer his name, as required and even volunteers that he is a citizen. But the officer's "sixth sense" is working, or maybe the suspects the man wears shoes that show he is "illegal" or has the haircut of an "illegal" (this is really Twilight Zone thinking). So, using his new powers under the Arizona law he takes the man into custody.

The man has done nothing! He has not violated any law. He has not assaulted anyone, or transgressed on the rights of any other person. He is peacefully minding his own business and a police officer, using King's justification, merely "senses" that the man is suspicious. No objective standard now exists. Officers are free to harass and grab people on the streets merely because they don't like a haircut, a pair of shoes, or because they just get a "feeling" about the person.

This is big government at it's worst. Big government is bad under all circumstances, in my opinion. But massive government without the restraint of objective definitions of criminal behavior is total tyranny. No armed agent of the government should be able to stop people and restrain them merely because he "senses" something. That is the complete annihilation of the rule of law. It also illustrates why I consider the xenophobic, anti-immigrant hysteria on the Right to be one of the biggest threats to Constitutional freedoms around today. And what is really disgusting is that the morons pretend to be doing in the name of the small government.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

The "charming" morons hired by Immigration

A friend of mine, who is Canadian, lives there with her American husband. The husband's father recently died and they have had to come to the U.S. a couple of times to settle matters of the father's estate. Having just returned from one of those trips she told me what happened as they were driving down to the U.S.

At the U.S. border they had another one of the insufferably long waits that Immigrations now routinely inflicts, discouraging millions in revenue for the country. These waits have basically killed off the previously thriving industry of Canadians coming to America to do shopping.

At the border they were approached by a Immigration thug who shaves his head and wears military sunglasses—a look I suggest is consciously thought through to make a statement that is supposed to be intimidating. I still contend that many people attracted to this line of work are actually petty thugs and bullies who are attracted to the job because they like to order people around—perhaps it is to compensate for small dicks, I'm sure it is to compensate for small brains, however. The productive marketplace, that is non-government employment, does not have much demand for bullies, especially dumb bullies.

The border thug demands to know why they are visiting the U.S., remember the driver is a U.S. citizen and the Canadian is his wife. The husband informs the curt skinhead that the trip was to settle his father's estate. Having looked at the passports, that is government permission slips given to "free" people allowing them to do what they did for millenniums without permission, the skinhead knew very little, but enough for his next question, so he thought.

He then asks my friends, "What is the status of the father?" A truly odd question if you think about it. After all they just told him they were going to settle the father's estate. The husband was so baffled by the question he sat there trying to figure out what the skinhead was talking about.

My friend, the wife, was startled by the question because it seemed so patently absurd to her as well. She responded: "He's dead."

That was sufficient to "set the guard off. He tore into me with a lecture about how [her husband's] father needed a status to have a residence and an estate in America, etc., etc., etc."

Actually, owning an estate is entirely independent of having "a status." And by status it was now clear that the skinhead was demanding to know if my friend's father was an illegal alien. So, what would trigger that line of questioning?

One thing, and one thing only. His surname is Hispanic. Remember he is a U.S. citizen, born in the U.S., his father was NOT an illegal alien. His only crime was having a Hispanic surname. Racial profiling and skinheads go together, and only the government gives the skinheads authority like this. Normally when they engage in racial harassment it is illegal, but not when working for government.

I am sure that the surname was the reason this sort of profiling was done. I also suspect that there was a second factor: the skinhead didn't know what it meant to "settle the estate." Given the intelligence level of people attracted to government employment I suspect he gave the term no consideration at all. All he heard was "father" and "estate" and then wants to know the "status" of the father, without realizing that normal people don't equate the word "status" with having permission papers from the federal authorities.

When my friend blurted out, rather surprised by the question, that the father was dead the skinhead realized he made a stupid assumption. Actually he made two stupid assumptions. First he assumed that having a Hispanic surname would mean the father could be an illegal alien. Second, it didn't dawn on him that the father was not living in the U.S., but was dead and buried in the U.S.

The reason he "tore into" my friend so heavily was because he was trying to cover up his own ignorance. But why bother? Surely the skinhead-military-sunglasses look already revealed the kind of ignorant moron that he clearly was. Opening his mouth only confirmed the obvious.

Yes, assuming a Hispanic name means "illegal" is stupid, but government policy encourages that sort of thing. But having a name assumed to be Hispanic doesn't mean one is either Hispanic or an alien. I remember one incident where three people I knew well all received solicitations to subscribe to the Spanish edition of Time magazine. All three had surnames that are widely assumed to be Hispanic, none were Hispanic and none could speak or read Spanish. Such false assumptions, in the private sector, are just amusing anecdotes with no harmful consequences possible.

Such assumptions, when made by morons with guns and the authority to use them, have very bad potential consequences. For example, remember the case of the man in Chicago, who was incarcerated for days because the morons didn't realize that Puerto Rico is part of the United States, not that it should be.

The skinhead mentality is alive and well, and it is always unpleasant. In the private sector when it exhibits itself the law is supposed to restrain it to non-violent acts. But when the mentality is backed by government power it becomes quite dangerous and potentially lethal. And while my friends on the Left would applaud much of what I say here, I want to remind them that it is the concentration of state power that makes this a problem. Skinheads acting privately are restrained by the law, skinheads with government "authority" are set loose on the public. The same disgusting mentality is magnified when combined with big government.

Too many advocates of centralized power on the Left assume that only "good guys" will have that power. That is a very bad mistake to make. Reality shows that eventually the "bad guys," regardless of how you define them, will get that power and use it as they see fit. If you want to protect minorities and civil liberties you have to work for smaller government. Otherwise you do get skinheads running immigration policy and fundamentalist "abstinence" types teaching sex education. In the private sector both are jokes, endowed with state power they are a danger.

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