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November 26, 2002

Can We Stop This Please?

There are people in various governmental and non-governmental positions who call Bush names? What, is this actually a revelation or something? Is it important that some people speak their minds and when they do, they think ill of other people? So what?

RESIGNING over something like this is completely stupid.

November 25, 2002

Aiming At The Saudis

Anyone else get all gooey inside when politicians talk straight?

A National Security Council task force is recommending an action plan to President Bush that is designed to force Saudi Arabia to crack down on terrorist financiers within 90 days or face unilateral U.S. action to bring the suspects to justice, senior U.S. officials said yesterday.

[...]

The officials would not say what unilateral U.S. action might entail. But they said the United States would first present the Saudis with intelligence and evidence against individuals and businesses suspected of financing al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, coupled with a demand that they be put out of business. In return, one senior official said, the administration will say, "We don't care how you deal with the problem; just do it or we will" after 90 days.


"We don't care how you deal with the problem; just do it or we will." Holy hot fuck! I love that!

While I don't agree completely with Instapundit that Iraq may have been a diversion on the road to Saudi Arabia, it does make sense in that Bush has seemingly beaten all the odds and punditry predictions and outmanuvered his opponents at almost every junction. I doubt he'd sink so much political capital into Iraq as a means to a Saudi reformation end, but I wouldn't discount the idea either.

U.S. intelligence agencies and financial investigators have put together a classified, working list of nine wealthy individuals believed to be the core group of financiers for al Qaeda and other radical Islamic terror groups, U.S. officials said. Of those, seven are Saudis, one is a Pakistani merchant and one is an Egyptian businessman. The officials would not identify the individuals.

"There are some who argue that sharing intelligence with the Saudis is just plain stupid," one official said. "But in so doing we put down a marker. We are saying we are not acting unilaterally, we are not moving precipitously, we are not acting as a hostile force.

"We tell them the problem and leave it to them to solve, presuming they will act in good faith. But if they do not act in 90 days, we assume solving the problem is beyond their ken and the United States will solve it."


Rockin'!

1 Million People to Stop Getting Handouts

Pity them

Actually, I won't.

Jo-Anne Hurlston can't find a job after nearly six months of searching, even with her master's degree and experience in education, human resources and the hospitality industry.

She's one of nearly 1 million unemployed workers across the country who will start losing jobless benefits three days after Christmas because Congress failed to grant an extension before leaving for the year.

"All the money that's being spent on homeland security and we're left stranded," said Hurlston, 47, a single mother with a 12-year-old daughter. "If they want more money for homeland security, we have to be able to work to pay taxes."


Firstly, I must say that I disagree with the apeshit-gone-wild spending spree that Congress has gone through in regards to the military and the terrorism war. While I would give the Pentagon more money (since they do need it), I would make it conditional upon a DRASTIC improvement on their bookkeeping, accounting, and fiscal waste management problems. Far too much is thrown away.

However, take a good long whiff of that "Damnitall, I'm ENTITLED to that money!" attitude on display from Ms. Hurlston. She's been getting $550 every two weeks after being laid off from a public charter school den position in June. She hasn't been able to find a job beyond subbing as a teacher. She wants us to pay for her living expenses while she looks for a job.

I'm sorry, Jo-Anne, but we are not obligated to do so. It is your responsibility to take care of yourself and prepare for the future and possible emergencies.

George Washington, Not an Anti-Semite

I've seen this quote being passed around this website as legitimate:

They (the Jews) work more effectively against us, than the enemy's armies. They are a hundred times more dangerous to our liberties and the great cause we are engaged in... It is much to be lamented that each state, long ago, has not hunted them down as pest to society and the greatest enemies we have to the happiness of America."

Wrong. This quote is somewhat widespread, so then truth needs to come out and bury it.

Socialist Swedish Quotas

25% of corporate board members must be women by 2004...

...or business face "legislative action" through quotas.

Nevermind that fully-qualified men will now get turned away from a job because a company fears being sanctioned by the government. Nevermind that it is the responsibility of the company to hire the right person for the job. And neverfuckingmind that government has no business telling businesses who to hire. None.

It doesn't matter if some of these quota-ed women do well and suceed in their jobs. It doesn't matter if unqualified dishonest men get turned away from a job. It also doesn't matter if a quarter of the corporate boardroom workforce is female, Asian, or homosexual.

If people want more women in positions of power in businesses, then gawddamn it, give them tough goals and challenge them to improve themselves so they become more attractive to those companies. Sexism is not necessarily the reason why women are underrepresented in everything. Perhaps - perish the thought - the human resource departments don't see enough qualified female candidates.

It's in the best interests of a company to hire the best people it can. It simply does not matter what exalted, opressed, or marginalized minority, at-risk group, or under ignored class is choosen for the job. It is woefully unjust to use the force of government to legally keep people away from jobs simply because of some characteristic.

November 23, 2002

A Day With A Browning Hi Power

Gaaa...my right thumb joint is pissed at me. It spent over five hours getting pounded upon by 9mm, .45, and .38-caliber autoloading handguns and revolvers with my father standing by, making sure I didn't do something stupid. It's been well over five years since I've fired a gun and it showed today. My groups were erratic; sometimes bunched nicely together and sometimes seemingly scattered far around and below the X ring. I did get better as the day went on, however. I had to shake off the recoil and report skittishness I'd developed over the years.

The main reason I did this is to get ready for a required handgun safety/useage course I need before I can earn a concealed handgun license. I spent the most time with Mr. Browning, shown above.

I like it. Though I need to get used to holding 32 ounces out in front of me like that (no, I don't have a beer mug that big and if I did, I sure as hell wouldn't hold it 18" away from me and keep it as steady as possible), I like the overall balance and weight. The safeties are easy to understand and use and the slide lock isn't difficult to operate. The recoil was manageable and the sights easy enough to aim. One thing that I don't like is the molded composite grip. Being right-handed, a bone at the base joint in my thumb was punished by the grip from the kick. I'm just too bony and my skin's too sensitive to take so much (we probably shot upwards of 6 50-round boxes today) in such a short period.

We had the handgun range all to ourselves most of the morning. My dad is friends with the place's owner so we set up exactly as we wanted to and went at it. I remember how fun it is to "put steel on target" and to control the minute movements in your body so your round goes right where you want it to. I missed the smell of gunpowder and gun oil. I can't wait to get back on the firing line.

UPDATE(6/2/2003 5:15pm)
I've received my Concealed Hangun License.

November 22, 2002

Friday Dedication

I hereby dedicate today's sole post to the greatness that is Kid Koala, aka Eric San.

He swung by Austin yesterday to play for us Central Texans. Before the show began at Mercury, he made an appearance at 33º. A simple livespeaker/2 decks/1 mixer setup and a folding table. He'd spin something for us and chit chat for a bit. He's wonderfully down-to-earth. Goofy little Canadian-Asian that he is, grin wide and attitude sunny, he even let us listen in when the promoter called while he was chatting. He put his cell phone on speakerphone mode and the crowd quieted down. He politely asked the guy for fifty or so guest passes but the promoter just laughed and told him he didn't just hear that.

In addition, my friend Cameron went with me. He brought his 10" Emperors Main Course In Cantonese single to see if Eric would sign it. He was more than willing to do so and he even drew one of his stylized DJ heads. It looks fucking sweet, too.

The show itself was awesome. I may just be clueless about this, but I found it simply stunning someone could spin, distort, and scratch two-plus records so perfectly without headphones. He did this for a large portion of his set. He played "Drunk Trumpet" and other shamefully few tracks of his I recognize. Grinning the whole time, this is a guy who really enjoys what he's doing. Even when they had some electrical grounding problems, he whipped up a quick musical diversion from his extensive collection of vinyl. Some wierd instructional LP that maybe fifty people have heard, but under manipulation by a master DJ.

So, Mr. San, I bow before thy masterful turntablism skills and your quick wit. May your musical career never falter.

November 21, 2002

For the Folks at Samizdata

One mirror, coming up!

Be Prepared

Yes, I was briefly an Explorer Scout... but that's not what I'm writing about.

Given the article posted by Natalie I think Samizdata needs to think ahead of the Statist curve. I too find this so far beyond my worst nightmares that I am near speechless - or whatever one calls the blogged word.

If anyone out there has their own server on a high bandwidth link and could work with Samizdata.net to set up a mirror and in the worst case scenario, free hosting, it would be much appreciated.

Here, for the Infidels, I repeat The Holy Word of The Goddess Liberty, (Praised be Her Name!) which I Worship above All Others and whose Word is not respected in the UK:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

- US 1st Amendment

So take this Tranzi Scum!:

Victory to Israel! Hang Saddam! Shoot the Guantanamo terrorists! A HARM in every Al Qaeda's SUV! Nuke the Chechens! The only good al Qaeda is a Dead al Qaeda.

Thank you for your kind patience.

Followup to "Anti-Kyoto Science..."

Link to the previous post here

This is some preliminary info on some of the scientists mentioned in that Globe and Mail article.

Dr. Tim Patterson of Carleton University. His biography.

Dr. Fred Singer of George Mason University. His biography.

Google cache of a small Dr. Madhav Khandekar biography.

Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama. His biography.

Dr. Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph. His curriculum vitae.

Dalhousie University's Dr. Petr Chylek. His biography.

Tony Woodlief on Libertarianism IV

Religion, morals, and what's acceptable to the community

Faith and community are slogans for most politicians, but they are real to most people. They have little place in libertarianism.

I can certainly agree that there seem to be a high number of agnostics and atheists. The libertarian community (which does exist...your essays are directed at it, among others) overall does have a bias against an outside force interfering with their self-interest. I am an atheist myself.
Far better to be ruled by markets and community norms (though not really -- more on this below) than by someone who refers to himself as a Lord or a King (and in upper-case, at that).

The free market's fundamental difference with a non-free market is the fact that the individual makes his or her own choices. We make choices in the market; the market doesn't make the choices for you. Kinda pedantic, I know.
A good libertarian will respond that faith has no role in libertarianism because the essence of this creed is that people should be free to make their own personal decisions in all spheres, so long as they don't infringe on the corresponding liberty of others. Thus libertarianism has nothing to say about faith any more than it has something to say about what you eat for dinner -- it's your choice.

That's actually a good way of putting that.
But imagine that virtually all active libertarians were anorexic, and largely disdainful of the eaters. They wouldn't suggest any laws to keep these people from doing their thing, but they probably wouldn't come across as very sympathetic either.

As they (or anyone else) would be right to do if they felt that way. I don't see this as an intrinsic problem in any system, given that the disdain didn't turn into force. Imagine a libertarian nation which is composed of a vast majority of people with largely homogenous politics. Next, imagine their universal loathing of hearing about North Korea's Communism. As a hypothetical people, libertarians may have at the same number of wildly eccentric views concerning all manner of subjective tastes as any other community of people. But according to the basic tenants of libertarianism, they should all feel revulsion at the blatant intrusion and violation of another man's liberty, especially in socialist states. Meaning, just like other forms of political thought, there should be some things that are anathema to most libertarians. One of them is the prinicple of not submitting to an authority your basic human rights. We start wading into personal beliefs here, but as far as religion is concerned, it is a system of behavior limiting and shaping customs, whatever their use or purpose.

I think it's natural there is a dearth of religious libertarians. It may sound arrogant, but libertarians tend to view themselves as the defenders of reason. There are a lot of logical questions surrounding religious belief.

In other words, there are important costs, borne of this unnecessary fusion of libertarianism and atheism, to the libertarian cause.

The first results from a frequent inability to distinguish between belief and behavior. If a Christian politician calls for vigorous enforcement of anti-pornography laws, for example, the prevailing view among libertarians is that he is not only wrong to infringe on liberty, but also silly for thinking pornography is an evil thing. They would view its prohibition as terrible in itself, not because doing so creates a precedent for prohibiting other forms of commerce and expression. There is a significant difference between these positions.


I believe both things and both are seperate and completely valid beliefs, when combined with each other or not. It infringes upon liberty and it seems silly to have that much fear over the issue, especially to the point where they want to ban or restrict it. However, those libertarians who believe it is principally wrong because it is silly to hate pornography are incorrect from a liberty-preserving (i.e., libertarian) standpoint. It's about individual freedom first and foremost.
A thought experiment: imagine that there are two societies with open borders. The first has complete economic and social liberty, but faith and community norms are so strong that nobody produces or desires to use pornography, or narcotics, or even profanity, and virtually everyone attends church on a regular basis. Imagine that the second has less regulation of economic and social activity than the U.S. today, but considerably more than the first society. On the other hand, its members are completely tolerant of free sexual expression, all forms of speech, and drug use. In which society would you choose to live?

My hunch is that most libertarians would prefer the second society. Theirs is not just a political libertarianism (i.e., this is how rights and government should be arranged), but a cultural libertarianism (i.e., people shouldn't be upset by behaviors that don't violate the rights of others). Furthermore, a considerable minority of libertarians probably view these so-called vices as positive goods, whereas the rare Christian or Jewish (by faith) libertarian views them as significant negatives that must be tolerated for the sake of liberty.


Good question. It probably sorts a lot of the "market libertarians" from the "social libertarians." I'd most likely pick the second option because I do not mesh well with that kind of cultural ethics system. Something to seriously think about. The flippant response is to pick the most-free system, but if that system would clash with your personality and habits, it's one of the things you weigh when picking a place to live. In fact, I'd bet that in a hypthetical libertarian nation, we'd naturally divide up like this, mostly among cultural and societal lines.
The libertarian intolerance of intolerance thus leads to the second negative consequence of fusing libertarianism and atheism -- it leaves libertarians shy about saying what should guide behavior, and distrustful of those who do. Libertarians are very fond of pointing out that a (if not the) primary directive in a free society is to refrain from violating the rights of others. This is all well and good, but a society will not thrive on non-intervention alone. The libertarian society more than others, in fact, depends on self-discipline, an impulse for charity, and serious attention to moral education of one's children, among other disciplines.

I disagree there is actual "intolerance"...more on that later.

From a Randian point of view, the guiding force should be one's self-interest and I mostly agree with that. My self-interest guides my choices for the most part. When my self-interests would result in the violation of another person's rights, I don't act upon them. You could call them the boundaries of a basic moral code of a civilized society...murder, assault, theft, and cheating. My self-interest may include the possibility of stealing a car, but that would initiate force against another's property. Mix in a little of the selfish reasoning behind the Golden Rule, and you've got what I would consider the basis for most libertarian moral guidance.

These are important elements in the libertarian society, but libertarians are profoundly uncomfortable at judging bad behavior as such. That's for conservatives after all, and hey, aren't they the ones who get all uptight about porn? Live and let live, that's our motto, baby.

I dunno. Libertarians have described things and acts as tasteless, filthy, immature, etc. "Live and let others live so they may or may not do something I agree with" would be more concise. I certainly wouldn't demand a law to prohibit someone from listening to gangsta rap or country western music. I certainly don't like much of either genre and think they can be morally bankrupt, boring, cheesy, and obscene at times. Libertarians can be the holders of strongly-loved opinions and I doubt there's any real libertarian societal convention holding them back from judging things with their own systems of values. I think it's a natural reaction to having the choice of saying something or not. Many people just want to be left alone and never stick their necks out.
Libertarians in the area of morality are like corporations in the area of business ethics. Nobody believes them when they talk about the rules that should govern the game, because they are rarely willing to condemn bad behavior that is technically within the rules. Like corporate America, libertarians will begin to have moral authority when they are the first to condemn poor behavior.

I don't believe the idea that libertarians are noticably unwilling to condemn what they see as bad behavior. A point may be made about not publicly expressing that condemnation, but that is less of a question about one's moral guidance and more like a facet of one's personality. Libertarians are quick to speak out about economic illiberties and some social ones such as intoxicants, privacy, and religious, let's not forget.

I also don't believe (possibly in contradiction to the a majority of society) that one's moral authority is determinant upon how often they openly condemn bad behavior and the nature of that denouncement. I've never spoken out about slavery, but that doesn't mean anything about my moral authority in judging it disgustingly vile. Perhaps I've never had a forum to speak out about it before. Perhaps it's because the belief is widespread and there is no need to say it again. Even so, not speaking out against something does not itself alone diminish one's moral authority. I disagree with those who believe it does.

The problem, of course, is that libertarians might be hard-pressed to admit that things like divorce, or making pornography, or propping one's children in front of the idiot box for hours on end, or failing to respect one's parents, etc., are examples of bad behavior. It is an even greater stretch to expect them to condemn it.

Perhaps the fires of libertarian effort are being spent on larger economic and legal issues. Perhaps libertarians would simply rather not bother others with their opinions on the subject. Often I hear libertarianistic (new word?) sentences that go something like: "While I personally think SomeAct is stupid and repulsive, you have the right to go ahead and do it. Don't expect me to follow suit." This kind of thinking is ingrained into the basic libertarian philosophy. It's a voluntary admission that you have no right to stop some person from SomeAct, but you certainly don't have to like it. It is an actual tolerance, however grudgingly confessed. That the tolerance extends so far as to even fiercely oppose the act but not attempt to violate the liberty of another is a highlight of the libertarian system of thought. It's certainly more tolerant than those who propose "hate speech" laws.
If it is true that defining behavior as bad inevitably leads to its regulation, then libertarians are in a quandary, because I think civil, productive, happy society depends on the recognition by a large majority of its population that some behaviors are bad, and their practitioners worthy of ostracism.

It is certainly true that a large section of the population in today's society thinks that things considered "bad" should be regulated by, inspected through, registered with, or prohibited by the government. I don't believe libertarians are in a quandary because they don't believe those "bad" behaviors should be restricted through government force. Also, I can almost guarantee that social ostracism would occur during the initial population shake-out and though it may fade, it would never go away. This is for the same reason I gave for the voluntary seperation of people when they choose where to live. The population shifts according to habits, beliefs, attitudes, etc.
If the libertarian position is that people cannot be trusted to hold these beliefs without yielding to the temptation to use government to enforce them on others, then it faces two seemingly intractable problems.

The first is that it places itself in the unwinnable situation of needing to convince various pluralities that behaviors like the aforementioned really aren't so bad, and thus unworthy of government intervention.


Good point. That is an unsettlingly large task. It would clash with the desired laissez faire society in which no one dictated to another what to think. Better to let people decide on their own.
The second is that in doing so it ends up advocating a society that will ultimately reject its suggested system of government, because a society filled with people who have few community norms beyond those of a college libertarian club is likely to disintegrate to the point that it falls prey to internal or external tyrants.

This presupposes there would be no "testing the waters" phase of adjustment followed by a settling of naturally-occuring norms and customs. Picking a libertarian college club is unfair because it is inadequate to expand that to fit over a whole nation of people. Today's college clubs exists within the current regulation framework of the current incarnation of the government. They aren't autonomous to the extent a libertarian community would be. It's too small a sample size to make a point out of.

I seriously do not believe, as long as they agreed to a basic libertarian Constitution, that there would be any fracticiousness within the hypothetical nation. Immigrants adjust to American life and still retain their uniqueness. I can move from Austin to Tehran and if I want to badly enough, I can adapt to the new culture.

Yeah, such a society would be more fluid. But I don't believe it would be self-threatening.

November 20, 2002

Eat This, Mao!

Ha!

Let's see how long my site remains accessible in China.

Auto Vandalism

Changingtheclimate.com

I drive a diesel VW and there are many environmentalists who'd view such a car in the same light as a SUV. Living in Austin with a high percentage of the population being Lefty/progressive/Green, it is concievable that someone may get a bug up their ass and try to "tag" my car. Granted, the rules laid out for this state

1. Only tag the big ones. The Ford Expeditions and Excursions (I avoid the Explorers), Chevy or GMC Suburbans, 1500's, 2500's which often go by the Yukon and Tahoe name. The Cadillac Escalade, Toyota Land Cruiser, Land and Range Rovers and Lexus LX470 are all to be considered targets of opportunity. It is best to tag in the affluent suburbs where you will notice the Urban Assault Vechicles are never dirty. I figure that most people in rural areas are probably using them for a functional purpose and therefore don't tag in these areas.

so it seems the focus isn't on small cars. Of course,
5. We only tag late model vehicles, not some beat up old Suburban some poor soul has inherited.

this doesn't seem logical to me at all. The newest SUVs are considerably cleaner and more efficient than the SUVs of the past. They don't spew clouds of exhaust at idle or under acceleration. If I were running this civil disobedience campaign, I'd target ALL of these smokestacks, not just large SUVs.

Of course, I wouldn't be doing this in the first place. I don't believe it's right to vandalize (and that's what it is) someone's property. If I saw someone tagging a vehicle in a parking lot, I'd probably do something about it.

The Homeland Security Bill

Approved in the Senate, only minor changes left to send it to Bush

Eight Democrats and independent Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont voted "no" on the homeland security bill, which merges 22 diverse agencies with combined budgets of about $40 billion and which employ 170,000 workers. It will be the largest federal reorganization since the Defense Department was created in 1947.

But the battles over the department are just beginning. It will take months for the new agency to get fully off the ground. And a budget stalemate continues to block most of the extra money for domestic security enhancements both political parties want for the federal fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

On top of that, many senators were not happy with the final version of the bill and said they would work to make changes next year.


It passed 90 to 9. The bill's summary is a nightmare. I'll work on something regarding it tonight.

UT officials are looking forward to a likely increase in defense research grants:

The bill creates a Department of Homeland Security, combining 22 federal agencies and outlining a monumental transplant of about 170,000 federal employees. Officials see the opportunity for UT institutions to gain thousands of dollars in new defense research grants.

It could mean more work for Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, which the System wishes to operate. And in a larger scheme, the System could collaborate with others in Texas for a chance to operate the nation's homeland security research center.

"We think it's a great step forward," said William Shute, UT System vice chancellor for federal relations, talking by phone from Washington. "The various components within the System, and certainly UT-Austin, all do a great amount of research that fits the broad sense of homeland security. What's the biggest benefit [of this bill] is that it will centralize lots of that research."

Charles Sorber, UT System vice chancellor for special engineering programs, made similar judgments.

"There'll be a number of research opportunities involved in the bill, because I think there's a research component," Sorber said.

The 484-page bill, provides for a "Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency" that could place $50 million into competitive grants and contracts. The agency also could designate a "university-based research center or centers for homeland security."


Some of the unnecessary crap in the bill:
The pharmaceutical industry, which donated $35 million to the last two political campaigns, would gain protection from lawsuits over adverse side effects of vaccines. Conveniently, the restrictions would be retroactive, terminating injury cases that are already in the courts.

Makers of faulty bomb detectors, gas masks or other anti-terrorism devices would be granted immunity from liability, even in cases of intentional wrongdoing.

Companies could cover up violations of the law by hiding behind new restrictions on access to government information.

A provision inserted by incoming House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, would hand Texas A & M University the first department grant: a homeland- security research center.


A&M gets the pork! Oink, oink, Mr DeLay.

Is Our Children Learning?

13% of our youths are idiots

Only 58% in the survey knew al Qaeda and the Taliban were based in Afghanistan. If American children are this utterly LAME in basic geography, I am frightful about their knowledge of more complex subjects, like addition and subtraction. Of course, any quick perusal of the Net can demonstrate their atrocious mishandling of the English language.

The survey asked 56 geographic and current events questions of young people in nine countries and scored the results with traditional grades. The surveyed Americans got a "D," with an average of 23 correct answers. Mexico ranked last with an average score of 21, just three points from a failing grade.

Topping the scoring was Sweden, with an average of 40, followed by Germany and Italy, each with 38. None of the countries got an "A," which required average scores of 42 correct answers or better on the 56 questions.

[...]

When asked to find 10 specific states on a map of the United States, only California and Texas could be located by a large majority of those surveyed. Both states were correctly located by 89 percent of the participants. Only 51 percent could find New York, the nation's third most populous state.
On a world map, Americans could find on average only seven of 16

countries in the quiz. Only 89 percent of the Americans surveyed could find their own country on the map.
In the world map test, Swedes could find an average of 13 of the 16

countries. Germans and Italians were next, with an average of 12 each.
Only 71 percent of the surveyed Americans could locate on the map

the Pacific Ocean, the world's largest body of water. Worldwide, three in 10 of those surveyed could not correctly locate the Pacific Ocean.
Although 81 percent of the surveyed Americans knew that the Middle

East is the Earth's largest oil exporter, only 24 percent could find Saudi Arabia on the map.


HEY TEACHERS!!! WHAT THE FUCK!??!?!

100th Entry = Shot 'O Humor

All you old-timer Internet fools will remember this. It's been updated with illustrations. All the uses of the word 'Fuck.'

"The first British visitors souvenired spears hurled at them by the Botany Bay welcoming committee. Now the locals want them back." Aborigines want their weapons back. Rumors of them threatening war are unconfirmed.

The art that comes from your children should rightfully be called SHIT.

Not for the faint of heart, but definitely for the creative of mind.

“Fully dedicated to grinding your academic efforts to a halt”

Flash ridiculosity. And Led Zeppelin-listening, The Vines-screaming, viking kittens. And more. Done badly. Also home of the Swearotron, Crab Bloke in London, and other electromagnetic diversions.

November 19, 2002

Free Speech at UT-Austin

Inspired by the recent Instapundit post regarding speech codes at Harvard Law School, I remembered that the University of Texas at Austin is in the process of revising it's campus speech policy.

The task force focused on three proposals: reduce advanced- permission requirements, allow the distribution of literature from off-campus and not-for-profit organizations, and increase the number of amplified-sound zones.

"The existing free-speech rules on this campus are really not so bad. You can say nearly anything you want, pretty much anywhere and pretty much at any time, but you often require advanced permission from the dean of students," said Doug Laycock, a task force member and UT law professor.

Laycock said the most controversial proposal by the task force will be the increase in amplified-sound zones.

"Sound is uniquely more disruptive than any other kind of communication. [We] have to find places that are far enough or sufficiently sheltered from buildings so they don't disrupt the work of the University that's going on next door, but not so isolated that there's no crowd there," Laycock said.


A comparision of UT and the University of Houston regarding a free speech lawsuit from the Daily Texan:
Two lawsuits were filed after a controversial anti-abortion exhibit was displayed at the University and the University of Houston last year, triggering both to revise their free speech policies.

While the University opened free speech to all areas of campus, UH reacted to the lawsuit by designating certain freedom of expression areas.

A University task force reccomended that the West Mall be an amplified free-speech zone where sound equipment could be used during weekdays without disrupting classes. UH changed its policy to include an additional protest area in which administration approval is not necessary to authorize demonstrations.

The UT task force recommended that students, faculty and staff have campus access to express their points of view, but certain areas must be used for amplified sound, according to the Office of Public Affairs.

Last spring, UT student group Justice for All displayed the anti- abortion exhibit on campus last year, starting the free-speech controversy. The group sued the school because they felt their constitutional rights were restricted during the protest. The lawsuit is still pending.


I disagree strongly with Justice For All's stance on abortion, but this is a classic example of speech that should be allowed and protected, particularly on a public campus. The recommendation for UT's free speech policy sounds good. The primary duty of the University is to educate and that duty should not be disrupted.

National Ammo Day!

It's an ammo BUYcott

I'll be stocking up for a trip to the range with my father. It'll be fun punching 9mm holes in paper targets. It'll be doubly fun knowing that I can do it because Americans can still exercise (most) of their 2nd Amendment rights.

November 18, 2002

Anti-Kyoto Science Must Have Its Day

Michael den Tandt is skeptical of the global warming push

I haven't read Bjørn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist, but the furor that arose after it was published means one of two things. It is either so outrageously incorrect and wrong that it deserved the widespread environmentalist condemnation it recieved...or it contained enough truth that the environmentalists had to raise enough hell to cover up the questions it gave birth to.

In this article, den Tandt wonders why the dissenters who object to the pro-Kyoto conclusions are being ignored.

For despite the widely held assumption that the science of human-induced global warming is incontrovertible, it is not. And despite the equally common view that any scientists who oppose the Kyoto Protocol are either quacks, pawns of Big Oil, or figments of Ralph Klein's fevered imagination, they are not.

The dissenters live among us. Their academic pedigrees are impressive, their schools and research institutions among the best in the world. Like all scientists, they're sometimes wrong. In fact, they may all be wrong. For a layman, it's tough to judge.

But as individuals, they appear at least as credible as the pro-Kyoto majority lined up against them. They should not be dismissed simply because Ottawa, the Sierra Club and Dr. David Suzuki have decreed the scientific debate closed. They deserve a hearing.

There's Dr. Tim Patterson, professor of earth sciences (paleoclimatology) at Carleton University. Dr. Patterson's studies of the geologic record led him to conclude that climate change is constant, inevitable, and natural.

[...]

There's Dr. Fred Singer, a professor at George Mason University and professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia. He says the horror stories about melting ice caps, rising ocean levels, severe flooding in low-lying coastal areas are wrong.

[...]

Or there's Dr. Madhav Kandekar, a meteorologist who put in 25 years at Environment Canada. His field is so-called "Extreme Weather Events" -- flash floods, freak storms, intense heat, tornadoes, all taken to be signs of man-made changes in the global climate. He says EWEs are not increasing in number anywhere in Canada.

[...]

And there's Dr. Roger Pocklington, a former research scientist at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. For three decades, he measured surface temperatures in the Atlantic, searching for signs of systematic climate change. He found evidence of cooling, not warming.

[...]

And there are others. Students of climate who've raised dissenting opinions about the science of global warming include Dr. John Christy, professor and director of the Earth System Science Centre at the University of Alabama; Dr. Fred Seitz, past president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; Dr. Chris de Freitas, a professor in the School of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Auckland, New Zealand; Dr. Ross McKitrick, a professor of environmental economics at the University of Guelph; and Dr. Petr Chylek, a professor of physics and atmospheric science at Dalhousie University. The list goes on.


I'll do a quick post on their findings tomorrow and see what I can come up with.

Party at 21st Street Co-op!

For the uninitiated, I live in Austin, Texas' capitol city. The largest public univeristy in the United States, the University of Texas at Austin, and it's 50,000+ students call it home. It has a lively music scene and is often referred to as "The Live Music Capitol of the World," a claim which is probably more arrogant than true, but is fitting nonetheless.

Unfortunately, I keep to myself and this kind of atmosphere is often lost on me. There are times when I'll "go out" but they are usually spent being the guy drinking quietly watching the crowd do their thing. I don't mind doing that. People are fun to watch. Doubly so when both the watched and the watcher are drunk.

A friend of mine convinced me to go to a party referenced in the title of this post. I don't usually go to parties. I'm not much of a party guy. This is especially the case when I know less than four people at the party. But last Saturday night I made an exception. Even though I was the designated driver.

It was fun. 21st St parties are always wild, and this wasn't an exception. The cops came in a few hours after things got going and managed to scare off the bulk of the partygoers, but the police came in too early. The naked fireball-blowers hadn't even started their acts yet. Neither had the in-house marching drum corps. I'd estimate there was at least three hundred people on the grounds of the apartment complex at the height of the party, with maybe an additional seventy-five to one hundred just off the property.

Beyond the visual treats provided by the attendant females (and one of the ladies accompanying the group I was with), the true joy of the evening was the music provided by Unified Feel Theory. It's been a long time since I've been to a live musician gig and even longer since I've been to one that rocked as much as theirs. Excellent combination of instrumental rock, jazz, Latin, and other styles which managed to have the magic of great-sounding improv while maintaining a consistent style and music flow. They'd build up a set and then give each musician a chance to solo for a while. I'll be checking the local music stores for any CDs.

So, to hundreds of crazy drunk people, to attractive women, and to wicked music!

Tony Woodlief on Libertarianism III

Libertarians on foreign and domestic policy

Libertarians not only suffer from a lack of strategy for winning, they have little to offer in the way of maintaining authority should they some day emerge victorious.

[...]

Start with external enemies -- the host of armed authoritarian states that would relish an opportunity to seize American wealth and liberty. There is no gentle way of saying this: libertarians sound like absolute fools when they talk about foreign policy.


How's this plan for a foreign policy?

Cease grant-like foreign aid completely. Use strictly-termed loans instead.

Cultivate friendly relationships only with countries that meet a minimum level of social, policial, and economic freedom. For nations that fall below this level of freedom, make it a point to illustrate their social, political, and economic abuses in a quarterly report available to the public. Maintain libertarian-style open trade policies except with the most egregious of the offenders, the most threatening to our national security. It is against our self-interest to aid authoritarian regimes.

The United Nations, I believe, is a waste of our time. Either we hold to our principles firmly or we pull out. Many libertarians believe the former is the better course of action. Treaties are well and good, but they are never to be allowed to trump the rights of individual Americans. International agreements are just those...agreements. Contract enforcement is to be dealt with by the parties involved. Impartial arbiters and mediators are readily available and the potential need for them does not necessitate a global government, legal court, or enforcement entity. The World Trade Organization and the other business-related non-government authorities are voluntary associations and do not carry the weight or authority of law.

War should be the method of last resort in all confrontations. However, it's plainly obvious that the methods of choosen resort often get used up quickly in the face of a determined and violent adversary. So, in the case of WWII (which Mr. Woodlief points to), it was justified to enter the conflict since not only were our interests being threatened and destroyed, but free societies which were buffers to that threat as well

Likewise comes the libertarian claim that American adventures in the Cold War were misguided. In this they display an ugly penchant for concerning themselves with the liberties of white Americans, which explains the view of many that the U.S. Civil War represents the earliest great infringement on liberty (as if the liberty of slaves doesn't count in the balance).

I would hesitate to lump libertarians all together in such a slap-dash manner. I think that the greatest number of people who believe the Civil War was a great infringement on liberty are those states rights Republicans who have drifted over into our camp over time. From their perspective, the federal government trampled the rights of states to mostly govern themselves. Such an arguement is collectivist because it places the rights of states over individuals. I concur with Mr. Woodlief concerning Libertarians who were isolationist regarding the Cold War that they were wrong, but not because they "display an ugly penchant for concerning themselves with the liberties of white Americans" (people are rightly concerned with their self-interests, and they happen to be white Americans, so be it...non-whites are and have been similarly concerned) but because the threat of Communism was important enough to fight.
These arguments against foreign intervention derive from the libertarian principle that coercion is wrong, which is really no fixed principle at all, because nearly all libertarians admit that a military financed through taxation is a necessity for the protection of liberty. Somewhere in their calculus, however, they conclude that this coercion shouldn't extend to financing the liberation of non-Americans. Perhaps this is principled, but it is certainly not the only viable alternative for a true lover of liberty. To tell people languishing in states like China and the former Soviet bloc that our commitment to liberty prevents us from opposing their masters is the height of churlishness and foolishness.

Libertarians believe that the central government's most important duty is to secure the liberty of it's citizens. A well-funded volunteer military is the best way to defend ourselves in light of our hostile world.

Intervention in foreign affairs is an extremely tricky business. Unintended consequences would appear to be more prevalent during such activities than at any other time. We can't "police the world" so we must try to limit intervention to clear cases of need. If a nation is openly hostile towards us and has infringed upon the liberties of our nation and individual citizens, then foreign intervention becomes a justifiable response among other choices. For "beign" authoritarian governments which do not engage in international hostilities but seem to exist in order to perpetuate the slavery or semi-slavery of it's citizens, I believe it falls upon the shoulders of it's citizens to help themselves to break their chains. If the regime represses such efforts, then that government has lost it's legitimacy and should no longer be recognized. When the people of that country call for help, it would be in our long-term interests to aid them, be it through funding of institutes such as the Minaret of Freedom or by actively engaging and uprooting the opressive system in place.

Perhaps the worst is the libertarian position on Israel, which amounts to a replay of Joe Kennedy's see-no-evil, hear-no-evil approach to Hitler in the 1930's. Sure, without American support every man, woman, and child among the Jews might have their throats slit by Muslim thugs, but it's not like they got that country fairly in the first place, and really, it's none of our business. That's not a caricature, by the way. At an event in Washington I heard a prominent libertarian argue that we shouldn't support Israel because what happens to them is their problem, not ours. And libertarians wonder why nobody takes their views on foreign policy seriously.

I see libertarians defending Israel for mostly two reasons. One, in order to highlight the prinicple that a legitimate government has a right to self-defense. Two, in order to highlight that Israel, for all it's socialistic faults, is by far the lesser of many evils to support in the region and the freedoms that Israel's citizens have are worth defending. While it is regrettable that some of these defenders do not point out there are many reasons to object to Israel's policies (external and internal), these defenses do not necessarily admit to a 100% agreement with Israel's actions and laws.

By itself, when compared to other free countries, Israel ranks low. In the Index of Economic Freedom for 2003, Israel is 33rd out of over 150. Only Japan and France earned a worse score when comparing Western-style democratic nations. Israel may have a free market, but only when compared to it's neighbors'. Israel has a high marginal tax rate and government expenses equal more than 50% of GDP. There is an undeniable bias towards Jews regarding the Law of Return which (among the strong "non-Jews will dilute our nation" nature of the state in general) taints the country in theocratic tones, much like the American government's minimal endorsement of Christian themes. The seizure of private property is well-documented, though it is obvious much of that property was being used for terroristic purposes. Israel is no libertarian ideal and beyond discussion of it's terrorism problem, it has social and economic issues which rightly deserve criticism.

The libertarian response to this critique is to point out examples of failed U.S. intervention. Yes, the CIA sowed seeds of anti-Americanism in Iran by supporting the Shah. Admitted, we supported a tyrant in Haiti. True, we armed the mujahaddin in Afghanistan. But we also dealt the death blows to Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, and accelerated the self-destruction of the Soviet Union while controlling its expansion. These are not trivial events in the history of liberty. Libertarian academics have developed a cottage industry, however, to produce counterfactual histories which amount to claiming that all of the good things would have happened anyway without American intervention, and probably would have happened faster.

Those are rather poor examples of interventionalism because the Axis powers were legitimately opposed, as was the USSR-bred Communism of the Cold War. Nations as hostile as those are rare and few, limited mostly to Iraq, North Korea, and a spattering of others. Only a few have the capability to hurt us in any significant way. Therefore, beyond responding to them, the only other kind of intervention relevant today is the "free the people" kind. Considering the current status of social, political, and economic liberty in the world, that's a lot of work for a libertarian nation devoted to intervention in the name of liberty. Work which is not ours to bear because there are people around the planet who either irrationally don't want that freedom for various reasons, are afraid of the responsibility that freedom requires, or are too ignorant to grasp it's importance. Mr. Woodlief doesn't acknowledge this crucial difference. Granted, he's talking about the isolationist libertarian bloc, but they are just as wrong as those who would intervene everywhere. Sometimes we must act in our interests and sometimes we must act when called upon by others when their quest is moral and just.
The point is that in the area of foreign policy libertarians are most likely to argue from principle, yet this is the area where consequentialism is most required. Nobody cares about principle if it leads to enslavement or death.

This is a non sequitur. Mr. Woodlief believes that by not acting, we cause the negative outcomes in other nations. This is not true. It is not our fault that by not acting something happens in the world. Only actions cause events. Non-action causes nothing.
To be taken seriously as a philosophy of governance, libertarianism must grapple with foreign affairs...

He has his strongest point here in that there really is a stronger urge to focus on domestic issues rather than foreign.
But let's assume that most libertarians would support a military large enough to fend off foreign enemies.

You wouldn't have to assume. I daresay that a majority of libertarians do support a strong national defense architecture. Without a strong and convincing national defense, our freedom to operate is endanger. A strong military is a stabilizing influence because it secures our rights. It deters threats. It clears the way for other freedoms to run openly, without the fear of international interference.
[I]magine that libertarians have nominated a slate of charismatic, well-funded, highly networked candidates (indulge me -- it's a Friday) who have won the Presidency and a solid majority of Congress. These revolutionaries proceed to create the libertarian wet dream -- drug legalization, plans for phasing out government schools and Social Security, isolationist foreign policy, no more ATF . . . and did I mention drug legalization?

Mmm, wet dream...but enough with the drug legalization ad hominems, alright? And a better way to phrase a basic libertarian position on foreign policy would be "a more isolationist foreign policy," not just simply an isolationist one, which carries all manner of emotional baggage.
Except, people get older. Memory fades. The Left remains committed to brainwashing children and co-opting public and private organizations. A child overdoses on heroin. Drugs are slowly re-criminalized. Some idiot old babyboomers (sorry for the triple redundancy) starve to death because they could never be bothered to save for old age. Others lose their savings when they invest them all in Bill Clinton Enterprises. Hello Social Security and financial regulation. The schools stay private because the Left realizes how much easier it is to peddle garbage by McDonaldizing it (i.e., by becoming the low-cost provider and pandering to human weakness).

So, in a generation or less, the revolution is slowly dismantled, and libertarians are blamed for the ills of society. [incorrectly blamed, I might add, and libertarians would point that out as well -Drizz]

[...]

The Left doesn't face this problem. Deprived of principle, integrity, or honor, they are happy to snip the bottom rungs as they climb the ladder of power. You can already see this in Europe, where EU thugs are slowly transferring decision-making authority from quasi-democratic legislatures to unelected Brussels technocrats.

[...]

But libertarians are all about individual liberty. Thus they face a quandary: How to maintain their state once it's built?

[...]

There appear to be two avenues open: the first is to adopt a variant of the Left's strategy, and eliminate unfavored options for future generations. Libertarians might, for example, replace the Constitution with a mirror document that does not contain any provision for amendment.

[...]

The second avenue for maintaining the libertarian state is culture. If children and new citizens are thoroughly educated in logic, economics, and other foundations of libertarian thinking, then perhaps they can be trusted to maintain liberty even in the face of very persuasive demagogues.


He then goes on to attack libertarians because they either "won't discuss" amendment-like changes or they "ignore" and "deride" the cultural indoctrination and the policies that may be necessary to maintain a libertarian society. The first point repeats a theme Mr. Woodlief puts much stock in...that his experience with libertarians applies to all, most of, or at least a significant portion of libertarians and to the philosophy of libertarianism. I can't agree with that until I see some sort of evidence. This is further illustrated by this passage:
How many libertarians, however, give much thought to where even their own children will go to school? Sure, they want safety and effectiveness, like any other parent, but how many give serious attention to finding or building schools that inculcate in children the ability to think critically, along with a sense of moral responsibility? Precious few.

This is simply an assumption and an insulting one at that. Conjecture, especially on this level, does not make an arguement.

The second point is important because libertarians are an individual lot. We believe it isn't up to us to decide how someone else (beyond those under our legal protection, such as our children) is educated, worships, and how children are to be cared for and raised. As long as those activites do not violate basic rights, we have no right to force those people to follow an "acceptable" path.

If libertarians were serious about taking and maintaining power -- truly serious -- then they would drop the caterwauling over drug criminalization and focus every drop of energy on building schools. The latter is hard work, however, and forces consideration of messy things like moral instruction, and self-discipline, and what makes for good parenting. It's far easier to toke up in the discounted hotel room at the Libertarian Party Convention and rail against the DEA. Thus libertarianism remains less a force for change than a tool for self-expression.

Mr. Woodlief jumps from the second possibility (cultural changes would be used as opposed to amendment-like changes in order to futher a libertarian society) to this, which states "building schools" is where the libertarian energy should be focused. As long as he isn't talking about public schools run by the government, that's a legitimate libertarian stance. Personally, I believe that people will continue to opt for public schools simply because they seem cheaper, though over time they would change their minds as they see the benefits of a private education. But his loathing of the drug issue and his incorrect premise that he knows what most libertarians stand for and would do when presented with problems such as these undermine his arguement.

Above all, I don't consider it a priori that a system of government must have a way of "maintaining authority." It isn't about that, and doubly so for libertarianism. Specifically, if people are not willing to support their liberty, then they pay the price of living in a society where that liberty is restricted. The responsibility lies with the people to maintain the system by not destroying it from the inside. I would support a Constitutional amendment process. It would not infringe upon someone's liberty because that person would have the choice of remaining or leaving, of agreeing to or disagreeing with the prinicples outlined in the document. Free government means voluntary government, one that is supported by the people.

If people decide they no longer what that kind of government, they can find another to their liking.

He has another essay in the works and I'll address it when it appears.

November 15, 2002

The Age's Slip 'o the Tongue

If it's still uncorrected, check out the picture and the caption

It's a piece about unruly and violent demonstrators protesting the World Trade Organization talks in Sydney. What's interesting is the picture and the caption The Age used:


Prime Minister John Howard and US
trade representative Robert Zoellick.


Howard on the left Zoellick on the right.

Not exactly accurate, eh? I've saved The Age's picture here if they delete it or take it down. Screen capture here. I doubt this was intentional, but it certainly looks bad...from several perspectives.

November 14, 2002

Pakistani Executed For CIA Murders

Some officials warn of a terroristic backlash

I know nothing about the case. This is the first time I've heard of it. Apparently it's a big deal in Pakistan:

Hundreds of people on Thursday protested here against the scheduled execution of Mir Aimal Kasi in Virginia.

Protesters started their march from the Kasi Fort on the Khudadad Road and rallied towards the Quetta Press Club where some leaders expressed disquiet. Throughout their march, they chanted slogans against the Pakistani government and demanded Mr Kasi be released.


Voice of America:
Mir Aurangzeb is a lawyer in Aimal Kasi's hometown, Quetta. He says the American government should have reconsidered the death sentence.


"Generally, people have their grievances against the American government," Mr. Aurangzeb said. "In the opinion of people over here in his hometown, they say it would be a very good gesture if he is not executed and if he is pardoned, or if his execution is converted into life imprisonment, then people would have good feelings about the American government and about the Americans."


Subvert our system of justice in order to make Pakistan happy? Hell no.

Smallpox Vaccinations For All?

Bush is nearing a decision

Let me say that the very idea of being forced to wait on the government to allow an American to choose to protect him- or herself from smallpox spills my beer. I don't need to be cared for and protected by someone else. How I determine the level of my response to a threat is totally up to me and it pisses me off that we do not have the option of getting vaccinated if we want to. I'm aware of the risks and as long as others are aware of them, I say let us at the shots.

President Bush is moving toward approving a plan to eventually offer the smallpox vaccine to all Americans, starting with health care workers most likely to come into contact with a contagious patient, administration officials said Thursday.

He has not, however, signed off on key details or a final plan.

Bush is closer to a decision on shots for the military. Officials said he is inclined to approve a blueprint for vaccinating some U.S. troops against the disease, which was eradicated two decades ago but could return in biowarfare.

Bush's top bioterrorism aides agree that the vaccine should eventually be offered to the general public, and officials said Thursday that Bush is comfortable with that plan. At issue is how fast to move ahead.

A once-feared disease, smallpox historically killed 30 percent of its victims. The virus also could be a powerful weapon. It is highly contagious and has no known treatment. Routine vaccinations in the United States ended in 1972, making the population highly vulnerable to an attack.

But the vaccine, made from a live virus, is also dangerous. Health experts estimate that one or two of every million people vaccinated for the first time will die, and about 15 others will suffer life-threatening side effects.

Bush Aims at the Religious Right

I only wish he had been more pointed

Of course I'll remind the Secretary General that our war against terror is a war against individuals whose hearts are full of hate. We do not fight a religion. As a matter of fact, by far, the vast majority of American citizens respect the Islamic people and the Muslim faith. After all, there are millions of peaceful-loving Muslim Americans.

Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans. Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others. Ours is a country based upon tolerance, Mr. Secretary General, and we respect the faith and we welcome people of all faiths in America. And we're not going to let the war on terror or terrorists cause us to change our values.


Subtle, but crystal clear. Jerry Falwell's and Pat Robertson's remarks, to put it as some do, aren't helpful in the debate about Islam, it's future, and the incarnations it is going through now. Powell also weighed in with Bush.

Falwell, Robertson, etc can say what they want about who they want. I believe that some of what they've said probably has factual basis, but I believe they did it to troll the Muslim world, knowing full well that shocked outrage would result. I do believe it is completely irrational to react in such a way (riots resulted in dozens dead...what the fuck, man?) and especially irrational to channel that outrage into collective hatred of an entire country.

Religion. How messed up.

MSRA Staph Infection in Pasadena, TX

[Updates below.]

Drudge points it out for us

There's something spreading among the students in Pasadena's independent school district. Since the beginning of the school year, there have been about 50 cases of MRSA, a staph infection that is resistant to certain antibiotics and can be tough to treat.

[...]

Pasadena ISD says 29 students at Rayburn have been affected, and 50 district-wide. Officials say they took safety measures right after the initial outbreak.

[...]

Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA for short, is a type of staph infection. Most of you know it as a very common infection. Ninety percent of the time it's a simple skin infection that's easily treated. But sometimes it can be serious.


Another news report
A virtual epidemic of boils has plagued the campus of Sam Rayburn High School since late August. The staph infection spread throughout the football team, as players may have contracted the infection from sharing football pads which were exposed to the infection.
At least 29 students out of the 2,600 students at Sam Rayburn have been diagnosed with the staph infection since its inception, mainly through the members of the football team. The infection was evident of the form of huge boils that formed all over their bodies, causing much discomfort and pain. School officials said they have done their best to control the problem, but some parents of the students think more can and should be done to protect their children.

[...]

Some 50 cases of the staph infection have reportedly affected the 44,000 students in PISD. However, Lewis said other school districts in the county have been affected as well.

"It's been more than normal, that's why we were concerned about it from the very beginning, because it's higher than we normally see," he said. "The county health department is telling us that this year, there are more incidents of staff infection throughout the county, not just in Pasadena."

UPDATE(4/5/2003 noon)
Various related posts can be read here, here, and here.

UPDATE(5/11/2004 12:25pm)
Think it's bad in America? Try the UK.

UPDATE 9/23/2004 12:50pm
There's a case in Hutto ISD.

UPDATED 4/7/2005 2:30pm
New report up in the Los Angeles Times about the spread of the problem: Perilous Bug Is Creeping Onto the Streets

Once confined to hospitals, drug-resistant and potentially deadly staph infections are rising among general population, study finds.

By Charles Piller, Times Staff Writer

Drug-resistant staph infections, once largely confined to hospitals, are far more common in the general population than previously thought, according to a study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study examined more than 1,600 cases of the infection caused by a strain of Staphylococcus aureus in Baltimore, Atlanta and Minnesota. Nearly one-fourth of those patients required hospitalization.

In recent years, the potentially deadly infection has been detected in jail inmates, sexually active gay men and professional athletes.

The latest study, conducted by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several other institutions, confirmed that the organism was now circulating widely in the general population.

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times


The study's abstract is here. I quote a portion:
From 2001 through 2002, 1647 cases of community-acquired MRSA infection were reported, representing between 8 and 20 percent of all MRSA isolates. The annual disease incidence varied according to site (25.7 cases per 100,000 population in Atlanta vs. 18.0 per 100,000 in Baltimore) and was significantly higher among persons less than two years old than among those who were two years of age or older (relative risk, 1.51; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.19 to 1.92) and among blacks than among whites in Atlanta (age-adjusted relative risk, 2.74; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.44 to 3.07). Six percent of cases were invasive, and 77 percent involved skin and soft tissue. The infecting strain of MRSA was often (73 percent) resistant to prescribed antimicrobial agents. Among patients with skin or soft-tissue infections, therapy to which the infecting strain was resistant did not appear to be associated with adverse patient-reported outcomes. Overall, 23 percent of patients were hospitalized for the MRSA infection.

UPDATED 8/13/2005 3:05pm
I'm having some unknown trouble with my comments below. Please use this post to continue leaving your thoughts on the staph infection problem.

Peaceful Chinese Transfer of Power

President Jiang and five other colleagues step down

Excellent news! It's only creeping capitalism, but it's better than inaction.

Tony Woodlief on Libertarianism II

Libertarian contradictons

Most libertarians believe in some version of public choice theory, which suggests that government grows because state officials: 1) want more money, power, and prestige; and, 2) spread the costs and concentrate the benefits of government (except when targeting unpopular minorities). The latter insures that citizens will not oppose government, either because they are direct beneficiaries, or because the costs of organizing people to eliminate a particular program far exceed its cost to the individual. In short, libertarians largely accept the economic model of man as a rational maximizer of personal utility.

I can agree with this, but these two reasons are not the only ways I think governments expand. I believe government grows for several reasons:

  • People are risk-adverse and become more and more so when they give up their responsibilities to a collective.
  • When the unexpected strikes, the initial reaction is to seek comfort and help...to go to others. People often look for support through external sources.
  • Not In My BackYard (NIMBY) syndrome and laziness contribute to an apathetic attitude which holds that as long as you aren't directly affected (on a noticeable level), the actions of the government aren't worth keeping track of.

    Government expansion happens because people are afraid of negative consequences, emotionally turn to outside assistence during crises, and maintain an apathetic attitude towards things they aren't dealing with (or don't know they are dealing with) in their everyday lives. In addition to the desires of public officials listed above, but they seem to come from a distinctly cycnical viewpoint and don't explain things well enough to rely upon. I'd choose my three over those two any time.

    The libertarian model of social change, however, is to convince citizens (mostly by use of logic and data) why they should oppose big government. In other words, while their explanatory model assumes that most citizens are rational maximizers, their political model assumes that people can be talked out of their own self-interest.

    In order to enact change according to peaceful democratic principles, we must use our abilities to convince people to think differently. This requires logic and fact. It is a shame, but many (most?) people don't value reason, freedom, and individualism as much as libertarians and our ideological ilk do. Given that Americans grow up in a statist system where so much is provided "free of charge," there is an ingrained resistence to the radical change a libertarian system would entail. The real question is (and Mr. Woodlief addresses this later on), how do we convince people that their self-interest is better served by libertarian means rather than the Republo-Democrat system we have now? We need to change their value-creation metrics.
    First, by portraying government officials as simple-minded vote and budget maximizers, it ensures a steady drumbeat of shrill attacks that demonize agencies and officials. As a result, the choir is entertained while key audiences are alienated. This is a recipe for ensuring perpetual work for libertarian essayists and think tank wonks. It is not an effective recipe for social change.

    I believe that if something is true, that truth must be choosen over falsehood. If policitians and public officials are engaging in activities like this in order to perpetuate their power, then it must be spoken of and publicised. Using it as a generic attack, however, is as pointless as Mr. Woodlief says here. It numbs and bores the minds of the target audience who've heard it a million shrieking times before. BUT, if it's the truth, then there is no good reason to not say it. Restrict the opposition and attacking to the tasks at hand and avoid collective condemnation.
    The second consequence of not recognizing the self-contradictory libertarian view of man is that it leads to the wrong kinds of messages. If it is true that most people believe it is not in their self-interest to oppose government programs, then appealing to them with logic and data is a losing proposition. If you have concluded that it isn't worth spending five dollars to buy a ten percent chance of saving one dollar, then I won't change your mind with a math lesson. But this is precisely what many libertarians do. They focus on the cost of government, its inefficiency, its abuses -- but their own model of human behavior posits that government grows because the majority of citizens believe that the costs of opposing it outweigh the likely benefits.

    It means we have to change the way other people value things. How this is done varies from person to person. It requires, I believe, a more individualistic approach rather than boilerplate statements. However, the fundamentals of libertarian philosophy clash with the fundamentals of statism and there is ample fodder to demonstrate how government intrusion is a bad thing. Abandoning the attack means abandoning the things we believe in that make us different from the other choices out there. Why people don't seem receptive to this, I would attribute to indifference...because they don't believe the benefits outweigh the problems. Changing their values and how they come to value things. That is the key. It's an uphill battle while wearing heavy clothing and pulling a sled. But I think it's the intellecually honest way of doing it.
    Libertarians also talk about the costs of inaction (the state will grow), but have virtually nothing to say about the benefits of acting, or, more specifically, about the probabilities of winning. Remember, the economic model implies that every potential actor adjusts the perceived benefit of action by the odds that his action will produce a desired outcome. This yields what economists call an "expectation." Well, the very model employed by libertarians posits that the expected cost of opposing the state exceeds the expected benefit. Until libertarians can show that the expected benefit of action makes it worthwhile, they will not, by their own logic, persuade significant numbers of citizens to adopt their agenda.

    I take issue with "virtually have nothing to say about the benefits of acting." There is no point in pointing out abuses and waste if you aren't implying or outright saying that by NOT doing those things, there wouldn't be those abuses and that waste. Given the national position libertarians have, we start off on the offensive by pointing out the deficiencies in mainstream accepted policy. I agree on one level that a libertarian system, once put into place and let loose, would cause social upheaval and a noticable change in lifestyles and human activities. The challenge is to get people to look past the short-term rough spots and look towards a future far more open and exploitable than the one they look forward to now.
    To borrow a phrase, libertarians need a language of poetry, as opposed to a language of calculus. There are very few decent libertarian poets, however. Most of us with an interest in politics have been buttonholed by a pedantic libertarian overly eager to set us straight on how the bastard statists are persecuting pot smokers and tax dodgers. But how many of us have had a conversation with a libertarian who can describe the encroachment of the state in a way that makes the average citizen ready to pick up a pitchfork (and not as a handy means of self-defense in case the libertarian lecturing him comes completely unhinged)? Better yet, how many libertarians have painted a compelling picture of the libertarian society?

    [...]

    In short, libertarians do not know how to talk to normal people.


    I agree. Libertarians need more and better spokespeople. Part of the problem is that people seem to consider classical liberal concepts like freedom, rights, and reason as kinda hokey and cringe-inducing. Like listening to a sermon by a zealous conservative. Additionally, the subject matter (political philosophy, liberty, epistemology, tax structures) is "deep politics" and I can see eyes glaze over and breathing become labored whenever I shift into Serious Advocacy Mode, unless I phrase things with enough humor and brevity to goad them into opening up. This disdainful reaction occurs throughout the political spectrum, in my opinion. Imagine how today's Marxists get by.

  • November 13, 2002

    Iraqi Elections "uncomfortably close" to US's?

    The Globalist: Independant? Irreverent? Illuminating?

    This piece tries to make the case that the US's election system is not only messed up (I can agree with that in some respects) but "too close for comfort" to Iraq's.

    Elections are held not only by democracies, but also by authoritarian states — and, as Iraq’s case proves, even by tyrannies. The usual difference is that in democracies, the result is fairly unpredictable, whereas tyrants like to produce elaborately staged voting pageants that in reality mean nothing. However, by this standard, the recent U.S. elections show that parts of U.S. democracy are uncomfortably close to results achieved in Iraq.

    This arbitrarily-choosen "standard" is used as a foundation for the rest of the article, along with what I talk about below. Democratic governments do not become more or less legitimate/tyrannical/acceptable depending on the predicability of their elections. This is a meta-result of something else. If the author truely believes the US results were predictable, then he or she must have completely missed the post-election drama...concerning the widespread Republican sweep which hardly anyone predicted correctly and which no one was thinking would happen.

    The quiet implication that our elections resemble "elaborately staged voting pageants" that are closer to Iraq's is ridiculous on it's face as well. As detestible as some of the candidates are in American elections, we aren't forced to vote for anyone, our familes' lives aren't in danger if we don't vote one way, and we are free to criticize the candidates as loudly and as viciously as we want. We have many choices. The Iraqis had two: vote for Saddam or have your way of life end. Apples to oranges.

    One would have thought that it was hardly possible for Saddam Hussein to improve his performance from the improbable 99.96% outcome of the previous referendum. But the Iraqi dictator managed to pull it off.

    This time, he got 100%. Which means not one Iraqi expressed any doubt or reservations about the country’s leadership.


    I am going to give the benefit of the doubt and say that last bit was sarcasm. Because if it wasn't, the author has the most hopeless case of idiocy I've read in a while.
    The contrast was all the greater since, less than a month later, the United States, the world’s greatest democracy, was holding its own mid-term Congressional elections. Apparently, Saddam could watch the U.S. electoral process and learn some valuable lessons on how to run a truly democratic state.

    And indeed, unlike the Iraqi referendum — which featured just one candidate, Saddam — the U.S. elections offered at least two major party candidates and a smattering of also-rans, representing a variety of small parties and interest groups.

    Unlike Iraq, where dissent is ruthlessly suppressed, in the United States candidates were free to buy time on national and local media — and to debate each other before wide audiences.

    A secret ballot was guaranteed. And this time, even Florida voters apparently got their ballots honestly counted (perhaps aided by the presence of election observers from Albania and Russia).

    U.S. voters are free to abstain from voting altogether — and about 60% of eligible voters, as usual, availed themselves of that freedom.


    The author destroys it's own attempted theory with these statements. These are fundamental differences that mean the world in an election. The freedom to choose among several candidates from a wide variety of political leanings, the freedom to observe the candidates debating each other and weigh the pros and cons of each person, the freedom granted by an anonymous vote, and the freedom to decide if you are going to vote at all. There is no comparison between the two systems.
    Nevertheless, in some respects, the elections in the United States were no less amazing than those in Iraq. True, no individual candidate got anywhere near 100% of the vote.

    Oh. So our elections are simply "no less amazing" than the Iraqi elections. We've gone from "Are U.S. elections similar to those in Iraq?" to "US elections are amazing...just like Iraq's!" This is technically true, because the author certainly may find just about anything amazing and then compare the two.
    Yet, an astounding 98% of members of the House of Representatives who were standing for re-election in 2002 were reelected.

    The piece hinges upon two things: the "standard" mentioned above and this statistic. No source is given for this number, so I'll work it out on my own given the data from the WaPo.

    Alabama had 4 out of 4 incumbents elected.
    Alaska had 1 out of 1 incumbent elected.
    Arizona had 5 out of 5 incumbents elected.
    Arkansas had 4 out of 4 incumbents elected. (two were uncontested)
    California had 50 out of 50 incumbents elected.
    Colorado had 5 out of 5 incumbents elected.
    Connecticut had 5 out of 5 incumbents elected.
    Delaware had 1 out of 1 incumbent elected.
    Florida had 20 out of 21 incumbents elected. (eight were uncontested)
    Georgia had 8 out of 8 incumbents elected. (three were uncontested)
    Hawaii had 2 out of 2 incumbents elected. (winner Mink died before the election, runoff to be held on Nov. 30th)
    Idaho had 2 out of 2 incumbents elected.
    Illinois had 18 out of 18 incumbents elected. (two were uncontested)
    Indiana had 8 out of 8 incumbents elected.
    Iowa had 4 out of 4 incumbents elected.
    Kansas had 4 out of 4 incumbents elected.
    Kentucky had 6 out of 6 incumbents elected.
    Louisiana had 6 out of 6 incumbents elected.
    Maine had 1 of 1 incumbent elected.
    Maryland had 6 of 7 incumbents elected.
    Massachusetts had 10 of 10 incumbents elected. (six were uncontested)
    Michigan had 13 out of 13 incumbents elected.
    Minnesota had 7 out of 8 incumbents elected.
    Mississippi had 4 out of 4 incumbents elected.
    Missouri had 9 out of 9 incumbents elected.
    Montana had 1 out of 1 incumbent elected.
    Nebraska had 3 out of 3 incumbents elected.
    Nevada had 2 out of 2 incumbents elected.
    New Hampshire had 1 out of 1 incumbent elected.
    New Jersey had 12 out of 12 incumbents elected.
    New Mexico had 2 out of 2 incumbents elected. (one was uncontested)
    New York had 28 out of 29 incumbents elected. (one was uncontested)
    North Carolina had 11 out of 11 incumbents elected.
    North Dakota had 1 out of 1 incumbent elected.
    Ohio had 16 out of 16 incumbents elected. (one was uncontested)
    Oklahoma had 4 out of 4 incumbents elected.
    Oregon had 5 out of 5 incumbents elected.
    Pennsylvania had 16 out of 17 incumbents elected. (one was uncontested)
    Rhode Island had 2 out of 2 incumbents elected.
    South Carolina had 5 out of 5 incumbents elected.
    Tennessee had 6 out of 6 incumbents elected. (one was uncontested)
    Texas had 28 out of 28 incumbents elected. (three were uncontested)
    Utah had 2 out of 2 incumbents elected.
    Vermont had 1 out of 1 incumbent elected.
    Virginia had 11 out of 11 incumbents elected. (four were uncontested)
    Washington had 9 out of 9 incumbents elected.
    West Virginia had 3 out of 3 incumbents elected. (one was uncontested)
    Wisconsin had 8 out of 8 incumbents elected. (one was uncontested)
    Wyoming had 1 out of 1 incumbent elected.

    Totals: 381 out of 386 incumbents elected while 35 ran unopposed.

    98.7%

    Kinda freaky, yes? This tells me (if I assume such low turnover is a bad thing) the US needs better challengers, not that our system resembles Iraq's.

    Did House Members do such a great job that voters decided to reward its members with wholesale re-election? Hardly. Legislative gridlock has been the order of the day in Washington, and legislators periodically become embroiled in personal and political scandals.

    The author is using it's own subjective measures to grade incumbents. Since it is overhwelmingly obvious the election was free and open (minor incidents were reported scatteringly, as always), there are only two explainations. Either the voters don't care enough to vote out the incumbent, or the incumbent did do a good enough job to keep him or her in power. Voters don't vote "wholesale," either. They vote for only the candidates that they are eligible to vote for. I have no say in, nor do I particularly care about, the House District 5 race in California or who beats the incumbent governor in Maine. Similarly, the people that live there don't care about the elections in Austin.
    Given this acrimonious environment, there must be something wrong with a democracy that keeps re-electing its incumbents at a 98% clip.

    Suddenly, we now have a system which "keeps re-electing" incumbents 98% of the time. No proof given, and I don't have the time to refute it. It seems reasonable (given what I can recall about past elections) that the author has it right concerning a historic trend giving the incumbent a high likelihood of winning. But this is irrelevant because the facts speak for themselves for our elections. The people made their choices and for the most part, the people who populated the House last session will be back again.
    What the results of mid-term elections in the United States indicate is that the system has become so skewed in favor of political office holders that the only way to get them out is, quite literally, feet first.

    The only sensible thing in the whole article, but one which was arrived at through assumption and subjectivity. It is indeed the truth that there are many advantages of being an incumbent. However...
    That is a little too close to conditions in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq for comfort.

    ...comparing our elections with Saddam's and deciding the results are too similar based purely on the sheer number of re-elected incumbents is reckless and thoughtless. Had the author put more weight behind the "incumbents got it easy" line of thought and done away with the propaganda-like nature of the Iraqi comparison, the author might have had something useful to say. Instead, it came off as grasping for some way to hang it's anti-incumbent stance on.

    The GOP and Future Abortion Laws

    According to some of the news I've read, abortion is one of the things Trent Lott wants to push (restrict, actually) when the Republicans formally take over the Senate in a few weeks. Here are some of the bills that could be acted upon that relate to abortion and reproductive rights.


    Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2001


    (House | Senate)
    SUMMARY AS OF:
    3/7/2001--Introduced.

    Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2001 - Provides that: (1) any person who engages in conduct that violates specified provisions of the Federal criminal code, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, or the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, or specified articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (conduct constituting certain Federal violent crimes), and thereby causes the death of, or bodily injury to, a child who is in utero, shall be guilty of a separate offense (but prohibits imposition of the death penalty for such offense); and (2) the punishment for that separate offense shall be the same as that provided under Federal law for that conduct had that injury or death occurred to the unborn child's mother.

    Directs that if the person engaging in the conduct thereby intentionally kills or attempts to kill the unborn child, that person shall be punished as provided under the Federal criminal code for intentionally killing or attempting to kill a human being.

    Bars prosecution under this Act: (1) for conduct relating to an abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman has been obtained or for which such consent is implied by law in a medical emergency; (2) for conduct relating to any medical treatment of the pregnant woman or her unborn child; or (3) of any woman with respect to her unborn child.


    Child Custody Protection Act


    (House)
    SUMMARY AS OF:
    4/11/2002--Reported to House, without amendment. (There is 1 other summary)

    Child Custody Protection Act - Amends the Federal criminal code to prohibit transporting an individual under age 18 across a State line to obtain an abortion and thereby abridging the right of a parent under a law in force in the State where the individual resides requiring parental involvement in a minor's abortion decision. Makes an exception if the abortion was necessary to save the life of the minor.

    Specifies that neither the minor transported nor her parent may be prosecuted or sued for a violation of this Act.

    Makes it an affirmative defense to a prosecution for, or to a civil action based on, such a violation that the defendant reasonably believed that before the individual obtained the abortion, the parental consent or notification or judicial authorization that would have been required had the abortion been performed in the State where the individual resides, took place.

    Authorizes any parent who suffers legal harm from a violation to obtain appropriate relief in a civil action. Defines "parent" to include a guardian, legal custodian, or person standing in loco parentis who has care and control of the minor, and with whom the minor regularly resides, who is designated by such law as a person to whom notification, or from whom consent, is required.


    Abortion Non-Discrimination Act of 2002


    (House)
    SUMMARY AS OF:
    9/25/2002--Passed House, without amendment. (There is 1 other summary)

    Abortion Non-Discrimination Act of 2002 - Amends the Public Health Service Act to prohibit the Federal Government, and any State or local government that receives Federal financial assistance, from discriminating against any health care entity because (in addition to current prohibited reasons) the entity refuses to provide coverage of, or pay for, induced abortions. Expands the definition of "health care entity" to include (in addition to physicians) other health professionals, a hospital, a provider sponsored organization, a health maintenance organization, a health insurance plan, and any other kind of health care facility, organization, or plan.


    Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2002


    (House)
    SUMMARY AS OF:
    7/23/2002--Reported to House, without amendment. (There is 1 other summary)

    Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2002 - Amends the Federal criminal code to prohibit any physician or other individual from knowingly performing a partial-birth abortion, except when necessary to save the life of a mother that is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury.

    Defines a "partial-birth abortion" as an abortion in which: (1) the person performing the abortion deliberately and intentionally vaginally delivers a living fetus until, in the case of a head-first presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the mother's body; or in the case of a breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the naval is outside the mother's body for the purpose of performing an overt act that the person knows will kill the partially delivered living fetus; and (2) performs the overt act, other than completion of delivery, that kills the partially delivered living fetus.

    Authorizes the father, if married to the mother at the time of the abortion, and the maternal grandparents of the fetus, if the mother is under 18 years of age, to obtain specified relief in a civil action, unless the pregnancy resulted from the plaintiff's criminal conduct or the plaintiff consented to the abortion.

    Authorizes a defendant accused of an offense under this Act to seek a hearing before the State Medical Board on whether the physician's conduct was necessary to save the life of the mother.

    Prohibits the prosecution of a woman upon whom a partial-birth abortion is performed for conspiracy to violate this Act or under provisions regarding punishment as a principal or an accessory or for concealment of a felony.


    Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001


    (House)
    SUMMARY AS OF:
    7/31/2001--Passed House, amended. (There are 2 other summaries)

    Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001 - Prohibits any person or entity, in or affecting interstate commerce, from knowingly: (1) performing or attempting to perform human cloning; (2) participating in such an attempt; (3) shipping or receiving an embryo produced by human cloning or any product derived from such embryo; or (4) importing such an embryo or product.

    Sets forth criminal and civil penalties.

    Provides that nothing in this Act restricts areas of scientific research not specifically prohibited above, including research in the use of nuclear transfer or other cloning techniques to produce molecules, DNA, cells other than human embryos, tissues, organs, plants, or animals other than humans.

    Directs the General Accounting Office to assess the need for amendment of such prohibition, including through: (1) a discussion of new developments, the need for somatic cell transfer to produce medical advances, current public attitudes and prevailing ethical views concerning its use, and potential legal implications of somatic cell transfer research; and (2) a review of any technological developments that may require technical changes to such prohibition.

    November 12, 2002

    USS Clueless Ponders US Attack

    Steven Den Beste rocks my socks

    An excellent and interesting post on the nature of morale, training, and military manuvers for Gulf War II sprinkled with some historical references.

    Tony Woodlief on Libertarianism

    First in a series, according to his post

    I commented on his blog the extent of my thoughts. This seems the most relevant to his discussion, however:

    Anyone with experience in Libertarian circles has witnessed the following scene: during a dinner party someone raises a problem that the market doesn't appear capable of solving. There is spirited argument about whether it is truly a market failure. Someone ventures that it must really be a consequence of government intervention. Someone else suggests that the market would provide a solution if it were truly unfettered. Eventually the person in the group with the strongest Libertarian credentials refers to some study of 16th-Century private health insurance among wheel-makers in Southern France to prove that the market could solve this problem, too. The relief, when the faith is restored by one of the priests, is palpable. I have never been a communist, but I imagine the Trotskyites have similar dinner parties.

    I have two comments.

    I have a problem with the personification of markets. They aren't intelligent entities with a will of their own and a conscience. They are merely the result of voluntary actions by individuals. Part of the reason why I consider myself to be libertarian is that markets (and therefore individuals) should generally be left to their own devices and not harnessed and incentivized to "solve" some problem. So do so requires the restriction of rights and usually the redistribution of wealth. And far too often, the problem is never given a chance to work itself out through the markets...but the government intervention to fix things regularly misses the boat and takes too long to be put into play. For example, see the vicious stock market beat-down delivered to the "creatively accounted" companies out there and then compare how long it took for the political process to work itself out.

    The other thing I have to say is it's an unfortunate circumstance that real (or even partial) libertarian governments are extremely rare and the depth of economic theory and analysis we work with is based on the economies of statist nations. There is ample evidence that socialism is a failed system, but Earth hasn't been graced with a modern libertarian nation. The US is closer than nearly all others, but a simple look at the United States Code and the included 6,000+ pages of IRS regulations and definitions dispels any assumptions that we are a libertarian society in the sense of the Libertarian platform. So most of the research out there on economics is skewed and not really empirical. It's hard to counter the claims on the Left with hard fact when there isn't much to fall back on to demonstrate our positions. We rely on sound theories, anecdotes, some mild conjecture, and a lot of high-minded rhetoric about economic and social freedom.

    Of course, it's still fun watching someone's reaction when you get into political discussions with them and they begin to understand where you are aligned on the spectrum. I look forward to Mr. Woodlief's next post on the subject to see what his other criticisms are of Big 'L' or dogmatic libertarianism, however I do believe that all political doctrines suffer from the idiocy of some adherents.

    Congrats, Drudge!

    1,000,000,000+ hits over the last year

    I pity the server you're hosted on, mano. You are one of the first news sites I check every day. Keep up the hard work.

    November 11, 2002

    The Hightower Retort 11/8/2002

    I may make this a regular thing

    Buy Organic, Buy Local

    When 90 members of the Wampanoag tribe joined 50 Pilgrims for the first Thanksgiving back in 1621, they had a cornucopia of food. For three days, they feasted on venison, goose, turkey, eels, lobster, hoecakes, corn, cranberries, beer, wine ... and so much more. Yet, this abundance didn't require any chemical additives, genetic engineering, pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, or other weaponry of today's high-tech agribusiness industry. Those poor ignorant fools just didn't know how it should be done, I guess.
    Yep.

    Granted, they probably didn't have a population problem. No multi-millions of people all needing to be fed. And of course, I'm sure that their utter ignorance of genetic manipulation and selective trait agriculture might have had something to do with it. What Mr Hightower should be pondering is whether or not these people would have wanted food engineered to deliver a higher concentration of nutrients and vitamins (healthy), that can be more resistent to disease and insects (resilient), and which is able to be designed to increase harvest yields (bountiful). But, naw. It's much better that they stuck to their subsistence farming. It certainly didn't put any filthy lucre into some greedy, selfish, uncaring, aloof, white, rich, male, whatever.

    There's a widespread back-to-the-future movement in our farm and food world, bringing some democratic control and common sense back to the food economy.

    One sign of this is the surge in America's organic sales, now topping $10 billion annually and growing 20% per year.


    Yeah, ain't a free market great? Oops! I forgot Mr. Hightower wasn't a proponent of such a radical anarchic system. Ha, silly me.

    The Highway of Riches

    Would you shell out $1.2 million for a one-bedroom home that has only 280 square feet in it?

    OK, it's a luxurious 280 square feet. This house has designer interiors, plush furnishings, solid oak cabinets, a king-sized bed, a four-door refrigerator, whirlpool bath ... and so forth. But still, that's a lot of bucks for what's essentially a box that's 8-feet by 35-feet. The price tag works out to more than $4,000 per square foot, which is double the going rate of a penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park in New York City.

    Yeah, but this apartment -- tiny as it is -- not only can overlook Central Park, but also the Grand Canyon, the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, Mount Rushmore, or any other priceless location. That's because it's the latest thing in RVs: The super-luxurious supersized, I've-got-one-and-you-don't, mine-is-bigger-than-yours, recreational vehicle of the pampered set. Yes ... trailer trash has gone upscale!


    If this isn't shameful class warfare, I don't know what is. Yeah! Let's show all the Little People how the Big People spend their money! Let's phrase the exposition in such a way as to try your fucking hardest to make people jealous, indignant, and cynical! Who cares if there is no actual arguement or point being made, other than "these guys have ridiculous amounts of disposable income...LOOK WHAT THEY SPEND IT ON! OMYGAWD!"

    I love how he simply assumes that people buy these things in order to show up other people. I dunno about you, but the specs on some of these rolling hotels are shittingly impressive. It's a way to travel to a precise and determined degree of comfort and convienience. But it doesn't really matter...it's their fucking money to spend so leave them alone.

    "We believe in having a good time," says one of these elite road warriors. Another exulted that "I had an airplane, boats, and two motorcycles. But this is the ultimate."

    Certainly not to Hightower. You damn "elitists"! How dare you want to have a good time and pay for it on your own with the money you've earned. Shit, I never knew buying things I liked was a bad thing. Should I the remains of my paycheck (post-tax raping, of course) to a local charity? I certainly don't NEED the one or two CDs or DVDs I wish I could own.

    Asshole.

    Of course, class seeks its own level, so these nomads are not going to hang out with the Gulfstream crowd. Instead, they join such groups as the Royale Coach Club, restricted to members owning RVs priced above $800,000. They might share the road ... but not the same space.

    You're an idiot, Hightower. Here are the membership requirements to get in the Royale club:
    Ownership of a Royale Coach, FMCA membership, and paid Royale Coach Club dues. The initiation fee is $25.00 plus $10.00 a year dues. Dues are payable every January.

    The cost of the vehicle, the FMCA membership, and $10 a year. You'd almost expect from his bitching that these people would demand a quart of blood of a dozen local homeless, the employee 401(k)s from the company they chair/own/crack-the-whip-at, and the heads of five endangered species from your state.

    It really bothers me that there are people out there who harbor these feelings towards others. It's either sheer jealousy or some kind of smug anger directed at those who hold their self-interest higher than some knee-jerk altruistic coercive desire to hold everyone down to an arbitrary wealth level. If only that would mean the end of Hightower's column...

    BASF Freeport Explosion Update

    [Updates below.]

    It's been almost two months since I last talked about the BASF explosion in Freeport, TX near Houston. A reader commented and reignited my interest, so I decided to see what I could find out about this awfully news-deficient story.

    Starting off with a refresher from September 14th:

    A rail car explosion Friday morning at the BASF chemical plant in Freeport rattled Brazoria County and injured six employees.

    At a press conference Friday afternoon, BASF spokesperson Sharon Rogers said two BASF employees and four contractors were treated for minor injuries either on-site or at a local doctor’s office and later released.

    Rogers said the explosion occurred at about 9:30 a.m. and was caused by a complication while the car was being off loaded.

    “The tank car being off loaded became over pressurized and that’s when the [ammonia] release began,” she said. “As it got hotter and hotter, there was an evacuation of the immediate area.” Shortly after, the explosion occurred, she said. Rogers said the cause of the ammonia leak remained undetermined.

    The rail car reportedly contained a mixture of ammonia, oxime and cyclohexanone.


    The explosion was felt 50 miles away. A live video report six hours after the blast can be viewed here off the Click2Houston September 13th article page. From that article:
    Company officials released the following timeline.

    9:10 a.m.: Employees were working on the railcar when a chemical release was reported.
    9:20 a.m.: Area was evacuated.
    9:30 a.m.: Explosion and fire were reported.

    "The tank car over-pressured, causing the explosion," said Sharon Rogers, with BASF.


    The announcement of a BASF investigation can be read here. Checking their press releases reveals no information regarding the progress of that investigation.

    The truely annoying thing about all this is that the news media has for the most part been silent about the explosion, giving it a day or two of coverage and leaving the rest up to bare-bones wire reports, minimal local coverage, and a handful of chemical organizations. Googling "BASF" and "explosion" pull up my site (I'm flattered) and then about 3,000 other hits, the vast majority of which use the same recycled information from the 13th.

    These sites either turn up nothing or leave something behind a registration barrier:

    Google News search
    Yahoo search
    Fox News
    LA Times
    NY Times
    Washington Post
    Financial Times
    CNN
    UPI
    ABC News
    Austin-American Statesman
    Houston Chronicle
    Dallas Morning News
    Houston Press
    KHOU

    The Chemsafety.gov website and the National Incident Notification Network website have nothing. Here is a report filed by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board updated through 9/18.

    We continue to wait.

    UPDATED 3/24/2005 8:49am
    The Reality of Refinery Work

    Are Ya Ready For A War?

    Iraq sure seems so

    They've rejected the UN Security Council Resolution as too "provocative," possesive of "impossible measures," and is "clear and blunt." Sorry for shaking the boat, guys! I hope you've got something better to offer than your stamp on the last significant act your government makes while at peace. The predictions for the initiation of hostilities are making official channels. One has it wagered to begin on Decemeber 8th. Another has it starting by early spring next year.

    November 07, 2002

    Homeland Security #1

    Bush makes his choice

    According to the article, Bush said this regarding the homeland security bill sitting in Congress: "I want it done. It is a priority." Though I doubt he's reading Stephen Green, it's good to see he hasn't wavered in the face of the huge election win. Hit the terrorists hard, man.

    Bush should also drop the red tape and bureaucracy for smallpox vaccinations. Let people weigh the risks of the vaccine with the risks of possible terrorist use.

    He also has got to do something about the State Department's visa problem. It is inexcusable.

    November 06, 2002

    24/7 Anime Cable Channel!!!

    Read about it here

    ADV is behind the push. Anime News Network dug up some additional info.

    Please excuse me while I drool on my keyboard and contemplate getting cable TV again.

    Chomsky Update

    My two posts (here and here) are now augmented by the MP3s posted by Austin's Indymedia website. They sound considerably better, so check them out if you are interested.

    Mondale Goes 0 For 50

    From this Freeper comment:

    In 1984, Mondale lost every state but Minnesota. Now his record is perfect. 0-50.

    *laughs*

    All Your GOP are Belong to Bush

    They'll kiss his ass for this
    They will give him ample attention
    They will pay Bush back for his work

    According to everything I've read, the party of the President historically suffers during mid-term elections.

    Also according to everything that I've read, the GOP is within reach of Senate control and a firmer grip on the House.

    I think Bush will have a much easier time pushing his agenda now. The fact that so much has shifted in his direction will not only give him greater direct legislative power, but it is a firm mandate and a surge of confidence from the people. The Democrats wil have to change now. Drudge and The Daily Rant both made it a point to show that Terry McAuliffe is getting embarrassed by the entire evening...Jeb Bush likely to win Florida, the likely loss of Mondale, and the GOP tide which threatens control of the government. Terry is either leaving, or changing things. The New Republic has put up a premptive "here's where they screwed up" memorial to the Democrats.

    It'll be an interesting couple of days. I'm sure the Bushes are pretty happy.

    November 05, 2002

    No Voting for Me

    [Updates below.]

    Mea culpa.

    I haven't paid enough attention to the Texas races to vote with enough confidence and I didn't get my voter registration changed in time to vote in Austin. However, it's likely I would have voted a Libertarian-leaning ticket.

    For those who are interested in watching Texan races, I've heard that The Greatest Jeneration and Greg's Opinion are some places to keep an eye on things. Alas, I don't watch TV or bother with local papers, so the only scuttlebutt I can pass along is what I hear from co-workers. I'll update this post if I hear anything.

    UPDATE 9/24/2004 5:30pm
    I no longer apologize for not voting: The Austin American-Statesman, Voting, Free Speech, and Information

    DoD to Privatize 200,000+ Jobs?

    "...largest transfer of jobs to the private sector by a government agency..."

    I'm surprised to hear so little about the plan in the news. I'm in favor of it, as long as the private contracts are based on merit and efficiency and the money saved is either not asked for during the next funding bill or is put to good use.

    *cough*

    Stop laughing. It'll happen, I swear it. Someday.

    Hightower Needs Some Perspective

    When is selling stock "looting"?

    Jim Hightower on Gary Winnick, founder and chairman (not the CEO) of Global Crossing:


    For example, take a whiff of the pile of cash amassed by Gary Winnick, the corporate hustler recently turned "philanthropist." Winnick made a fortune as a honcho of the telecommunications outfit Global Crossing. He actually knew next to nothing about the industry, but he was hell on hype, so Wall Street investors threw tons of money at his firm. Alas, though, the world didn't buy the product that Global Crossing was peddling, and last year the corporation began to collapse.

    Before investors and employees were told about the problems, however, Gary ever so quietly began selling off his own Global Crossing stock, reaping almost three-quarters of a billion dollars before the stock became worthless and the company went bankrupt. Thousands of employees lost their jobs and their retirement savings.

    [...]

    While denying that he had done anything wrong, Gary puffed himself up in a magnanimous pose before the committee and offered to write a check for $25 million to cover a fraction of the retirement money employees lost. He even turned into a moral proselytizer, calling on other CEOs who made a similar killing "to step up and write a check." Then, donning a halo, he declared: "The only legacy I'm going to leave this planet with is my name."

    Yes, Gary, and your name is mud! He loots about $750 million, then he wants us to genuflect at the "generosity" of his offer to give $25 million of it back.


    Hightower makes no mention of Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe and the stock deals he was involved in. However, that isn't the point.

    What is the point is Hightower's use of the word "loot."

    Sure it may sound good to put things like that, but going just off what Hightower gives us, Winnick "looted" nothing. What he did was sell his stock before it crashed. As part of the highest level of executives running the company, he probably knew about the problems coming down the road. His money was invested in the company and, just like any other person with money invested in stock, wanted to capitalize on his investment as much as possible. If I knew a company I had money invested in was about to suffer a fatal or crushing blow, I would change my investment portfolio accordingly.

    It doesn't really matter how I would find out. It's my money and it's my potentially heavy loss at stake here. Does Hightower expect investors to watch their portfolio implode? Isn't it our right to make our own investing decisions? Would he ignore his retirement package's meltdown? It doesn't matter if someone has more disposable income than another. It's about doing what you think it right for yourself and your things.

    Since Winnick and the other executives probably knew about the problems ahead of time, it reflects poorly upon them by not going public with the information (if any; however the billion-dollars-plus of stock the executives sold is just as public a statement as any press release), but none of this could consititute "looting" anyone. You loot someone when you take things from them without their permission. That was Winnick's money to invest or divest and he sold the stock over a period of two years. Plenty of time for people to notice, which is part of the responsibility of being an investor. You either act as your own agent and pay attention to individual stocks and mutual funds, or you bear the responsibility of picking someone else to manage your portfolio for you.

    Additionally, Hightower himself recognizes the true failure of Global Crossing: it's inability to attract business. It was able to attract plenty of investment capital, but it wasn't successful in using it. People bought the hype, woke up after the party, and puked. Again, part of the responsibilty of being an investor is to be at least somewhat informed about where your money goes. The reason why the stock market is generally so profitable is because there is more risk involved than in other common forms of investment.

    None of this has anything to do with theft, unless Hightower neglected to mention something, which is possible because there are allegations about deliberate accounting lies and manipulations.

    This Capitalism Magazine article talks about the same thing, but in regards to ImClone's Dr. Samuel Waksal.

    November 04, 2002

    Rabid Windshield Wipers

    Look. Austinites. Just a quick comment. I know you probably give less than a dogshit about my opinions, and especially regarding something so superficially trivial as this, but I gotta say something.

    I know it's been raining for like the last two weeks and you're tired, sick of, and put out with the cold drizzle we're being subjected to by the forces of Nature. The dull gray sky melding with the dull gray roads mixing with our dulled and grayed senses. The ho-hum of the same shit transparently smacking our faces and windows and drip-dripping ouside our bedrooms. It's monotonous.

    ...

    So stop making up for it by running your windshield wipers at FULL FUCKING STEAM when there's less than the sweat from a soda can coming down.

    ...

    OHMYGAWD. I'm at stoplights on the way home from work and I have to deal with the violent juxtaposition of seeing scores of slack-jawed commuters staring with equally mindless eyes out through a windshield where the wipers are set at such a furious pace that I find myself in awe towards the overwhelming technical prowess of the automotive engineers who can fashion these unilateralist Squeegees of Death.

    Please, think about using the other settings on the damn control.

    Gay Marriage Discussion

    Over at Libertarian Samizdata

    Free-market responses to popular statist conceptions of marriage and what it means in a free society. I wonder what Mr. Sullivan would have to say about this. Personally, I tend to agree with Dale Amon's comments on the matter.

    November 01, 2002

    Damn, Someone's Unhappy

    Europe on the brink of collapse

    Collapsing confidence, tumbling stock markets and a sickly currency take second place to a spectacular public row between the president of the European Commission and the European Central Bank on whether the central pillar of policy is "stupid" or "indispensable for economic and monetary union".

    Even by the standards of the "fudge and mudge" political culture that has long prevailed in Europe, it is hard to believe it has sunk to this.

    Pork-barrel spending or utterly inflexible central bank rules: one or the other of these roaring dinosaurs will have to give. But in this epic battle it is the economic future of Europe that is giving first.

    While this battle rages, the Euro-zone economy is going from bad to worse. It was hardly surprising that many missed the devastating one-word summary of the German economy by the country’s equivalent of the CBI last week: "catastrophic".

    From the bottom to the top, but especially at the top, Europe is in a deepening mess. The international economic downturn has contributed to continental woes. But that downturn is not the cause, or the proximate cause, of Europe’s stunning reversal of fortune.

    The cause is a self-destruction wrought by a political elite that has wrapped itself in fantastical self-delusion about the superiority of its economic system, the coming ascendancy of the single currency over the dollar, and the tide of wealth and prosperity that would inevitably flow from the relentless pursuit of "ever closer union". Here, on an epic scale, has been a procession of naked emperors who cannot begin to grasp why the world has stopped applauding.

    For the Euro-zone, the applause stopped long ago. In the cacophony that passes for policy coherence there has come an absurd but utterly predictable result: far from the euro providing greater stability and a platform for better performance as its apologists claimed, the economies inside the Euro-zone are now faring worse than those outside.


    There's so much more to read. It's all worth it. Via Instapundit. I agree with his comment as well. I also haven't heard a whiffle of such a level of serious concern about Europe's economy.

    Advocating the draft

    To weed out "chickenhawks"

    Also posted in the Houston Chronicle.

    Rodolfo Acuña wants us to believe that you have to be in the military and fight in battle before you can advocate whether a war is to be fought or not. Others have pointed out the stupidity of the non-argument for this position, so I won't bother with it.

    What I will bother with is this ending, broken into easily digestible chunks:

    The only way to get an honest debate is to get rid of the volunteer army, which, after all, relies on the poor.

    Ignoring the validity of this statement's aside...

    Oh Dear Gawd! Did I miss the memo that said this was a bad thing? I must be of the mistaken opinion that asking for people to join the military voluntarily is bad because it presents a job opportunity for anyone willing to put up with the training and discipline. Since the poor generally suffer with a higher rate of unemployment, it seems reasonable that low-income folks might be represented in the military more. Damn my ignorance. Must be those rotten Capitalists, oppressing people again.

    A volunteer army gives the middle class and the ruling elite a convenient way to live with their hypocrisy.

    Assumption #1: the middle class and the ruling elite have never served in the armed forces and won't in the future
    Assumption #2: these people advocate a forceful resolution and need excuses to get them out of explaining that position and to "live with" themselves
    Assumption #3: these people are hypocrites because they advocate violence but do not wish to participate in that violence
    Assumption #4: this is part of the Right-Wing Conspiracy creeping around our country...so it makes perfect sense

    Numbers 1 and 2 are the result of gross and insulting generalizations. Number 3 is dealt with in the links above. Number 4 is beyond the scope of my patience.

    Instead, we should bring back the draft and include males and females, from ages 18 to 55.

    Hold on to your seats, Ladies and Gentlemen. We have a war skeptic who wants people to fight in that war. Perhaps he'd love to be picked? Judging from his picture, I don't think he's within the window. Maybe he can volunteer? Face those hypocrites down and teach them what's up.
    Draft deferments for college students should end, and it should be a felony for anyone to seek an exemption or special treatment for anyone.

    I bet the the quadriplegic lobby is saluting his conviction and are counting the ways they can help. I can also hear the stampede of leftist college kids running to their demonstrations. At least Acuña will have to deal with them and not the pro-war people.
    The public must pay for the consequences of war. Bluster comes easy if you have never had to pay the price.

    He wants to force people to fight a war. He wants random people to be involved in a war who don't need to be. He wants to make a point by putting "the public" in danger. He has a point about being arrogant when one has never experienced the negative consequences of action, but it is nullified by his stance's irrationality. People are completely capable of understanding the hell of war. It's why we have historians, documentarians, and other nifty institutions to research and investigate things like that.

    I don't need to be a businessman to understand the regulatory boot they have to work under and neither do I have to be a skydiver to state that it's a dangerous but fun way of spending your time.

    As long as Americans can go to war without the fear of their own children or grandchildren dying, they will continue pass the plastic, purchase weapons of mass destruction, and let future generations pay the tab.

    Terrorism, Professor Acuña, puts everyone in harm's way. It particularly puts an emphasis on making the innocent and unconnected victims. You know, people like children and grandchildren. Sometimes even parents and grandparents.

    It seems like he has a problem with a division-of-labor society, where those who either do well at something or wish to do something for a living can do so and specialize in that activity and field. It costs enormous amounts of money to train brand-new recuits and it's a fair guess to say it costs more to train them when they are taken from their lives and told to do something else, or else. A professional, volunteer military is far more valuable than a conscripted one. But I doubt he gives much thought to the realities of imposing a draft.

    He just wants to punish people he thinks are hypocrites.

    HHSC Pimping the HIPP

    [Updates below.]

    The commission's website

    I work at the Texas Association of School Boards as an administrative assistent. I get mail from all over the country and state which is supposed to go to Texas school districts, not me. In particular, I get a lot of mail from government agencies. Allow me to quote one insert I found in a stack of recent arrivals.

    $ Need Extra Cash? $

    If someone in your household is on Medicaid and someone in your household is employed, you may be qualified for the Health Insurance Premium Payment Program (HIPP) Program for Texas Medicaid recipients and theitr families.

    What is HIPP?
    HIPP is a Medicaid program that pays for the Medical Premiums. The program reimburses clients or employers for the private health car insurance payments for Medicaid eligible persons when it is cost effective.

    Why would I want HIPP?
    HIPP has advantages that directly affect you:

    1. HIPP will pay the premium for your private health care insurance.
    2. Members of your family who are not eligible for Medicaid may be covered under HIPP
    3. Health insurance paid through HIPP may pay for services not normally covered under Medicaid.


    How do I apply?
    For more information, contact the HIPP Program At 1-800-440-0493
    Texas Heath and Human Services Commission
    NHIC-HIPP
    P.O. Box 201120
    Austin, Texas 78720-1120


    $ Need Extra Cash? $

    Spanish on the other side.

    I'm curious to know how much my taxes go towards paying someone else's medical insurance premiums and the tendrils of extension being advertised here. "[S]ervices not normally covered under Medicaid" for "[m]embers of your family who are not eligible for Medicaid"? That's nice. Maybe someday those people will hand something over in return after all that has been taken from us and given them. Something to show how much they appreciate our forced devotion to propping up their lives.

    Something like our fucking money. I'd like it back when you all are done with it, please. With interest.

    UPDATE(5/12/2004 3:18pm)
    Pay for your own health, not not everyone else's.