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Sep 1, 2008

Interesting Posts

Global Warming in 1000 Years
01/28/09 - WSJ Best of the Web by James Taranto
From The Los Angeles Times:

[edited] Susan Solomon is a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and lead author of an analysis published Monday.

Even if, by some miracle, carbon dioxide dropped to pre-industrial levels, it would take more than 1,000 years to reverse the climate changes already triggered. The gas already emitted and the heat absorbed by the ocean will show effects for centuries.

Long term, the warming will melt the polar ice caps more than previously estimated, raising ocean levels substantially. Changes in rainfall patterns will bring droughts similar to the 1930s Dust Bowl, to the American Southwest, southern Europe, northern Africa, and western Australia.

People thought that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide, the climate would go back to normal in 100 - 200 years, but that is not true. Absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans acts to cool the Earth. Release of heat from the oceans warms the Earth. These processes will work against each other to keep temperatures almost constant for more than 1,000 years.

Taranto asks:

So, is it crucial that we lower greenhouse gases this instant, or would it not make any difference? If no difference, what sense does it make to be alarmed? That last statement by Solomon is a head-scratcher. Are we supposed to worry that temperatures will be "almost constant for more than 1,000 years"? Is that what they mean by global warming?

I am reminded of a joke.

A scientist was talking about the evolution of stars and the universe. He presented that the Sun would burn its nuclear fuel and explode as a nova in about 5 billion years. A student in the back began urgently waving his hand to ask a question.
"Professor, did you say 5 million years?"
"No, I said 5 billion," replied the professor."
"I'm so relieved."

Child care loopholes lead to easy money
01/28/09 - Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel by Raquel Rutledge (via Freakonomics)

In essence, "Rules are rules, and it isn't my money. I'm just the administrator around here." Will the Federal Government do a lot better spending $850 billion?

[edited] Four young women have recieved about $540,000 in taxpayer dollars since 2006 for their home-based money-making operation, with the blessing of the state. They have 17 children. For years, the government has paid them to stay home and care for each other's children as in-home child-care providers.

There is nothing illegal about it under the rules of Wisconsin Shares, the decade-old child-care assistance program designed alongside Wisconsin's welfare-to-work program.

Laurice Lincoln is administrative coordinator for child care with the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services. "It's a loophole, and we have concerns about it. It can be a problem. But if it's allowed, it's allowed. We really can't dispute it."

The Journal Sentinel revealed a system rife with lax regulations allowing abuse by parents and providers.

• Sisters or other relatives can stay home, swap kids and receive taxpayer dollars. The four Racine sisters took in as much as $540,000 in taxpayer dollars in less than three years, mostly to watch each other's kids.

(There is more ...)

How Modern Law Makes Us Powerless
01/26/09 - Online.WSJ.com by Philip K. Howard
We are only free if we can act in reasonable ways in life without the risk of being caught by this or that technicality.

[edited] Americans don't feel free to reach inside themselves and make a difference. The growth of litigation and regulation has injected a paralyzing uncertainty into everyday choices. There are warnings and legal risks all around us. The modern credo is not "Yes We Can" but "No You Can't."

Those who deal with the public are the most discouraged. Most doctors advise their children not to go into medicine. Government service is seen as a bureaucratic morass, not a noble calling. Make a difference? You can't even show basic human kindness for fear of legal action. Teachers across America are instructed never to put an arm around a crying child.

The idea of freedom as personal power is pushed aside by the rights of whoever might disagree. Daily life in America has been transformed. Ordinary choices are paralyzed by legal self-consciousness. Did you check the rules? Who will be responsible if there's an accident? A pediatrician noted "I don't deal with patients the same way any more. I wouldn't want to say something off the cuff that might be used against me."

The flaw and the cure lie in our conception of freedom as only political freedom. We're certainly free to live and work where we want, and to pull the lever in the ballot box. But freedom should also include the power of personal conviction and the authority to use your common sense.

Alexis de Tocqueville: "Freedom is less necessary in great things than in little ones. Subjection in minor affairs does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, until they are led to sacrifice their own will. Their spirit is gradually broken and their character is drained of strength."

Law must affirmatively define an area free from legal interference. Philosopher Isaiah Berlin noted that law must provide frontiers that are not arbitrary limits, within which men should be inviolable.

Heritage Foundation challenges federal prosecutions
01/22/09 - DC Examiner Editorial

Former Attorney General Ed Meese is the Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and its Director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. He is quoted:

[edited] The Heritage Foundation's goal is to restore the criminal law to what it has traditionally been used for, to protect the public safety and to deal with real crime. We want to avoid more of what has occurred, the multiplicity of laws and regulations that carry criminal penalties. These ensnare ordinary citizens for things that nobody would anticipate are crimes.

Many special interest groups have urged Congress to attach criminal penalties to regulatory legislation to "show its importance." Many of the worst examples involve obscure environmental regulations or business rules. The criminal process is abused when civil or administrative actions would suffice to protect public health and safety.

In one case, seafood importers spent eight years in jail because their lobsters were improperly packed in plastic rather than cardboard. “Zero tolerance” policies land children in jail for making paper guns in school, or having small knives on camppus in the trunk of their cars after moving and opening boxes. A cancer patient aged 61 was jailed because her hedges were too high. This is law enforcement run amuck.

Washington's Biggest Crime Problem
April 2004 - Reason.com by William Anderson and Candice E. Jackson. Just a small part of an interesting article.

[edited] The federal government's ever-expanding criminal code is an affront to justice and the Constitution.

In 1996 Edward Hanousek Jr., a road master for a railroad company running between Alaska and Canada, was convicted of negligently discharging a harmful quantity of oil into the Skagway River, a U.S. waterway, in violation of the Clean Water Act.

An independent contractor had accidentally ruptured a pipeline while attempting to clear rocks off the tracks. Hanousek was off duty and at home that day, nowhere near the accident site, and he had no knowledge of the pipeline rupture until after the fact.

The government nevertheless prosecuted Hanousek, a federal jury convicted him, and he received a sentence of six months in prison, six months in a halfway house, six months of post-release supervision, and a $5,000 fine.

I Pledge
01/20/09 - IowaHawk.Typepad.com
An interpreted transcript of the "Pledge of Allegiance to Obama" video. It is laugh out loud at your terminal funny.

[excerpt] I pledge:

Nicole Richie: To give up food altogether.

Possibly that red-haired chick from Spiderman: To be a great mother.

Some d-bag from that emo band, "Fallout Charlotte" or something, that my daughter was into when she was 11: To be a great father.

Demi Moore: To hire only the best nannies... because all of our children deserve a good nanny.

Lucy Liu: To continue working to support raising awareness as a voice for UNICEF and their international nanny awareness programs.

Labels: S_Funny, S_Obama

Censored medical records
01/23/09 - ThrockmortonsOtherSigns

[edited] Our hospitals don't have full electronic medical records. All efforts at them stopped when the President decided to mandate them. [No one wants to spend for a system that may be deemed non-standard by the government.]

We do have electronic lab reports and xray studies, etc. Well, apparently we are getting a taste of what happens when the government gets involved. They have decided that some medical tests are private and not available in any record, even to medical personnel taking care of the patient.

One of these is HIV status. Knowing this is very handy when trying to figure out why a chachetic patient (losing weight) has a pneumonia that isn't getting better, or has meningitis. They have even censored the CD4 levels (immune cells) so you dont have a clue if they have HIV.

If a nurse is bitten by a drunk patient, He/she can not find out if the patient had HIV. He must always get multiple blood draws over the next 6 months.

Safe, But Also Sorry
01/23/09 - Reason.com by Katherine Mangu-Ward
The tradoff between security and restrictions.

She interviews security/encryption expert Bruce Schneier

[edited] I consider myself a realist. Most people who say that are pessimists, but I'm not. Most people are honest and trustworthy; otherwise society would fall apart. Attacks are rare. Ten times as many people die each year in car crashes than did on 9/11, and the most dangerous part of an airplane journey is still the taxi ride to the airport.

Security is designed to protect us from the dishonest minority. It's important to remember that. I remember being told as a child: "Never talk to strangers." That's actually stupid advice.

If a child is lost, scared, or alone, the smartest thing he can do is find a kindly looking stranger to talk to. The real advice is: "Don't answer strangers who talk to you first." The difference is important.

In the first case, the child selects the stranger. The odds of him selecting a bad person are pretty negligible. In the second case, the stranger selects the child; that's more dangerous. I don't think that it is optimism to point out that most people are honest, or pessimism to figure out how to best secure ourselves from the dishonest minority. It is analytical realism.

Good News and Bad News on Parenting
01/23/09 - Econlog.Econlib by Bryan Caplan

Good parents make their children happier, but they turn out about the same.

[edited] Twin and adoption studies have produced credible answers to the nature-nurture controversy. Nature wins. Heredity alone can account for almost all shared traits among siblings.

Steven Pinker is a professor of psychology at Harvard University:

Adult siblings are equally similar whether they grew up together or apart. Adoptive siblings are no more similar than two people plucked off the street at random. Identical twins are no more similar than one would expect from the effects of their shared genes.

The normal range of parenting styles has little effect on how your children turn out. You can be strict or permissive, involved or distant, encouraging or critical, religious or secular. In the long run, your kids will resemble you in many ways; but they would have resembled you about as much if they had never met you.

Both nature and nurture play a role in divorce. Mild spanking does no lasting harm, but harsh punishment can leave lasting psychological scars.

Why does almost everyone think that the family environment is most important? Family environment has substantial effects on children, but these largely fade out by adulthood. Children are not like clay that parents mold for life; they are more like flexible plastic that responds to pressure, but pops back to its original shape.

Labels: S_Parenting, S_Children

Venial versus mortal sins in a Treasury Secretary
01/22/09 - PowerLineBlog by Paul Mirengoff and John Hinderaker

The Senate is holding confirmation hearings to make Timothy Geithner Secretary of the Treasury, to run the IRS and manage the spending of $800 billion dollars and more in "stimulus".

John Hinderaker:

[edited] Geithner failed to pay his self-employment taxes for four years. I find it remarkable that the Senate is willing to overlook that fact, even though:
  • The IMF, his employer, told him that he needed to pay these taxes.
  • The IMF gave him additional compensation specifically earmarked for paying those taxes.
  • He signed a form stating that he would use this compensation to pay those taxes.
  • He paid those taxes for 2003 and 2004 after he was audited by the IRS.
  • He still did not pay those taxes for 2001 and 2002 because the statute of limitations had run out for those years, so he couldn't be prosecuted.
  • He paid the tax for 2001 and 2002 when Obama's transition team discovered the facts.
A Republican with the same tax-scofflaw record would not have the chance of a snowball in Hell of being confirmed.

Paul Mirengoff:

[edited] The conventional wisdom that exalts Geithner says that former Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers could run Treasury at least as well as Geithner.

Unfortunately, Summers committed an offense far graver than non-payment of taxes. He expressed politically incorrect views about why there are more men than women in high-end science and engineering positions.

Labels: S_Government, S_Stimulus

Interrogation Rules
Symbolism Only Goes So Far
01/22/09 - PowerLineBlog by John Hinderaker

[edited] Obama also ordered that the CIA be limited in its interrogations of captured terrorists to the small menu of techniques in the Army's Field Manual.

This makes little sense; the Field Manual is intended to instruct soldiers with little or no training as interrogators in questioning enemy soldiers captured on the battlefield. These conditions have nothing to do with the highly specialized case of trained CIA experts trying to get potentially life-or-death information from leaders of al Qaeda and similar groups.

This topic, too, came up in today's press conference, when a reporter asked, in effect, Are you kidding?

Labels: S_Interrogation, S_Obama

Indicted for Predicting Doom
01/22/09 - Blog.Mises by Frank Shostak, from Reuters

Because, it is just not allowable that some blogger should be trusted more than the entire South Korean government.

[edited] South Korean prosecutors indicted on Thursday the blogger Minerva who had warned of financial doom for the country. Critics said he was targeted because his gloomy forecasts upset the government, now battling an economic downturn.

"The suspect in this case was indicted on charges of false information on two occasions," said an official at the prosecutors' office.

Labels: S_Free_Speech

An Hystoricle Day
01/20/09 - DocsOnTheWeb by Shrodingers Cat

Cat sees our current political and economic situation unfolding as it did in 1930, and for the same reason: government manipulation of the economy on a massive scale. The government just won't stand back and let the people (free market) clean up the mess.

[edited] You see, history seems to be repeating itself, and it is like watching a train wreck, knowing beforehand it was going to happen but unable to stop it.

Hoover was a meddling Republican president who felt he "had to do something" to help the economy of 1929 and 30. He consulted key business leaders and came up with the brilliant ideas of keeping wages high at a time of declining prices and profits for companies, ensuring increased unemployment. He increased taxes (top rate went to 63 percent) increased government subsidies to industry and agriculture, and increased tariffs.

He said, "We might have done nothing. That would have been utter ruin. Instead we met the situation with proposals to private business and to Congress of the most gigantic program of economic defense and counterattack ever evolved in the history of the Republic". (Not my kind of fiscally responsible conservative) That quote sounds awfully familiar... Then came the great FDR (BHO)
(Read more)

The irony is that our problems have been created by a runaway government program to make big houses available to everyone, able to pay or not. The government agencies that did this are called Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the bond ratings agencies.

They pretend to be "private companies" while operating with government guarantees, government appointed boards, government appointed executive officers, government political pressures, and government "oversight" that encouraged them to borrow as much money as the entire US debt at the time, and distort the housing finance markets.

Now, we are being sold government programs to "fix" the problems, maybe, by spending $1,000 billion at a time.

See "We Guarantee It".

The last part of the post reports a parable of politics, performed in a third grade classroom.

[edited] Jamie and Olivia were picked to run for the top spot. Both candidates were good kids. I thought Jamie might have an advantage because he got lots of parental support.

The day arrived for their speeches. Jamie had specific ideas about how to make our class a better place. He ended by promising to do his very best. Everyone applauded.

Olivia's speech was concise. "If you will vote for me, I will give you ice cream." She sat down. The class went wild. "Yes! Yes! We want ice cream." She surely could say more. She did not have to. A discussion followed. How did she plan to pay for the ice cream? She wasn't sure. Would her parents buy it or would the class pay for it? She didn't know. The class really didn't care. All they were thinking about was ice cream.

Jamie was forgotten. Olivia won by a landslide.
(Read more)

Obama Talks Responsibility but Walks Irresponsibly
01/20/09 - Business and Media Institute by Donald J. Boudreaux, Chairman Dept. of Economics at George Mason University.

[edited] Absolutely no one can responsibly spend $1.5 billion of other people's money.

Barack Obama calls for "a new era of responsibility" but his actions belie his words. By seeking an extra $800 billion for "stimulus," Mr. Obama will generate a typhoon of irresponsibility.

At the blog EconLog "The Stimulus and the Somme", Arnold Kling says:

How many people will have meaningful input in determining the overall allocation of the $800 billion stimulus? 10? 20? It won't be more than 1000. Maybe 500 technocrats will play a meaningful role in writing the bill.

These people will have unimaginable power. Remember that they are taking our money and deciding for us how to spend it. Presumably, that is because they are wiser at spending our money than we are at spending it ourselves.

The arithmetic is mind-boggling. If 500 people have meaningful input, and the stimulus is almost $800 billion, then on average each person is responsible for taking more than $1.5 billion of our money and trying to spend it more wisely than we would spend it ourselves.

Labels: S_Obama, S_Stimulus

War Between the Sexes
The Toxic Waste Of Modern Feminism
01/19/09 - AdviceGoddess by Amy Alkon

The post is about the Feminist desire to deny the usual attractions between the sexes, as in the desire to be loved only for what is inside rather than superficial looks. A funny anecdote provided as a comment by wolfboy69 captures the essence of tension between the sexes.

One evening last week, my girlfriend and I were getting into bed. Well, the passion starts to heat up, and she eventually says, 'I don't feel like it, I just want you to hold me.'

I said, 'WHAT??!! What was that?!'

So she says the words that every boyfriend on the planet dreads to hear ... 'You're just not in touch enough with my emotional needs as a woman, for me to satisfy your physical needs as a man.'

She responded to my puzzled look by saying, 'Can't you just love me for who I am and not what I do for you in the bedroom?'

Realizing that nothing was going to happen that night, I went to sleep.

The very next day I opted to take the day off of work to spend time with her. We went out to a nice lunch and then went shopping at a big department store. I walked around with her while she tried on several very expensive outfits. She couldn't decide which one to take, so I told her we'd just buy them all. She wanted new shoes to compliment her new clothes, so I said, 'Lets get a pair for each outfit.'

We went on to the jewelry department where she picked out a pair of diamond earrings. Let me tell you ... she was so excited. She must have thought I was one wave short of a shipwreck. I started to think she was testing me because she asked for a tennis bracelet when she doesn't even know how to play tennis.

I think I threw her for a loop when I said, 'That's fine, honey.' She was almost nearing sexual satisfaction from all of the excitement. Smiling with excited anticipation, she finally said, 'I think this is all dear, let's go to the cashier.'

I could hardly contain myself when I blurted out, 'No honey, I don't feel like it.'

Her face just went completely blank as her jaw dropped with a baffled, 'WHAT?'

I then said, 'Honey! I just want you to HOLD this stuff for a while. You're just not in touch enough with my financial needs as a man, for me to satisfy your shopping needs as a woman.'

And just when she had this look like she was going to kill me, I added, 'Why can't you just love me for who I am and not for the things I buy you?'

Apparently I'm not having sex tonight either....but at least she knows I'm smarter than she is.

Biggest Boondoggle in American History
01/18/09 - PowerLineBlog by Paul Hinderaker
The stimulus bill is a whole lot of spending.

About "paid for by our children and grandchildren", don't count on it! Spending now wastes resources now. Those are the resources that you want in your life. More waste now means less national production now and later. I don't mean to be crude, but you will be emptying your own bedpan while you look out at all of those shiny new bridges and schools that they want to build, to support construction unions with their lovely votes and contributions. (See also: A short argument against stimulus)

[edited] We are living in an historical moment of uncharted territory. Minority Leader John Boehner sent out an email about the House Democrats' ridiculous $825 billion "stimulus" bill.

A Dozen Fun Facts About the House Democrats' Massive Spending Bill

1. The House Democrats' bill will cost each and every household $6,700 additional debt, paid for by our children and grandchildren.

2. The total cost of this one piece of legislation is almost as much as the annual discretionary budget for the entire federal government.

Read more ...

Protecting Customers from Fake Cashier's Checks
01/17/09 - BankersOnline by Mary Beth Guard

Bank Checks or Cashier's Checks can be fake. It takes 10 days to detect the fraud. Crooks are sending fake checks and asking for some or all of the money back before the fake is discovered. There are more stories at the link.

[edited] People may be misled about whether a cashier's check is good. Funds may be available a few days after deposit, but will be taken back if the check does not clear a week later. When bogus cashier's checks are deposited, some banks do not give accurate information about when the check will be cleared and good, so that the customer can safely use the funds.

Some banks say that the check will be good in 24 hours, or that the check is guaranteed good, so there are no worries about using the funds. Feeling safely assured, the bank customer goes through with the transaction. Days later, when the checks are found to be counterfeit, the banks hold their customer responsible for the entire amount of the check, even though the bank had assured them that the funds were good.

There should be laws that hold the banks responsible for releasing the funds from these checks before they verify that the check is good, or telling the customer that the check is good, only to announce days later that it is not. If they know it takes 10 days for the check to clear, they should tell that to the customer. Banks are issued warnings from the FDIC when cashier's checks are stolen from other banks, yet they do nothing to increase the security measures that they take when handling a cashier's check.

The Economy is Not a Machine
01/13/09 - TCSDaily by Max Borders

[edited] The idea of fixing, running, regulating, designing, or modeling an economy rests on the notion that we can appoint smart directors who will implement an intelligent plan.

But the economy is not a mechanism. There is no mission control. Government cannot swoop down to explain and fix. The knowledge required to grasp the billions of actions, transactions and interconnections would fry the neural circuitry of a thousand Ben Bernankes.

F.A.Hayek called this the knowledge problem. Knowledge is dispersed through society, not concentrated in a few central authorities. Bad consequences follow government interventions because a ruling committee cannot have enough knowledge or judgment.

Many blame "greed" for our current problems. The profit motive is a good thing in an environment where bad investments receive losses and good ones are profitable. Government can distort that system, giving profits to people who make bad decisions. Greed becomes much more dangerous in that environment.

Nobody knows how to make a pencil
01/15/09 - AlexBarnett.net (11/18/06)
Do you believe that the economy can be managed, beyond setting free and fair rules and protecting property rights? Consider that there is no single person or small group in the world who actually knows how to make a lowly lead pencil.

The Pelosi-Obama-Reid Economy
01/15/09 - PajamasMedia by Tom Blumer
A good review of recent events, the Government's plans, why they won't work, and the quality of top analysis and leadership. This is a short excerpt.

[edited] Meltdowns at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, were decades in the making, aided and abetted by Democrat cronies like Frank Raines. This exposed how Fannie, Freddie, and the Community Reinvestment Act ruined the mortgage-lending market by lowering credit approval standards.

The Fan-Fred poison spread to other lenders. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson panicked and made up the amount of $700 billion to buy “troubled assets”, mostly mortgage loans in delinquency and foreclosure. Paulson's threats of financial Armageddon stampeded a reluctant President Bush into agreement. Pelosi, Obama, and Reid were proud advocates.

Paulson did not use the money as promised. He forced major banks to accept direct government investment. Bailing out one industry has already led to another (GM-Chrysler) and endless calls for more, from private businesses, states, local governments, and other public entities.

Is it a surprise that investors, entrepreneurs, and business managers are in no mood to invest or expand? They are shedding employees at a scary rate, down 500,000 jobs (seasonally adjusted) for a second month.

Why start or expand any business if the government may aid your competitors or whimsically alter the rules?   Consumers have billions of extra dollars available thanks to energy price drops and lower interest rates. But, they seem to be reducing their spending due to uncertainty.

Washington's solution is more bailouts and more uncertainty, through another bigger “stimulus” that should be slower than the last. Tax “rebate” checks sent out February 2008 were not very effective, but they put money into consumers’ pockets quickly. The new “stimulus” package is mostly public “investment” that, even if justified, will take much longer to affect the economy.

Roosevelt spent on massive public works during the Depression. This prolonged the Depression for seven years. Japan tried government stimulus for 10 years in the 1990s. It resulted in “the lost decade”.

Tennessee Sludge Spill: Government Disaster 30 Times Worse than Exxon-Valdez
01/14/09 - BusinessAndMedia by Julia A. Seymour
TVA is responsible, but media ignore that it is run by the government.

[edited] The Tennesee Valley Authority (TVA) is a government agency created during the Great Depression, and the nation’s largest electric utility. Their earthen dam in the town of Kingston, TN held more than one billion gallons of thick, black coal sludge. This is coal ash mixed with water, enough to fill more than 550 [sic] Olympic-sized swimming pools. [I compute 1266 pools x 790K gals/pool via Wikipedia]

About December 22, 2008 the dam collapsed. Sludge spread out over hundreds of acres, fouling waterways, and burying homes while people were sleeping.

News reports portrayed the disaster as a failure of the coal industry, not of a government agency. Left-wing environmentalists called for more regulation of the utility industry, instead of blaming the government for failing to police itself.

TVA’s CEO Tom Kilgore admitted to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that “the most expensive solution wasn’t chosen … Obviously, that doesn’t look good for us.” That solution would have cost the TVA $25 million. The cleanup will cost $20 million, plus the settlement of lawsuits. [And, the dam will need to be rebuilt.]

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA: “We didn’t really do much in the first two years looking at TVA”.

Shaka Mitchell of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research: “If there is one thing we can all learn from the disastrous toxic ash spill in Kingston, it’s that when government-run companies fail, no one is held accountable, but everyone pays.”

A British Political Arrest
11/29/08 - Samizdata.net by Brian Micklethwait (London)
The Damian Green Political Arrest

--> An outrage that brings shame on Britain
01/12/09 - (11/29/08) TimesOnline by Mathew Parris

[edited] Nine counter-terrorism officers raided the home and offices of a senior member of the Opposition. What a blunder. What an outrage. What a stupid, stupid, thing to do.

This is a gift to the Tories (conservatives), and incredibly damaging to a governing party whose Prime Minister enjoys a reputation for bullying. That is the best argument for doubting that Labour ministers had anything to do with the arrest of Damian Green, a mild-mannered and distinctly herbivorous Shadow Immigration Minister.

Maybe ministers really were kept in total ignorance, but few ordinary voters are going to believe it. A Prime Minister otherwise known as the Big, Clunking Fist will struggle to dissociate himself in the public mind from an astonishingly heavy-handed police operation against a critic.

Micklethwait comments on declining ethics in politics:
[edited] I include references to f---ing and f---ers very deliberately. Our rulers now swear a lot more than they used to. It is all part of that atmosphere, that tone, that they have been so busily creating. It is an atmosphere in which there are now so many laws, and laws which are so sweeping in their scope, that all are now guilty.

The law simplifies down to the question: do they like you? If they really really do not like you, look out, they'll come for you, and find or make up the laws they need as they go along.

A front bench politician has been, very publicly, on the receiving end of this parody of the idea of law. It is cause not for rage and more swearing, but for rejoicing [because it brings the corruption of government and law into public view].

Self defense and security
01/12/09 - Samizdata
Video (5:30). Dr. Susan Gratia testifies to a US Senate committee about the use of guns for self defense and as a right under the Second Amendment.

She owned a handgun, but had stopped carrying it in her purse, afraid of laws that make gun possession a felony in some local areas. She had no weapon when a madman crashed into a cafeteria and systematically shot everyone he could. Her parents were killed. She barely escaped through a back window.

She asks, why does her government prevent her from having the means for self-defense, and defense against the government if needed?

Job Creation
01/13/09 - ChicagoBoyz by David Foster

[edited] I know a way to create at least a million jobs, almost immediately, at no government expense whatsoever. Ban the automatic operation of elevators.

The Elevator Safety and Economic Opportunity Act of 2009 will preempt state regulation of elevators and will require that after March 1, 2009, no elevator shall carry passengers without being under the exclusive control of a qualified and certified elevator operator. In the early 1950s there were about 500,000 people employed as elevator operators. There are a lot more buildings and elevators now. Surely, we can count on a million new jobs.

The People Versus Politicians
01/11/09 - BaltimoreExaminer.com By Walter E. Williams
via InstaPundit

[edited] Without the rich for whipping boys, we might be able to concentrate on what's best for the 99.5% of the rest of us.

Legalized corruption is widespread, the job of 35,000 Washington D.C. lobbyists earning millions of dollars. They represent America's corporations, labor unions, foreign corporations, and unions. They are spending billions of dollars for favors at the expense of some other group of Americans.

Chairmanship or a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee is coveted. For a price, a loophole can be inserted into tax law, saving a company tens of millions of dollars, as in the Rangel scandal. At state levels, governors can award public works contracts to a generous constituent. At local levels, mayors can provide subsidies for stadiums and convention centers. Politicians can give favors, and they will find buyers.

We Don't Bother Raising Our Hands
01/12/09 - Media.NationalReview by Guy Benson
Quote from Chicago Sun-Times columnist Carol Marin

[edited] We have been deferential, eager to please, and prepared to keep a careful distance from Obama in news conferences. Most of us in the press corps do not bother any more to raise our hands to ask questions. Obama always has before him a list of correspondents who've been advised they will be called upon that day.

Dirty Secrets of College Admissions
01/09/09 - The Daily Beast by Kathleen Kingsbury
Quotes from admissions officers.

Age 25, elite Northeast liberal arts college:

One year I had a student with a near-perfect SAT score and straight A’s. His essays were a little more boring than the other kids. So I cut him.

If the Pittsburgh Steelers lost a game and I read your file the next morning, chances were you weren’t getting in. Where I could have been nice, I was a lot less charitable.

State university in the Northeast:
One night, I got food poisoning at a restaurant in Buffalo. The next day, I rejected all the Buffalo applications. I couldn’t stomach reading them.
Ivy League university:
Some 70 percent of kids who apply are qualified to come here, and we have space for one in ten. It almost always comes down to whether you are likeable. An admissions officer is asking "Would I like to hang out with this guy or gal for the next four years?" So if you are just another Asian math genius with no personality, then it’s going to be tough for you.
Ivy League university:
Some middle-tier schools will reject top applicants. The admissions officer thinks "Oh, he just applied here as a safety. He’ll never come." They don’t want to lower the yield they report for college rankings.

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College is an Expensive IQ Test

Other Posts about College

CFLs and a call for civil disobedience
01/06/09 - Christopher Fountain reports on the EPA Guidelines for cleaning up after a broken Compact Fluorescent Light. Don't break one! Here is a small excerpt.

[edited] Pending the completion of a full review of the Maine study, EPA will determine whether additional changes to the cleanup recommendations are warranted. The agency plans to conduct its own study on CFLs after thorough review of the Maine study.

Disposal of Clean-up Materials
- Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
- Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area.
- Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

See also The CFL Advertising Account.

Pelosi Moves to Erase Prior House Rules and Silence the Republican Minority
01/05/09 - Gateway Pundit

[edited] Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to re-write House rules today to ensure that the Republican minority will have no influence on legislation. Democrats are ready to assemble legislation in secret, then push it through Congress without debate or amendment. The proposals are draconian and polarizing. Any bipartisan cooperation with Obama will be rendered impossible before he takes office.

These rule changes will reverse the fairness rules of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America" made in 1995. Those reforms opened to public scrutiny a secretive House legislative process that had developed under decades of a Democratic majority.

The Republican reforms included opening committee meetings to the public and media, making Congress subject to federal law, term limits for committee chairmen to end decades-long fiefdoms, truth in budgeting, elimination of the committee proxy vote, authorizing House audits, specific requirements for blanket rules waivers, and guarantees that the minority party could offer amendments to legislation.

Carbon Dioxide Does Not Drive Climate
01/04/09 - WSJ.com Notable and Quotable
TalkingAboutTheWeather.com by Harold Ambler, via HuffingtonPost

[edited] The theory that carbon dioxide "drives" climate in any meaningful way is simply wrong. Carbon dioxide cannot absorb an unlimited amount of infrared radiation. Why not? Because it only absorbs heat along limited bandwidths, and is already absorbing just about everything it can. (read more)

Gaza has its version of rocket scientists
01/03/09 - NationalReview by MarkSteyn

[edited] Westerners seem to expect more civilized behavior from Israel than from its adversaries.

Professor Samuel Huntington wrote "The Clash Of Civilizations" About 15 years ago. He argued that Western elites viewed man as a rational, economic creature, and that this was simplistic. Actually, cultural identity is a stronger force than the appeal of Western-style economic liberty and its benefits. Very few of us want to believe this.

At an unspoken level, we understand that Huntington is right. When French President Sarkozy (and others) bemoans Israel's "disproportionate" response, he expects better from the despised Jews than from Hamas. He regards Israel as a Western society bound by civilized norms, whereas any old barbarism issuing forth from Gaza is excused as "desperation."

Britain's Channel 4 says that we don't get the chance to see Islamic leaders like Iranian President Ahmadinejad speak for themselves. It is more accurate to say that they speak for themselves incessantly, but the louder they speak the more we put our hands over our ears and go "Nya nya, can't hear you."

Most Western elites believe that everyone wants to go to university, get a steady job, and settle down in a nice house. Against this belief, Ahmadinejad's statement that "England's demise is on our agenda" is almost literally untranslatable.

We deplore Ahmadinejad as a genocidal fantasist when he threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map. But, maybe he's a genocidal realist, and we're the fantasists.

The Crisis Prophet Speaks
01/01/09 - Econlog.Econlib by Bryan Caplan

[edited] Markets will respond to price changes, but the responses take time. People must discover the relevant changes, confirm and assess them, consider alternative arrangements of their affairs, and carry out those changes.

The competent economist knows patience is needed in evaluating the market's operation. We have no reason to conclude that "the market doesn't work anymore", simply because the market does not appear to have fully reconfigured itself soon after a shock.

Decent analysts know this; I am not breaking new ground here. So, we can only shake our heads in wonder when we see well-known, free-market economists and other formerly sound analysts taking unsound and ill-considered positions.

We must appreciate that the sky is not falling, even if the news media and the politicians act as if it is.

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Stimulus Does Not Cure a Recession
The population and millions of businesses built our economy. They will adjust to any new conditions, if the government does not raise taxes and waste resources. Government agencies created a financial crisis. Don't let government make a difficult situation worse.

Mencken's timeless insights
12/26/08 - PittsburghLive by Donald J. Boudreaux
An excerpt from a great article.

[edited] If I could bring one person back to life for an evening of good food, stiff drink and sterling conversation, that person would be H.L. Mencken (1880-1956).

Mencken thought the typical politician is a "merchant of delusions," a "pumper-up of popular fears and rages. The politician is never to be trusted.

"What is a political campaign save a concerted effort to turn out a set of politicians who are admittedly bad and put in a set who are thought to be better?"

"If experience teaches us anything at all, it teaches us this: that a good politician, under democracy, is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar. His very existence, indeed, is a standing subversion of the public good in every rational sense. He is not one who serves the common weal; he is simply one who preys upon the commonwealth."

"It is to the interest of all the rest of us to hold down his powers to an irreducible minimum and to reduce his compensation to nothing; it is to his interest to augment his powers at all hazards, and to make his compensation all the traffic will bear."

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The Political Manual: Adequate Compensation
As a politician, get paid what you are worth.

Diplomacy and Terrorism
12/30/08 - ChicagoBoys by Shannon Love

[edited] For nearly three decades people like Greenwald claimed that if Israel merely ended the occupation of the Palestinian territories it would get peace. Instead it got human bombs and rocket attacks. Ditto for the withdrawal from Lebanon.

Terrorists stop for only two reasons: (1) They win and graduate to despotic rule (Mugabe), or (2) they’re physically prevented from acting. Israel has decided to go for reason (2). The rest of us should hope it succeeds.

Matthew Alexander on Torture
12/30/08 - Schneier.com

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq."