Sunday, November 30, 2008

War On The Border

The Drug War in Mexico as chronicled by Newsweek is starting to cross the US border.

Late one night in January, an ambulance escorted by five unmarked squad cars pulled up to Thomason Hospital in El Paso, Texas. Out leaped more than a dozen armed federal agents to protect the patient—Fernando Lozano Sandoval, a commander with the Chihuahua State Investigations Agency. He'd been pumped full of bullets just across the Mexican border in Ciudad Juárez by gunmen believed to have been hired by a drug cartel. Lozano Sandoval's sole hope of survival was the medical team at Thomason, the only level-one trauma center for nearly 300 miles. U.S. authorities took no chances; in Mexico, assassins regularly raid hospitals to finish off their prey. Throughout Lozano Sandoval's three-week treatment at Thomason (which proved successful), the Americans funneled visitors through metal detectors, posted guards outside the commander's room and deployed SWAT teams armed with assault rifles around the hospital's perimeter. Officers "were ready for war if it should go that route," says El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen.
Well isn't that something. US paramilitary police are having to guard Mexican nationals in America. Some one should call Houston and tell them we have a problem. In fact if some one would carry the message to DC it might be even more helpful.
Beyond those cases, 43 additional patients wounded in Juárez have been treated at Thomason this year, including a 1-year-old girl who was pinned against a wall by a truck involved in a drug-related shooting. All the patients have been dual citizens of Mexico and the United States or have had the proper documentation to enter the country, says a Thomason spokeswoman. Yet legal issues are beside the point for many El Pasoans. A recent posting in an online forum on border violence summed up the fear of many: "It is only a matter of time before the Mexican drug dealers send assassination squads over to Thomason hospital." The traffickers already occasionally kidnap Mexicans who have fled north to escape threats of violence in Juárez.
So the drug war violence in Northern Mexico is already crossing the border into the US and the people living along that border expect things to get worse. It is no surprise to me. I was predicting it 20 years ago.

Mr. Obama has promised to take on the Taliban in Afghanistan. I don't think he was expecting to handle a similar situation just a few feet across our southern border. Is he in for a shock.
"It's almost beyond belief." Juárez looks a lot like a failed state, with no government entity capable of imposing order and a profusion of powerful organizations that kill and plunder at will. It's as if the United States faced another lawless Waziristan—except this one happens to be right at the nation's doorstep.
In the past months I was predicting that it might take as long as five years for the Drug Cartel Wars to cross over into the US of A. Obviously I was misinformed. It is happening already.
The cartels operate largely with impunity. Police who defy them are eliminated, as in the case of Oscar Campoya, a municipal cop who was shot dead by assassins in March as he left a local precinct. Despite the presence of several witnesses, including fellow officers, there have been no arrests (only 2 percent of violent murders in Mexico are solved, according to government figures). Mario Campoya, the victim's brother, says Oscar had been pressured relentlessly by other members of the force to cooperate with the drug gangs, but had refused.
There is a saying in those parts plata o plomo - silver or lead. Roughly translated it means take our money and follow our orders or we will kill you. Of course one has to be careful. Cooperate with the wrong gang and a rival gang will kill you. Pretty soon no one wants to be a policeman. Even with pay enhancements from one gang or another it is not enough. In fact that is already happening. Mexico has had to move its army into some Northern Mexico border towns to keep law and order because the police forces were to all intents and purposes non-existent. Of course this has had the usual results. The army is now being corrupted.
Going back to Prohibition, Juárez has helped sate the ravenous American appetite for contraband. These days, the West Texas corridor is a key shipping and distribution center for drugs destined for various markets across the United States. According to a recent report by the Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), 6 cartels, 129 midlevel organizations and 606 local groups engage in drug-trafficking activities in the binational region. As part of an elaborate, highly compartmentalized operation, some outfits specialize in transportation, others in enforcement and still others in retail sales. Guided by spotters on the Mexican side equipped with binoculars and cell phones, many shipments cross the bridges into El Paso alongside legitimate commerce. Once in the city, the goods are deposited in stash houses before being sent elsewhere.

Given the permeability of the border, it's not hard to imagine violence seeping over as well. American officials insist that's highly unlikely. The cartels "cannot operate here with impunity," says ICE's Kozak. "One reason we don't see that type of violence here is that it would never be tolerated." El Paso is crawling with federal law-enforcement agents—including representatives of ICE, the FBI, Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration—and all are monitoring events to the south like hawks.
Ah. The infamous: "it can't happen here".

Except it looks like it has already happened here in Las Vegas.
In an early morning news conference Police captain Vince Cannito said, "Cole (Puffinburger) has been found, he is safe and in our custody," he continued "It's just a blessing that this child has been found and he's in extremely good condition."

The six year old boy was abducted by alleged drug dealers posing as police officers on October 15, 2008. Three armed men tied up Cole's mother and her fiancee, ransacked their home and then took Cole after they didn't find money in the home.
Fortunately the outcome in that case was a good one. We may not always be so fortunate.

Now it is the so called social conservatives in cahoots with "progressives" who have pushed this drug war on us. But really they are not conservatives at all. They are radicals. Before 1914 and the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act there were no national laws against drugs in America. And of course in 1937 we got the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

Well back to the Newsweek article.
...the United States is less insulated than some might think. According to the NDIC report, the increased bloodshed in Juárez "could spill into the [West Texas] region," since it raises the threat that drug-trafficking organizations will "confront law-enforcement officers in the United States who seek to disrupt these DTOs' smuggling operations." (The report cites several armed encounters that took place on the American side in 2006.) The cartels' tentacles already reach deep into El Paso. Local banks are full of drug money, says Claudio Morales, who heads special operations at the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. "We're one of the poorest regions along the border, yet El Paso has some of the largest cash transactions" in the country. Many cartel henchmen are known to have moved their families to the Texas city to insulate them from the carnage back home—though that still leaves the families vulnerable to kidnappers. Kids whose relatives have been killed in the violence are showing up at the Children's Grief Center of El Paso. "We have a lot of kids that are really traumatized," says executive director Laura Olague. "There's a lot of secrecy, or fear, that whoever killed their parents or loved ones would come look for them."
It does seem like law and order is working in America to keep the violence down. And the gangs have an incentive to minimize the violence in America unless it is home grown. But the Mexican gangs do have their methods.
For now, drug organizations prefer to abduct their quarry in the United States and spirit them across the border before harming or killing them. Kozak says that in the past year, a half-dozen kidnappings tied to narcotraffickers have taken place in El Paso. One of them involved Miguel Rueda, a convicted smuggler who failed to pay a drug debt. According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. district court, Rueda was told to meet a former accomplice, Ricardo Calleros-Godinez, at a gas station in El Paso in February. After picking up Rueda, Calleros-Godinez allegedly pulled a gun on him, duct-taped his eyes, mouth, hands and legs, and drove him to a house in Juárez. Four or five days later, Rueda reportedly settled the debt through a transfer of family land and was freed. (He's now in Texas state prison serving a sentence on cocaine charges.)

The criminal group that perhaps best illustrates the porousness of the border is the Barrio Azteca gang. Founded in the 1980s in state prison in El Paso, the organization now counts thousands of members in Mexico and the United States and is believed to be affiliated with the Juárez cartel. Authorities say the gang has a penchant for brutality and engages in everything from extortion to trafficking to assassination. The Barrio Aztecas are "the wild card in all this," says Samuel Camargo, a supervisory special agent with the FBI in El Paso. "That probably has the most potential for violence here"—and it's an American creation. In January, the U.S. Attorney's Office brought racketeering charges against more than a dozen of the gang's members, and a trial began in early November.
So for all you who are in favor of keeping drugs illegal (they didn't used to be), how is it working out for you? We could end all this in short order by passing a few Federal Laws and letting States go their own way with respect to dealing with drugs. One only need consider that before the radicals got hold of the US Government in 1914 there were no national anti-drug laws.
"The Latin American drug cartels have stretched their tentacles much deeper into our lives than most people believe. It's possible they are calling the shots at all levels of government." - William Colby, former CIA Director, 1995
Do you suppose Colby was trying to tell us something?

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Let Us Try The Conservative Solution

I have pretty much shown in a number of posts that government involvement in marriage, in making drugs illegal, and in running schools were the innovations of radicals. Those solutions to the problems they addressed don't seem to be working well.

So why don't we do the conservative thing and go back to the old ways? And if those don't work we can always try something radical again.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Getting A Daily Dose

The Swiss are giving in to the junkies.

GENEVA (AP) - Dr. Daniele Zullino keeps glass bottles full of white powder in a safe in a locked room of his office.

Patients show up each day to receive their treatment in small doses handed through a small window.

Then they gather around a table to shoot up, part of a pioneering Swiss program to curb drug abuse by providing addicts a clean, safe place to take heroin produced by a government-approved laboratory.

The program has been criticized by the United States and the U.N. narcotics board, which said it would fuel drug abuse. But governments as far away as Australia are beginning or considering their own programs modeled on the system, which is credited with reducing crime and improving the health and daily lives of addicts.

Swiss voters are expected to make the system permanent Sunday in a referendum prompted by a challenge from conservatives.

The heroin program has won wide support within Switzerland since it was begun 14 years ago to eliminate scenes of large groups of drug users shooting up openly in parks that marred Swiss cities in the 1980s and 1990s.

Zullino's office, part of the Geneva University Hospitals, is one of 23 such centers in Switzerland.

Patients among the nearly 1,300 addicts whom other therapies have failed to help take doses carefully measured to satisfy their cravings but not enough to cause a big high. Four at a time inject themselves as a nurse watches.

In a few minutes most get up and leave. Those who have jobs go back to work.
Junkies with jobs? What is the world coming to? Or rather what is the world going back to? The Swiss program is very much like one in effect in the US from 1914 when the Harrison Act was passed until about 1923 with the closure of last clinic in Baton Rouge.

It worked then, and it still works. Which is why we can no longer do that sort of thing in America. Which is rather fortunate. After all those drug cartels need to make a profit too. And think of all the street dealers such a system would put out of business. We certainly don't want to be putting retailers and wholesalers out of business in a down economy do we?

There is one small problem with the program. Crimes committed by heroin addicts have dropped 60 percent since the program began in 1994. Now think of all the police, prosecutors, lawyers, prison guards etc. out of jobs because of that. Every junkie in America has a huge burden to bear keeping all those people working. If it were not for junkies taxpayers might not willingly pony up the dough to support all those folks. Another economic disaster in the making during hard times if this clinic idea ever caught on. As long as Americans keep hating junkies the jobs that depend on them are safe. So do your part. Hate a junkie today. A big part of the economy depends on it.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

The Racial Fear Card

Fifty Percent of the violent crimes committed in the districts occupied by Mexicans, Greeks, Turks, Phillipinos, Spaniards, Latin Americans, and Negroes may be traced to the use of marijuana. - Harry Anslinger head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

And that is just one thing you can learn from watching this video.

Part 2
Part 3

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Success In Mexico

Mexico is having some success in fighting the drug traffickers that are causing so much trouble for Mexicans and their government.

President Felipe Calderón and his government defended their fight against public corruption and drug trafficking Friday, asking for greater powers to go after organized crime. They conceded that most Mexicans feel unsafe and that many police are unqualified to do their jobs.

One hundred days after calling for a sweeping overhaul of security forces, including a reorganization of the federal police into a single agency, Calderón and his cabinet cited some successes, such as the recent arrest of several drug captains and corrupt officials. But they acknowledged that the extreme violence unleashed in Mexico was daunting.

"We know the challenges are many and that the road that we have to travel is long and difficult. But we cannot and will not back down," said Calderón, who appeared with his government ministers at a day-long National Security Council meeting in which they reported on their fight against organized crime and the drug cartels.

More than 4,500 people have been killed in drug-related violence since Calderón declared war against the cartels in early 2007. The campaign has transformed border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez into war zones, complete with 20,000 occupying troops.

Calderón touted the recent arrest of Noé Ramírez Mandujano, a former chief of the anti-organized-crime unit at Mexico's attorney general's office, who is accused of taking at least $450,000 from drug traffickers in exchange for information about police investigations.
And that is what success looks like. It is rather fortunate that the Mexican government is not failing.

One point of success is that kidnappings are down 18% after the government broke up 53 kidnapping gangs. A rough extrapolation tells us that there were something like 250 gangs of kidnappers before the crackdown. Now down to around 200.

And here is another huge success. They are testing the qualifications of police officers already on the force.
In written answers to questions put to him by the National Congress, Calderón reported Thursday that half of the 56,000 police officers evaluated in a federal review failed to reach minimum standards. The examinations included drug and lie detector tests, psychological profiling and reviews of personal wealth.

Almost 50 percent of the officers tested, who work at the municipal, state and federal levels, received a "not recommended" rating. In states where violence and drug trafficking are greatest, the police fared the worst.

In the state of Baja California, where Tijuana is located, almost 90 percent of the officers received failing grades. It is not known how many will be fired or retrained. There are more than 375,000 police officers in Mexico.

The revelation that so many rank-and-file police officers fail to pass scrutiny is likely to come as no surprise to most Mexicans, who harbor deep distrust of law enforcement officers. A poll released Friday by a Mexican research group found that 60 percent of Mexicans do not feel safe and that the great majority do not report crimes because they distrust the police.
Well isn't that something. Only half are failing on average. Fortunately the failure rate along the border is not 100%. That would be a real disaster.

It could be worse. And I'm betting that before long it will be.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I'm Looking For A Party

Every attempt to legislate vice into oblivion has led to vice + crime.

And yet socons keep falling for that trick. If you have studied the matter you know that Economic Socialism is at best a brake on the economy and at worst causes retrograde motion.

Cultural Socialism (using government power to end sin) always leads to an increase in crime. But socons - being the simple folks that they are - keep falling for the empty promises of Cultural Socialism.

So we have two parties whose main features are: Democrats - they know Cultural Socialism doesn't work. Republicans - they know Economic Socialism doesn't work.

I'm looking for a viable party that knows Socialism doesn't work. Period.

A Mutiny At Cawnpore

Sgt. Mom writes about some history she learned in her travels in the English countryside and its implications for the current troubles in Mumbai.

Not for the faint of heart or those with delicate sensibilities. But not much that has gone on in India the last few days is.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

The Immoral Nation

There has been a lot of back and forth at the places I post (Classical Values and Power and Control) about America becoming an immoral nation. So I have to asks a question of my readers and especially those commenting on my various posts. What can make America the moral nation that so many seem to crave?

Can government make people moral?

If so why did we give up on all the goodness that alcohol prohibition was responsible for?

OK. Scratch that. It seems that when government gets involved in the morality business it only makes things worse.

America is a mainly Christian church going nation - so can churches make people moral?

If so why are so many people who have had church weddings divorced? Why are there so many children of divorce from parents married in church?


OK. Government can't make people moral and churches are failing at the job as well.

Any one care to suggest fall back position?

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Friday, November 28, 2008

Archaeologists Find Old Pot

Well this is a very different kind of pot for archaeologists. What they found was a marijuana stash.

OTTAWA - Researchers say they have located the world's oldest stash of marijuana, in a tomb in a remote part of China.

The cache of cannabis is about 2,700 years old and was clearly "cultivated for psychoactive purposes," rather than as fibre for clothing or as food, says a research paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany.

The 789 grams of dried cannabis was buried alongside a light-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man, likely a shaman of the Gushi culture, near Turpan in northwestern China.

The extremely dry conditions and alkaline soil acted as preservatives, allowing a team of scientists to carefully analyze the stash, which still looked green though it had lost its distinctive odour.

"To our knowledge, these investigations provide the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent," says the newly published paper, whose lead author was American neurologist Dr. Ethan B. Russo.

Remnants of cannabis have been found in ancient Egypt and other sites, and the substance has been referred to by authors such as the Greek historian Herodotus. But the tomb stash is the oldest so far that could be thoroughly tested for its properties.
Now there was one dedicated pot head. Not even death was going to separate him from his stash. No wonder it is so hard to keep the weed out of America if that kind of dedication is any indication of the mind set of current users.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

A Positronic Brain?

Researchers at a Hewlet Packard Laboratory have combined computer logic with at type of controllable variable resistor into a neural network that may in time be dense enough to mimic a human brain.

Also at the symposium, Snider unveiled a design that used memristors in their analog mode as synapses in a neural computing architecture. Memristor crossbars are the only technology that is dense enough to simulate the human brain, Snider claimed, adding that the HP Labs crossbars are ten times denser than synapses in the human cortex. By stacking crossbars on a CMOS logic chip, variable resistance could mimic the learning functions of synapses in neural networks.

HP Labs and Boston University were recently awarded a contract by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to build the first artificial neural network based on memristors.

Also at the conference, Massimiliano Di Ventra of the University of California at San Diego described how memristors can explain biological learning in amoebas.
Isaac Asimov the inventor (in fiction) of the Positronic Brain would be so proud. And of course there is the possibility that one day a human brain could be downloaded into a positronic brain leading to a type of human immortality. Or at least a C3PO type cyborg.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Not So Long Ago

Time Magazine chronicles the anti-gay movement in Florida led by Anita Briant. The year is 1977.

In the heat of the campaign, emotions have got out of hand. A gay worker was hospitalized after a beating; others have received crank calls. Urges a bumper sticker: KILL A QUEER FOR CHRIST. After receiving many telephone threats, Jack Campbell, a gay-rights leader, has installed guards around his house. Bryant has also hired security men because of phone warnings.

Meantime, Bryant has stepped up her rhetoric, telling one interviewer that God does not like homosexuality because "the male homosexual eats another man's sperm. Sperm is the most concentrated form of blood. The homosexual is eating life." During a debate with Gay Rights Activist Bob Kunst, she startled the audience by breaking into a stirring rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Many Miami homosexuals think that they will be the ultimate winners this week, even if they lose what is expected to be a close vote. Their reasoning: Bryant's spirited attack has encouraged homosexuals all over the country to come out of their closets. Already, gay groups from Boston to San Francisco are organizing as never before. Says Kunst: "We have created a national issue, and we intend to stay with it."
I think the gay marriage movement represents the revenge of the gays.

You spew hatred - you get hatred back. Proof that God is just. You have to wonder though. Bryant was the leader of an ostensibly Christian movement. Why did/do so many Christians have hate in their hearts? Such attitudes are hobbling the Republican Party considerably because some how the party got identified with the haters.

Of course the foundation for the hate is fear. But isn't living in fear the antithesis of having God in your heart?
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Strange times.

Inspired? by this William Burroughs Thanksgiving Prayer.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Probing Attack?

I don't know if that is intentional but, the attack in Mumbai, India looks to be having the effect of probing Obama's response to future attacks on America and elsewhere.

Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) -- President-elect Barack Obama led global condemnation of grenade and gun assaults in India’s financial hub of Mumbai, the third major terrorist attack targeting foreigners in South Asian nations this year.

The U.S. will work “with India and nations around the world to root out and destroy terrorist networks,” Obama’s transition team said in a statement.
I was under the impression that The One thought that going after Osama and al Qaeda was enough. Evidently Reality Is Setting In.

And which politician on the international scene made the strongest statement?
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the “outrageous” attacks in India would be met with a “vigorous response,”
In any case I believe that Obama is going to get a lot of guff from the anti-war left. So far he seems to be ignoring it. We will see how long that lasts.

Policy wise Obama's domestic agenda - the one that requires money - is going to be held hostage to world events. If he cuts back military spending and there is an attack on the US he will be in trouble. If he fails to deploy a missile defense and there is a significant missile attack. He is in trouble.

So what domestic policy can he pursue that will actually raise money and lower economic output significantly? Why anti-CO2 measures of course. The fly in that ointment is the "lower economic output". Since he has promised to save jobs and get us out of a recession.

So is there a policy that might raise money for the government, please his supporters, and not be a hit on the economy? Yes there is.
Eric Nash can barely contain his excitement waiting to hear from Health Canada whether he can start growing marijuana for 250 patients now that the Federal Court of Appeal has struck down the government's monopoly on supplying medical marijuana.

That would be just the start. He says there are tens of thousands more who are ailing across the country, clamouring for his organic B.C. bud.

"There is a great opportunity here for the government to collect significant tax revenue currently being lost to the street market," enthused Nash, whose company, Island Harvest, has cleared the industrial security regulatory hurdles and meets the standards set by Ottawa to grow cannabis legally.
Tax revenue. Significant tax revenue and a blow to criminal gangs. A blow that will be harder to survive than a major bust. Revenue shortfalls for the gangs. What is not to like? Government gets more money - the gangs get less. If only we were as smart as the Canadians.

Now I also need to mention that opium is supporting the tribes in the Pakistan/Afghanistan tribal areas. Opium may be a harder nut to crack politically - but you know - when the pain gets severe enough we will take our medicine.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cultural Maintenance

Now here is a story about a country that is serious about protecting its culture.

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean prosecutors on Wednesday demanded a popular actress who tried to overturn the country's law that criminalizes adultery be thrown in jail for a year and a half for having an affair, local media reported.

South Korean enacted its adultery law more than 50 years ago to protect women who had few rights in the male-dominated society but critics say now it is a draconian measure no longer fit for a country with an advanced civil and family court system.

Actress Ok So-ri's case has created a sensation in South Korea after she admitted to an affair with a singer and called on the country's Constitutional Court to overturn the statute that can send a person to jail for up to two years for adultery.
The first rule when dealing with any court is to never admit anything.
Ok's lawyers were also not immediately available for comment but they have said in a petition to Constitutional Court: "The adultery law ... has degenerated into a means of revenge by the spouse, rather than a means of saving a marriage."

Last month, the Constitutional Court said adultery damaged the social order and therefore was a criminal offence.
I wonder if Liz Taylor movies were ever popular in South Korea? That was one busy lady in her prime.

Stimulus Package

H/T Helius


There is a rather long discussion going on at the Classical Values post The Government IS The Devil. In that post I suggested that the government was limited to protecting public order and that its intrusion into the business of schools (currently a socialist enterprise called the Public School System) and the socialization of morality through ventures such as alcohol prohibition and drug prohibition was wrong headed and that the championing of all three by Cultural Conservatives in an attempt to bring True Morality to the American Public through the use of government guns was at minimum misguided and at worst a consorting with evil in the hopes of doing good. And we all know how bargains with the Devil usually work out. Everything is going swimmingly and then the balloon payment becomes due.

Now a commenter brought up this point.

By advocating absolute liberty as an end to itself, devoid of any contextual reality such as the role of virtue, you're asking people to ask their government to stand for...nothing.
Well except in the craziness of my youth I never have stood for absolute Liberty. What ever the hell that is. Well maybe I do know what that is: "It is good to be King". Yes. It is. If you are the King. The kind of Liberty I have in mind is better expressed by Thomas Jefferson:
"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."
But you know. That Liberty thing. Scary stuff. Who knows what people might do if the government isn't watching. They might be having fun in unapproved ways. Why they could be harming their eternal souls. Or piercing their eye brows. I think the eye brow piercing probably hurts more. But that is just me.

In any case I'm not asking the government to stand for nothing. I'm asking it to stand for Liberty.

Probably the scariest substance on earth. Also the costliest.

What a weak lot so many Americans have become to be so afraid of Liberty. Men died to give it to you and you treat it like a toxic substance. I laugh at your wretched condition. Groveling before government to protect you from Liberty. Not a man among you - those who fear Freedom.
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!" Samuel Adams
Craven cowards the lot of you.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mencken's Law

I made up my mind at once that my true and natural allegiance was to the Devil’s party, and it has been my firm belief ever since that all persons who devote themselves to forcing virtue on their fellow men deserve nothing better than kicks in the pants. Years later I put that belief into a proposition which I ventured to call Mencken’s Law, to wit:

Whenever A annoys or injures B on the pretense of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel.

The moral theologians, unhappily, have paid no heed to this contribution to their science, and so Mencken’s Law must wait for recognition until the dawn of a more enlightened age. - H.L. Mencken

H/T The New Liberty

Secular Right

John Derbyshire has started a blog called Secular Right. For those of you of that persuasion or merely interested: check it out.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Government IS The Devil

I'm having a conversation with one of my social conservative friends about marriage and child welfare. This is what I had to say:

The government IS the Devil. Not metaphorically. Really.

Everything you get from government will have a price much larger than the value of the object gained. Some times the price will not be extracted from you. Sometimes it will be from your children, your grand children, or ten generations hence. But the full price the government wants will be extracted at compound interest.

We are still paying the price for trying to be a free people while holding slaves. My great great grand parents lived on another continent when all that went on. And yet the price is being extracted from me.

What I'm trying to teach you is that the only way out is Liberty. You put the government in charge of other people's children for their own good and some day the government will come after yours. Either intervene in a bad situation personally or leave it alone. There is no other way to save your Liberty.

A commenter who read this post said it was good but that he would have liked a longer exposition. So here goes:

Government IS the devil. Social conservatives of a different era got government into the marriage business to prevent race mixing. Cultural conservatives are now paying the price for their error.

The only answer that is equitable to all is to get government out of marriage: the libertarian solution. You really do not want government protecting your culture. Because some day in a way you can't imagine the protections sought will be used against your culture.

As I have been harping on since the election. The libertarian view (small limited government) is your best protection. You are now coming against Cultural Socialism. It is just as bad, maybe worse, than Economic Socialism. The answer is not more law to fix the law that created the mess. It is less law.

Government out of marriage.

How about a different example. Cultural conservatives of a different era were one of the forces behind the public school movement. They were intent on indoctrinating Catholic and Jewish immigrants into Real Americanism. Cultural Socialism at its finest. So laws were passed and now government controls the schools and you know social conservatives lost control. They instituted Cultural Socialism by passing laws and control got away from them.

Government out of the school business.

Some people wanted to use the law as a bludgeon. And now that bludgeon is being used against their offspring a number of generations down the road. The Devil will always get his due.

Government IS the Devil.

In any area that you chose to get government to do something for you it will ultimately be allowed to do something against you.

Which is why cultural conservatives have more to gain from libertarians than just their votes.

Down with Cultural Socialism.

"Any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it all away." And that is not just true about economics. It is true about culture as well. Take it to heart.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Some Really Slick S****

Scientist at DOE's Ames Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, have found a material that is very hard and slicker than teflon by a factor of 2.5X.

A superhard substance that is more slippery than Teflon could protect mechanical parts from wear and tear, and boost energy efficiency by reducing friction.

The "ceramic alloy" is created by combining a metal alloy of boron, aluminium and magnesium (AlMgB14) with titanium boride (TiB2). It is the hardest material after diamond and cubic boron nitride.

BAM, as the material is called, was discovered at the US Department of Energy Ames Laboratory in Iowa in 199, during attempts to develop a substance to generate electricity when heated.
I think they mean 1999.
Those chance findings have now developed into a $3-million programme at the Ames Lab to develop the BAM into a kind of eternal lubricant, a coating for moving parts to boost energy efficiency and longevity by reducing friction.

BAM is much slipperier than Teflon, with a coefficient of friction of .02 compared to .05. Lubricated steel has a friction coefficient of 0.16.

One way to exploit this slipperiness is to coat the rotor blades in everyday pumps used in everything from heating systems to aircraft, says Russel. A slick BAM coating of just 2 microns could reduce friction between the blades and their housing, meaning less power is needed to produce the same pumping power.

Bruce Cook, lead investigator on the Ames Lab project, estimates that merely coating rotors with the material could save US industry alone 330 trillion kilojoules (9 billion kilowatt hours) every year by 2030 - about $179 million a year.

BAM is also potentially attractive as a hard coating for drill bits and other cutting tools. Diamond is commonly used for this, and is harder, but it reacts chemically with steel and so degrades relatively quickly when used to cut the metal.
Ultimately it would mean multi-billion dollar savings per year. Think of what it would mean to reduce friction in automotive bearings by a factor of 8 and in addition eliminate the need for oil changes. Obviously there is a lot of work that needs to be done to get us from here to there.

One of the things this article points out is that you never know what you will find when you start looking - if you are paying attention.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

A Really Interesting Discussion

There is a really interesting discussion going on between Kelly and Edgar in the comments at Sanctification. May I suggest a read?

The Two Largest Political Parties In America

What are the two largest political parties in America? One is the Democrat Party. The other is the Independent Party. The Third largest? The Republican Party.

The balance of party identification in the American electorate now favors the Democratic Party by a decidedly larger margin than in either of the two previous presidential election cycles.

In 5,566 interviews with registered voters conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press during the first two months of 2008, 36% identify themselves as Democrats, and just 27% as Republicans.

The share of voters who call themselves Republicans has declined by six points since 2004, and represents, on an annualized basis, the lowest percentage of self-identified Republican voters in 16 years of polling by the Center.

The Democratic Party has also built a substantial edge among independent voters. Of the 37% who claim no party identification, 15% lean Democratic, 10% lean Republican, and 12% have no leaning either way.

By comparison, in 2004 about equal numbers of independents leaned toward both parties.
If you look at the graphs provided at the site it looks like the rate of shrinkage of the Republican Party is accelerating. And the really bad news for Republicans? In Swing States the Democrats are advancing and in Republican States the Party identification is evenly split.

If Republicans don't find a way to enlarge their tent they could go the way of the Whigs in a few more election cycles. I'd like to see a libertarian type party that was adult on foreign policy and defense take its place if it goes down.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Republican Party's New Platform

I just got a comment at one of my blog posts on the attitude Real Republicans™ should take towards homosexuals. I ain't naming names or quoting the rest of the text but here is the gist of it:

Leviticus 18:22

[22] You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.

Romans 1:25-28

[25] For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

[26] For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, [27] and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

[28] And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

[9] Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals , nor sodomites, [10] nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.


Well you get the idea.

Not only will them homos not get the Kingdom of God, they are to be persecuted here on earth by a True Christian Government™ which the True Christians™ of the Real Republican Party™ will bring us any day now. As soon as they get elected.

Alan Keyes For President!

Sounds like a winner to me.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Is the party over for the Republicans? National Journal thinks the Republican Party as currently constituted is done for.

Democrats are effectively courting voters with diverse views, but the Republican capacity to appeal to voters beyond their party's core coalition has collapsed.
You can't win national elections with a regional party that constitutes about 30% of the population. As with any campaign, military or otherwise the first thing to do to gain success is to look at the maps. And the electoral map tells the story. The party owns the most culturally conservative parts of the nation and nothing else.

First let us look at issue failures. Anti-abortion messages failed in two states. One of them being friggin South Dakota. Medical Marijuana was favored in Mississippi. Mississippi? Yep. Mississippi. And pot was decrimed in Michigan. Oh yeah. Gay marriage was voted down in California. By Democrats. Whoop te do. Hallelujah. Praise the Lord. So what are the odds of a social conservative winning the Governorship in California? Zip. Nada. Bupkiss. Why waste your time?

Now is the party ready to face the map? Of course not. It generally takes 8 to 12 years of being bloodied to get the rank and file and the leaders to come to their senses. Next stop? Democrats gain seats in the Senate to the point of a filibuster proof majority. Stop after that? A veto proof majority.

There is one consolation. A lot of RINOs have been purged from the party. Which according to the purists is a good thing. Yep. Sure is. Fewer votes in the legislature is a really good thing. We still have another 50 Hose seats that are manned by the not so pure. And we could do to lose another 8 to 10 Senate seats to have a REAL™ Republican Party. Fortunately the geniuses who got us where we are still have the reigns. And if we get new leadership? Odds are, given the base, it will resemble the old leadership.

So my friends, what do you think the party has to do to get more votes? You know where I stand. And it has made me none too popular. Where do you stand? What is the cure?


I have always wondered why Christian social conservatives have trouble with gay marriage. Most Christian social conservatives have no problem with domestic partnerships. So it can't be legal rights.

So I'm guessing here that since they are always going on about the sacredness of marriage it must be something else. Holy matrimony. And what are the words of the ceremony? "What God has joined together let no man put asunder." "What God has joined together." So the unions are considered unholy by God's laws. OK. That makes sense. At least in their eyes. But look at the contradiction. It is no longer God who decides. It is not even the Church. After all there are many things holy in one church or religion that are unholy in others and yet those things do not seem to matter in a pluralistic America. For instance communion wafers if blessed by the Catholic Church are holy in that church and in other churches they are just crackers. There is no outcry about that. So I'm trying to see what it is. It can't be the sanctification by the Church or a church.

What seems to be the problem is the not the authority of the Church. The problem is the authority of the State to confer the status of marriage. So churches are no longer the arbiter between God and man. The state is the arbiter. So let me ask my Christian social conservative friends. Isn't making the state the arbiter between God and man a Christian heresy?

Which leads me to believe that it all went wrong with the Emperor Constantine who joined Christianity with the power of the State. It has been 1,700 years and despite that passage of time Christians still have not recovered. Jefferson with his "wall of separation" is derided by most Christian social conservatives. And yet in a way not recognized he was attempting to return Christians to their roots. And their roots were definitely not in the power of the state. In fact the state was originally considered the source of much wickedness. But now the State is considered the source of holiness. Well people can believe what they want to believe. I consider it passing strange though. Secular authorities confer holiness. That would make the State a religion. Well the worship of temporal power has always had quite a following. The The Egyptians had their god king or pharaoh. The later Romans were big on that sort of thing. The Middle Ages in Europe had it in a somewhat attenuated form. The Divine Right of Kings. So there is considerable historical precedent. Why not America? Why not the Church of America which confers holiness on a given marriage? Even stranger is that America has just elected The One. Well his divinity is tethered by a rather fragile thread. He will be Holy and Righteous only so long as he does what his followers want him to do. A complete inversion of what Modern religions believe. You are supposed to get holy by following religion not by religion following you. Some one is in for a rude awakening. Either That One or his followers.

The State is my shepherd. I shall not want. The cry of Socialists from the days of Karl Marx. "A Republic if you can keep it." Of course the State as a religion was the downfall of the Roman Republic. So it looks like we can't keep it. After a 1,700 year fight get get back to republican government it took only another 200 years or so to lose it. And why is that? Because the State as a religion is always tugging at humans. They like it. They have liked it for as long as there have been States. Well most of them like it. Me? Not so much. The Emperor is naked. He is also stark raving mad. But don't tell him that. It upsets the Emperor and enrages his followers.

So now maybe some of you can get a glimmer of why I have an antipathy to the State as arbiter of economics or culture. Those are both faces of the State as religion. Worship the one true god or face punishment. And with the state having the guns the punishment need not wait until the hereafter. Of course it is no longer a matter of the State just punishing the wicked which is probably a lawful job. Now a days the State can punish the merely sinful. That will keep folks on the straight and narrow. Or else cause a rebellion. Depending.

It is rather obvious that humans are more than passing strange. Interesting to watch though. Very interesting.

Naturally, not being well versed in Christian doctrine I'm sure my social conservative friends will show me the error of my ways. Have at it guys.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Friday, November 21, 2008

Looking At The Future

Some times you can tell a lot about the future by looking at the past. The past I want to look at was the Bush/Kerry, Keyes/Obama election results in Illinois from 2004.

I'm going to repost a bit I did then in its entirety. Jack Ryan was the Republican who Obama's confederates got kicked off the ballot. I'm not going to go into the details of that - you can look it up. Any way Alan Keyes was Ryan's replacement.

So here it is: Jack Ryan Republicans.

Here is a comment I made to one of my cultural conservative friends who said cultural conservative were the new American center:

Main Stream Media think they are the middle too.

They are no more correct than you are.

Think of how the Senate/Presidential race went in Illinois. Bush got 45% of the vote - 2,313,415 votes. Keyes got 27% - 1,371,882 votes. If you parse the numbers about 130,000 voted in the Presidential race that did not vote in the Senate race (more unhappy Republicans?).

Keyes didn't get the votes of the Jack Ryan Republicans. It shows.
So my Cultural Conservative friends - think of it. Bush would have won Illinois by picking up 6% of the votes (giving 51%). Alan Keyes would have needed to pick up 24% of the votes to get a similar result. What are the odds? I said in 2004 that the writing was on the wall for Cultural Conservatives as a political movement.

Have have words on the wall been written in big enough letters so you can see yet?

Well. We shall see won't we?

Cross Posted at Classical Values

The Heart Of The Matter

I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. - Ronald Reagan

So when will the party get back to its roots? Not soon I fear. Not soon.

Iraq - The SOF Agreement

SOF stand for the Status Of Forces. It is the agreement between the US and the Iraqis about how US forces in Iraq will conduct themselves once the UN mandate covering US troops expires. Iraq the Model has some interesting news not found elsewhere.

After the Iraqi cabinet voted in approval, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker met in Baghdad to sign the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

Both diplomats hailed the event as a “historic” one — not an overstatement as their meeting was the fruit of many months of deliberations and negotiations.
Reportedly, SOFA has a sister document whose details are yet to be made public. Radio Sawa reported that Zebari and Crocker signed “another long-term strategic agreement, which the U.S. ambassador said would shape relations between the two countries in all areas for years to come.” It’s actually surprising that there’s no mention of this second document anywhere in the media.
Now isn't that interesting. There is a Times Online article about the SOF agreement that says noting about the second document. I wonder why?

A Servant's Heart

I ♥ Sarah'cudda

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Help For Aging Brains

Scientists are finding surpising value in the daily use of small amounts of marijuana.

Ohio State University scientists are finding that specific elements of marijuana can be good for the aging brain by reducing inflammation there and possibly even stimulating the formation of new brain cells.

Their research suggests that the development of a legal drug that contains certain properties similar to those in marijuana might help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Though the exact cause of Alzheimer’s remains unknown, chronic inflammation in the brain is believed to contribute to memory impairment.

Any new drug’s properties would resemble those of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant, but would not share its high-producing effects. THC joins nicotine, alcohol and caffeine as agents that, in moderation, have shown some protection against inflammation in the brain that might translate to better memory late in life.

“It’s not that everything immoral is good for the brain. It’s just that there are some substances that millions of people for thousands of years have used in billions of doses, and we’re noticing there’s a little signal above all the noise,” said Gary Wenk, professor of psychology at Ohio State and principal investigator on the research.
The scientists are now looking for a chemical that fills the appropriate receptors in the brain that do not cause a high. The difficulty is that if you find a chemical that fills a receptor you get all the effects of filling that receptor. Not just the effect you want. I think their search will be futile.

In any case to prevent memory loss - if you got 'em smoke 'em. In moderation.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Obama Recession

I was listening to Sean Hannity today and he is starting to call what is happening on Wall Street Today the Obama Recession. As of this post the DOW is at about 7,550 and oil is at around $49 a bbl. The Wall Street Journal explains the problem.

...investors are watching Congress and what they mainly hear are demands to raid the Treasury's $700 billion bank rescue fund for a mortgage bailout, or an auto bailout; or promises to spend several hundred billion dollars more under the guise of "fiscal stimulus." What Americans don't hear is anything that would encourage investment or risk-taking.

No doubt many Democrats figure nothing that happens before January 20 is on their watch, so they don't need to worry. But the deeper the economic fall, the harder the road back. The world could use a signal from Mr. Obama that he favors policies to put private capital back to work, not merely to grow the government.
What the markets also hate is uncertainty. And no one is quite sure what Obama is going to do. Would you invest in an industry if it was in line for a bail out? Probably, if it was a sure thing. You would get some return on the government money. However, no one knows what the government is planning. Auto bail out? No auto bail out? Who knows? This creates uncertainty. More uncertainty than usual. Too much uncertainty and investors park their money and wait for the dust to clear.

And what about his promise to raise taxes on the rich? Well if I was rich I'd sell all my investments and get the money out of the country before the Obama administration had a chance to grab the money. And if you look at what is happening on Wall Street that is exactly what appears to be happening. The tax year closes on 31 December. Expect the market to fall further. Maybe a lot further.

So what about the Obama economic team?
The three Treasury secretaries sparred on tax and spending policies. Mr. Paulson challenged Mr. Summers on Democrats' plan to raise taxes on wealthy individuals, arguing, "I don't think we're going to find that a tax increase is helpful here" and calling for lower corporate taxes to keep U.S. businesses competitive.

Mr. Summers emphasized cutting taxes on middle-income households, noting that such cuts could help to stimulate economic growth because middle-income households are more likely to spend tax breaks than are higher-income households.
Well sure. The middle will spend. The question is: who will invest? Without investment jobs dry up and under those circumstances the spending by the middle will go into paying down debt.

Which brings us to some recent research on the subject of stimulating the economy. It discusses how FDR's policy of hampering business greatly slowed the recovery.
Two UCLA economists say they have figured out why the Great Depression dragged on for almost 15 years, and they blame a suspect previously thought to be beyond reproach: President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

After scrutinizing Roosevelt's record for four years, Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian conclude in a new study that New Deal policies signed into law 71 years ago thwarted economic recovery for seven long years.

"Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump," said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA's Department of Economics. "We found that a relapse isn't likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies."

In an article in the August issue of the Journal of Political Economy, Ohanian and Cole blame specific anti-competition and pro-labor measures that Roosevelt promoted and signed into law June 16, 1933.

"President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services," said Cole, also a UCLA professor of economics. "So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies."
So let us see. Does Obama want to punish capital? Yep. Does he want to enhance the power of labor? Yep. He will not do it the same way FDR did at least with respect to capital. I predict the net result will be the same. Fortunately Presidents are now limited to eight year terms. So there is a limit to the damage he can do. Unless he can get a repeal of the Presidential term limit amendment. I wouldn't put it past him to try.

Right Wing Progressives

Jonah Goldberg is discussing his book Liberal Fascismat Salon.

I don't have any problem with liberals or conservatives criticizing stuff that goes on in the popular culture ... [I]t's when you want to dragoon the state into these things, everything from hate crimes to these early interventions in childhood. You read "It Takes a Village" and Hillary [Clinton] declares that basically we're in a crisis from the moment we're born and that justifies the helping professions from breaking into the nuclear family at the earliest possible age.

You have a lot of this stuff on the right, I agree. [George W.] Bush had his marriage counseling stuff that he wanted to propose, I didn't like that. I think Ashcroft gets a very bad rap, but one of the things I did not like was him basically having this philosophy that since the federal government was an agent for a left-wing agenda that therefore it should be an agent for a right-wing agenda. I agree with you to that extent, that that stuff is bad, and it constitutes a kind of right-wing progressivism that I really do not like....
Well I don't like it either. But the progressives and the social conservatives had a long history together. Public schools, alcohol prohibition, drug prohibition. A history of failure. You know maybe the state is no better at solving social problems than it is at solving economic problems. Ya think?

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Against The Nanny State

We have a contingent in America that wants to treat us all like children when it comes to economics and another contingent that wants to treat us like children when it comes to culture.

Two different kinds of nanny state. I'm against the nanny state.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

What Is A Fetus Worth?

I came across an interesting discussion of abortion at Admiral Quixote's Round Table. This is from the comments.

I spoke with my dh who did receive smicha (Orthodox) though he is not a practicing Rabbi; he learned the law as I have earlier stated; that if any harm came it was referring to the woman and her life, not to the fetus.

I also think the concept that a woman who had been judged guilty of a capital crime was executed even if she were pregnant, The life of the fetus was secondary to the pain and suffering of the woman forced to wait for her execution. That a woman condemned to death would be given more consideration for her emotional state than a fetus where there is no issue of guilt states a lot, imho, about the rights they would enjoy in terms of abortion.
Commenter Rachel Ann goes on to say that she would be willing to pay to save the life of a child who might be aborted if that is what it took. I think that is a much better answer than passing laws.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

The Jews And Partial Birth Abortion

Here is a bit of text that I think many of you will find very interesting.

The Jewish distinction (rooted in the original Hebrew text) between the life of the mother and the life of the child is emphasized in a striking text of the Mishnah (Ohalot 7:6):

"If a woman has difficulty in childbirth, the embryo within her should be dismembered limb by limb, because her life takes precedence over its life. Once its head or its greater part has emerged, it may not be touched, for we do not set aside one life for another."

This text seems especially remarkable because it refers to a procedure quite like what today is called "partial-birth abortion," and which is viewed with especial horror by abortion opponents. Even if one could be sympathetic about a first-trimester abortion when the embryo is still barely formed, the killing of a full-term fetus shortly before its birth seems abominable. And yet this is precisely the gory example which the Mishnah uses to clarify its position. As long as the fetus is still enclosed within the mother, it is in some sense a "limb" of the mother, and if the hard choice must be made between the life of the mother and the life of the fetus, the life of the mother takes precedence. However highly the fetus is regarded and however fully it has formed, it does not pass the threshold where it can be regarded as a "person" with equal legal standing to the mother until its head or the greater part of its body has emerged from her womb.

This Mishnah text makes a strong argument for the legal acceptability of abortion when it is necessary for the life of the mother, but the circumstances that will actually justify an abortion are not so clear. What is a "difficulty" in childbirth, and how great must the threat to the mother’s life be? What if the mother faces some serious physical injury because of the pregnancy or the childbirth, but her life itself is not in danger?

Maimonides (12th century) seemed to strictly limit the cause for abortion to a case where the mother’s life itself was threatened, likening the fetus to a "pursuer," one whom we are justified in killing because it is actively seeking to kill someone else. But most rabbis since Maimonides have not interpreted so narrowly. Most have agreed that serious physical injury to the mother is also grounds for abortion.

In fact, the prevailing position in halacha (Jewish law) today, though restrictive, is rather lenient. It is the position argued by former chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Ben Zion Uziel. He declared that abortion is permissible even for what he calls "a very thin reason," meaning that one should give broad latitude to how a woman interprets "difficulty" or "injury," or "life-threatening," and even allowing an abortion in certain circumstances of great emotional anguish where there is no physical danger to the mother. But how thin is "thin"? What about the case where the child is known to be physically or mentally defective? What about the regrets after consensual adultery? Does a woman’s shame or embarrassment at the consequences of her own actions justify the termination of a pregnancy? What about the woman whose education or career will be made difficult if she has a child to look after? Is the Jewish position simply abortion on demand?

Certainly Judaism never allows abortion for birth control purposes when having a child would be simply an inconvenience or embarrassment. But in practice there remains considerable disagreement among halachic authorities and among the various streams of Judaism concerning specific cases. For example, most Orthodox authorities do not permit abortion on the grounds that a fetus is severely defective. Conservative and Reform authorities would permit aborting a physically or mentally defective fetus.
Of course with the Jews, having no central authority since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, there are many contending schools of thought. In addition even when the Temple was in existence there was the oral or common law which modified the law handed down in the Torah. In fact the law was highly developed and it is where our common phrase "it depends on whose ox was gored" comes from.

What do I get from all this? That the various positions on abortion come out of religion and not some absolute rule that can be unequivocally applied and that the best thing the government can do is to stay out of the question and let the individual decide what is best.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

The Jewish Position On Abortion

I just found a most interesting document giving in layman's terms the Jewish position on abortion [pdf]. The document is authored by Rabbi Raymond A Zwerin and Rabbi Richard A. Shapiro. It is a very interesting document and only four pages long so it is well worth a read. It also provides a basis for deeper research. However, let me quote you the conclusion.

Due to the general leniency in matters of abortion, as well as a long standing Jewish insistence of the separation of religion and government in American life all four non-Orthodox Jewish movements - Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, and Humanist - are on record as opposing any governmental regulation of abortion. Moreover, many Orthodox authorities take the same position. What ever their opinion of abortion in any given situation, a vast majority of Jewish thinkers agree that decision making with respect to abortion must be left in the hands of the woman involved, her husband, her physician, and her rabbi. Out of this context in consonance with her Jewish heritage she can make a decision as she is permitted to do by the US Constitution.
Let me add that there is no definitive rule in Jewish law and decisions are made on a case by case basis taking into consideration the people involved, their personalities, their mental and physical health and other considerations (even the standing in the community i.e. such as serious loss of face that might imperil a woman's mental health in a case of adultery) according to the judgment of those involved. In all cases the fetus is considered the property of the woman and not an independent human being until it has at least partially exited the woman. Let me add that if the life of the woman is imperiled in the judgment of those involved abortion is mandatory. Such cases can include thoughts of suicide by the woman.

Now I understand my mothers insistence that I resist the abortion absolutists in the Republican Party.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Bailing Out Mr. Potatoe Head

Yeah. That is a funny spelling of potato. It is former Vice President Dan Quayle's trademark. Well Mr. Quayle is at it again. He is global investing chief of Cerberus Capital Management which owns Chrysler. And of course Chrysler wants in on the proposed auto bail out.

Let's assume that the powers in Washington -- the Bush team now, the Obama team soon -- deem GM too big to let fail. If so, it's also too big to be entrusted to the same people who have led it to its current, perilous state, and who are too tied to the past to create a different future.

In return for any direct government aid, the board and the management should go. Shareholders should lose their paltry remaining equity. And a government-appointed receiver -- someone hard-nosed and nonpolitical -- should have broad power to revamp GM with a viable business plan and return it to a private operation as soon as possible.

That will mean tearing up existing contracts with unions, dealers and suppliers, closing some operations and selling others, and downsizing the company. After all that, the company can float new shares, with taxpayers getting some of the benefits. The same basic rules should apply to Ford and Chrysler.

These are radical steps, and they wouldn't avoid significant job losses. But there isn't much alternative besides simply letting GM collapse, which isn't politically viable. At least a government-appointed receiver would help assure car buyers that GM will be around, in some form, to honor warranties on its vehicles. It would help minimize losses to the government's Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
And what is one of GM's very big problems? Their Union.
The current economic crisis didn't cause the meltdown in Detroit. The car companies started losing billions of dollars several years ago when the economy was healthy and car sales stood at near-record levels. They complained that they were unfairly stuck with enormous "legacy costs," but those didn't just happen. For decades, the United Auto Workers union stoutly defended gold-plated medical benefits that virtually no one else had. UAW workers and retirees had no deductibles, copays or other facts of life in these United States.
Well the unions have a lot of clout with the incoming administration. Which may not be a good thing.

And too big to fail? Hmmm. Too politically connected to fail. And since we are speaking of politics Chrysler is in the thick of it.
As for Ford and Chrysler, if they want similar public assistance they should pay the same price. Wiping out existing shareholders would end the Ford family's control of Ford Motor. But keeping the family in the driver's seat wouldn't be an appropriate use of tax dollars. Nor is bailing out the principals of Cerberus, who include CEO Stephen Feinberg, Chairman John Snow, the former Treasury secretary, and global investing chief Dan Quayle, former vice president.

Government loan guarantees, with stringent strings attached and new management at the helm, helped save Chrysler in 1980. But it's now 2008, 35 years since the first oil shock put Japanese cars on the map in America. "Since the mid-Seventies," one Detroit manager recently told me, "I have sat through umpteen meetings describing how we had to beat the Japanese to survive. Thirty-five years later we are still trying to figure it out."
So the owners of Chrysler are loaded up with paid for political connections. You know this whole deal from top to bottom looks like Chicago politics and real estate deals with Tony Rezko. I think I detect a pattern here. And it is not one that gives any comfort. The money goes to the auto companies just like it went to Tony Rezko's housing rehab company and after a while the properties rehabbed fail any way. With the owners walking off with some very handsome fees. Well like they say in Chicago ubi est?

H/T Design News

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Uh Oh

The Dow closed below 8,000 today and Nymex Crude Oil Futures below $53. And the outlook for the semiconductor industry is not so hot either.

“In discussions with semiconductor suppliers, equipment OEMs, and contract manufacturers, a story of fear and great uncertainty has emerged,” iSuppli's Ford said. “As dramatic declines in consumer and industrial confidence began developing in late summer, order cancellations began to grow and in many cases, slowing orders degenerated into a complete stop in orders as players across the supply chain moved to extremely cautious positions in the face of increasingly negative economic news.”

The psychology of many industry players now has shifted to a "survival mentality," iSuppli said, with cost-control and cash-conservation considerations driving decisions.

According to iSuppli, "it is now clear that the semiconductor industry is already in decline and the remaining questions are how deep and how long this decline will extend in 2009 and possibly 2010."
Since most recoveries start out as "jobless" recoveries and that "jobless" phase lasts from 2 to 6 years depending on the severity of the downturn it is more than likely that we will not see unemployment decline until 2012 at the earliest.

The one bright spot for consumers and manufacturing is the decline in the price of oil. For oil producers? Well they are going to be hurting.

I have a friend who cashed out of the market when the Dow was 14,000. He told his broker SELL. His broker said, "Are you nuts?" Evidently not.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Killing The Republican Party

A comment piece (I'm not going to get the hackles up before the discussion starts by giving the name of the author) in The Washington Post talks about long term Republican prospects. It is not pretty.

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn't soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth -- as long as we're setting ourselves free -- is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

The choir has become absurdly off-key, and many Republicans know it.

But they need those votes!

So it has been for the Grand Old Party since the 1980s or so, as it has become increasingly beholden to an element that used to be relegated to wooden crates on street corners.
Well that is incendiary. Or inartfully phrased as I would put it but, it is true.
Here's the deal, 'pubbies: Howard Dean was right.

It isn't that culture doesn't matter. It does. But preaching to the choir produces no converts. And shifting demographics suggest that the Republican Party -- and conservatism with it -- eventually will die out unless religion is returned to the privacy of one's heart where it belongs.

Religious conservatives become defensive at any suggestion that they've had something to do with the GOP's erosion. And, though the recent Democratic sweep can be attributed in large part to a referendum on Bush and the failing economy, three long-term trends identified by Emory University's Alan Abramowitz have been devastating to the Republican Party: increasing racial diversity, declining marriage rates and changes in religious beliefs.

Suffice it to say, the Republican Party is largely comprised of white, married Christians. Anyone watching the two conventions last summer can't have missed the stark differences: One party was brimming with energy, youth and diversity; the other felt like an annual Depends sales meeting.

With the exception of Miss Alaska, of course.
From LGF comes an excerpt from the above Washington Post piece that shows the hand writing on the wall: it or not, we are a diverse nation, no longer predominantly white and Christian. The change Barack Obama promised has already occurred, which is why he won.

Among Jewish voters, 78 percent went for Obama. Sixty-six percent of under-30 voters did likewise. Forty-five percent of voters ages 18-29 are Democrats compared to just 26 percent Republican; in 2000, party affiliation was split almost evenly.

The young will get older, of course. Most eventually will marry, and some will become their parents. But nonwhites won't get whiter. And the nonreligious won't get religion through external conversion. It doesn't work that way.

Given those facts, the future of the GOP looks dim and dimmer if it stays the present course. Either the Republican Party needs a new base -- or the nation may need a new party.
I keep telling my socon friends that Palin didn't even mention any of the issues dear to the hearts of social conservatives as Governor of Alaska and she is as socially conservative as they come. No one knew her position until she got the VP nod. Hence her 80% approval rating.

That is the way forward.

Let me add a couple of other points. Spending like fools. Corruption. And an inability to articulate sound economics or any thing else for that matter are killers as well. We need sound positions and some one who can give the message. And we need to distance ourselves as a party from issues that are cringe making among those not in the base. Because the base is shrinking. And even if it wasn't you can't win elections with the base alone.

I ♥ Sarah'cudda

Cross Posted at Classical Values

The House Negro

It seems like Mr. Obama can't buy a friend.

The No. 2 leader in Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is dishing out criticism and offering a warning to United States President-Elect, Barack Obama. A new audio message has surfaced online where Al-Zawahiri calls Obama a dishonorable man.

According to the SITE Institute, a U.S. organization that monitors Islamic militant groups, Al-Zawahiri said Obama is “the direct opposite of honorable black Americans” like Malcolm X. He also called the President-Elect a “house negro,” a degrading term meaning he serves White people.
Wait a minute. Didn't he attend for 20 years a Black Liberation Church that was very friendly with the Nation of Islam? Yes he did. The guy just can't get a break. No matter what he does it is wrong. I guess he is already in the running for Worst President Ever™ and his term hasn't even started. Me? I hope he is ready to have his supporters turn on him. Because no one can possibly meet the expectations he has raised.

I support him. Why you ask? He hasn't done anything yet. Lucky for him.


Cross Posted at Classical Values

A New T Shirt

Get ready for the new administration. Click on the link and see what I'm talking about.

It is not only good advice. It is funny.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Side Effects

Why are so many blacks aborting in comparison to the rest of the population? It is due to a lack of fathers. And why is there a lack of fathers? Well black men have been disproportionately swept up in the criminal justice system due to the drug war.


If socons were really serious about reducing the abortion rate significantly they would be out front in calling for an end to the drug war. Crickets.

The disasters pile up and yet the faith in government solutions persists. And of course because of unintended consequences more government is required.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Government So Inept It Couldn't Make A Profit On A Whorehouse

It seems our government has a problem running businesses. Even businesses that should be a guaranteed profit without significant expertise required. Like selling liquor and sex.

Back in 1990, the Government seized the Mustang Ranch brothel in Nevada for tax evasion and, as required by law, tried to run it. They failed and it closed. Now we are trusting the entire economy of our country to same guys who couldn't make money running a whore house and selling booze?
So now the government is going to run car companies? My bet? There will soon be cars, some without tires, some without steering wheels, and others without engines piled up in warehouses awaiting buyers who are sure to come. Some day.

They will get sold as government surplus and some one will make a profit getting them in running order and selling them to customers who want to buy them at a price they can afford. So let me ask you, if the people in the auto business in Detroit are so smart, workers and management, why can't they do it without government help? After all they have only had 30 years since the last bail out to figure it out.

Well OK. Cars are hard and whorehouses are unusual. Maybe the government would be better with medical services.

H/T Roger Kimball

Cross Posted at Classical Values

What Is Wrong With Detroit?

Here is a look at why the Detroit auto industry is going down in flames.

I'm a huge fan of the US auto industry. I'm one of the last people on my street who still buys American cars (Pontiac). But I'm extremely concerned. And given what's been going on, I am surprised at the engineering priorities in Detroit. I had the privilege last week of serving as a judge for the annual Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Innovation competition. Unlike some design competitions, this one is a very big deal, and has been around a long time. Top engineering managers (mostly from the Detroit area) show what they consider to be their most important plastic designs in new production models. Winners are announced at a huge banquet (Nov. 20 this year) and the top brass show up because of the high quality of the SPE competition. It's truly the Oscars for automotive plastics.

I didn't get a sense of the urgency in Detroit as I listened to this year's presentations. It seemed like business as usual.

For starters, there were only two finalists in the environmental category. In contrast, "body interior" had five. Ford has begun an impressive campaign to replace a small percentage (5 to 12) of oil-based polyols in foams with a soy-based alternate. GM is using recycled content in an air inlet panel in the Chevy Trailblazer, diverting 445,000 pounds of plastic from landfills. Is this all the better we can do? What about some efforts to use blends of bioplastics to reduce our carbon footprint? What about game-changing efforts to reduce weight?
Let me see. 445,000 pounds is about 222 tons. That is not a very big deal. And of course that amount assumes a certain sales number for the vehicles the plastic parts will be used in. So given the huge sales drop Detroit is currently experiencing the number is no doubt optimistic.

One thing Detroit is pretty good at developing concept cars. Research vehicles full of innovations. What they are not good at is turning those ideas into products.

There is a lot of "we've always done it this way" in American auto manufacturing. And yet our government wants to dump $25 billion into this failed culture? I think a better idea is to let them fail. The resources could then be redeployed to companies that actually want to produce break through vehicles.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Design News reports on a new material now in the research phase that is 10 times lighter than steel and 500 times stronger.

You’ve heard of airplanes made from carbon-fiber reinforced (CFRP) plastics. What’s next? Well there’s a sheet of carbon nanotubes—called “buckypaper”—that may create structures for another generation of airplanes. Carbon nanotubes are already being used as a filler in plastics, but only in loadings of 2 or 3 percent. Buckypaper would use significantly higher loadings. The idea of nanotube reinforced composites is not new. Nanotubes are notorious because they clump and tangle, and no one has been able to produce nanotube composites outside of a lab. Researchers hope that may be changing. Rice University in Houston, for example, has been awarded three patents that advance the technology. Lockheed Martin has been awarded another.

Professor Ben Wang and other scientists at Florida State University say they may have the answer. Exposing the tubes to high magnetism lines up the nanotubes in the same direction. Another breakthrough: creating some roughness on the surface so the nanutubes can bond to a matrix material, such as epoxy. The nanotubes in effect take the place of carbon fiber in a composite construction.

You can make extremely thin sheets with the nanotubes—thus use of the word paper. “Bucky” comes from Buckminster Fuller who envisioned shapes now called fullerenes. Stack up hundreds of sheets of the “paper” and you have a composite material that is 10 times lighter but 500 times stronger than a similar sized piece of carbon steel sheet. It’s easy to see why Lockheed Martin is interested. Unlike CFRP, carbon nanotubes conduct electricity like copper or silicon and disperse heat like steel or brass.
This may usher in an age of economical supersonic transports among other possibilities. Another possibility is that it could make low cost battery only cars feasible.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tom Ligon To Talk About IEC Fusion Developments

Tom will be at the Philcon Science Fiction convention this coming Saturday, 22 Nov 2008. You can read what Tom has to say about his upcoming talk at Talk Polywell.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Why Is Mike Huckabee A Republican?

The relevant bit is about 9 minutes into the video.

You can see the rest of the videos at Jonah

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Why Did Social Conservatives Ally With Progressives?

Why Did Social Conservative Ally With Progressives?

Please discuss in the comments.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Part 2

Part 3A

Part 3B

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Transcript of all six parts.

Read the book: Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning

H/T Ted Belman

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Articulating Economics

It has come to my attention that Governor Palin needs to improve her economic education. Please use these Amazon links to send her Free to Chooseand The Road to Serfdomto:

Governor Sarah Palin
550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1700
Anchorage, AK 99501


Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy, its inherent value is the equal sharing of misery.” - Winston Churchill

Did Obama Register For Selective Service

Read this and let me know what you think.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Friday, November 14, 2008

What I Like About Palin

You know what I like about Sarah Palin? With respect to social conservatism she leads by example without any need for the heavy hand of government. And with respect to economic conservatism she puts her principles into action.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Iran - The Melt Down

Iran is in a world of hurt according to Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli in an article published by The Middle East Media Research Institute on October 30th.

At its two-hour emergency meeting in Vienna on October 24, the Organization of Oil Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided to lower crude production by 1.5 million barrels/day (b/d), effective next month.

The reduction in production was OPEC's response to plummeting crude prices, which peaked at $147 a barrel last July but are now hovering in the mid-$60s a barrel, and appear to be trending downward.
Trending lower is right. The current trading range is $55 a bbl. and I have seen it as low, in trading, as $50 a bbl. And this is just the beginning of the economic collapse. So I expect to see prices going even lower with further production cuts as well. OPEC has had problems in the past maintaining supply discipline when prices are low. The temptation to cheat and try to squeeze out some extra dollars at the expense of the other members is great. Generally the Saudis maintain discipline and the rest of OPEC not so much.

So where is Iran in all this? They are definitely price hawks and here is why:
A recent study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has suggested that in order for Iran to balance its budget, the price of crude oil must not fall below $95 a barrel. The equivalent figure for Saudi Arabia is $50 per barrel and for the United Arab Emirates and Qatar even lower. One should keep in mind that Iranian oil sells at a discount compared with the higher quality benchmark West Texas Intermediate.

Countries whose economies rely on the production of natural resources, such as oil, generally establish a stabilization fund for retaining windfall profits, such as when oil went over $140 a barrel, to be used in time of economic shocks, such as a sharp decline in the price of the commodity.

Iran has established such a fund to be managed by its central bank. It would appear, however, that President Ahmadinejad has dipped into the till too often, causing the departure/resignation of two consecutive governors of Iran's central bank in a little over one year. The assets of the Iranian stabilization fund are kept secret; however, a member of the Majlis (parliament) recently revealed that it has a balance of $7 billion, which would just about cover the cost of imported gasoline for one year.
And why is Iran importing gasoline? It lacks refining capacity for one. One reason for that is that it subsidies gasoline. Gasoline in Iran costs under 50¢ a gallon. Another reason it lacks refining capacity is that instead of spending on infrastructure, Iran prefers to spend its money on foreign adventures. Supporting Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and various insurgent groups in Iraq - among others. That is why Ahmadinejad has to dip into the till. Wars cost money. It appears that they may become more costly than Iran can afford at least long term.

And how about Iran's economy? It is not doing well internally.
Oil revenues comprise 80% of Iran's foreign exchange. If oil prices continue to plummet in the face of the world's worsening economic crisis - a crisis which may be just in its early stages - Iran, unlike the Arab oil-producers with hefty sovereign wealth funds to cushion their national economies, could face politically destabilizing events that could threaten the survival of the regime.

On the economic front, Iran could resort to terminating oil subsidies and restricting the import of non-essential consumer goods to conserve foreign currency. In fact, news from Iran last week suggests that both steps are under consideration.

Iran may also seek to reintroduce a 3% value-added tax (VAT) which it was forced to suspend after shopkeepers in the politically influential bazaars closed shops in protest, arguing that the VAT would further aggravate inflation which reached 29.6% in October.
The inflation rate is a problem. It is about 2.2% a month, barely tolerable for those living from hand to mouth. However, rates like that discourage investment in production capacity which ultimately makes inflation rise all the faster. A business would have to have a 40% or 50% rate of return in a year to make investments worthwhile in that kind of climate. And even that is problematic if the government decides to run the printing presses faster. What does the money get invested in? Currencies that are inflating at a much lower rate for one. Tangible goods for another. One thing you do not do in a situation like that is park your money in a bank.

What do countries which have a history of foreign adventures typically do in a situation like that? That is pretty obvious. They engage in foreign adventures. One foreign adventure they might try is cranking up their insurgent cadres in Iraq. However, they would face an ever strengthening American trained Iraqi Army. The army that cleaned the clock of Iran's cats paw, the Mahdi "Army", in Basra this past year. In addition Iran needs its Army to maintain internal order so using it for an attack on Iraq is probably not a good idea. Not to mention that such an attack would gather the wrath of the American Army.

So really, they are stuck between a rock an a hard place. It will be interesting to watch while the rest of the world goes into an economic meltdown.

Cross Posted at Classical Values