Monday, January 31, 2011

Judicial Activism

A Judge has thrown out Obama care. At least until the Supremes get to it. But there are complaints about the ruling.

"Judge Vinson's decision is radical judicial activism run amok, and it will undoubtedly be reversed on appeal. The decision flies in the face of three other decisions, contradicts decades of legal precedent, and could jeopardize families' health care security," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. "If this decision were allowed to stand, it would have devastating consequences for America's families."
Restraining the government is judicial activism. Except when the government needs restraining.

And I can see we have had some devastating consequences already. Health care rates have jumped up for some. And the waiver machine is going full blast.

And Families USA? Shills for the government controlled health care. What did you expect?

Hate Is The Object

In my post Hating The Andromeda Galaxy I looked at the necessity of hate in politics. I discuss some of the repercussions of that in Strange Connection.

Today I came across a site discussing those very issues from a biological perspective. The Market for Sanctimony.

Two unspoken questions that religions and quasi-religions, in practice, have to answer are "Whom do I have permission to use as a scapegoat?" and "What lies may I tell myself in order to feel morally superior to my competitors?" In Jerry Falwell's church, you have permission to use homosexuals as scapegoats. At a Green Party meeting, you have permission to use capitalists as scapegoats.
Yep. Which is one of the reasons I suggested the human race unite in hating the Andromeda Galaxy. We could then be united in hatred.
When it becomes too embarrassing for people to engage in a particular kind of moral fraud, they will usually substitute a different kind of moral fraud rather than give up their feelings of moral superiority. Thus, to a first approximation, we have a principle of "Conservation of Irrationality:"

(1) much of the irrational behavior associated with religion is related to people having a craving for ego justification,

(2) changing a person's theological beliefs has little effect on his tendency to crave ego justification, and

(3) politics is the continuation of religion by other means.
Irrationality is Conserved? All the more need for a War On

Andromeda (1869) Edward Poynter

Well that last bit was just an excuse for a picture of a naked lady. Art don'cha know? Besides. I'm partial to red heads. And blonds. And brunettes. And given the right circumstances even green hair. Uh. Where was I?'s impossible to diagnose a problem correctly if the actual cause is not a member of the approved boogieman list, and one is committed to only blaming members of the approved list (having "ideological blinders" or what Eric Raymond called "historical baggage").
Question: "Why do you keep hitting that nail when what you have to do is tighten the screw?" Answer: "I hate nails. I'd rather be hitting nails than screwing." Yep there are folks out there like that. Almost all of them in fact.

The next bit doubles down on that question and answer in spades. (Can you double down in Hearts?)
Part of the reason for the "slippery slope" phenomenon is that Progressivism is a positional good. The point of Progressivism is to distinguish oneself as being smarter than and morally superior to the average voter. One consequence of this is that Progressives have no fixed goal for the optimal size and scope of government. There is no such thing as "enough." Whatever the average voter has become acclimated to has to be "not enough" so that the Progressives can be smarter than average.

The solution for out-of-control government is not constitutional change, but psychological change. To paraphrase what Andrei Codrescue said of the USSR, what we need are not economic advisors (or constitutional lawyers), what we need are psychiatrists.
Progressives want mommy to make it nice (especially for them) and Conservatives want to find the designated miscreants and punish them. Libertarians just want to be left alone. Forgetting Trotsky: "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." Which is to say that in more than a few cases it is better to get them before they get you.
Different flavors of moral fraud may be equally irrational, but they are not equally harmful. By analogy, smallpox and cowpox are both diseases, but smallpox is very often fatal, whereas cowpox almost never is. Furthermore, cowpox provides immunity from smallpox, just as, to a lesser extent, I claimed above that different flavors of moral fraud (ie. various flavors associated with Christianity and Socialism) tend to compete with one another (conservation of irrationality). Mencius Moldbug describes "Revelationist" Christianity as a "counterparasite" for "Universalism" (the modern Left).
I'd rather live without parasites (dogma). But that is just me. Evidently most people can't live without them.

There is an answer:
We know enough about the sociology of religion to identify a number of key properties that a good religion should have. A successful religion will inevitably have scapegoats; ideally these scapegoats should be beyond human capacity to harm, and should also be unlikely to inflict harm on humans as a result of being vilified. Gods or god substitutes (demigods) are also pretty much unavoidable, for reasons that are outside the scope of this essay. (See Paul Bloom regarding people's cognitive biases, but also Laurence Iannaccone on the advantages to practitioners of the supernatural of having gods on whom to blame their failures. Supposedly irreligious people often project semi-divine qualities onto the State.) A low religious Herfindahl index is good for society, so it is desirable if a religion forms schisms easily or can be given features that limit its market penetration to a few percent. It is desirable for a new religion to have a cosmology that is compatible with its target audience (we need naturalistic demigods, not supernatural ones, to attract scientifically literate converts). A spectacular eschatology (ie. fire and brimstone) is also nice to have to add color and purpose. Any scientific claims that an attractive religion makes should be at least as plausible as global warming catastrophism.
Well Christianity comes pretty close so what is wrong with it?
Q. ...why don't you embrace Christianity?

A. Do you mean "embrace" in terms of me joining a Christian church, or "embrace" in terms of applauding the spread of Christianity? I am relieved to hear reports of evangelical Christianity spreading in China and Latin America. Also, as a living religion, Christianity continues to evolve, so I think it's possible that some new versions of it will make a major comeback in the first world. But as it stands, Western intellectuals have had plenty of exposure to it, and they have turned their noses up at it. And it is the rich, powerful West, where I live, that I most care about. So I do embrace Christianity in the sense of wishing there were more "skeptical enlightenment" Christians in the West, and fewer "radical enlightenment" types, but I'm not holding my breath. Also, I don't really trust Christianity in any of its many versions not to revert to its romantic roots, which historically is where much of the impetus of the American "progressive" movement came from (Jonah Goldberg documents this in Liberal Fascism, for example pp. 215-220). In other words, the Christian "cowpox" doesn't provide reliable enough immunity to the Socialist "smallpox."
Well I'm not promising Utopia. Which is where most religion goes wrong. I'm promoting war on the Andromeda Galaxy.

I have only excerpted from the exposition. The essay is both amusing and confronts a real problem at the interface between human nature and governance. Go read the whole thing. And if you have to hate: the Andromeda Galaxy is just out there waiting for your attention.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Muslim Brotherhood Liked Me

With the Muslim Brotherhood so much in the news because of Egyptian happenings and Instapundit's reprise of a 2005
Michael Totten piece I thought I would repeat a
blog conversation we had in 2007.


I got a link from The Muslim Brotherhood. I asked Michael Totten if this was a good or a bad thing. He replied:

Considering which post they linked to, it is neither good nor bad.

The MB tries to put on a moderate face. And they are moderate compared with, say, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Hezbollah. But they are only really moderate compared with the armed factions. They aren't our friends.
My response to him was
Thanks for the reply. And you got it exactly right on the mark. Brilliant.

What they linked to was:

I Found A Moderate Muslim

Which is to say they were trying to moderate their image without moderating their behavior.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Strange Connection

The more reason, the more food.

The dogma ate my lunch.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Egyptian Roundup 29 Jan

Al Jazeera streaming Internet coverage. Love the Brit accents of its reporters.

Al Jazeera's Egypt coverage embarrasses U.S. cable news channels

America-hating Jihadists in the Muslim Brotherhood well-positioned to take over after Mubarak toppled

Michael Totten: Egypt On Fire

Belmont Club Text Like An Egyptian

Telegraph UK - Egyptian News Roundup

New York Times - Egyptian News Roundup

Culture in the Islamic World:

Taliban stones woman to death, shoots man in ditch accused of Adultery.

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.

The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.

A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it.

No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome. - Winston Churchill
Not much has changed since Winnie said that.

UGANDA: Leader of Gay Rights movement Brutally Murdered in his Home

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Stripper Shortage In Texas

The end is nigh. Would that be front or rear? reported that some strip clubs surrounding Cowboys stadium are looking for an additional 10,000 girls to entertain the overwhelming crowds expected during the Packers-Steelers matchup.

According to the website, Arlington city officials are expecting 300,000 visitors over Super Bowl weekend.

John Walsh, the manager of one local strip club, told the website he's looking for another 100-120 dancers that week.
Looks like a job opportunity for those who can meet the qualifications. Time to brush up your pole dancing. Shakespeare will not be in high demand.

There are educational materials:

The Art of Exotic Dancing: Striptease Series - Pole Dancing (exotic dancing)

Art of Exotic Dancing: Ultimate Striptease 3 DVD Set (lapdancing, pole dancing, dance moves)

Dr. Amy's Pole Workout! Volume One For Beginner to Intermediate Pole Dancers!

And even if you decide not to entertain in Dallas there is still your SO. Who will be eternally grateful. For a while.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Friday, January 28, 2011

Drugs Make Obama Smile

The President says we need to treat drugs as a medical problem. Gee I didn't know they were sick. Is there a plant pathologist in the room?
Today, in response to a video question from a former deputy sheriff about whether it is time to discuss legalizing and regulating drugs in light of the failure of the "war on drugs," President Barack Obama said that it is "an entirely legitimate topic for debate" but that he is not in favor of legalization.

The President then went on to say that he sees drug abuse as a public health issue and that a shifting of resources is required, away from the traditional approach of incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders.
That is what he talks about. What is he actually doing?
"The president talks a good game about shifting resources and having a balanced, public health-oriented approach, but it doesn't square with the budgets he's submitted to Congress," said Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of cops, judges and prosecutors who support legalizing and regulating drugs. "The Obama administration has maintained the Bush-era two-to-one budget ratio in favor of prisons and prosecution over treatment and prevention. It doesn't add up.
Is this another WTF? moment for the President? As S. Palin says: "...a lot of WTF moments throughout that speech". And it was such a short one too.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Al Jazeera Live

Al Jazeera

Live streaming video and audio of happenings in Egypt. English.

Getting Ready For The Revolution

Or War, or Anarchy, or Natural Disaster. Instapundit is looking at the question and the idea (necessity really) of amateur radio comes up. Now two way communication is excellent. But just being able to listen is good too.

I like this radio:

It covers from 150 KHz to 29.999 MHz in 1 KHz steps (with fine tuning you can get as close as your fingers will allow - good for SSB [Single Side Band]). It can do that funny Amateur Radio stuff like CW (Morse Code) and SSB. Plus the FM band (88 to 108 MHz) And 100 presets. Very handy come the revolution.

I must say that if you want to tune around a band it is kinda clunky. Everything is buttons (except for fine tuning). It has a search function that is kinda iffy for weak signals. So you kind of have to step around if you are searching for weak station DX (distance in radio parlance). But if you want to listen to Radio Moscow at 11,720 KHz - no problem. Or the comrades say they are going to be at 7,251 KHz USB (upper sideband) - easy. A few keyboard entries and you are done.

The radio also has an alarm (several in fact) plus you can wake up to the radio or fall asleep to it.

BTW with modern wall warts (plug in power supplies) you need a strong local station to overcome the power supply noise. So if battery use is an issue get rechargeables (4 - AA cells). This one looks nice. And the price is decent.

Sony Cycle Energy Power Charger with 4 2500 mAh AA Batteries
You are also going to need an antenna. This one for quick field setup (one like it came with my radio) is nice:

Sangean ANT-60 Short Wave Antenna

A pretty nice radio if you want to keep up with what the comrades are up to without giving away your location with a transmission.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Hating The Andromeda Galaxy

I'm discussing (well a monologue so far) the nature of politics at Libertarians Are Not Anarchists!. Commenter Peter Jackson thinks he has figured it out.

There are three types of politics: the politics of social justice, the politics of public order/social virtue, and the politics of individual freedom.
But he misses something deeper.

There is another unspoken force in politics:

It does not actually want to solve problem xxxx. It wants an outlet for feelings of moral superiority. i.e. some one to punish. A scape goat.

Here is another take on the same idea:

“Distrust anyone in whom the desire to punish is powerful” Friedrich Nietzsche

Such folks are immune to reason. Why? Because what they do is not based on reason. It is based on a need for, as George Orwell put it: “two minutes of hate”. I acknowledge that it is a powerful force in human nature. So I propose hating the Andromeda Galaxy. It should be safe from our hate for at least another few decades. Maybe longer.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Classical Values

There Ought To Be A Law

I'm looking forward to a law that will prevent crazy people from doing crazy things.

Maybe we could outlaw stupid too.

Try This One First

According to the DOJ the only drug statistically associated with violence is alcohol. Maybe we make that illegal first and see what happens.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Suspicious About Insanity

Epistle To Dippy - Donovan.


That would be:


Note that at four minutes into the video she has some very good words to say about libertarians.

Palin/Johnson 2012!

And do you know what comes after WTF? Stagflation and WIN buttons. Whip Inflation Now.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

I'm Sure It Has Something To Do With Russia

The answer is here.

Expensive Habit

I was discussing the Drug War with a Conservative friend. And the friend was all for it. So I had some thoughts.

Ah. I get it. You do not actually want to solve the drug problem. You want an outlet for your feelings of moral superiority. Very expensive habit. That. But it is all right. I know a LOT of people with the addiction.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

The Gifts Just Keep On Coming

Let me get this straight . . . .. We're going to be "gifted" with a health care plan we are forced to purchase and fined if we don't, Which purportedly covers at least ten million more people, without adding a single new doctor, but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents; written by a committee whose chairman  says he doesn't understand it; passed by a Congress that didn't read it but exempted themselves from it; and signed by a President who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who  didn't pay his taxes, for which we'll be taxed for four years before anybenefits take effect, by a government which has   already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare, all to be overseen by a surgeon general   who is obese, and financed by a country that's broke!    

'What the hell could possibly go wrong?'

H/T Maxine

China Rising

Foreign Policy Magazine thinks the rise of China and the fall of America is inevitable.

...when it comes to the broader geopolitical picture, the world of the future looks even more like a zero-sum game, despite the gauzy rhetoric of globalization that comforted the last generation of American politicians. For the United States has been acting as if the mutual interests created by globalization have repealed one of the oldest laws of international politics: the notion that rising players eventually clash with established powers.

In fact, rivalry between a rising China and a weakened America is now apparent across a whole range of issues, from territorial disputes in Asia to human rights. It is mercifully unlikely that the United States and China would ever actually go to war, but that is because both sides have nuclear weapons, not because globalization has magically dissolved their differences.
Well that is optimistic. If it weren't for the fact that China with its one child policy is aging at the rate of about .9 year per year while the US is holding more or less steady at around 40 years. China has a 20 year window before demographics get them. At roughly $4,000 per capita income they will have to grow 10X larger to have a per capita wealth equal to the US.

But there is a fly in the ointment. They seem to be having some economic difficulties.
Following the now extremely well documented surge in short-term SHIBOR [Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate - ed.] and Chinese repo rates, it appears that banks have begun attempting to extract the missing liquidity from end consumers. Various Chinese commercial banks raised lending rates between 10 and 45% over the benchmark rate because of a shortage of funds, the China Securities Journal reported today, citing an unidentified bank official. In the meantime, SHIBOR refuses to pull back, hitting an unsustainable 8.05%, which is worse than Portuguese 10 year rates. Will this sustain? Unclear - the Chinese new year must pass and the recent surge in snowfalls will have to recede before a steady state evaluation can be made, however as we have been warning since December, in a country having one of the biggest asset-liability mismatches, the negative curve convexity on tightening fears, will blow up the near end, isolating bank liquidity. To say that this is bad news if it persists is an understatement.
Uh. Oh.

I can't count the number of times in my lifetime when the US was counted out and then came back stronger than ever. The USSR and Communism. Japan. And now China. I'm not buying it. America will be back once we get our political class sorted. And that is happening as we speak.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Energy Is Wealth

The graph is from Wiki Media based on data from the International Energy Organization [pdf].

I think the graph maker intended that the KW measure be averaged over 24/7/365 which would make sense (which is to say multiply by 24*7*365 to get the KWh total). Leave it to an engineer. In any case that is not the only one out there. Watts Up With That has a nice one with tons of oil equivalent.

What does this mean (generally)? Anything that lowers the supply of energy is a bad thing. Anything that lowers consumption is a bad thing. Efficiency tends to take care of itself. Engineers are always looking for cost effective ways of increasing the efficiency of use. But according to Jevons Paradox increasing efficiency INCREASES consumption. Dang.

Howard T. Odum in his book Environment, Power and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy discusses what energy flows mean for the bioisphere. I haven't read this edition but the previous edition Environment, Power, and Society, was excellent.

Anther book on the subject is The Second Law of Life: Energy, Technology, and the Future of Earth As We Know It. The product description makes a very good point.
Even actions we take to improve the environment may actually do more damage than good. For example, recycling is considered environmentally, socially and politically correct. Under the influence of entropy, however, it is a prolific waster of energy; we must look at entire systems, not just parts.
A point also well made at Energy, Efficiency, and Technology Magazine.
My friend Terry and I had each finished off a bottle of beer. I looked around for a recycling bin while Terry just pitched his bottle in the trash.

Was Terry indifferent to the environment? Nah. He works at one of the biggest breweries in the U.S. and knows first-hand what happens to recycled glass. “We can’t use recycled glass for making bottles. It’s just too brittle. So glass put in recycling bins generally ends up in landfills anyway,” he explains.

Terry knows what he’s talking about. Canada’s National Post reports that all the glass collected last year by recycling programs in Calgary, Edmonton, and several other Canadian cities ended up landfilled because there were no buyers for it. The situation is similar for plastic. Reports are that Germany has millions of tons of recyclable plastics piled up in fields because nobody wants the stuff. And it is literally more expensive to collect some recyclables than to just pitch them. San Francisco’s Dept. of Waste figures it pays $4,000/ton to recycle plastic bags for which it receives $32/ton.
And it is not just money/wealth that is affected by energy flows. It also affects politics as discussed in A thermodynamic explanation of politics.
There are major evolutionary implications in the ability of a species to distribute itself across space and time, not to mention the curious thermodynamics associated with this distribution. That is, species that can modulate their thermodynamic properties in response to environmental changes dramatically increase their probability of survival. In humans, there is no better example of thermodynamic modulation than conservatism and liberalism.

One of the more prominent biogeographic variations between conservatives and liberals is population density. The conservative-liberal asymmetries in population density are easily seen in the voting patterns of urban, suburban, and rural environments. As a general rule, the greater the population density, the more liberal the population.
Well isn't that interesting. Politics may have more to do with energy consumption habits than right and wrong. Dang. Right and wrong may in fact be defined by energy consumption levels.

So who is correct? No one. It depends on where you live. Now can we all get along?

Update: 6 Myths About Oil.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Punishment And Moral Disapproval

As some of you know who read me regularly I have a great deal of interest in the Drug War. In one of my early pieces on the subject Heroin, I came to the conclusion that addiction was a response to pain. i.e. people chronically take pain killers to deal with chronic pain. I have come across another book which makes the same point:

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
Here are some words from the author.

I've written In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts because I see addiction as one of the most misunderstood phenomena in our society. People--including many people who should know better, such as doctors and policy makers--believe it to be a matter of individual choice or, at best, a medical disease. It is both simpler and more complex than that.

Addiction, or the capacity to become addicted, is very close to the core of the human experience. That is why almost anything can become addictive, from seemingly healthy activities such as eating or exercising to abusing drugs intended for healing. The issue is not the external target but our internal relationship to it. Addictions, for the most part, develop in a compulsive attempt to ease one’s pain or distress in the world. Given the amount of pain and dissatisfaction that human life engenders, many of us are driven to find solace in external things. The more we suffer, and the earlier in life we suffer, the more we are prone to become addicted.

The inner city drug addicts I work with are amongst the most abused and rejected people amongst us, but instead of compassion our society treats them with contempt. Instead of understanding and acceptance, we give them punishment and moral disapproval. In doing so, we fail to recognize our own deeply rooted problems and thereby forego an opportunity for healing not only for them, the extreme addicts, but also for ourselves as individuals and as a culture.
Which is pretty much what I found out ten years ago by reading Dr. Lonny Shavelson's book:

Hooked: Five Addicts Challenge Our Misguided Drug Rehab System

Which I reviewed in my post Heroin.

The Author Gabor Mate' has a few More words:
The human brain is exquisitely capable of development, a capacity known as neuroplasticity. But, as with all development, the conditions have to be right. My pessimism about my clients’ future is based not on any limitation of their innate potential, but on their dire social, economic and legal situation and on the essential indifference of policy makers--and of society--to their plight. In short, the resources that could go into rehabilitating people are now sunk, instead, into persecuting them and keeping them marginalized. It’s a failure of insight and of compassion. We are simply not living up to our possibilities as a society.
My estimation is that the rear guard in the support for the Drug War consists of people who need an object for their two minutes of hate. They get more value out of hating than they do out of solving problems. Very strange from this engineer's point of view. But not everyone thinks like an engineer. Pity.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Killing Them Off

If Conservatives are really serious about ending abortion I have a sure fire way:

Proclaim loudly that you favor abortion because it is killing off the next generation of leftists. But of course it would be immoral to say that.

"Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." Napoleon

The Edge And The Center

I was reading The Science of Libertarian Morality, H/T Instapundit, and got to thinking.

1. Humans are herd (troupe) animals.

2. Most want to live in the center of the herd. They have to know what the rules are. Some want mommy rules, some want daddy rules. They are in agreement that rules (lots of them) are required. It minimizes friction in the center. Every one knows where they stand in the hierarchy and they also know what to do. Novelty is kept to a minimum.

3. And then you have the crazies who want to live on the edge - and of course they want as few rules as possible. You never know what might come up. Or what novelty is available. New combinations!

4. Civilization is carried on the backs of the rule makers. It is advanced by the rule breakers.

Now can we all get along?

Wouldn't you know it? Amazon has a slew of books on libertarian morality:

Libertarian Morality

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Monday, January 24, 2011

Headline Of The Day - 24 Jan. '11

Never Bring a Lap Dog to a Grizzly Fight

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Sun Erupts

My post Some Interesting Science Papers drew some sceptical responses. Fine. Theories should be picked apart until we can be sure they will hold water. But we should also be on the look out for new data.

And here is a piece of new (for me) data that will knock your socks off. Vast Solar Eruption Shocks NASA and Raises Doubts on Sun Theory. That would be the old sun theory: the sun is a big ball of mostly Hydrogen gas that gets its energy from the fusion of that gas.

We are forever being told that the sun is a vast gas ball of hydrogen and helium at the center of our solar system. But new evidence may help prove this isn’t the case after all, according to solar experts who say the sun has an iron core.

A stunned NASA admits, “Astronomers knew they had witnessed something big. It was so big, it may have shattered old ideas about solar activity.”

The vast global solar eruption covers ~10^9 km of the solar photosphere. The US space agency reports, “The whole solar hemisphere erupted simultaneously in an avalanche effect that had been triggered in the tiny solar core and propagated outwards” (NASA: Dec 13, 2010).
That is interesting. To get a whole hemisphere to erupt something has to happen in the core and propagate outward. It can't happen on the surface that way. If it was a surface effect the disturbance would have a different center.

Scientists have confirmed that the explosion that occurred on August 1, 2010 is unprecedented in recorded history and caused filaments of magnetism to snap and explode creating enormous shock waves that raced across the stellar surface. This caused billion-ton clouds of hot gas to billow out into space.

This unprecedented event is claimed to give support to an alternative theory long held by Professor Oliver K. Manuel, a Postdoctoral Fellow of the University of California, Berkeley.
Oliver and I have joined in a number of discussions about Global Warming on the 'Net. He is a sceptic of the CO2 theory (not the effect - the magnitude).
Controversy about our understanding of the sun has been fomenting for years. In 1980, solar science researcher, Ralph E. Juergens lamented, “The modern astrophysical concept that ascribes the sun’s energy to thermonuclear reactions deep in the solar interior is contradicted by nearly every observable aspect of the sun.”

The astrophysics establishment has long shunned the idea of the sun having any such iron core. But this momentous event is consistent with the theory that there is a tiny dense neutron core the size of a city powered by neutron repulsion. Professor Manuel believes there is a super-conducting iron-rich shell the size of a moon or small planet surrounding the neutron core.

Backing the theory is astrophysicist Carl A. Rouse, who calculated a tiny iron-rich solar core from helioseismology data, but he has also been ignored up until now.
Up 'tll now. The times they are a changin. FYI Oliver is the University of Missouri-Rolla and ex-NASA man.
The delighted University of Missouri-Rolla and ex-NASA man says that the event, contrary to modern theory, is new evidence for the Sun’s tiny (~10 km), dense neutron core being powered by neutron repulsion, and/or the super-conducting iron-rich shell (~10^3 km) surrounding the neutron core.

"The August 1st event really opened our eyes," says Karel Schrijver of Lockheed Martin's Solar and Astrophysics Lab in Palo Alto, CA. "We see that solar storms can be global events, playing out on scales we scarcely imagined before."

The four key points made by the iron core theorists are:

1. We do not “see” the Sun;
2. We see waste products emitting light when they reach the top of the Sun's atmosphere (photosphere);
3. The "smoke" we see is (H and He) from a neutron star;
4. The global eruption was triggered by the tiny, energetic, dense neutron-rich core of the Sun or by the iron-rich mantle that surrounds it.

Time for ‘Truthing’ Says Solar Professor

This monumental solar eruption may finally challenge the accepted theories about how the key driver of Earth’s climate actually works. Manuel sagely observes, “Although NASA seems to be catching up, after decades of ‘group-think’ it will be very difficult for NASA scientists to comprehend the Sun.”

Indeed, this latest evidence is unsettling not just for accepted ideas about how our Sun works but it also impacts assumptions of how the Sun effects Earth’s climate. Oliver insists “ Science is a continuous process of ‘truthing’ without ever claiming that you have the ‘whole truth.’”
So there may be something to the idea that the sun has a neutron/iron core. We shall see.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Fear Follies

I have no need to fear the folly of men. I assume it.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Left, The Right, And The Squeezed

The Left fears the government policies the Right prefers. The Right fears the government policies the Left prefers. I fear them both.

Palin, Pat, And Pot

A while back I did a post on how Pat Robertson had changed his stance on pot (at least for a while). And I quote:

...something else we've got to recognize. We're locking up people that take a couple of puffs of marijuana and the next thing they know they've got 10 years. They've got mandatory sentences and these judges just ... throw up their hands and say there's nothing we can do."

"We've got to take a look at what we're considering crimes and that's one of them," Robertson added. "I'm not exactly for the use of drugs. Don't get me wrong. But I just believe that criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of pot and that kind of thing, it's costing us a fortune and it's ruining young people."

They go into prison "as youths and they come out as hardened criminals, and that's not a good thing."
That was late December of 2010.

So what did Sarah Palin have to say around mid June of 2010?
Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin said Wednesday night that law enforcement should not focus its energy on the “minimal problem” of marijuana.

Palin made the comment during an appearance on the Fox Business Network with Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

The libertarian Paul said enforcing marijuana restrictions specifically and the war on drugs more generally is a “useless battle,” a point Palin somewhat agreed with, though she was clear that she does not support legalization.

"If we're talking about pot, I'm not for the legalization of pot,” Palin said. “I think that would just encourage our young people to think that it was OK to go ahead and use it.”

“However, I think we need to prioritize our law enforcement efforts,” Palin added. “If somebody's gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody any harm, then perhaps there are other things our cops should be looking at to engage in and try to clean up some of the other problems we have in society.”

Palin then urged law enforcement to “not concentrate on such a, relatively speaking, minimal problem we have in the country.”
So is Robertson a Sarah Palin follower or is there a shift of opinion happening on the right? Or both? Or just coincidence?

My guess is that we are coming to our senses as a nation. Good.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Friday, January 21, 2011

Some Interesting Science Papers

My friend Physicist Oliver K. Manuel has a paper out explaining that the sun is not an ordinary star that "burns" strictly Hydrogen, but a neutron star with a Hydrogen mantle. The paper is rather technical but I can give you the flavor of it with an excerpt from the Conclusion.

Dynamic competition between gravitational attraction and neutron repulsion sustains our dynamic universe, the Sun, and life on planet Earth. Nuclear matter in the solar system is mostly dissociating rather than coalescing (fusing together). As shown in the above table, the potential energy per nucleon in the solar core is almost twice that available from hydrogen fusion. If the bulk of the Sun's mass is in a central neutron star and luminosity comes from the reactions listed above, then solar luminosity might have been higher by ~1-2% during the critical evolutionary period when the Standard Solar Model predicts frozen oceans and a "faint early Sun" [121]. Circular polarized light from the neutron star may have been separated d- and l-amino acids before the appearance of life [101].
The paper seems to explain a lot of things about our solar system and the sun. Like why life on Earth is made up of almost exclusively right hand molecules.

The second paper deals with superconductors. The Talk Polywell guys gave me the hint. What is so special about the new superconductor? It is made by shining laser light on a non-conductor.
The team from Oxford[England - ed.], Germany and Japan are said to have observed conclusive signatures of superconductivity after hitting a non-superconductor with a strong burst of laser light.

‘We have used light to turn a normal insulator into a superconductor,’ said Prof Andrea Cavalleri of the Department of Physics at Oxford University and the Max Planck Department for Structural Dynamics, Hamburg. ‘That’s already exciting in terms of what it tells us about this class of materials. But the question now is can we take a material to a much higher temperature and make it a superconductor?’

The material the researchers used is closely related to high-temperature copper oxide superconductors, but the arrangement of electrons and atoms normally act to frustrate any electronic current.

In the journal Science, they describe how a strong infrared laser pulse was used to perturb the positions of some of the atoms in the material. The compound, held at a temperature just 20 degrees above absolute zero, almost instantaneously became a superconductor for a fraction of a second, before relaxing back to its normal state.
Why is this important? After all we already have superconductors that operate continuously at that temperature without lasers.
‘We have shown that the non-superconducting state and the superconducting one are not that different in these materials, in that it takes only a millionth of a millionth of a second to make the electrons ‘synch up’ and superconduct,’ said Professor Cavalleri. ‘This must mean that they were essentially already synched in the non-superconductor, but something was preventing them from sliding around with zero resistance. The precisely tuned laser light removes the frustration, unlocking the superconductivity.’

The advance immediately offers a new way to probe with great control how superconductivity arises in this class of materials.

The researchers are hopeful it could also offer a new route to obtaining superconductivity at higher temperatures. If superconductors that work at room temperature could be achieved, it would open up many more technological applications.
So right now it is all about research. But you never know what you might learn if you start poking with the proper stick in the right places.

Some books:

The Diversity Of Neutron Stars: Nearby Thermally Emitting Neutron Stars And The Compact Central Objects In Supernova Remnants

Superconductivity: A Very Short Introduction

Introduction to Superconductivity: Second Edition

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Biofuel Breakthrough?

I have just been notified by my friends at Talk Polywell of a break through in the biologic generation of liquid fuels. The Globe and Mail reports on the breakthrough (although my friends at Talk Polywell think the report is garbled by a not entirely science literate reporter).

In September, a privately held and highly secretive U.S. biotech company named Joule Unlimited received a patent for “a proprietary organism” – a genetically adapted E. coli bacterium – that feeds solely on carbon dioxide and excretes liquid hydrocarbons: diesel fuel, jet fuel and gasoline. This breakthrough technology, the company says, will deliver renewable supplies of liquid fossil fuel almost anywhere on Earth, in essentially unlimited quantity and at an energy-cost equivalent of $30 (U.S.) a barrel of crude oil. It will deliver, the company says, “fossil fuels on demand.”
Not only that. They can tailor the organisms to produce specific fuels using only CO2, water (fresh or salt), and sunlight.
Joule says it now has “a library” of fossil-fuel organisms at work in its Massachusetts labs, each engineered to produce a different fuel. It has “proven the process,” has produced ethanol (for example) at a rate equivalent to 10,000 U.S. gallons an acre a year. It anticipates that this yield could hit 25,000 gallons an acre a year when scaled for commercial production, equivalent to roughly 800 barrels of crude an acre a year.

By way of comparison, Cornell University’s David Pimentel, an authority on ethanol, says that one acre of corn produces less than half as much energy, equivalent to only 328 barrels. If a few hundred barrels of crude sounds modest, recall that millions of acres of prime U.S. farmland are now used to make corn ethanol.
So is this reputable or just a bunch of scammers?
Joule acknowledges its reluctance to fully explain its “solar converter.” CEO Bill Sims told Biofuels Digest, an online biofuels news service, that secrecy has been essential for competitive reasons. “Some time soon,” he said, “what we are doing will become clear.” Although astonishing in its assertions, Joule gains credibility from its co-founder: George Church, the Harvard Medical School geneticist who helped initiate the Human Genome Project in 1984.
Well how about a look at what Biofuels Digest has to say.
In Massachusetts, Joule Unlimited has won a second key patent for its genetically modified cyanobacteria that directly convert sunlight and carbon dioxide into n-alkanes, and other diesel fuel molecules. The patent is the first awarded for a bacteria that makes fuel directly from water, sunlight and CO2, as opposed to organisms that make fuels from sugar or other cellulosic biomass, such as those engineered by LS9, Amyris or Solazyme.

As reported previously in the Digest, Joule is using a genetically modified form of cyanobacteria. Two weeks ago, Joule received its first key patent for “methods and compositions for modifying photoautotrophic organisms as hosts, such that the organisms efficiently convert carbon dioxide and light into n-alkanes."
Those reporting the death of the US as a world power may have been somewhat premature. Joule is reported to be building a prototype plant in Leander, Tex. At this stage of course nothing is certain. It will probably take a couple of years to prove this out and get the "bugs" out of the system. And probably a couple of decades to scale up the idea until the production becomes a significant fraction of US liquid fuel use. Time will tell.

Here is another possible approach:

Green Algae Strategy: End Oil Imports And Engineer Sustainable Food And Fuel

Welcome Instapundit readers.

Thanks to reader clazy here is a link to the Joule patents.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Aaron Zelman Of JPFO Has Died

Aaron was a great defender of gun rights. He was a totally stand up guy. I explained to him how the Drug War was a danger to gun rights and after some discussion he changed his position. He will be sorely missed.

Memorial Page

JPFO Home Page

Books By Aaron Zelman

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Slush Funds?

I have an interesting report on political slush funds in the Vatican Bank from a source whose reputation I'm not aware of. Anyone know how credible this report is?

Slush fund accounts of major US politicians identified and seized at Vatican Bank

(Rome). Connection established with Daniel Dal Bosco RICO indictment, which cites Giancarlo Bruno, Silvio Berlusconi & Ban Ki Moon.

On Wednesday 5th January 2011, it emerged that US establishment-related slush fund accounts had been located in, and seized from, the Vatican Bank in Rome. The source of funds for these accounts in almost every instance was found to be the US Treasury.

Beneficiaries of the covert Vatican accounts include Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and each of the Obama children, Michelle Obama’s mother, all the Bushes and the Clintons, including Chelsea Clinton, Joe Biden, Timothy Geithner, Janet Napolitano, several US Senators, including Mitch McConnell, several US Congressmen including John Boehner, several US Military Chiefs of Staff, the US Provost Marshal, the US Judge Advocate General, the US Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Roberts, several US Judges, the Pope, and several cardinals.

Big money was found in each of the accounts. The longer the beneficiaries have been in office, the greater the account balances were found to be. They range from a few million USD to more than a billion USD in the case of John Roberts. The total number of slush fund accounts so far identified at the Vatican Bank is said to be between 600 and 700. This number is likely to grow as international élite corruption investigations spread worldwide.

The disclosures have split the Roman Catholic Legatus organisation down the middle. Elizabeth Windsor (Queen Elizabeth II of England) is in the know and is intimately involved in the swirling and fissiparous covert power plays.
Seems like another big conspiracy theory to me. Sure to be making the rounds shortly. Time for supporters and debunkers to get to work.

So far all I can find out about the "situation" is from conspiracy sites. I also note that Daniel Dal Bosco is also referenced as Daniele Dal Bosco. A sex change operation maybe?

The most reputable site I have seen on the subject is called The Rumor Mill News, which was promoting this nonsense (if you can believe their date stamp) on or before 23 August 2010.

There was a time when I thought the Masons ran the world. Now I'm sure it is the Shriners. Dad was a Mason so I think I'm OK. For now.

Update: since I posted this a few minutes ago guess which site is now number two on the conspiracy theories hit parade? Power and Control. Heh.

Further update: I have found a secret video on YouTube which explains it all.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Women Hate Women

Brought to mind by a post on Why Palin Hatred?
This unhinged hatred of Palin comes mostly from women. That is an awkward observation for us to offer, because a man risks sounding sexist or unchivalrous when he makes unflattering generalizations about women.
Noted sociologist Chris Rock (in the video above) clarifies the whole social phenomenon of women hating women. However, not all women are like that. Thus Mama Grizzlies.

Note: The video is Not Safe For Work.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Classical Values


I just ran across a site called

A luncheonette catering to the most debased tastes.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

They Lost It

No. Not the media over the shootings in Arizona. They lost Obama's birth certificate. Maybe lost it is the wrong term. "Can't find it" is more like it.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie suggested in an interview published today that a long-form, hospital-generated birth certificate for Barack Obama may not exist within the vital records maintained by the Hawaii Department of Health.

Abercrombie told the Honolulu Star Advertiser he was searching within the Hawaii Department of Health to find definitive vital records that would prove Obama was born in Hawaii, because the continuing eligibility controversy could hurt the president's chances of re-election in 2012.

Donalyn Dela Cruz, Abercrombie's spokeswoman in Honolulu, ignored again yesterday another in a series of repeated requests made by WND for an interview with the governor.

Toward the end of the interview, the newspaper asked Abercrombie: "You stirred up quite a controversy with your comments regarding birthers and your plan to release more information regarding President Barack Obama's birth certificate. How is that coming?"

In his response, Abercrombie acknowledged the birth certificate issue will have "political implications" for the next presidential election "that we simply cannot have."
Well isn't that interesting.

The infamous Ulsterman secret source has a few words on the subject. He is discussing Palin's chances in 2012 and the birther issues come up.
I still find her appeal a fascinating thing to watch unfold, but she will not be a factor beyond some version of a conservative political cheer leader IMO. Unless, and I will throw you a bit of a bone here, UNLESS something comes out on the birther stuff. Yeah, I’m bringing it up myself here. Something is out there but nobody wants to touch it. The topic is coming up amongst us more than it ever has. I’m talking people who mocked it, dismissed it before, who are now quietly saying something is stirring out there on this subject and it’s got the WH very concerned. Big time worried. There are discussion in the WH about the issue. And I think some of the Republican leadership has a whiff of it but all indications appear to be they want nothing to do with it. It’s being buried deep. For now.

Barring something on that subject coming to light, I don’t see Sarah Palin playing a significant role as a candidate in 2012. And the birther thing is not the scandal I have spoken of before. THAT event is still unfolding. Maybe. Issa and Co have sent out some interesting smoke signals in-house. I think he may actually pursue something there. If he does follow through, here is how it will likely go down based on the admittedly general information I have been told. Something along the lines of the DOJ being investigated. Perhaps the NBP case or similar. Within the context of that investigation things will be lead back to Chicago. Banking, election fraud, organized crime…so many possibilities there. The activity in Chicago by WH operatives has been significant in recent months.

Everywhere I look, they pop up. The damn unions are proving a real PITA for us. They are still in big time damage control mode. If Issa pushes hard, things will happen. If he has been compromised somehow, it could all get buried. I maintain as I always have that it starts in DC and then back to Chicago. This is the path that could collapse the Obama White House. On that I remain completely convinced. So much depends on Republican led investigations though. Thought NYT had lead on story but now believe that to be incorrect. WAPO information still seems credible though. They continue to circle it I believe and WH knows this.
Well who knows? It could be smoke and mirrors or smoke and fire.

Wouldn't it be a hoot though if we found out we haven't had a President for the last two years? I wonder if any bills he signed could be considered law?

In any case a LOT of people would be pissed.

H/T a friend of mine who is rather energetic. I'm working with him to display some of that energy.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Logistics Of The Impossible

Bob Ramsey who has some interesting links on this page suggested I have a look at a book excerpt which explains why supply interdiction in the Drug War is an impossible task. Not just difficult. Not just expensive. Impossible. It is an excerpt from a book published in 1991:

Undoing Drugs: Beyond Legalization

So let me fill you in on some interesting facts from the text. Keep in mind that the dollars mentioned are 1991 dollars.

Much of the earth's surface is suitable for growing and processing psychoactive plants, the raw materials for drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Only a trivial fraction of this area is needed to produce the flood of drugs now coming into America. Even if we could wipe out all of today's sources of supply, a virtually inexhaustible set of alternative suppliers would remain. Many of the people who inhabit the primary producing areas, including South America and Asia, face starvation if they spurn the drug trade, and death at the hands of traffickers if they try to stop the trade. No credible threat or inducement will convince foreign growers and processors to give up their livelihood. Once produced, the drugs can enter America by any number of methods, across any of thousands of miles of open borders, and our efforts to stop smugglers serve chiefly to drive up the profits of those who succeed. Short of employing our entire armed services as a domestic drug militia, there is no feasible way to prevent drugs from entering the country. Even here in America, in locations ranging from national forests to bedroom "grow closets" and basement laboratories, psychoactives can be grown or concocted in quantities sufficient to satisfy the most demanding drug appetites. Thus, even if we somehow stopped the flood of foreign drugs, domestic producers stand ready, willing, and able to jump into the breach.

The bottom line is short and simple. In attempting to eliminate the world supply of drugs, the federal government has been building sand castles against the incoming tide. Despite occasional fleeting satisfactions, in the long run there is no realistic chance of success. If we are to undo drugs, we shall have to look elsewhere.
Expensive sand castles. And they get taxpayers to pay for the privilege. Doesn't it just give you the warm fuzzies to know you get to pay through the nose (heh) for someone else's hobby?

Well you don't really know anything if you haven't got the numbahs. So how about some facts and figures about agriculture.
The marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa) is one of nature's ultimate survivors. Quite literally, it grows like a weed, flourishing in the wild on every continent except Antarctica. Left untended, the plant reaches a height of up to fifteen feet within a few months, at which point its crop of leaves and buds is worth $500. Pruned, watered, and fertilized regularly, a single pampered plant can fetch $2,500, Marijuana will grow high on mountainsides, on open plains, and in dense forests. It thrives in pots hung from and hidden among the branches of trees, or can be trained to grow close to the ground in the midst of other, legal crops. Moreover, with less than $100 worth of equipment, an individual can produce a thriving crop year after year in his or her own closet or basement.

Roughly 75 percent of the marijuana consumed by Americans is imported, chiefly from Central and South America, although domestic production is expanding rapidly [3] The leading producer states are California, Oregon, Kentucky, and Hawaii, but the legal authorities have confiscated plants from Alaska to Florida, and from Maine to Arizona. Cannabis is a plant for all seasons and every locale.

Despite the diversity of conditions under which the principal psychoactive crops will grow, remarkably little arable land is presently devoted to their cultivation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that more than 2.5 million square miles in South America alone are suitable for growing coca, yet less than 1,000 square miles (less than 0.04 percent) is currently used for that purpose. [4] Elsewhere in the world, the combined land area suitable for coca exceeds the amount available in South America, and yet almost none of it is now under commercial coca cultivation. If coca eradication attempts had any appreciable success in causing supply disruptions, vast tracts of land could rapidly be cultivated as a source of supply.

Most of the 4,000 metric tons of marijuana produced in the United States each year is grown in only a dozen or so counties scattered across the principal producing states, and total U.S. production represents a trivial fraction of worldwide marijuana output.[5] And since marijuana cultivation is eminently suitable for commercial cultivation indoors as well as outdoors, one must realistically view the entire surface of the earth as a potential source of supply.
The link above has facts and figures on other drugs. I thought excerpting the relevant info on pot (California's largest agricultural crop in terms of dollars) would interest more people since the number of pot consumers in America runs between 5% (15 million people) and 15% (45 million people) of the US population. The numbers are fuzzy because taking good surveys about illegal behavior is a difficult proposition.

So how about drug smuggling? Stopping growing is impossible. Maybe we can keep the stuff (the fraction that is not home grown) from crossing the border. Well how about a little musical interlude?

Well don't that get your adrenaline pumping? And how about an adrenaline pumping story?
Who is more motivated - a drug trafficker, or the enforcement agent trying to stop him? A drug smuggler, describing the duels between drug runners and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in fast boats along the Florida coast, gave this answer:

There are places [along the coast] where the water is two feet deep and less, and the channels that you have to use are unmarked. Now, a good doper knows those channels because he studies them. He's also making ten, twelve, fifteen thousand dollars - it depends on the load - for four hours' work, and for that kind of money he is expected to take the risk of getting it wrong. The guy chasing him is making maybe a hundred bucks for a shift, on which he is going to pay tax, and if he hits that sandbank at sixty miles an hour he isn't going to collect his pension because he's going to be dead. Now, you're in the Customs boat heading for the sandbank: Which way do you want to push the throttle?[30]

This simple story helps illustrate why both innovation and adaptation in the drug wars so often favor the bad guys. For drug dealers, the rewards of developing new ways of bringing drugs to market (or of adapting to the latest methods of the drug warriors) are enormous, compelling enough for them to risk prison terms or death, or to murder anyone who stands in their way.

Compare this with the incentives facing law-enforcement officials, who are paid whether they catch the dealers or not. Quite simply, the drug warriors have little economic stake in the success or failure of their efforts, and equally little incentive to risk life and limb. Certainly, some may get publicity, and others may even get salary increases; but these are small compensations for risking their lives. Because their expected rewards - huge profits - are so much greater, drug dealers are willing to face a far greater risk of violent death than are drug-enforcement agents, and they are more willing and able to innovate and adapt as well. The common notion that drug warriors are a group of dedicated individuals constantly thinking up ways to outsmart the bad guys surely has an element of truth to it, but by and large, it is the bad guys who spend their time trying to figure out ways to outsmart the good guys. It is the drug dealers who are constantly seeking new products and delivery systems to give them a competitive edge, and it is the dealers who adapt the most quickly to changing conditions, because the bad guys - the dealers - have greater incentives to do so. The rate of innovation and adaptation in the drug-enforcement agencies is much slower than it is within the drug trafficking business, simply because the rewards are structured to make it so.
Of course we can change the reward structure easily enough. We can do it the same way we solved the crime problem associated with alcohol. End prohibition.

There is WAY MORE at the link. Read the whole thing. And weep.

The Drug War in popular culture:

Miami Vice: The Complete Series

The French Connection

Smuggler's Blues (as made famous by Glenn Frey)

Smuggler's Blues: The Saga of a Marijuana Importer

And NO! I'm not going to include any Rap Music. I hate that crap.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Monday, January 17, 2011

They Are Walking Away From Their Mortgages

Who is this "they" kimosabe? Home owners? Nope that is old news. The Banks are walking away from mortgages they have underwritten.

...the United States, much of Europe, and China have severe balance sheet issues that are ravaging their respective economic prospects. The media, analysts, and investors are gingerly mozying along as if this is not the case. Well, no matter how hard you ignore certain problems, no matter how hard you try to kick the can down the road – the issues really do not just “disappear” on their own.

With these points in mind, let’s peruse this piece I picked up from the Chicago Tribune: More banks walking away from homes, adding to housing crisis blight: the bank walkaway.
Research to be released Thursday, the first of its kind locally, identifies 1,896 “red flag” homes in Chicago — most of them are in distressed African-American neighborhoods — that appear to have been abandoned by mortgage servicers during the foreclosure process, the Woodstock Institute found.

Abandoned foreclosures are increasing as mortgage investors determine that, at sale, they can’t recoup the costs of foreclosing, securing, maintaining and marketing a home, and they sometimes aren’t completing foreclosure actions. The property, by then usually vacant, becomes another eyesore in limbo along blocks where faded signs still announce block clubs.

“The steward relationship between the servicer and the property is broken, particularly in these hard-hit communities,” said Geoff Smith, senior vice president of Woodstock, a Chicago-based research and advocacy group. “The role of the servicer is to be the person in charge of that property’s disposition. You’re seeing situations where servicers are not living up to that standard.” City neighborhoods where 80 percent of the population is African-American account for 71.1 percent of red-flag properties, according to Woodstock.
So why is the concentration so heavy in African American (which used to be Black and before that Negro - changing demographics dontcha know) neighborhoods?
...this is definitely not an “African American” thing. As a matter of fact, the reason that this is concentrated in this primarily “African American” community is that this is one of the demographic groups that have been heavily targeted by predatory lenders. You will see other demographic “concentrations” start to show similar attributes and behavior from the banks – lower income, lower educated, higher LTV, lower mean rental income, lower property value, higher mean time to disposition from commencement of marketing areas, etc.
Shades of the Great Depression where people were going hungry and farmers were destroying food.

Speaking of the Great Depression it reminds me of Amity Shlaes' book:

The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression

The book discusses in great detail how government intervention made that Depression worse. In the current instance we have government interventions like the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) which got the whole ball rolling. Downhill. (What? You were expecting the ball to roll uphill? Well actually it did for a while. You can do a LOT of anti-entropic things if you burn enough green).

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Marijuana Makes Some People Smarter

Does pot make some people smarter? I have no studies proving that. I do have an anecdote.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The late astronomer and author, Carl Sagan (1934 - 1996) was a secret but avid marijuana smoker, crediting it with inspiring essays and scientific insight, according to Sagan's biographer.

Using the pseudonym "Mr. X'', Sagan wrote about his pot smoking in an essay published in the 1971 book "Marijuana Reconsidered.'' The book's editor, Lester Grinspoon, recently disclosed the secret to Sagan's biographer, Keay Davidson.

Davidson, a writer for the San Francisco Examiner, revealed the marijuana use in an article published in the newspaper's magazine Sunday. "Carl Sagan: A Life'' is due out in October.

"I find that today a single joint is enough to get me high ... in one movie theater recently I found I could get high just by inhaling the cannabis smoke which permeated the theater,'' wrote Sagan, who authored popular science books such as "Cosmos,'' "Contact,'' and "The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence.''

In the essay, Sagan said marijuana inspired some of his intellectual work.

"I can remember one occasion, taking a shower with my wife while high, in which I had an idea on the origins and invalidities of racism in terms of gaussian distribution curves,'' wrote the former Cornell University professor. "I wrote the curves in soap on the shower wall, and went to write the idea down.
Of course it could have been showering with his wife that did it.

Lester Grinspoon has another book of interest.

Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine

And this one not by Grinspoon got five stars from all twenty reviewers.

Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Of course, our failures are a consequence of many factors, but possibly one of the most important is the fact that society operates on the theory that specialization is the key to success, not realizing that specialization precludes comprehensive thinking.

R. Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, 1963


A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

Robert A. Heinlein

Cross Posted at Classical Values

The Rule Of What?

Stacy McCain is bemoaning the destruction of the property market in Maryland caused by a ruling against the banks who created fraudulent documents. From a report he linked to:

In a major ruling Friday, a coalition of nonprofit defense lawyers and consumer protection advocates in Maryland successfully got over 10,000 foreclosure cases managed by GMAC Mortgage tossed out, because affidavits in the cases were signed by Jeffrey Stephan, the infamous GMAC “robo-signer” who attested to the authenticity of foreclosure documents without any knowledge about them, as well as signing other false statements.
What? The banks don't have to follow the law Mr. McCain? They can lie and the lies have to be accepted? I dunno Stacy. What ever happened to your respect for the rule of law?

You are correct about the destruction of the property MARKET. The alternative is the destruction of the rule of LAW. Choose one.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Meth Arbitrage

The Government has scored another drug war success. Homeless people are now supplying meth precursors to underground drug labs.

At the height of the methamphetamine epidemic, several states turned to a new weapon to disrupt the drug trade: electronic systems that could track sales of the cold medicine used to make meth.

Tracking sales by computer allowed pharmacies to check instantly whether a buyer had already purchased the legal limit of pseudoephedrine — a step that was supposed to make it harder to obtain raw ingredients for meth.

But an Associated Press analysis of federal data reveals that the practice has not only failed to curb the meth trade, which is growing again after a brief decline. It also created a vast and highly lucrative market for profiteers to buy over-the-counter pills and sell them to meth producers at a huge markup.

In just a few years, the lure of such easy money has drawn thousands of new people into the methamphetamine underworld.

"It's almost like a sub-criminal culture," said Gary Boggs, an agent at the Drug Enforcement Administration. "You'll see them with a GPS unit set up in a van with a list of every single pharmacy or retail outlet. They'll spend the entire week going store to store and buy to the limit."

Inside their vehicles, the so-called "pill brokers" punch out blister packs into a bucket and even clip coupons, Boggs said.

In some cases, the pill buyers are not interested in meth. They may be homeless people recruited off the street or even college kids seeking weekend beer money, authorities say.

But because of booming demand created in large part by the tracking systems, they can buy a box of pills for $7 to $8 and sell it for $40 or $50.

The tracking systems "invite more people into the criminal activity because the black market price of the product becomes so much more profitable," said Jason Grellner, a detective in hard-hit Franklin County, Mo., about 40 miles west of St. Louis.
You would think that the people writing the laws have never heard of supply and demand.

But it is the same story ever since we declared War On Some Drugs in 1914 with the Harrison Narcotics act. Politicians write new laws. And the market adjusts until supply meets demand at the supply/demand equilibrium price.

You would think that the people writing the laws could figure out some way to fix what needs fixing without setting up price supports for criminals. You would be wrong. Drug user are smarter. And their suppliers are continually outsmarting the enforcers. Politicians and those who support their anti-drug ventures are dumb as a box of hammers. Like Wily Coyote they keep getting fooled by the same tricks and yet keep repeating their failed strategies. I wonder if the problem is genetic? Or maybe it is a matter of incentives. Politicians keep promising the impossible ("We can curb human appetites by passing laws.") and the voters keep voting for them. I guess the continual dog and pony shows - the piles of drugs, guns, and money trotted out every time the prohibition agencies are looking for funds are enough to fool most of the people marks most of the time.

What is striking to me is that leftists who normally can't evaluate the economics of almost any situation can do an exquisite analysis of drug prohibition and those on the right who are normally excellent at economic analysis are suddenly idiots when it comes to drugs. Proof positive I guess that drugs make people stupid. Especially people who don't use them.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Smart Drugs

Boy is this going to piss off a LOT of people. Odds are
the more recreational drugs you consume the smarter you are. Counter intuitive huh?

According to Psychology Today, people who use more drugs are more intelligent. "Intelligent people don't always do the right thing," they write, "only the evolutionarily novel thing."

According to a study conducted by National Child Development, "more intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive drugs than less intelligent children." These drugs include marijuana, cocaine, heroin, alcohol and tobacco.

The chart on the left shows the findings of the study. It depicts the latent factor for the consumption of 13 different kinds of psychoactive drugs, (cannabis, ecstasy, amphetamines, LSD, amyl nitrate, magic mushrooms, cocaine, temazepan, semeron, ketamine, crack, heroin, and methadone). There is a clear association between childhood general intelligence and adult drug consumption.
My theory is a little different. The brain conditions that give a propensity to drug use also give a propensity to intelligence.

In any case this is so totally hilarious and unexpected that it is going to blow minds. The stereotype of the stupid drug user is just plain wrong. Why might that be? Let us think: only the stupid drug users get caught. The smart ones are getting away with it and the smart ones predominate.

The stupid shits are the ones supporting drug prohibition. This is just funny as hell. It reminds me of the old joke "Drugs make people stupid. Especially the people who don't use them."

So was this true in the US?
"Very bright individuals (with IQs above 125) are roughly three-tenths of a standard deviation more likely to consume psychoactive drugs than very dull individuals," says Psychology Today. They ran the same study in the U.S. and found similar results.
I can see an explosion of illegal drug use coming if the word on this gets out as everyone tries to prove they are smarter than average.

This may explain why Drug Testing Lowers High Tech Productivity.

It is true beyond a doubt that stupid people are running the drug war and smart people are against it. Why stupid? We in the US pay $70 billion a year (according to this video) to make criminals richer and to make it easier for kids to get an illegal drug than a legal beer. How stupid do you have to be to support that? Dumber than a box of rocks.

The smarter police are catching on. Check these guys out:

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Citizens Opposing Prohibition

Here is a video by some really smart guys about the drug war.

American Drug War: The Last White Hope

Here is the trailer:

My advice to anyone who wants to try this at home? Be careful out there. Because if you are not smart enough you are likely to get caught.

Cross Posted at Classical Values