Consummate dilettantism!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Extremes Meet

This comment made me laugh because it's true:
Extremes meet. The extreme Left is the extreme Right. We have been seeing this for years, since leftists who support women’s rights, gay rights, and minority rights nevertheless are silent about jihadists who murder women, homosexuals, and Darfurians. Ron Paul is a leftist rightist.
This should be obvious to anyone who's ever used the popular video-sharing website YouTube. Its twisted commentators routinely disparage mainstream politicians and praise the extremists, namely Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. No matter that the two are ideologically polar opposites, Ron Paul wanting a radically smaller government and Kucinich a radically larger one; they are praised equally. A Paul video is rated with 5 stars almost automatically, and a Kucinich video is as well. YouTubers seem not to have any firm ideology, being almost amnesiac in their instant switching of praise from Paul to Kucinich and vice versa. Ron Paul supporters aren't right-wing; if I had to guess, I'd say that most of them have supported extreme leftists in past elections.

Also, what's especially odd is that none of them really support or understand capitalism (see any videos praising capitalism or free-market economics on YouTube lately?), despite the fact that Ron Paul wants a supremely laissez-faire economy. All of them, almost without fail, have probably ranted and continue to rant at length about "greedy big companies," and yet support a politician whose actions would likely allow big companies to grow and expand.

It's juvenile.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

White Guys Have no Rights?

Read this excellent post discussing one of those "sensitivity training" videos.

Friday, December 21, 2007

More on Huckabee

I have decided upon 't; if Huckabee becomes the Republican Presidential nominee in 2008, I will vote for a Democrat in 2008 (unless he happens to be anyone but Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama). Talk about the conservative crackup.

He probably won't get the nomination. But if he does, Republicans, you've been warned; you'll have lost a vote.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mike Huckabee's Meteoric Rise... bad. Really, really, bad. His numbers just keep increasing. Apart from the fact that he's conservative on social issues, he's a complete liberal. Herewith, my indictment of Michael Dale Huckabee.

1. Economics.
Mike Huckabee's record on fiscal policy is sordidly chronicled here, and it's certainly not pretty. During his tenure as governor of Arkansas, he supported and/or enacted, among other things, an internet sales tax, a general sales tax (he's especially fond of this), and taxes on gasoline and cigarettes and nursing beds. By the time he was all done, quoth the Club for Growth,
Governor Huckabee was responsible for a 37% higher sales tax in Arkansas, 16% higher motor fuel taxes, and 103% higher cigarette taxes according to Americans for Tax Reform (01/07/07), garnering a lifetime grade of D from the free-market Cato Institute. While he is on record supporting making the Bush tax cuts permanent, he joined Democrats in criticizing the Republican Party for tilting its tax policies "toward the people at the top end of the economic scale" (Washington Examiner 09/13/06), even though objective evidence demonstrates that the Bush tax cuts have actually shifted the tax burden to higher income taxpayers.
The report also notes that Huckabee massively increased (state) government spending and government intervention in market activity. He calls Wall Street "greedy," ripping a page straight out of the Democratic playbook. Evidently, he's no fiscal conservative.

2. Civil liberties.
This story is perhaps the most brutally revealing component of Huckabee's general philosophy.
Mike Huckabee, the Governor of Arkansas, now requires annual fat reports. These are sent to the parents of every single child aged between 5 and 17; a response, he says, to “an absolutely epidemic issue that we could not ignore” in the 1,139 schools for which he is responsible.
This is not freedom, this is tyranny. When government forces individuals' to report their children's weight to government, they lose the ability to set their own standards for their children and indeed to reap the consequences of their actions.

3. Crime.
In another action generally typical of liberals, Mike Huckabee urged the state to release a rapist, writing in a personal letter to the accused that "My desire is that you be released from prison. I feel that parole is the best way for your reintroduction to society to take place." The rapist was released and went on to rape and kill two women. More here. Obviously, Huckabee had his heart in the right place, but that's no excuse for being soft on crime. In his defense, I should note that he used the death penalty frequently as governor. Nonetheless, his letter evidences a typical sympathy for those who don't deserve it, and therein lies the problem. Welfare, higher taxes, spinelessness on crime are all symptomatic of a broader ideology.

4. Science.
This one's easy. When a politician reveals his outright disbelief in evolution, there's a good chance that he's not scientifically literate (at least in an extremely bare sense). In the 21st century, this is absolutely unacceptable.

5. General knowledge.
A devastating indictment of Huckabee, partly coincident with that above, is his incredible lack of knowledge regarding the NIE. From the post:
It’s something of an understatement to say that Mike Huckabee, now leading polls in Iowa, has a national security problem.

This is from a CBS News story covering the former Arkansas governor in Des Moines last Tuesday:
Now a reporter was asking Huckabee about the National Intelligence Estimate report, which had found that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago. The report had been front-page news, and it seemed likely to transform the rhetoric about Iran coming from the presidential candidates.
Huckabee, to the surprise of the reporters gathered around him, was unfamiliar with the report.
And my comment:
A presidential candidate unfamiliar with a week-long, front-page news item with potentially very significant national security implications? That’s mind-boggling. Huckabee’s ignorance is astonishing.
The issue here isn't so much that Huckabee has absolutely no foreign policy interest (or knowledge, as it appears), but that he is unaware of extremely basic developments around the world.

Huckabee is clearly a likable and fundamentally good man. His charm is almost irresistible. But if we're ever to break the back of big-government, nanny-state "conservatism," we've got to ditch Mike Huckabee. His strong religious beliefs combined with his manifest desire to use the hand of government to impose social policy is a volatile and dangerous mix.

Interestingly, Huckabee and John Edwards are practically idealogical twins. The only difference is that the former is very religious. Indeed, fifty years ago, Huckabee would likely be running as a Democrat.

The government has just produced a website entitled, on which it states:
Have you ever wanted to find more information on government spending? Have you ever wondered where federal contracting dollars and grant awards go? Or perhaps you would just like to know, as a citizen, what the government is really doing with your money. The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (Transparency Act) requires a single searchable website, accessible by the public for free that includes for each Federal award:

1. The name of the entity receiving the award;
2. The amount of the award;
3. Information on the award including transaction type, funding agency, etc;
4. The location of the entity receiving the award;
5. A unique identifier of the entity receiving the award.

Welcome to, a relaunch of, that provides citizens with easy access to government contract, grant and other award data.
It's actually very interesting. Consider that the government gave $685,406,125 to Johns Hopkins University in 2007 (the largest amount of money given to any university in 2007), and $12,011,515,965 to Boeing (that's $12 billion) in contract money.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Colourisation of Centred Pyjamas by the Connexion of a Tyre

A wonderful catalogue of British English spellings can be found here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bond Market in Iraq Surges!

Coincident with the troop surge, the bond market has also surged:
While the war in Iraq has dragged Bush's approval ratings lower, his policies in Iraq have turned around investor opinion on Iraqi debentures. The addition of 28,000 troops in the first half of the year has reduced terrorist attacks in the country by 55 percent, the U.S. embassy in Iraq said on Nov. 18.

``We've had a shift in sentiment,'' said Gorky Urquieta, who oversees $14 billion of emerging-market debt at ING Investment Management in The Hague. ING started buying the securities last month, and is now among the biggest holders along with San Mateo, California-based Franklin Templeton Investments and Baltimore- based T. Rowe Price Group Inc., data compiled by Bloomberg show. ``There's optimism the surge is starting to pay off,'' he said.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gives A New Meaning to "Social Justice"

From that same Malkin article, in describing what happened to a rapist who was himself sexually assaulted and castrated by members of his community before being released (thanks to Mike Huckabee), a commenter writes:
this was social justice, and the ball cutters had it right. i don’t care who he’s a cause of, right or left.

Godwin's Law

Godwin's law states that:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.
What a surprise, then, to see the following from a commenter over at Michelle Malkin's site:
Just imagine how Hitlary would be screaming bloody murder if somebody brought up something damaging from her past.
Hitlary Clinton. That's a new one, I think.

Bush Actively Encourages Voter Fraud!

The very fundamentals of our democracy have once more been trashed by this president. Just goes to show the sort of "respect" he has for our Constitution.

From the AP:
"If I was a voter in this state, I'd sure pull that lever for Mike Johanns for the United States senator," Bush said. "And if my wife was a voter for this state, she'd try to pull it twice."

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Zune 2

I said that I would post about technology, though it seems I haven't kept that promise. Here's something technology-related for you:
This is Microsoft's new Zune 2. It has a number of interesting features, among which are wireless syncing, a fantastic graphical user interface, much-improved software, DRM-free music downloads, high-quality headphones, a beautifully large screen, and an innovative new "Zune pad." Honestly, I hope this takes some of Apple's market share; it's about time the iPod got some good competition.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Demise of Education

If you want to know precisely why and how modern educational doctrine has become so rotten, look no further than the words of its advocates. This astonishingly vapid 12-page "scholarly" study from Educational Researcher, with its meticulously-detailed bibliography and citations, contains absolutely no meaningful content. There is no presentation of rigorous or statistically analyzed evidence, much less any evidence at all; the author makes a claim based almost solely on intuition. It is thoroughly unpersuasive and indeed downright frightening. Here are some particularly interesting bits:

A first step in learning to listen, as Delpit also points out, is to
stop talking, to stop insisting that we know the answers, and to
stop asserting them. Alcoff (1995) contends, “the effect of the
practice of speaking for others is often, though not always . . . a
reinscription . . . of hierarchies” (p. 250). To break this cycle of reinscription, educators and educational researchers need to learn “to speak by listening” (Freire, 1998, p. 104). Some of what we hear from students offers inspiring evidence that we should ask more.
From century-old constructivist approaches to education we must retain the notion that students need to be authors of their
own understanding and assessors of their own learning. With
critical pedagogy we must share a commitment to redistributing
power not only within the classroom, between teacher and students,
but in society at large. Keeping in mind postmodern feminist
critiques of the workings and re-workings of power
, we must be willing to take small steps toward changing oppressive practices, but we must also continually question our motives and practices in taking these steps. Like the few educational researchers who have included student voices in arguments for how to reform education, we need to include student perspectives in larger conversations about educational policy and practice. Like critics positioned outside the classroom, we need to find ways of illuminating what is happening and what could be happening within classrooms that the wider public can hear and take seriously. And finally, we must include students’, as well as adults’, frames of reference in conversations about educational policy and practice; we must take seriously their frames of reference and the assertions made within them as one among several impetuses toward change.
If, as Heilbrun (1988) contends, “Power is the ability to take one’s place in whatever discourse is essential to action and the right to have one’s part matter” (p. 18), then students are currently without power in a system that claims to serve them.
A first step in learning to listen, as Delpit also points out, is to stop talking, to stop insisting that we know the answers, and to stop asserting them.
A first step in learning to teach our children is to cut the crap, insist that we actually instruct them, and abandon nonsensical nonsense like this.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Damn the Media!

I don't like Michelle Malkin all that much, but she hits it on spot in her latest piece about the "youth riots" now occurring in France. The media's coverage of this issue might have led one to suspect that, as the AP puts it,
Youths, many of them Arab and black children of immigrants, again appeared to be lashing out at police and other targets seen to represent a French establishment they feel has left them behind.
Malkin brutally lampoons this stupidity with sarcasm and wit and video footage, and succeeds brilliantly.
The poor, harmless misguided youth of unnamed ethnic origin in France are now peacefully demonstrating against oppression by…shooting at cops with hunting weapons. Scores of them. Some 80 police officers have been injured

Monday, November 26, 2007

A $100 List of $10 Words

$10 words are words hardly ever used by anyone. Every so often, someone will insert one of them into his writing, usually for effect. Herein is presented a $100 list of 10 $10 words, compiled by yours truly.



-the act of being evasive or ambiguous

-dark and gloomy

-having the ability to induce sleep

phantasmagoria (adjective - phantasmagoric)
-fantastic sequences of images


-after a meal

-one skilled in table talk

-to destroy

Thursday, November 22, 2007

People are Surprisingly Uninterested in Politics

If you take a look at Amazon's top 50 bestselling books, only #23, (Alan Greenspan's The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World) and #40 (Clarence Thomas' My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir) are mildly political, and even these are as much personal reflections as political essays.

I found it surprising.

As Regards Compulsory Voting

There's a fairly good counterblaste to my piece below here. I link to it so as to provide a different perspective, as though anyone reads this blog.

A Bit of Overlooked History

I enjoy discovering little bits of history that have been forgotten, or ignored, or dismissed in pursuit of larger trends. Courtesy of Google Books, I've happened upon this fascinating piece of information regarding public debates on religion in the Middle Ages. It is a fairly brief chapter (2 pp) taken from a book about Judaism, and it concerns a particular debate in Barcelona in 1263; you may read it in full.

The first line of this article from 1956 in Commentary magazine provides a summary:
P[ublic] debates on religion between Jews and Christians were a frequent occurrence in Europe during the Middle Ages, when the representative of the Church ... was most often a converted Jew
There's an article from Wikipedia here which names such an occurrence a "Disputation." It's fascinating stuff.
A significant category of disputations took place between Christian and Jewish theologians in order to convince Jews to convert. Often the Christian side was represented by a recent convert from Judaism. Christians believed that only the refusal of the Jews to accept Christ stood in the way of the Second Coming. The only way for the Jewish side to 'win' was to force a draw by drawing the Christian side into a position in which it was necessary to deny the Old Testament to win, committing heresy. According to Michael J. Cook, "Since 'winning' a debate could well jeopardize the security of the Jewish community at large, political considerations certainly entered into what Jewish disputants publicly said or refrained from saying. ... Official transcripts of these proceedings, moreover, may not duplicate what actually transpired; in some places what they record was not the live action, as it were, but Christian polemical revision composed after the fact."
Christians, then, would "debate" Jews with appeals to theology. The article additionally says the following with regard to the debate in Barcelona in 1263:
1263 - the Disputation of Barcelona before King James I of Aragon: between the monk Pablo Christiani (a convert from Judaism) and Rabbi Nachmanides. At the end of disputation, king awarded Nachmanides a monetary prize and declared that never before had he heard "an unjust cause so nobly defended." Nevertheless the Dominicans claimed the victory and Nahmanides was exiled and his report of the proceedings was condemned and burned. A committee appointed by the king censored the passages from the Talmud they deemed offensive.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mandatory Voting

I've been thinking this over, and to my mind it seems like a good idea. The basic premise is that voting (both Presidential and Congressional, though not necessarily local) be made mandatory. The problem with voluntary voting lies with the concept known as self-selection bias. It's a simple idea. If all of the people in a given country are asked to vote, only some will; those who vote are naturally more politically active and older, and as such will skew the results. For example, if older people were predominantly Democratic, and younger people were predominantly Republican, then most election results would likely be biased in favor of Democrats.

I suspect, however, that many people will initially recoil in horror at the thought; after all, forcing people to do, well, anything seems by nature wrong. Most people who think this also have no problem with mandatory taxation (which is essentially theft, albeit a theft we've accepted). If mandatory taxation is not immoral, why mandatory voting? Indeed, mandatory voting is perfectly moral with respect to government, as only governments, in the words of the Declaration of Independence,
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed
are legitimate (with a few important exceptions; Hitler's popularly supported Nazi Germany was in my mind illegitimate). When 60% of the population votes and chooses leader A, whereas a majority of the population as a whole favors leader B, then leader A does not strictly have the consent of the governed.

Another objection to this argument is that some people have grievances against the government and do not vote in protest and principle. I would argue that this problem can be remedied by allowing voters to select no candidate on the official ballot form; they would, however, still be forced to come down to a ballot center or file an absentee ballot and vote. Thus, those adults who do not vote out of laziness would probably select a candidate (circling a name is not very difficult), and those who do not vote out of principle would be able to legitimately abstain.

Some might object that lazy and uneducated voters, forced to select a candidate, would make a stupid decision. This is a legitimate objection. I suggest that the ballot form contain a clearly visible disclaimer, to the effect of
If you do not wish to vote, either on principle or on a lack of knowledge regarding the candidates and issues at hand, you may abstain by checking the line marked "Abstention" below.

The only other problem that I can foresee in enacting this sort of legislation is that it's unconstitutional (though I'm not a law scholar). I can foresee a few activist judges proclaiming otherwise, but such a striking law would have to be a constitutional amendment for legitimacy. I don't think that, with the existence of government, there are any moral problems with such legislation (after all, a constitutional amendment banning smoking would indeed make it unconstitutional, though not immoral), but I could be wrong. Leave a comment!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Improving State of Our Nation

Read this powerful article in Commentary. It examines the predictions made regarding the state of cultural decline in the 1990s, and then analyzes why they went wrong. One particularly important paragraph is as follows:

Culture itself, finally, exhibits an ebb and flow as surely as economies pass through cycles of ups and downs. In The Great Disruption (1999), Francis Fukuyama cited historical examples of societies undergoing periods of moral decline followed by periods of moral recovery. In our case, too, he argued, the aftermath of the cultural breakdown of the 1960’s had already triggered and was now giving way to a reassessment and recovery of social and moral norms. Such “re-norming” will not occur in every social class all at once; in some instances it may take hold in one stratum but not in another. That is partial progress, but progress nevertheless.

Exhibiting unrestrained pessimism at the state of the union is, as the authors point out, probably unwise.

70 Columbia Professors on Ahmadinejad

70 Columbia professors criticized President Lee Bollinger for criticizing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, dictator of Iran. This is absolutely disgusting. Volokh's analysis is spot on.

My question: Say that a Columbia department sponsored a forum, to which it invited a virulently homophobic, ethnically bigoted political leader -- who was also big on using the power of government to suppress dissent -- on the quite plausible theory that he's an important leader and it's valuable for Columbia students to learn such people. Imagine someone like David Duke, perhaps, only ideologically worse and more powerful. And say a University official forcefully but substantively criticized this leader's speech at this forum, while of course allowing the leader to talk.

Do you think these Columbia faculty would or should condemn the University official's behavior? Oh, wait, that's exactly what happened here, except the person wasn't named David Duke.

Or would the faculty only condemn the University official's speech if the speech had the political effect of lending some support to a separate political cause (the war in Iraq, not criticism of Iran's human rights record and foreign policy), which is "a position anathema to many in the University community"? Would they have instead praised the official's speech if it advanced some separate political clause that was beloved by many in the University community? If so, then what does their criticism have to do with "academic freedom," as opposed to politics?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

No Posts Until Wednesday

I'm writing a 20-page Intel paper due Tuesday, and I haven't quite started.

Wish me luck!

Keep yourselves (all three of you) busy by checking out the recently added political/humor links to the bottom right of this page.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Big Oil + Big Tobacco + Big Enviro

Read this post at the Wall Street Journal's Informed Reader blog. It's really very funny how anti-tobacco campaigners criticize the tobacco industry for funding a relatively small amount of research (in comparison with the tremendous amounts of money from the government (most disgustingly, I might add) and other sources poured into the coffers of the anti-tobacco lobbyists and researchers) regarding the effects of secondhand smoke, and then go ahead and smear the industry and the science in "support" of their claims, regardless of the actual evidence behind them.

Such dire warnings have helped fuel widespread public smoking bans in recent years, but tobacco researcher Mike Siegel of Boston University says the claims are largely distorted. Dr. Siegel agrees that 30 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure causes measurable changes to blood flow – but research shows that those changes are temporary, with circulation returning to normal within a matter of hours. “It is certainly not correct to claim that a single 30-minute exposure to secondhand smoke causes hardening of the arteries, heart disease, heart attacks or strokes,” he says. “The antismoking movement has gone overboard.”

Perhaps the most revealing quote is one from an anti-tobacco advocate:

Other researchers say public-health messages sometimes have to be simplified in order to have an impact. “When you take the science and put it in the public domain you can’t include all the caveats,” says Stanton Glantz, a tobacco researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.

I'd have more sympathy for these people if the tobacco industry's right to freedom of speech had not been systematically denied for about 40 years, and if its products had not been under continuous assault by the government (which has no business in this matter, as the government's costs in health care (in which it should also not be involved) for smokers are more than made up for by egregious tobacco taxes*) and radical anti-smoking (and anti-industry) activists (who have by now infiltrated our nation's public schools), often on the government payroll.

There's a similar pattern here with respect to the global warming debates. Though the amount of money going to global proponents hugely outweighs that going to skeptics by a factor of 1,000, and though the amount of political campaigning and lobbying on behalf of so-called "environmentalists" outweighs that on behalf of the tobacco industry by a factor of 3, some are simply not content. Any viewpoints contrary to the usual mantra of "we're all going to die" must be crushed, violently if necessary, and must be smeared in the press and by our politicians. Anything less is immoral, nay, sinful. The money that does go to the skeptics is both useful (indeed, there is evidence for this point -- see here) and necessary for free scientific discourse (whatever your opinion on global warming or its magnitude), as I can't imagine the EPA funding much research skeptical to global warming.

One final word from a prominent catastrophic global warming proponent (Steven Schneider of the NOAA), eerily similar to the above quote by the anti-tobacco researcher:

We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

*“Cigarette Taxation and the Social Consequences of Smoking,” NBER Working Paper No. W4891 (October, 1994).

Monday, November 5, 2007

Quote of the Day

Conspiracy 101.

"It's obviously a grand income-redistribution scheme by Charlie Rangel to raise taxes on working Americans so they can take more people off the tax rolls and pay for Hillary Clinton's plan to take over health care," said former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Agricultural Subsidies

The New York Times has been delivering a series of attacks on agricultural subsidies, with this opinion piece only the latest iteration. Thankfully, the paper has managed to stir debate on Capitol Hill, and not soon enough; the subsidies have to go. This is one issue on which both environmentalists and business conservatives can agree.

Here are all the reasons I can think of for trashing the subsidies.

1. They cost money.
And lots of it. The latest bill demands $288 billion for America's needy super-farmers. At a time when we're fighting two wars, this is absolutely unacceptable.

2. They bankrupt third-world farmers.
This is really a shame. What basically happens is that our surplus subsidized corn goes over the border into Mexico. Mexican farmers can't compete, so they're driven out of business, increasing third-world poverty. This wouldn't happen to the degree that it now does in the absence of subsidies.

3. They increase obesity.
When grains are so stunningly cheap, it makes economic sense for the poor to prefer high fructose corn syrup over healthier foods.

4. They kill family farms.
I couldn't care less about this, but some environmentalists apparently do. (What's more "environmental" than food produced by a family on a small farm?) Apparently, large farms aren't very good environmentally. (I'm not persuaded either.)

The only good argument in defense of agricultural subsidies is that as they make food so cheap and readily available, they basically eliminate hunger in the Unites States. This is partially valid, but I'm sure that as competition is restored (and governmentally created monopolies fall), farming companies will have to work harder to keep prices low. If we simultaneously remove free trade barriers, third world farmers will be able to send their crops into the Unites States more readily, and prices will naturally decrease.

Soft Money Nonsense!

This is an essay I wrote for school. I am now sharing it with the world in the hope that it will not languish in obscurity. It concerns soft money, and it is written as though soft money were not illegal.

I will begin with a definition of soft money from this website; soft money is
money that is given to a political party but is not given specifically to support a particular candidate. This money is supposed to be used for purposes such as voter registration drives, administrative costs and general political party expenses, but is often used by the parties to help particular candidates.
Now read the essay.

It is especially problematic that so many in our society seem to take it as an article of faith that no one individual, or group of individuals, can have more influence on government than others. Witness former Senator Warren Rudman’s assertion that those who fund political parties “affect what gets done and how it gets done.” Well, yes; that is generally the case, that is how things generally work, and that is how things should generally work. Is not the purpose of free speech to influence its recipients, regardless of the relative abilities of individuals to speak well? For one to deny this assertion, one would have to argue that all inequalities, even those accrued through perfectly honest means, are objectionable with respect to government. If a group of people assemble and, with their newly gained weight, decide to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances” with respect to, say, the rights of blacks to vote, no one, or so I would hope, would object to the fact that this group bestows more power and influence on its constituent members than other citizens possess on their own regarding this issue. Why should other groups of concerned citizens not have this ability? Furthermore, why should this principle differ when it is the KKK rather than the NAACP doing the lobbying? While the government does perhaps have an interest in limiting monetary contributions to candidates for higher office (and, in so doing, preserving the integrity of the electoral process), it does not have an interest in limiting contributions to governmentally independent political parties. A fear of political corruption extends only to certain things and not to others. Trade-offs must be made - though there is indeed some risk of corruption from money donated to political parties (as some of it will undoubtedly go to candidates themselves), the risk is allayed by concern for free speech. (The risk of corruption from monstrous donations to individual candidates is much greater, and so free speech is limited in this instance.) To say otherwise would be to embark upon a slippery slope, one which would logically lead to regulation of all political speech (after all, those who are passionate for their cause are (justly) the most influential), donations to politically involved interest groups (who in truth represent actual citizens and not mere faceless and greedy CEOs), and assemblies of concerned citizens, who, in their involvement with the electoral process, must surely be said to be greedily usurping the ability of other citizens (albeit ones not as involved with the issues in question) to themselves redress the government. Free speech doesn’t mean “equal speech,” it means free speech! On what grounds can one possibly limit monetary contributions to political parties (and thus the extension of the influence of those parties, hence free speech)?

This is to be taken apart from the practical implication of “banning” soft money. As our elected officials haven’t yet learned, it’s impossible to kill free speech and its functional equivalent, “soft” money. However much I detest the politics of billionaire financier George Soros, he has every right to donate limitless sums to political parties, as I and all other citizens do. The fact that I have less money than does George Soros is absolutely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter whence the free speech comes and in what quantity. Since the government has attempted to stifle his political speech, Soros has resorted to setting up arrays of 527s groups which spend his money with impunity and with far less oversight than the Democratic Party would have. Additionally, soft money tends to increase competition. Incumbents, with their obvious visibility, will be challenged less easily by upstarts if the monetary playing field is more “equal.” Grass-roots state efforts to register voters and communicate political issues are often funded by soft money. Naturally, then, if there is less opportunity for the non-incumbent party in a Congressional election to gain influence, then incumbency will obviously play a greater role in determining elections.

Thus, the fear of political corruption, well-founded as it is, is best remedied with limits on the ability of Senators and Representatives to set earmarks and engage in other activities which allow them to favor or disfavor certain groups.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


I finally get to use the phrase! Anyway, this article is a potent and quite humorous counterblaste to the mush that today substitutes for the college admissions process. As a high school senior myself, I can personally attest to its validity.

Monday, October 29, 2007

More Bloviating on Iran

See here. In case the link dies, here's the story in part:
WASHINGTON - The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Sunday he had no evidence Iran was working actively to build nuclear weapons and expressed concern that escalating rhetoric from the U.S. could bring disaster.

"We have information that there has been maybe some studies about possible weaponization," said Mohamed ElBaradei, who leads the International Atomic Energy Agency. "That's why we have said that we cannot give Iran a pass right now, because there is still a lot of question marks."

"But have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weaponization program? No." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran this month of "lying" about the aim of its nuclear program. She said there is no doubt Tehran wants the capability to produce nuclear weapons and has deceived the IAEA about its intentions.

Vice President Dick Cheney has raised the prospect of "serious consequences" if Iran were found to be working toward developing a nuclear weapon. Last week, the Bush administration announced harsh penalties against the Iranian military and state-owned banking systems in hopes of raising pressure on the world financial system to cut ties with Tehran.

ElBaradei said he was worried about the growing rhetoric from the U.S., which he noted focused on Iran's alleged intentions to build a nuclear weapon rather than evidence the country was actively doing so. If there is actual evidence, ElBaradei said he would welcome seeing it.

"I'm very much concerned about confrontation, building confrontation, because that would lead absolutely to a disaster. I see no military solution. The only durable solution is through negotiation and inspection," he said.

ElBaradei asserts that there is no hard evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. What then is Iran, having flaunted the UN time and again, planning to do with its nuclear program? Does he think that it is actually attempting to obtain nuclear material for peaceful energy purposes, a claim almost no one believes? (It is absurd on its face - Iran's petroleum and natural gas industry accounts for 61% of its revenue.) Does this sound like a country that's planning to make peace with the world anytime soon?
Iranian politics in 2006 were deeply affected by a continuing confrontation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Western world, which demanded that Iran eschew development of uranium enrichment in its nuclear program. The situation deteriorated in January when Iran ended a moratorium on nuclear research agreed upon earlier with the European Union. The Iranians claimed the program was for peaceful purposes and did not contravene the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. An EU delegation negotiating the Iranian nuclear issue reacted by suspending talks with Iran and proposing a referral to the UN Security Council. On January 10, IAEA seals on a research unit were broken and a small centrifuge installed. Meanwhile, Iranian negotiators endeavoured to divert the Europeans from involving the Security Council. Iran offered continuing but restricted research on uranium enrichment, but the UN body on March 29 called for Iran's full compliance with IAEA requests.

Make no mistake; "negotiation and inspection" will allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. Iran has its eyes set on them, and as we have already seen, gentle "come join us at the roundtable" rhetoric will do absolutely nothing.

ElBaradei sounds like this guy on the eve of WWII.

At least Doris Lessing would agree with me, albeit unwittingly.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ambrose Bierce

Guess who this is:

Yup, it's Ambrose Bierce. Honestly, this is insane. I wish I looked like this.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Liberals, Ghosts, UFOs, and the Iraq War

This AP story explains it all:
By 31 percent to 18 percent, more liberals than conservatives report seeing a specter.

Fourteen percent, mostly men and lower-income people, say they have seen a UFO.

Spells and witchcraft are more readily believed by urban dwellers, minorities and lower-earning people. Those who find credibility in ESP are more likely to be better educated and white, 51 percent of college graduates compared to 37 percent with a high school diploma or less, about the same proportion by which white believers outnumber minorities.

To put the roughly one-third who believe in ghosts and UFOs in perspective, it's about the same as, in recent AP-Ipsos polls, the 36 percent who said they are baseball fans; the 37 percent who said the U.S. made the right decision to invade Iraq; and the 31 percent who approve of the job President Bush is doing.

How people fall for pseudo-scientific quasi-spiritualism, I don't know.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What a Blog!

This blog is absolutely fantastic. Written by a high-profile judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Richard Posner) and a Nobel prize-winning economist and professor at the University of Chicago (Gary Becker), it delivers a highly intellectual couplet of essays weekly. I'd like to model their style on my own blog.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Oil Rationale

Oh boy, is this funny. Dorris Lessing, the Nobel laureate in literature, had this to say:
Look what happened to its president in New York, they called him evil and cruel in Columbia University. Marvelous! They should have said more to him! Nobody criticizes him, because of oil.
Oops! I'm sorry, Dorris Lessing, but you've got the story wrong. Bush and Cheney invaded Iraq because of oil, and are now engaging in a war-mongering campaign to "hype" the Iran threat and invade it because of, you guessed it, oil. (Yes, this is indeed the reasoning of the Angry Left.) Reminds me of Stephen Colbert's satirical quip that:
Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream is driving a bulldozer into The New York Times while drinking crude oil out of Keith Olbermann’s skull.
It's odd how people use the oil rationale to support whatever their political objectives are.

Modern "Art"

In a recent exhibit at the Tate Modern museum of London,
Colombian artist Doris Salcedo created a long crack in the hallway’s floor.
It's a work she calls "Shibboleth."
The Tate explains in museum literature that the crack highlights the world’s [by which she means "Europe's"] legacy of racism and exclusion.
Ah, racism and exclusion. Call me old-fashioned, but how is a 550-foot long crack on a museum floor "art"?

This is almost farcical.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Serj Tankian

I don't like his politics, but his music is really quite amazing. If you have iTunes, click here to listen to a sample of his latest song. It's beautifully operatic, dark, and somber, among the best that any member of System of a Down (his band) has yet produced.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Libertarian Fantantasies

It's amazing how many people seem to have fallen for the idea that Ron Paul is God's gift to mankind. See here for an example. Contained within are a few common assumptions that are simply wrong. Let's go through them.

1. Ron Paul accurately represents the views of our Founding Fathers, all of whom were ardent proponents of state's rights.

Ron Paul is a "radical"? He stands for what our founding fathers did, throw a Thomas Jefferson quote out in the middle of a high school and they might think you are quoting terrorists. This country is so fucked up that a man who stands for what our country was founded on is a crazy lunatic!

Thomas Jefferson was certainly an influential Father, but was by no means representative of them all. Consider Alexander Hamilton's extremely eloquent defense of implied Constitutional powers:
In entering upon the argument, it ought to be premised that the objections of the Secretary of State and Attorney General are founded on a general denial of the authority of the United States to erect corporations. The latter, indeed, expressly admits, that if there be anything in the bill which is not warranted by the Constitution, it is the clause of incorporation.

Now it appears to the Secretary of the Treasury that this general principle is inherent in the very definition of government, and essential to every step of progress to be made by that of the United States, namely: That every power vested in a government is in its nature sovereign, and includes, by force of the term, a right to employ all the means requisite and fairly applicable to the attainment of the ends of such power, and which are not precluded by restrictions and exceptions specified in the Constitution, or not immoral, or not contrary to the essential ends of political society.

This principle, in its application to government in general, would be admitted as an axiom; and it will be incumbent upon those who may incline to deny it, to prove a distinction, and to show that a rule which, in the general system of things, is essential to the preservation of the social order, is inapplicable to the United States.

The circumstance that the powers of sovereignty are in this country divided between the National and State governments, does not afford the distinction required. It does not follow from this, that each of the portion of powers delegated to the one or to the other, is not sovereign with regard to its proper objects. It will only follow from it, that each has sovereign power as to certain things, and not as to other things. To deny that the government of the United States has sovereign power, as to its declared purposes and trusts, because its power does not extend to all cases would be equally to deny that the State governments have sovereign power in any case, because their power does not extend to every case. The tenth section of the first article of the Constitution exhibits a long list of very important things which they may not do. And thus the United States would furnish the singular spectacle of a political society without sovereignty, or of a people governed, without government.

Presenting the views of one Founding Father as representative of those of all does great injustice to the vigorous debates which nearly split the country in two.

2. Radicalism is necessary to save our country.
The political world is so extremely wrong that RP only SEEMS to be extreme.

Though this argument has some validity (in that Ron Paul's views would be more mainstream in 1787), it can be used to justify any sort of radicalism. Consider:
The ethnic makeup of our country is so extremely wrong that the KKK only SEEMS to be extreme.

Any number of these statements can be concocted for any number of claims, however ridiculous. It imputes no validity whatsoever to an idea.

3. Extreme personal freedom is desirable.

if you really believe in the Ron Paul message, you believe in very limited government, very little services from government, but at the same time extreme amounts of personal freedom.

An extreme amount of personal freedom is probably not America's panacea. There's a reason we ratified the Constitution; our country was performing very poorly under the Articles of Confederation (which maximized autonomy). The federal government has to have a degree of power beyond what is expressly delegated in the Constitution, as Hamilton made clear.

4. Liberals only support Ron Paul because he's anti-war.

What he is saying is that all these liberals are jumping on the Ron Paul bandwagon because of his anti-war stance, but if they knew the rest of what he believed they would be horrified. Horrified because they do not understand anything about the constitution or what this nation is about. They want the best of everything. They want lots of government services, but at the same time they want low taxes and the government out of their lives. It doesn't work that way, if you really believe in the Ron Paul message, you believe in very limited government, very little services from government, but at the same time extreme amounts of personal freedom., that's right. This is completely true.

5. Ron Paul is God.
You think RP is an extremist? Understand that sometimes the truth is extreme...

From the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):
Texas Congressman Ron Paul -- libertarian gadfly and current Republican Presidential hopeful -- has made a name for himself as a critic of overspending. But it seems even he can't resist the political allure of earmarks.

After reporters started asking questions, the Congressman disclosed his requests this year for about $400 million worth of federal funding for no fewer than 65 earmarks. They include such urgent national wartime priorities as an $8 million request for the marketing of wild American shrimp and $2.3 million to fund shrimp-fishing research.

When we called Mr. Paul's office for an explanation, his spokesperson offered up something worthy of pork legends Tom DeLay or Senator Robert C. Byrd: "Reducing earmarks does not reduce government spending, and it does not prohibit spending upon those things that are earmarked," the spokesman said. "What people who push earmark reform are doing is they are particularly misleading the public -- and I have to presume it's not by accident.

Shrimp farming?!?! Where's that in the Constitution?!?!?

Don't get me wrong. I am in favor of a government that generally doesn't intrude into individuals' personal lives (with some exceptions, of course; the government should absolutely intrude into an individual's life if said individual is beating his/her child). I support economic freedom and am mistrustful of efforts to create "economic equality" and "social justice", though unlike Ron Paul, I concede that these efforts may sometimes be justified (the Civil Rights Act of 1964 being a good example).

One final, memorable quote:

Pulling out of every international organization and dismantling half of the federal government certainly is radical. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing, but it is radical.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Oh Yeah...

Affirmative action may not work. Though its questionable benefit to minorities should be used to buttress the case against it, it is important to note that even if it did work, it would still, in my opinion, be immoral. But this addresses another argument I referred to in my previous post that I'll touch upon at a later date.

Race Codes

This sounds to me a lot like, well, racism:

Even better, the new, revised version has even added compliance with the “Eighty Percent/Whole Person utilization rule,” and according to the description on the company’s web site (linked above), the new version is also “Compatible with New Race Codes.”

Race codes, eh? An excellent comment from the link reads as follows:

Good gravy, back when the Constitution was written, black slaves were deemed to count as 60% of a person for purposes of apportionment. It's enough to make us doubt that there is such a thing as progress. Before my stepfather died at age 93, he used to say he feared for the future of the republic. How right he was, how wrong I was to doubt him.

It's sort of odd how people take such cavalier attitudes towards race quotas when they're ostensibly used to "benefit" minorities (and only favored ones, at that; remember, Asians have faced severe discrimination in the past within this country and without, and yet they're officially discriminated against by our colleges). The language against racism as used by defenders of affirmative action is harsh, uncompromising, and strident, as it should be. Whence the difference when discussing racial quotas whose goal, though said to be to the benefit of certain favored groups, is to disadvantage some groups so greatly that other groups are thereby advantaged?

The commonly used arguments for affirmative action are in my opinion wrong. I'll try to briefly explain this below.

The "Disadvantaged" Argument

A rationale for affirmative action cannot be that as the groups now to be advantaged were once discriminated against, current discrimination of others on behalf of these is just. Aside from the sheer injustice of this argument, Asians and Jews were also discriminated against in the past, and yet are currently discriminated against under universities' affirmative action programs. "But," the logic proceeds, "those groups haven't faced the degree of discrimination in this country that blacks have." That's true, but Hispanics are also heavily advantaged in higher education, and most of them haven't been in this country for very long. Additionally, shouldn't there be a grading curve of advantage if that argument is to be used, with Catholics and Hispanics receiving some affirmative action, Jews and Asians receiving a bit more, blacks receiving even more, Native Americans receiving the most, and white Protestants receiving none? There would have to be further subdivisions to account for the different historical experiences within the groups themselves. The hypocrisy here is manifest.

Theoretically, why is this argument wrong? It's wrong because the historical disadvantage of certain groups need not affect the current performance of individuals of that group. The Armenians and the Jews have suffered genocides and extreme discrimination throughout history in all parts of the world, but their relative performances do not seem to have been affected. The same can be said of blacks. As Thomas Sowell points out, it is likely that the current under-performance of blacks is not due to prior discrimination but to a culture inherited from white "rednecks" in the South, who brought it over from certain areas in England. Nor is this argument that of some cook; it is accepted by the widely acclaimed Harvard professor Steven Pinker, among many others. It's a good one to use against people like Charles Murray, who argue that the under-performance of minorities is in part genetically inherited, and people like Jesse Jackson, who argue that all black under-performance, then and now, is due to white racism.

More importantly, however, it's generally quite unjust to advantage an individual of a certain group at the disadvantage of an individual of another group solely because the former group was in the past discriminated against. While there are some important exceptions (I would have supported giving some reparations to blacks immediately following the Civil War and to Japanese-Americans interned in camps in World War II, where the money to those groups would otherwise have gone to the good of all), this principle hold true in most circumstances. (The examples I presented aren't quite deviations from this general principle, but more later, perhaps.) This argument was well stated by Former Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 1978:

We have never approved a classification that aids persons perceived as members of relatively victimized groups at the expense of other innocent individuals in the absence of judicial, legislative, or administrative findings of constitutional or statutory violations... Without such findings of constitutional or statutory violations, it cannot be said that the government has any greater interest in helping one individual than in refraining from harming another. Thus, the government has no compelling justification for inflicting such harm.

Petitioner [the University of California] does not purport to have made, and is in no position to make, such findings. Its broad mission is education, not the formulation of any legislative policy or the adjudication of any particular claims of illegality... Isolated segments of our vast governmental structures are not competent to make those decisions...

Hence, the purpose of helping certain groups whom the faculty perceived as victims of "societal discrimination" does not justify a classification that imposes disadvantages upon persons like respondent [Allan Bakke] who bear no responsibility for whatever harm the beneficiaries of the special-admissions program are thought to have suffered. To hold otherwise would be to convert a remedy heretofore reserved for violations of legal rights into a privilege that all institutions throughout the nation could grant at their pleasure to whatever groups are perceived as victims of societal discrimination. That is a step we have never approved.

The "Diversity" Argument

This argument really isn't that strong. Unless you can argue that a national interest in permitting elite, private institutions to admit more students of certain skin colors at the expense of students of other skin colors is so powerful as to justify racial discrimination, then it's bunk. It's extraordinarily simplistic; what is diversity? Why is diversity of skin color to be used as a proxy for diversity of outlook? Clarence Thomas vetted in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1:

If our history has taught us anything, it has taught us to beware of elites bearing racial theories.
Like the dissent, the segregationists repeatedly cautioned the Court to consider practicalities and not to embrace too theoretical a view of the Fourteenth Amendment. And just as the dissent argues that the need for these programs will lessen over time, the segregationists claimed that reliance on segregation was lessening and might eventually end. What was wrong in 1954 cannot be right today.

The guy pulls no punches.

There are others, but these are the two most commonly used. There is one argument for affirmative action which, though rarely used, is actually much stronger than the above two, but I'll attempt to tackle that one another day. Remind me!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Multi-Necked Guitars

These are cool.

Affirmative Action at the CIA?

See here.

This is really getting silly. I don’t like affirmative action, but its implementation at higher universities has at least an understandable objective. By contrast, what sort of benefit could possibly be accrued from disregarding merit and weighting skin color at the CIA, especially when the stakes are so high?

Tenacious D and Nirvana

Wow. I dunno if anyone's figured this out before, but I just realized that Tenacious D's song "Kickapoo" borrows a riff from Nirvana's song "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle".

Still, the D song is better by far.

UPDATE: Wikipedia says that "[t]he song took some part of melody from famous Pinball Wizard of the Who's rock-opera album Tommy." I haven't heard the song, but that may well be the case. Regardless, if you've heard both "Kickapoo" and "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle", you can't doubt that Tenacious D borrowed Nirvana's riff.

Inaugural Post

I'm not really sure why I'm doing this again. I made a blog a while ago but quickly abandoned it. Hopefully this one will be longer lived.

Anyway, its name comes from A Counterblaste to Tobacco, written in 1604 by King James I of England. I was always enamored of the word "Counterblaste", but the blog titles "Counterblaste" and "Counterblast" are both reserved. "Counterblasted" sounded cool, though, so I've adopted it as a title.

What will this blog be about? Good question. I do not have a direct answer, but it will, as the "About Me" paragraph suggests, "likely concern [my interests]."