Monday, April 30, 2007

Me and Celebrities

I used to work as relief manager at a couple of movie theaters in DC back in the early 1980s. One day, Jack Valenti came in to the Tenley Circle theater and asked to be comped. He showed me his credentials (he was with the AFI or some such thing at the time) and asked if I knew who he was. I had seen him on the Oscars many times and recognized him. But inasmuch as my masters had not left word to comp him, I declined to do so and made him pay for his ticket. I could have comped him, but I didn’t want to for some reason. Now he’s dead, and I regret that I made him pay. Sorry about that, Jack.

I comped Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver at the opening of one of the Rocky movies (the one with Mr T) at the Avalon by Chevy Chase Circle. They claimed to be friends with the owners of the chain, and I reckoned that they probably were. He was huge but not as tall as I had expected. They were the only famous people I ever comped just for being famous. Amy Carter came in a few times with her little friends and a team of Secret Service Agents, but they always paid for their tickets.

I lived in DC and its environs for over ten years, and I rarely saw anyone famous. I met Barry Goldwater on M Street once when I was in college. I went to church with President Carter. I attended a few events at the White House (Gorbachev’s visit being the coolest), and Warren Burger gave a speech in Lafayette Park once while I was hanging around. That’s about it. Oh, Wayne Newton sang on the mall in 1983. And the Pope came in 1979 or thereabouts.

I’ve seen more celebrities in New York and environs than I ever saw in DC. For example, Mia Farrow asked me where the pet store was outside of Danbury. We were standing in front of it, so I was able to help her easily. I sat across from Tim Conway at a play on Broadway. I saw Jesse Jackson get out of a limo. Well, you get the picture.

See "Hot Fuzz"

I was not disappointed in “Hot Fuzz” which I saw Saturday in Hyde Park. Pegg and Wright, the geniuses behind “Shaun of the Dead”, have teamed up to make an homage/parody of the buddy cop genre. Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, a London police officer transferred to a quaint village in Gloucester because he made the other cops look bad due to his skill and efficiency.

Angel is partnered with Danny, an inept constable and son of the local police inspector. Danny is obsessed with American cop movies and has a massive collection of videos. I don’t want to spoil any of the film, so I won’t say more than to trust me, it’s great. This is no campy “Airplane” or “Naked Gun”. The characters play the whole thing straight, and it works in large part because of the juxtaposition of setting and genre. It’s also far from Tarentinoesque in that Pegg and Wright didn’t set out to masturbate to the genre.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Listen to Your Body

I didn't listen to my body. It was telling me that something was wrong with my left knee and that maybe I shouldn't keep running and cranking out reps on the leg machines. I was determined to work through the pain and ignore it until it went away. It didn't go away. It got worse. My body started screaming at me. The swelled up, and I could hardly walk. Then I fell down the hill and injured the other side of the same knee.

The orthopod, who might just be the worst doctor I have ever consulted in terms of communicating with patients, reckons I have injured the collateral ligaments. He didn't tell me this. I had to look up the diagnostic code on the internets. I had an MRI last week, and in a couple of hours I will get the results. Meanwhile, I have been on this excellent NSAID meloxicam and can walk pretty well and even muck around in the pond moving silt. I can't run a lick, though.

I hope I don't want surgery what with being a huge physical coward and all. Needless to say, this injury has been a setback in my hunkification program. I suppose I'm lucky that I made it this far without a serious knee injury.

Bad Generals

Attaturk links to an article in the Armed Forces Journal wherein a field grade commander calls the general officer corps to task for its moral and professional failures. It’s worth a look.

Any general with any sense knew that stabilizing Iraq would take hundreds of thousand of soldiers, but few of them were willing to say so. Why didn't the administration marshall the resources required? I propose several contributing factors:

  • The regime is populated by incompetents.
  • The regime has no grasp of reality.
  • The regime didn't think it could sell a war involving so many troops and such tremendous costs.
  • The regime isn't looking to stabilize Iraq and just wants perpetual war and the gnarly extra powers that come with it.

Seriously, if the consequences of failure in Iraq will be catastrophic, as so many warmongers claim these days, why aren't they suggesting troop levels of 400,000 or more? It's because the warmongers are pulling our cranks and don't really believe what they're saying.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

This and That and the Other

Steve Scott had a good suggestion for how chickenhawks can support the war they love so much. Let them serve as mercenary volunteers. Heck, let them form regiments of volunteers. Jonah Goldberg’s New Rough Riders would strike fear in the hearts of… Well, let’s just say there would be fear in some hearts and loads in some pants.

One good thing about the Bush administration is that it made me realize that my incompetence and lack of character should not bar me from high office. If Gonzo can be AG, I could be, too. If Brownie could run FEMA, so could I. If Bush can be CinC, there’s no reason I couldn’t be. What I’d like to be is VPOTUS. I’d just draw my pay, live in my mansion, and show up at the Senate on occasion. Otherwise, I’d be in my usual undisclosed location.

Wm Norman Grigg has nailed it again with his defense of the Second Amendment. Sure, some gun toting individual crazies have killed some folks over the years, but it’s gun toting, bomb wielding crazies working for governments that have killed tens of millions in just the last century. If you were going to disarm someone to save lives, you should disarm governments.

About a mile and a half down the road, one of the property owners has an appeal before the planning board to allow him to operate a beagle kennel on his property. The immediate neighbors have put up yard signs in opposition: “No Dog Kennel on Miller Hill”, “Stop the Dog Kennel”, “This Is Not Kennel Country”. I’d hate to be mixed up in a fight with my neighbors over their use of their property. I’d hate to live next to a bunch of beagles, but I don’t think I would use force against my neighbor by setting the planning board goons on them.

The nephews might visit weekend after next. I would like to put them to work in the garden, but they are lazy and useless. They’ll work for about 30 minutes and then start whining. They have helped me over the years to maintain my commitment to a child-free lifestyle. Whenever we started musing about the possibility of having kids, a visit with the nephews would drive any such notions right out of our minds. For that I am grateful to them.

Yankee fans are the most fickle fans around. A-Rod is belting homers like crazy, so the fans love him and claim they always loved him. Last year, he was a bum. And he’ll be a bum again as soon as he slumps. I have followed A-Rod since he was a Tacoma Rainier. He’s basically a good guy, and it has to be hard on him to deal with New Yorkers. After all, he played in Seattle, the land of the bland and ultra nice for many years, and coming to New York must have been a shock.

I finally figured out how to do a hyperlink. If I could only figure out how to do a blogroll, I'd be in business.

If I Were Alec Baldwin...

If I were Alec Baldwin and I had a daughter who was a rude, thoughtless little pig and whose affections for me had been substantially alienated by my shrewish ex-wife, I’d just give up on calling her or visiting her. I’d let it be known that I was available any time she needed me. I’d send a card and gift on birthdays and for Christmas and other occasions, but I’d just quit trying to have a relationship under the conditions imposed by the ex-wife. If your ex-spouse is the custodial parent and aims to alienate the affections of the child from you, there’s nothing you can do about it. The child will be alienated, at least until she grows up and realizes that her mom was to blame. Then you’ll be the favorite parent, and you won’t have had to go through all that parenting crap during adolescence.

I’ve seen this scenario played out hundreds of times. It happened to me as a child. My mother alienated us from our father and made visitation a hellish experience. Eventually the old man just gave up and started a new family. It was probably for the best. Most guys go through the motions of trying to be with their kids after a divorce mainly because of social pressure to be a good father. If it becomes too much of a hassle and it looks as if the kids are suffering because of it, that’s a perfect excuse to stop visiting.

I’ve worked on lots of cases where the mother obstructed visitation just for spite, and I could see how the fathers might get worn down and give up. Some mothers went so far as to make false accusations of sexual abuse, and that really threw a wrench into the fathers’ relationship with the kids. They had to prove they were not child molesters all the while the mothers had the kids full time and could work on them so they would start to think their dads were molesters. It’s usually better for kids to have a relationship with their father, but the benefits can be outweighed by a mother intent on alienating the children from their dad.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Draft the Chickenhawks!

My hero Wm Norman Grigg explains how a true patriot should hope for the defeat of the US government in Iraq:

For one thing, if the government does not lose, it will be emboldened to embark on even more adventures.

I have read from time to time wingnut complaints about how opponents of war seem to them to sympathize with the “enemy” or to delight in the deaths of US forces. One need not sympathize with the foes of the US government to regard defeat in an ill conceived war of aggression as the best thing for one’s country and for one’s own interests. One need not wish for casualties or delight in them. In fact, I know of no opponent of the war who actually wishes soldiers to come to harm.

In fact, most opponents of war want the soldiers out of harm’s way immediately. The warmongers want them to continue to risk life and limb. Which side has the soldiers’ interests at heart?

The “chickenhawk” argument really resonates with me, and Grigg reports that it was used to good effect by Edmund Burke. I reckon that it is perfectly fair to challenge promoters of war, who claim that it is necessary for the common good, on why they do not enlist or why they have not encouraged their children to enlist in the military. If it is so damned important for the country as they say and if they are as patriotic as they claim to be, they should sign up right now and volunteer for duty in Iraq. If they are not fit for duty, because they are doughy pantloads, for example, they should make themselves fit or volunteer to serve in Iraq in some civilian position.

Tbogg points out that Mitt Romney has five sons, all of whom are of an age to serve, but that Romney has not encouraged any of them to enlist, despite Romney’s support for the war: t Seriously, Romney should be made to explain himself.

And warmongering Nebraska AG Jon Bruning who wants to unseat Chuck Hagel because of Hagel’s opposition to the war, is only 38 years old and eligible to serve: If he thinks the war is so important, why doesn’t he fight in it?

Chickenhawks are not fit for office. Bush and Cheney, chickenhawks extraordinaire, are prime examples.

Limbo Closes Shop

The Roman Catholic Church has finally decided to close limbo, or so I have heard from some of my Catholic conspecifics. What are they going to do with all those un-baptized babies and fetuses, including I presume blastocysts miscarried during the subclinical phase of pregnancies? I have heard that the authorities aren’t entirely sure about what happens to them and have kept their options open. I recommend that a form of indulgence be sold to permit the living to buy dead babies and fetuses tickets to heaven. This preserves the hierarchy’s monopoly as gatekeepers of salvation, enriches the organization, and gives comfort to those of the living who can’t abide the idea of an innocent fetus or infant in Hell. Everybody wins.

If fetuses and infants are resurrected at the end of days, will they be resurrected in the state in which they died or will they be endowed with fully matured bodies and minds, albeit lacking any memories? If they are Hell bound, will they be tormented as infants or fetuses or endowed with an even greater capacity for suffering before being cast into the pit? If such potential human beings are raised up as what they might have become, then why wouldn’t everyone be raised up to their potential?

I don’t really know what characteristics a creature must have to count as a person who will be raised at the end of days. It’s not really up to me, of course, and I don’t see what difference my opinion on the matter makes in how I live and treat others. If a grieving mother takes comfort in the idea that she will see her lost child again in the hereafter, it would not be very loving of me to gainsay her.

It seems to me that it’s rarely a good idea to think about the mechanics of supernatural events. My thought processes and imagination are informed by modernity, however, so I find it hard to think about the supernatural and divine in ways that are appropriate to those spheres. Modernistic thinking about these things often leads to some absurd conundrum such as that posed by un-baptized infants and fetuses.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Copy of Me is Still Me, Unless it Isn't

bk marcus had a thought provoking post on teleportation: It turns out that he did his college thesis on the philosophical implications of teleportation and the concept of identity, and he even posts a link to the thesis. I wish I had written anything worth saving in college.

The young bk came to what I reckon is the right conclusion, that identity is a construct. When we speak of identity, we do so for a purpose, and the requirements for establishing identity may differ according to context. I have exchanged every molecule in my body several times over, and I have had periods of unconsciousness every day of my life; however, for most purposes I am still considered the same person as I was several iterations ago.

In “The Physics of Immortality”, Tipler asserts that an exact copy of a person would, in fact, be that person. That is, I suppose the idea that allows Star Fleet personnel to allow themselves to be disintegrated and reintegrated routinely. I have always suspected that when you enter the transporter, you are killed. The individual who appears at the destination is just a copy of you that thinks he is you. Then again, what is it that is you? If it’s the pattern, then the copy would be the person.

I believe in the resurrection of the body at the end of days, but I try not to think too much about the mechanics of this. What version of me will be resurrected? The young know-it-all or the more humble middle aged guy or the demented old codger? Will I perhaps be some sort of amalgam of my various selves over my lifetime? Then again, it probably doesn’t matter since the ephemera of my life will be forgotten during an eternity of further personal development and the accumulation of memories in the afterlife. Also, I will be free of all defects and, therefore, will have to be transformed significantly. I probably wouldn’t recognize myself.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Read Kevin Carson

Kevin Carson doesn’t post as often as he used to, but when he does, it’s something special. The latest is brilliant:

I like the way Carson critiques vulgar libertarians and their position on the struggle of labor. They vigorously defend price gouging by oil companies, but when a working stiff tries to work less for his pay or get more for his work, they’re all over him as a lazy good for nothing. That would make a pretty good topic for the “They’ll Do It Every Time” comic strip.

The most interesting aspect of the piece to me was that workers should get out of the box that the labor laws have put them in and be creative in their resistance to the bosses. I have some suggestions based on my experience as a corporate tool.

When you are in resistance mode, start doing exactly what your boss tells you just the way he tells you. Don’t tell him the flaws in his directives, and don’t cover for him. Don’t suggest improvements. Don’t pass on that crucial piece of information that would change everything.

Start asking your boss for approval to do almost anything, even stuff that you already do on your own now anyway. Ask your boss to assign a priority level to your assignments. This will slow things down, and it won’t be your fault.

Follow every policy and procedure to the letter. I keep a book of management memos and quote from them whenever I can.

Set up lots of conference calls and have your boss participate in them, especially when he doesn’t know anything about the issues to be discussed. Ask your boss to proofread and edit lots of documents that you produce. The idea is that you will pretty much be making work for your boss so that he will be too busy to pester you.

But won’t this piss off a good manager? Of course, but you won’t be engaging in this kind of resistance if you have a good manager. Your basic crappy manager will think his dreams are coming true and won’t realize that you are exploiting his tendency to micromanage and his barely concealed contempt for his subordinates.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'm Just a Caveman When It Comes to Gun Control Talk

Lots of folks are talking about gun control nowadays. I have to confess that I am ambivalent about guns. On the one hand, I don’t approve of government’s disarming the populace leaving only government thugs and non-governmental criminals with arms. On the other hand, I don’t much want to live in an armed camp all the time. I have known too many volatile yahoos who, had they been armed at the time, would probably have killed someone over some perceived slight.

The right to bear arms isn’t absolute, is it? For instance, if my neighbor possessed a thermonuclear device for personal defense, that would make me really nervous. I don’t think he should be allowed to have such a thing as nothing good can possibly come of it. I don’t think the 2d Amendment contemplated rocket propelled grenades or nerve gas for home use. There may be a point where insisting on the right to bear sophisticated and powerful arms becomes a little crazy, but I am not sure where to draw the line. Frankly, I don’t know all that much about firearms.

I used to think that the 2d Amendment should be interpreted as acknowledging a right to bear such arms as existed in 1789. It’s hard to go on a spree with a musket. But then, only law-abiding folks would limit themselves to musketry. Cops and other criminals would doubtless have modern weaponry. Also, if you look at the 2d Amendment as protecting the populace from the government itself, shouldn’t the populace be allowed to have any weapon that the government has in its arsenal? My brain hurts.

It seems to me that having a firearm in the home for personal defense rarely results in a homeowner’s thwarting a crook. More often, the homeowner gets wasted by home invading cops, he kills or is killed by a member of his own household, or a youngster accidentally kills someone or himself while playing with the weapon. Then again, who am I to tell folks in another household what risks they should tolerate? Also, why should all the firearm owners who don’t kill themselves or their loved ones be inconvenienced because of the minority who are irresponsible or unfortunate? These are things to consider in deciding whether to have firearms in my home and what precautions to take, not whether I should restrict others from making decisions about firearm ownership and handling.

How likely is it that Mrs Vache Folle would get so riled at me that having a firearm handy would put me at risk? I don’t aim to find out.

When I was in high school, I was an Explorer Scout and participated in competitive shooting. I had a single shot 22 rifle that I used in competition and practice, and I sometimes had to bring it to school and keep it in my locker. Nobody cared. They knew I wasn’t going to shoot anyone. Of course, that was back in the day when melancholy adolescents just killed themselves instead of taking others with them.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I Loved "Shaun of the Dead"

Zombie movies give me nightmares, so it was with some reluctance that I watched “Shaun of the Dead” the other day. I have to tell you that this was one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. I will certainly go to see “Hot Fuzz” made by the same people.

In “Shaun of the Dead”, the appearance of the living dead is a backdrop to the troubles of Shaun who is going nowhere in life and whose girlfriend is breaking up with him. He and his best mate Ed want nothing more than to hang out in their favorite pub. Shaun and Ed are too involved in their own lives to notice the looming zombie problem for much of the film. He skips through the news alerts on TV and is oblivious to the living dead he passes by on the street.

When Shaun and Ed realize that something is awry, Shaun says that he prefers not to use the “Zed-word”. Armed with a cricket bat and some other whacking instrument, Shaun and Ed set out to rescue Shaun’s girlfriend and mother and hole up at the pub. They don’t have the usual paralyzing terror of the living dead that you see in the genre, and they move about fairly freely due to the living dead people’s slowness and vulnerability to blows to the head.

I won’t reveal more lest I spoil the fun.

I enjoyed the movie, and I am less afraid of the “Zed-word” now.

It's Not the Fault of the Campus Cops

This guy reckons that the President and Police Chief at VT should resign or be fired for not taking responsibility for the murders there:

Based on my experience as one time campus cop, I can tell you that there is no way that the police would have suspected that the shooter from the dormitory would then go on a rampage across campus. It looked as if a demented boyfriend had killed his girlfriend and her RA. Under those circumstances, nobody is going to cancel classes across the campus because you would have to be psychic to know what the shooter was going to do. If there’s a robbery in the bookstore, calculus class across campus is going to be called off.

And what if the first shooting had occurred just off campus? Would you cancel classes then? What if it had occurred on the other side of Blacksburg?

The campus police and the administration had no reason to shut the campus down based on the first shooting. This tragedy is not their fault. It’s the shooter’s fault. Oh, and violent video games and food additives.

The FDA is a Scam

Here’s a guy who blames “conservatism” for the rash of E coli and other contamination in the food supply:

The gravamen of the piece is that the FDA has been defanged so much that it can’t do the job of protecting the food supply. Oh, and voluntary inspections don’t work. That’s what comes of smaller government: food poisoning.

In my opinion, the unholy alliance of government and big corporations has created a situation in which the food supply is particularly vulnerable. We get our food from God knows where, handled by God knows whom, and treated with God knows how little care. It is difficult to trace the origin of food borne pathogens or toxins, and nobody much remembers what entity was responsible for the last outbreak. The FDA exists to make us more comfortable with buying food from strangers, but it doesn’t really have the capability to protect us. It’s a con.

In a free society, where there were no subsidies for long distance transport and no state granted advantages to big corporations, we would likely get our food from more local, less anonymous sources. There would be more diversity of supply and less vulnerability to contamination. Moreover, this would mean suppliers would be more accountable to their customers and would more directly suffer the consequences of sloppy practices.

Without the FDA, we would all have to take more responsibility for the safety of our food. But we should be doing do that now because the FDA is unreliable and always has been. That we haven’t seen even bigger outbreaks is a function of luck and the operation of market incentives that make food providers try not to kill their customers. Throwing more money at the FDA and giving it more power as a reward for its ineffectiveness will serve only to make the public more complacent and more vulnerable.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Morality of Cheating on Your Taxes

On the way to jury duty yesterday I heard on the radio that 79% of Americans polled believed that it was morally wrong to underreport your income to the IRS. Unless they are just trying to avoid being marked as a potential tax evader and are lying, shame on them.

Is it immoral to hide your property from a thief to prevent his stealing it? Is it immoral to fail to tell a mugger about your secret money belt?

I pay my taxes because I don’t want to be kidnapped or killed by government thugs. I have no moral duty to do so. In fact, you might consider my payment of taxes an act of deplorable cowardice in view of the immoral uses to which the money is put. But I liken it to payment of protection money to mobsters. What good is it to get yourself killed to make a point? Would I be seen as a martyr to my moral principles or, given the poll results cited above, just a crazy tax cheat and a cautionary example to others who might resist?

Wherein I Whine About My Crappy Day

I want to post about what a crappy day yesterday was, but then some nutcase killed a bunch of people at Virginia Tech. That made me realize that my day could have been a lot worse. That said, I am now going to whine about my crappy day.

In the first instance, it has rained here in the Hudson Valley as it has not rained in 124 years. I’m sure we had over 5 inches in 36 hours or so. The drainage from a little less than a square mile runs through my backyard on its way down Hosner Mountain, and my stream beds and pond were not adequate to handle all the water that came through. The streams and pond overflowed with beaucoup erosion. Part of the yard under the east fence washed away so that the dogs can just walk right out if they please. Then again, part of someone else’s yard is now in and next to part of the pond, so I won’t need to buy fill.

We lost quite a few of the perennials in the pondside planting beds, but the fish somehow managed to avoid being washed away. The path over the culvert that carries one of the streams washed away almost entirely. Much of the yard is covered in silt and detritus, and the rest is a swampy mess.

We didn’t lose power, but the sump pump was overwhelmed by the volume of water coming into the basement. By the time I got home and realized something was awry, the water was up to my knees and over the machinery of the furnace (which was no longer working). I set up another pump and started draining the excess water, a process that took several hours. The furnace wouldn’t reset, so we had to call the oil company for maintenance and repairs. 2:00 am and $500 later, the furnace was up and running. I kept the second sump pump on just in case, but the back up pump was flooded and might not work. It is still raining and is expected to rain for a couple more days.

To top off the crappy day, I had jury duty in Poughkeepsie. Jury duty. In Poughkeepsie. It took forever to get there because all but the main roads were flooded out. The Taconic was half flooded when I used it, but I-84 and Route 9 were OK. The road to the Taconic was marked by debris and missing chunks of pavement. My number came up for voir dire in the first batch, but this was interrupted by lunch.

I was not keen to sit on a jury in a dental malpractice case, so I made sure to point out that I have had a lot of dental work and know more than your average schmoe about being a dental patient. I also made it known that I might not apply the law as instructed if I reckoned it was unjust. I was challenged and excused by 3:30 pm (although I might have to go back later in the week). This works better than obvious attempts to get off the jury. If you act as if you are keen to be on the jury, you are more likely to get thrown off. By the way, this was the worst voir dire I had ever seen, and the plaintiff’s attorney seemed to be going through the motions only.

On my way home, I found my way blocked by road closures on several occasions. I was astonished at how big Fishkill Creek was and how much flooding there had been. Once home, I had to deal with the flooding situation and the dogs. I didn’t want to leave them in the yard unsupervised because the pond was too dangerous and because the integrity of the fencing had been compromised, but they had been cooped up for a couple of days and I wanted to take advantage of a window of time with no precipitation to let them get some exercise. You can imagine how filthy the dogs were after a few squirrel chases. I should have hosed them down before I let them in the house.

Then that stupid Labrador Bingo from Woodmont Road shows up and gets Jesse all riled. Every time it rains, it seems that Bingo gets loose and visits. I couldn’t get Jesse to come inside so I could deal with the basement while Bingo was around to be hated. I had to slog into the swamp with a leash to make the devil come in. Then Bingo ran around the front, so the dogs knocked over several potted plats in order to bark at him through the front windows. They also got the chairs by the picture window really dirty (the slipcovers were in the laundry). So Mrs Vache Folle laid into me when she got home. She took Bingo home (she used my car for some reason to transport the filthy critter) while I cleaned up the boys.

Then a herd of deer had the audacity to come inside the fence to graze, and that set the dogs off again.

Thank God for vodka.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Do Recurring Dreams Have to be Nightmares?

Zombie movies freak me out. I sometimes have zombie nightmares, and sometimes a zombie will gratuitously appear in an otherwise zombie free dream. I watched a zombie movie the other day, “Land of the Dead” or some such thing where people lived in a city where zombies were excluded, partly by a river. But then zombies figured out how to wade and got into the city and started noshing on the living. I had a zombie nightmare that night.

I hate zombies. They make no sense at all. How do they digest the flesh of the living while they are decomposing? Do they poop and pee? Why are none of their organs vital except for their brains?

I have another recurring dream theme. I have a house that turns out to have multiple basement floors with lots of luxurious amenities but lots of water damage and plumbing problems. Sometimes, the bottom floor turns out to be a warehouse. In exploring the house, I will be delighted to discover an indoor swimming pool but disappointed because it has a big crack in it and the filter doesn’t work. That kind of thing.

I also find myself in the same dream city which has a confusing transit system, and I need to get to the airport across town. I know the city well since in my dreams it seems that I used to live there in a dense neighborhood where the topography matches the farm I grew up on. I never get to the airport on time.

I sometimes find myself at a weird theme park that is part public aquarium and part amusement park. Another recurring dream has me trying to make my way through a building only to find that there are no exits and that I am hopelessly disoriented. In another, I live in a dormitory where the bathrooms are disgustingly filthy and unusable.

In the worst recurring nightmare, I find myself in a university of some sort, about three quarters of the way through the semester, but for some reason I haven’t attended several of my classes and haven’t done any work in the others. I am going to flunk, and I am desperate to find a way to get out of my situation. I have to beg the faculty for a reprieve, pleading amnesia, but the faculty finds this implausible. I am screwed.

I have never really tried to get to the bottom of why I have the same or similar dreams over and over again. I reckon I am afraid of what they might mean about my innermost self. I don’t have any idea how to interpret dreams. I just wish I would stop having them.

When I was kid and up until my twenties, I had a recurring nightmare in which I found that I could fly by flapping my arms. I fly around gleefully for a while but tire and look to land. But I can’t land because the ground is completely covered with snakes. I have to rest on the branch of a particular dogwood tree that my grandfather had planted by one of the tractor trails. The snakes start climbing the tree, and I wake up. That one stopped a long time ago.

In childhood up until about age 8 or so, I had nightmares about a six foot tall carnivorous hot dog who lived in a cave and who ate humans in revenge for all the wieners they had eaten. I attribute this to my mother’s tactic of using ventriloquism to make my food talk in order to get me to eat it. I was a very picky eater as child, and I found the talking food disturbing instead of enticing.

In my preschool days, I had frequent nightmares about a demon whom I called “The Blasted Thing”. He lived in a tree most of the time or under the bed, and he would try to eat me. As long as I was entirely under the covers, however, I was entirely protected. I would also screw up my face into what I reckoned was a monstrous appearance so that any monsters who came by would mistake me for one of their own and pass me by.

I'm Against Silencing People Even When They Are My Enemies

The Rude Pundit sums up how I feel about silencing others, only with way more cussing: Somehow, RP knows just how to use the right cuss word at the right moment to make his point more effectively.

In my opinion, it is a virtue to tolerate speech, even hateful or uncivil speech. I do not have to listen to it or agree with it, but I do not want to go down the road of silencing people. That does no good at all.

In this whole Imus affair, there is so much hypocrisy going around that you need hip boots to wade through it. O&A, my favorite shock jocks, are rightly nervous about their own careers because of the chilling effect of Sharpton’s protests. They featured that idiot Sean Hannity on the program this morning who spoke out against silencing people. He is afraid that right wing pundits will be targeted next. Didn’t right wing pundits work tirelessly to get Ward Churchill fired from his job because of some of his statements? Wasn’t it nutjob Catholic League Bill what’s his name that got some bloggers run off John Edwards’ campaign and who threatened O&A? Now that the worm is on the other foot and the shoe has turned, wingnuts are all about “freedom of speech”.

The Imus affair isn’t about “freedom of speech”. Constitutional rights pertain only to government action (except in the case of the 13th Amendment), and a private individual cannot abridge another individuals right to free speech. The government didn’t silence Imus. It was the work of mindless corporations exercising their prerogatives in the market. The Imus affair is about an ethos that fights disagreement by silencing the disagreeable speaker instead of fighting speech with speech. It takes a lot of work to change an ethos. The wingnuts, the snarky knee jerk progressives, and everyone else has to eschew efforts to silence others, not just when it is happening to their side.

Let’s see if Sean Hannity doesn’t target some poor schmendrick for his speech in the next year.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

What Jason Whitlock Wrote

Jason Whitlock’s column on the Imus affair was read on the O&A show this morning: It’s worth a read.

The meat:

“I don’t listen or watch Imus’ show regularly. Has he at any point glorified selling crack cocaine to black women? Has he celebrated black men shooting each other randomly? Has he suggested in any way that it’s cool to be a baby-daddy rather than a husband and a parent? Does he tell his listeners that they’re suckers for pursuing education and that they’re selling out their race if they do?

When Imus does any of that, call me and I’ll get upset. Until then, he is what he is — a washed-up shock jock who is very easy to ignore when you’re not looking to be made a victim.

No. We all know where the real battleground is. We know that the gangsta rappers and their followers in the athletic world have far bigger platforms to negatively define us than some old white man with a bad radio show. There’s no money and lots of danger in that battle, so Jesse and Al are going to sit it out.”

Black Hole at the Center of the Blogosphere

I came across a cool map of the blogosphere in Discover Magazine, and I found on the internets:
Take a look at the bottom image on the page. The big white circle represents DailyKos. See the dark area at the core. That is the massive black hole at the center of the blogosphere, not unlike our own Milky Way. It is otherwise known as the Gorgon Michelle Malkin, and it represents wingnuttery so dense that no reason ever escapes from it.

This blog is a mere Kuyper object in orbit around the left libertarian system.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Some Stuff About Kids

I never had kids. Kids are a little creepy to me. Their heads are way out of proportion to their bodies, and they run around with sticky little fingers touching the walls. Their ingratitude is galling. And they seem to crap themselves for a lot longer than they used to.

What’s up with the delayed toilet training? I have known quite a few parents who did not get around to toilet training until forced to by a school rule barring admission to kids who still crap themselves. They can learn to go to the bathroom a lot earlier, as young as a year old even, if parents will bother to teach them. Why wouldn’t you invest a little time and effort early on to avoid years of diaper changes?

I made a few social blunders before I realized that early toilet training had gone out of fashion. I mistakenly assumed that the three or four year olds walking around with pantloads were simpletons, and I expressed my sympathy to the parents. Parents don’t like it when you think their kids are “special”.

Teaching kids to do stuff does smack of effort, I’ll grant you that, but it pays off with less effort in the long run. Teach the kid to wipe or wipe the kid for years. Teach the kid to dress or dress the kid for years. Teach the kid to bring you beer or get your own beer for years.

Oddly, I did my master’s thesis on birth spacing, infant mortality and breastfeeding. I reckon breastfeeding is the way to go, if you can swing it. You could breastfeed until your kid is four or five if you wanted to, but most women seem to get tired of it when the kid starts growing teeth. And it might be weird to breastfeed a kid who could comment on the flavor in complete sentences.

If breast milk is so good for us, why don’t we drink it instead of cows’ milk? You could have teams of professional lactators whose milk you could sell in supermarkets. I bet chocolate human milk would be good and good for you.

I was a bottle baby myself. I was born back when women were anesthetized, and I had to be yanked out into the world with forceps. My father was not in the room. For some reason that eludes me, my genitals were mutilated by removal of the foreskin. I confronted my mom about this a couple of years ago. “Why did you have my genitals mutilated, Mom?” “What are you talking about?” “You had me circumcised. Why?” “It was part of the procedure. We weren’t told we had a choice.” “Thanks a lot for the decreased sensation.”

Taking Offense for Fun and Profit

I never found Don Imus entertaining. On the contrary, I find him annoying. It was mean spirited and stupid to disparage the Rutgers women’s basketball players the way he did. I don’t think he should be executed, though, or even imprisoned. I don’t have an opinion on whether he should be fired from his radio gig. I wouldn’t go on his show if invited (and why would I be, what with being a nonentity and all) because he’s liable to make me look like an ass just like everybody else who appears on his show.

I don’t really miss being able to insult black people as freely as I once could back in the day. I don’t recall doing it all that much anyway except for enjoying the occasional racially themed joke. It is a social fact that white people are forbidden to disparage black people in certain ways, and it is necessary to keep this in mind when speaking in public. This is a lot easier the less racist you are. Is it fair? Fair has nothing to do with it. That’s just the way it is. We still have most of the privileges that go with being white, so the loss of the ability to drop N-bombs whenever we feel like it is not such a big deal really.

One thing I think is unfair is that “rednecks” and “crackers” come under disparagement all the time, and there are no consequences to this. Sure, we’re white and all, but we’re not the white people in charge. Our backpack of white privilege isn’t as fully loaded as your elite white folks’ designer backpacks with matching water bottle and bandana. What we need are some self appointed leaders to raise hell whenever anyone defames us, a redneck Al Sharpton if you will.

How about we form a Celtic-American (that’s what we call ourselves now in homage to our Scots-Irish forebears) Anti-defamation League that takes offense for all of us whenever anyone slips up. The best part would be that we could start taking offense at language that nobody would anticipate might be offensive. How dare you use the word “feud”. Let’s make people start using euphemisms such as “people of altitude” instead of hillbilly. We would get the show “Cops” off the air because it is offensive to us of the sun touched nape. You won’t be allowed to tell redneck jokes or use the word redneck unless you are one.

How do you get a gig as a professional offense taker? How did that Catholic League loon become the spokesman for Catholics and get invited on TV all the time?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Government Contracting Ain't Privatization

I watched Bill Maher’s show on HBO where he interviewed Ron Paul. He hit Paul right out of the box with some of his more controversial sounding views such as his belief that the Civil War might have been avoided. Paul didn’t waffle on anything, and he didn’t come off as a nut or anything, but I was disappointed in Maher’s squandering an opportunity to air some views that are not usually covered in the mainstream media.

I was peeved by Maher’s and his panelists’ take on “privatization”. They evidently consider it “privatization” when a company is given a contract to perform a service for government. Is it any surprise that outsourcing government activity to Halliburton in Iraq, to contractors at Walter Reed, or to cronies of Bush in New Orleans results in disaster? Of course not. It’s still a government activity driven by the commands of central planners and as bureaucratically mismanaged as ever. That’s not “privatization”, that’s just plain old government contracting.

For me, to “privatize” something is for the government to stop doing it altogether or to give up its monopoly on doing it. Paul remarked that veterans would get better care if they were given vouchers to use at any medical facility of their choice instead of having to get treatment at government facilities. That’s closer to “privatization” than turning management of a VA Hospital over to a private company to run for the government. The key distinction for me is that the consumer or client gets to decide how to spend the money, and the vendors have to be responsive to them in order to succeed.

To “privatize” schools means for the government to stop operating schools and to allow schooling to be delivered in the marketplace. Setting up a charter school is not “privatization”. Contracting out school administration is not “privatization”. In my preferred scheme, the government would not even involve itself in schooling, but it could still work if the government wanted to give some families money to spend on education as they saw fit.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Revocation of Independence

I lifted this from tbogg:

To the citizens of the United States of America, in the light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today.Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy. Your new prime minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a minister for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. You should look up revocation in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up aluminium. Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour', skipping the letter 'U' is nothing more than laziness on your part. Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters. You will end your love affair with the letter 'Z' (pronounced 'zed' not 'zee') and the suffix ize will be replaced by the suffix ise. You will learn that the suffix 'burgh' is pronounced 'burra' e.g. Edinburgh. You are welcome to respell Pittsburgh as 'Pittsberg' if you can't cope with correct pronunciation.Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up vocabulary. Using the same twenty seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. Look up interspersed. There will be no more 'bleeps' in the Jerry Springer show. If you're not old enough to cope with bad language then you shouldn't have chat shows. When you learn to develop your vocabulary then you won't have to use bad language as often.

2. There is no such thing as "US English". We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of -ize.3. You should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard. English accents are not limited to cockney,upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier). You will also have to learn how to understand regional accents - Scottish dramas such as Taggart will no longer be broadcast with subtitles. While we're talking about regions, you must learn that there is no such place as Devonshire in England. The name of the county is Devon. If you persist in calling it Devonshire, all American States will become shires e.g. Texasshire, Floridashire, Louisianashire.

4. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys. Hollywood will be required to cast English actors to play English characters. British sit-coms such as Men Behaving Badly or Red Dwarf will not be re-cast and watered down for a wishy-washy American audience who can't cope with the humour of occasional political incorrectness.

5. You should relearn your original national anthem, God Save The Queen but only after fully carrying out task 1. We would not want you to get confused and give up half way through.

6. You should stop playing American football. There is only one kind of football. What you refer to as American football is not a very good game. The 2.15% of you who are aware that there is a world outside your borders may have noticed that no one else plays American football. You will no longer be allowed to play it, and should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. It is a difficult game. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies). We are hoping to get together at least a US Rugby sevens side by 2005. You should stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the 'World Series' for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.15% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders,your error is understandable. Instead of baseball, you will be allowed to play a girls' game called rounders, which is baseball without fancy team strip, oversized gloves, collector cards or hotdogs.

7. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous in public than a vegetable peeler. Because we don't believe you are sensible enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you will require a permit if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

8. July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 2nd will be a new national holiday, but only in England. It will be called Indecisive Day.

9. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean. All road intersections will be replaced with roundabouts. You will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time,you will go metric with immediate effect and conversion tables. Roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips. Fries aren't even French, they are Belgian though 97.85% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat. Waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.

11. As a sign of penance 5 grams of sea salt per cup will be added to all tea made within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this quantity to be doubled for tea made within the city of Boston itself.

12. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all, it is lager. From November 1st only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer,and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. The substances formerly known as American Beer will henceforth be referred to as Near-Frozen Knat's Urine,with the exception of the product of the American Budweiser company whose product will be referred to as Weak Near-Frozen Knat's Urine. This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen,Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.

13. From November 10th the UK will harmonise petrol (or Gasoline, as you will be permitted to keep calling it until April 1st 2005) prices with the former USA. The UK will harmonise its prices to those of the former USA and the Former USA will, in return, adopt UK petrol prices (roughly $6/US gallon- get used to it).

14. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

15. Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy.

16. Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).

Thank you for your co-operation and have a great day.

John Cleese

Reductio ad Absurdam

Reason’s Hit & Run has two posts that bring reduction ad absurdum to mind. In one, it is reported that a Missouri legislator wants to make purchasers of baking soda register and go the counter to buy it because it is used in making crack cocaine: . Ridiculous? As H&R points out, this is no more ridiculous than laws controlling the purchase of allergy medicine because it is used to make meth. My brother tells me that wooden matches are restricted in Georgia because their heads can be used in meth making.

An apple or the cardboard tube in toilet paper can be transformed into serviceable hash pipes. Wouldn’t it make sense to restrict these products the same way? If someone can conceivably misuse an object, then everyone should be inconvenienced. You know what else is used in meth making? Containers of all sorts. Yet you can just go right into Wal-Mart and buy all you want with nobody questioning you.

The other post takes the idea of carbon offsets and extends the reasoning behind them to other forms of anti-social douchebaggery: . If you are a jerk, you can buy offsets from folks who will be extra nice. That way, you needn’t feel bad about your rudeness because you are really being nice when you take into account the offsets you bought.

This idea can be extended to other areas as well. Obesity offsets might work. I’d give money to people to eat less and be scary thin so as to balance out my fatness. If enough people participate, the epidemic of obesity will be solved as the average weight of Americans falls. Of course, that problem may be solved by increased use of ethanol. What you do, see, is encourage more corn to be used to make ethanol and less for animal food and human consumption. That way, food costs go up, and fat people won’t be able to afford to eat so much, especially poor fat people. Obesity epidemic and energy dependence solved in one brilliant stroke.

Rogier van Bakel reports on Alabama’s prohibition of sales of decent beer:
Alabamans can’t buy microbrews because they have a slightly higher alcohol content than other beers and children might drink them and get drunk faster. As Rogier points out, kids aren’t supposed to be buying any beer and they have a wide range of boozes to choose from if they aim to get drunk. What’s so special about good beer when there are so many other things that Alabaman kids might misuse? The state has a lot of power to regulate alcohol. Other articles in interstate commerce, not so much.

Cosmology Rocks!

I watch a lot of science shows on cable, and I especially like cosmology and particle physics. Both of them are spooky to me. Of course, I’m not smart enough to understand a lot of what the scientists are talking about, but I am nonetheless fascinated. I once read a classified ad where a hair salon was looking to hire a cosmologist. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why they’d want one of those on staff, maybe to lecture the ladies while they were getting their hair done. My wife reckoned that they were really in the market for a cosmetologist, but I like to think that there’s a whole world of job opportunities for cosmologists in the beauty industry.

Cosmology is awe inspiring. I find that I get a tingly sensation and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I think about the subject. It is close to some spiritual experiences I have had, and I find that cosmology reaffirms my religious faith. It also informs my faith in that it helps me to see God as so much greater than I can even imagine, as the Creator of a 100,000,000,000 galaxies. God is more awesome even than our capacity for awe. The vastness of the universe helps me remember that we talk about God in metaphors that make sense to humans and that relate to the human scale but which do not really capture God in the essentials at all. We mustn’t get too attached to our metaphors and should allow for creativity in coming up with new ways to talk about God.

Knowing that the universe is so immense and so old even affects the way I pray. I don’t even use language most of the time. God knows how I feel and what I’m thinking better than I do. I know God is greater than anything I can even imagine, so I am reluctant to articulate the inadequate and faint praise that I am capable of generating with human speech.

There is something comforting in knowing that I am as insignificant as I am. It makes the grace of God all the more wonderful and mysterious.

Did you know that in several billion years Andromeda and the Milky Way are going to collide? Man, that is going to be spectacular and destructive. With that to worry about, my little day to day problems pale in significance. Global warming troubling you? That’s nothing compared to the warming we’ll see when the sun blows up. I hope somebody videos these events so we can watch them after the Resurrection. At least take some cell phone pictures or something. Better yet, maybe we’ll have the capacity to drop into time and see them for ourselves. Maybe I’m watching myself right now and wondering what I was thinking when I made my life choicers?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Middling Politicians in the Middle

JL Wilson discusses the “center”:

He argues that in our current political climate a “centrist” ticket for president would either be a McCain/Lieberman type with more war and more social programs or a Paul/Kucinich kind of ticket with less war and fewer social programs. The “center” could be either fascist or libertarian.

“Center” and “centrist”, and similar terms like “moderate” make almost no sense in America. The two major parties agree on almost everything except the details and who gets the spoils. They are like golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers, different only in superficial ways. They all agree on the basic premise that the government has no inherent limits, although they disagree on what to do with their claimed unlimited authority. What would it mean to be in the “center” of the goldens and the labs? You’d be a mutt, that’s all. You’d still be stupid and barely trainable, and you would fetch things and jump in ponds for hours just like the pure breds. In time, you might become a recognized breed, a labragolden if you will. OK, I’ve taken the metaphor too far. The point is that a centrist is not ideologically distinguishable from a non-centrist in any meaningful way because the ideological spectrum is already extremely narrow.

Perhaps a centrist is someone who wants to set aside partisanship and have both parties work together to rob the people more efficiently. What a waste to fight each other when the two syndicates can divide the country up amicably. Everybody wins!

I often hear folks talk about the extremists in the major parties. You have your nannies on the right and your nannies on the left both of which groups aim to subject us to an increasingly powerful state and who differ mainly in the specific conduct they aim to regulate. They agree 100% on the principle that the state can and ought to regulate the minutest details of our lives. They just can’t agree on which details to regulate first.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

My Take on Some Random Stuff

I want to know how you can have a list of the 50 most powerful American gays and neither Karl Rove or Condi Rice is on it: I realize the administration is on the downswing, but surely they are more influential than Jodie Foster at #43.

Who is behind the Draft Dick Cheney movement? I want to know because that person is either a prankster or a nutcase. It’s Larry Kudlow, you say? Nutcase it is. Seriously, who is less popular than Dick Cheney or more unelectable? Even the BTK murderer has better poll numbers, and he’s a lot more likeable to boot. Cheney/Guiliani in 2008! I want a bumper sticker now.

The political money numbers are in. These are in millions of dollars.

Romney $23 Giuliani $15 McCain $12.5 Huckabee $0.5 TOTAL $51
Clinton $26 Obama $25 Edwards $14 Richardson $6 Dodd $4 Biden $3 TOTAL: $78

If these figures are an indicator, I would predict a Romney/Giuliani GOP ticket. It would be unfortunate for America if those guys win. The Democrats are looking to have a competitive primary season, and I wouldn’t venture to guess how that would turn out. I’m not a Clinton fan (except that she makes the wingnuts extra crazy, and I like that). I found out that I’m an Obamamaniac when I took the presidential candidate selector JL Wilson linked to:
Ron Paul was a close second, and I had expected that I would come out a Paul supporter. I’m a big fan of Ron Paul, and I wish him the best. He’ll need to pull out a major grassroots coup to get nominated. The big money won’t like him.

John Bolton and Management Styles

John Bolton was on the repeat of The Daily Show yesterevening. On the one hand, he argued that the permanent bureaucracy should be required to implement the president’s policies without question and to adopt his positions. On the other hand, his closest advisors should be able to communicate with him in confidence. Why would they need to keep their advice secret if it consists merely of telling the president what he wants to hear at all times. Surrounding yourself with a posse of yes men was the best way to assure good government per Bolton.

When I have been in a leadership position, I have welcomed dissenting points of view. If you don’t, your staff will watch you screw up without lifting a finger to help you. At times, it was annoying, but I was better off for listening to a wide range of views. Now that I am a staffer, I am helpful to the managers who welcome my advice even when it goes against their views, but I will let a manager who is an arrogant prick implode as long as I’m sure none of the debris will get on me. I pick my battles. On the crap that doesn’t matter (about 90% of what a holding company does), I hold my peace and cheerfully implement even the most idiotic policies and procedures. On the “important” stuff, I voice my concerns. I like to think that this helps me in the credibility department.

How do guys who hate dissent get ahead so often? They work for the same kind of douchebags and get promoted based on their perceived loyalty and cooperativeness. If they find themselves under a more open minded manager, they may get stuck. They are often found in rigid bureaucracies where they are most at home and in administrative departments and holding companies of businesses where they are evaluated based on activity rather than results. If the function that they oversee is important, their deficiencies as managers will become manifest quickly. The Bush regime is a spectacular example of how bad management leads to failure.

The intolerant manager finds himself cut off from intelligence and information that might be helpful. His decision-making becomes progressively divorced from reality. He comes to view failures as manifestations of disloyalty or incompetence of subordinates in carrying out his agenda when his own program is itself to blame.

I wouldn’t let John Bolton manage a taco stand.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bush Holding 150,000 Plus Hostages

This should be interesting. Bush is fixing to veto the supplemental spending bill because it has deadlines for withdrawal from Iraq. This is supposed to set up a situation in which the troops in Iraq will run out of resources. Bush will try to make it look as if he is playing chicken with Congress with the welfare of the troops on the line.

He has the stronger hand here in one sense, because he doesn’t give a crap about the troops. He has already demonstrated his contempt for them in many ways. If it takes getting every last one of them killed to further his agenda and build up his ego, that would be fine by Bush. In fact, he would probably arrange for the first cuts in spending to be sure to result in casualties. Congress, on the other hand, hasn’t yet demonstrated a complete lack of regard for the troops’ welfare, and some of them are going to want to appear to be genuinely concerned for them.

Who will be blamed in the eyes of the people? Will it be Bush with his track record of troop hating and low credibility? Or will it be the Democrats in Congress with their deadlines that reflect the will of the people? You’d think this would be a no brainer, but since the people are also no brainers it is hard to tell where they will come down on this. The lunatic Bushie base will rally behind their Fuehrer no matter what he does, and the Democratic base will stay in line. The ignorant horde of middle of the roaders will decide the issue.

Remember the showdown between Newt and Bill that resulted in the government’s being shut down? I wouldn’t have thought that anyone would have cared if the government took a break from harassing us, but the people were pissed at Newt because of this. Congress got the blame because they wouldn’t pass a spending bill. In this case, the money is on the table so it might be possible to lay the blame on Bush for walking away from the money especially since he can also withdraw the troops and get them out of harm’s way. It’s as if Bush has the military as his hostage to threaten if the people and Congress don’t fall in line with his will.

Will Congress have the guts to see this through even when Bush lets troops get killed and maimed just to make a point?

Are You Depressed or Just Really Sad?

WaPo reports that some researchers think that depression is over-diagnosed:

Some folks are diagnosed as depressed when they are simply “sad”. How would you be able to tell if you were depressed and should take medication or that you are sad and need to get over it with supportive counseling and the passage of time? You are supposed to be sad after a tragedy, say the death of a loved one or a divorce or job loss, but who is to say how sad you ought to be and how long your sadness should persist? Psychiatrists, that’s who! They aim to be the “arbiters of normality”, and they don’t like it when sufferers and their regular doctors throw meds at depression and anxiety when they haven’t seen a specialist. Counseling sessions are a must. Otherwise, psychiatrists will not be as rich as they could be.

I reckon I know when I’m “just” sad and when I’m not right in the head, and I don’t need to be vetted by a shrink to get meds. Moreover, even if I were just sad, it should be up to me whether I want to use meds to decrease my suffering.

In a different world my melancholy disposition might not be triggered so much, so you might say that the totality of circumstances (society, politics, etc) is making me and other depressed people sadder than we might be in a world organized to accommodate our brain chemistry. Is our brain chemistry out of whack, or is the world?

Monday, April 02, 2007

How Would a Free Society Deal with Less Proximate Causes of Injuries?

Via lowercase liberty, I came across this article about a libertarian theory of punishment predicated on “proportionality”:

What is it about the concept of proportionality as the core principle for determining punishment that makes it particularly “libertarian”? The author discusses some other theories and finds that their application is less consistent with libertarian principles than a system predicated on proportionality. In my view, overall freedom is enhanced through the employment of principles that are simple, predictable and require less in the way of an administrative apparatus.

An issue not addressed in the article, but related and on my mind lately, involves the mechanism for deciding punishment or compensation in the case of multiple wrongdoers and in the case of wrongdoing that is less proximate but nonetheless causative of injury. Is there necessarily a uniquely “libertarian” set of principles to guide us in making these kind of determinations?

There are many instances where the contribution of an action or inaction to causation of an injury can be factually established but where it is does not seem reasonable to attach moral or legal blame. If I feed the ducks in a pond, and these same ducks cause a plane crash, which they would not have done had I not delayed them with duck chow, I may be said to have contributed to the crash, but it does not seem reasonable to blame me for the crash or to require me to compensate the victims.

On the other hand, if I manufacture an aircraft engine part and use substandard materials such that its likelihood of failure is increased, and its failure subsequently contributes to a plane crash, it seems reasonable to bring me to account. The difference, where each action is remote from the injury and where there is no intent to cause injury, is the degree of foreseeability and the extent to which the actor has a duty to the injured party. Of course, opinions may vary as to what degree of foreseeability must be demonstrated before liability should attach. The same goes for duty.

At some point, an arbitrary assumption must be made as to what causal acts or failures to act warrant moral culpability or legal liability. This judgment will be, on the one hand, a moral one. On the other hand, it is related to the complexity and cost of the administrative apparatus designed to make the determination and dispense justice. Accordingly, you may find a remote cause morally objectionable yet be unwilling to maintain a system to apply coercion in the case of that same cause.

Is there a “libertarian” solution to this problem? Are the concepts of foreseeability and duty helpful?