Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bruins back on track?

Of course I would have taken a blowout, but perhaps it was just as well to play a team that wouldn't go away and therefore forced UCLA to pay attention all the way to the end. So 72-61 was just fine. I was impressed by Josh Smith, the Freshman big man; he works hard and seems to be learning how to throw his weight around a bit. Nice to get a win before the league season starts. It will be even nicer to beat UC Davis on Monday.

Wait 'til next year already?

Here's Sports Illustrated:

"UCLA should be a preseason top five team next year. The Bruins, who nearly knocked off No. 4 Kansas last week behind 33 points from Tyler Honeycutt, don't have any seniors, and they have two talented transfers from North Carolina (twins David and Travis Wear) sitting out the season."

Pardon me if I sound like a true impatient UCLA basketball afficionado and hope that a little of next year comes to pass this year. I watched that Kansas game, and a win was certainly possible, which might have changed the character of the preseason -- so far the Bruins have lost the tough games where it seemed as if they had at least a chance to win. They play Cal Poly today (not sure which one) and I'll be hoping for a decisive win. At last.

Something noble at the Nobels

Given the ideological predilections of the Nobel committees, the Nobel prizes in other disciplines besides the strictly scientific are often less than inspiring. This year, however, a couple of the events were notable. First, that the Nobel committee, which despite persistent leftism has generally recognized communism as oppressive, gave the Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who is in prison in China and naturally wasn't allowed to travel to Stockholm for the presentation. So the committee put an empty chair on the stage and had actress/director Liv Ullmann read Liu's statement upon being sent to prison, which is here. Inspiring.

Second, Mario Vargas Llosa, the great Peruvian novelist/playwright, who has deserved a Nobel (if any body does) in literature for about 20 years but has offensive and retrograde (i.e., verging on pure libertarian) politics. His Nobel lecture on the importance of literature as a civilizing tool is inspirational all the way through. Here's his banquet toast. A brief taste of the lecture:

"Without fictions we would be less aware of the importance of freedom for life to be livable, the hell it turns into when it is trampled underfoot by a tyrant, an ideology, or a religion. Let those who doubt that literature not only submerges us in the dream of beauty and happiness but alerts us to every kind of oppression, ask themselves why all regimes determined to control the behavior of citizens from cradle to grave fear it so much they establish systems of censorship to repress it and keep so wary an eye on independent writers."

Read them both and see if you don't come away with a tiny bit more optimism about the human race.

Monday, December 06, 2010

USC 28, UCLA 14. At least I'm not ashamed

Well, as I rather suspected would happen, USC beat UCLA last night, but it was a more competitive game than the final score indicated and I wasn't ashamed of the effort. Indeed, if Jonathan Franklin hadn't fumbled shortly after a 59-yard touchdown run, the momentum would definitely have been with UCLA, and UCLA was within a play of tying the game as late as the fourth quarter. Also, the team didn't give up, scoring a meaningless touchdown (as far as the determining the winner of the game) but not necessarily meaningless when it comes to self-respect.

I want to believe Rick Neuheisel can turn things around, but the program definitely took a step backward this year. Yes, there were injuries, notably to Kevin Prince, who showed a few signs of competence before going down. I think Neuheisel is a reasonably good coach -- he certainly had success at Colorado and Washington. But you kinda wonder. He was accused of at least mildly shady recruiting practices at both schools (though what he was fired for at Washington , betting on March madness, had nothing to do with football) but has cleaned things up while serving at his alma mater. Could it be that his success before had more to do with possibly shady activities than coaching skills and now that he's following the straight-and-narrow his coaching deficiencies are being exposed? I don't know enough to have a definitive opinion, but it strikes me as a possibility.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

WikiLeaks back up, Ron Paul defends them

The outcry from the government stooges who dominate most of the media against WikiLeaks and founder Julian Assange has been relentless. So it's nice to see that WikiLeaks, after several times being taken down, and some servers who decided not to host it, and service attacks, is back up again, here. I'm also pleased that my old acquaintance Ron Paul has defended WikiLeaks, quite eloquently. That "when truth becomes treason" line is priceless. How quickly people forget that the founders purposely made treason difficult to prove, desiring as they did to encourage independence and the possibility of dissent among the citizenry. I'm also pleased to see my former colleague Steve Greenhut defending WikiLeaks. I'm afraid that Ron has thereby lost his chance to become chairman of the banking subcommittee that oversees the Fed, so it was gutsiness with consequences (I'd love to be proven wrong here, but doubt that will happen).

Wesley Snipes railroaded into prison

You wouldn't know it from the mainstream media coverage, but it looks, as I had sort of intuited without knowing much, as if actor Wesley Snipes is getting a raw deal in his tax case against the IRS. I hadn't followed the case all that closely, but in fact he was acquitted on the serious charge of tax evasion and convicted only on misdemeanor failure to file in a timely fashion. Yet the judge is throwing him in the slammer for three years, much more than would normally be warranted for a misdemeanor. Apparently his real crime is contempt of government, and judges paid with tax money extracted by force from innocent victims like to remind us that from the perspective of the government's system, that is a crime far more serious than anything you might do to a mere fellow citizen. It's nice to see the the Libertarian Party is taking his side. He doesn't seem to have many friends in this matter. Given that Turbo Tim Geithner filed fraudulent returns, you can see just how selective the enforcement is.

This is hardly unprecedented. Years ago I got to know tax resister Irwin Schiff fairly well and listened to his theories. I became convinced that the income tax really is, according to statute, voluntary, and that Irwin, perhaps the closest student of the tax code of anyone I ever met, had broken no actual law by not sending in his pound of flesh. But he served several terms in prison. When it comes to taxes, the system loves to make examples so as to keep the sheeple in line.

The Bruins' bowl game

I suppose tonight's UCLA-USC game will be somewhat the equivalent of a bowl game for both teams -- USC because it's being disciplined by the NCAA over stuff from the Reggie Bush era and can't go to a bowl game this year, and UCLA because it doesn't have a good enough record to go to a bowl. Back in the day this game -- Beban, O.J., etc. -- was almost always unpredictable. Whatever the records, you knew it would be a hard-fought game and that the team with the poorer record always had a chance. In the current time frame UCLA has only beaten USC once in the last 12 years. so it would really be sweet to post a win this time.

This is a UCLA team that could go either way -- show up and battle hard, or lay down and die. The Register's Scott Reid gives the Bruins the edge in some categories -- linebacker, special teams, secondary, coaching, intangibles -- and predicts a 20-14 UCLA win. I hope he's right. I'll be wearing lots of blue and gold and watching closely in a few hours, atavistic partisan that I am.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A time before time?

Among the intriguing and attractive things about cosmology, the study of the origins of the universe, is that it is still speculative to a great degeree, since we don't have nearly enough evidence to be as certain as we might like to be, and (so far) it makes little difference to how we live our lives in real time on earth. (I know, some have purported to find a hand of God behind the Big Bang, but while it's not entirely iut of line as a hypothesis, it certainly hasn't been proven.)

That's why it's fun to consider an alternative to the Big Bang being promulgated by one Roger Penrose of Oxford. He is intrigued by the possibility that the Big Bang wasn't the beginning of everything but simply one in a series of repeating cycles of growth and decay in the universe, in which the universe seems to lose energy and is ready for another Big bang to get things going again. I don't pretend to understand the intricacies of the theory (as is often the case, The Economist offers perhaps the best lay explanation), which is one of the reasons it's fun to speculate.

Perhaps a moral victory?

I know, one is not supposed to be content with moral victories in spots, but I think I'll take a tiny piece of consolation from the Bruins' 77-76 loss to #4 Kansas tonight. UCLA tied it with a few seconds to go, but then a Kansas player was fouled with less than a second and made one of the shots. A lot closer than anybody expected, winnable -- UCLA seemed to have the momentum if it had gone to overtime -- and a far better performance than UCLA's two losses last week. It looks to me as if Ben Howland used the time simnce last week to prepare the Bruins better and teach them a few winning tricks -- and of course Tyler Honeycutt went ballistic with 33 points.

My hope, of course, is that these rough games before league play starts will toughen the Bruins for league play and (hopefully) beyond. I think Freshman Josh Smith will develop into a very good player. I may be a hopeless partisan, but I'm looking for the Bruins to be better -- maybe not past-glory Final Four better, but better -- very soon.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gay man arrested for ejaculating during TSA pat-down

Talk about an inversion of meaning! A gay man in San Francisco was arrested and charged with sexual assault after apparently becoming aroused and ejaculating during a TSA pat-down. In truth, it was the TSA that committed the sexual assault. The guy's partner says he has a lot of piercings on his "manhood," and the TSA guy discovered this and spent an inordinate amount of time exploring the piercings, which as far as I can see have nothing to do with concealed bombs or airline safety.

People have joked that the TSA policy of having agents of the same sex do the pat-downs might create complications with gay people. It looks less like a joke now.

Or was this whole news story a joke? That does seem possible.

UPDATE: Did a little research and found Dead Serious News is a "satirical Website. Sorry.

Bush didn't see fit to visit OC Register

Cathy Taylor, the Register's Commentary & Opinion editor, knew about ex-pres. GW Bush's planned visit to celebrity preacher Rick Warren's Saddleback Church well in advance and tried very hard to get the president, who does seem more relaxed now that he's out of office, to drop by the Register for an editorial board meeting. The former prez just wasn't interested. I do suspect that he is in no mood to visit any newspaper editorial board since most are Democrat-dominated (unlike the Register). But it would be nice to suspect that this blog post of mine documenting one of his many lies, which I think was the only thing appearing on the Opinion pages prior to his visit, might have come to the notice of some of his advance men. open to merger to staunch red ink, the 15-year-old news site, has let it be known that it is open to a merger. The development highlights just how difficult it is for a free-standing news site without a media partner to be economically viable. Salon is said to have lost about $15 million, a third of that in the last year. Will the brand be enough that some other entity will want to take on all that debt? Hard to say.

I certainly hope that Salon will remain viable to keep on posting Glenn Greenwald's almost always invaluable material on civil liberties and secrecy -- although I'm pretty sure Glenn will ctch on elsewhere if Salon goes belly-up. Salon does have other good stuff (as well as some not-so-good), so that would be a pity.

Attempted subversion of medical marijuana law in N.J.

Once again opponents of medical marijuana are showing contempt for the will of the people, this time recently-elected governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, a new favorite of conservative Republicans statewide, in some cases rightfully so. He's just flat-out wrong on this one, however, and one hopes the 1/3 of Republicans (conservatively speaking) who typically support medical marijuana will call him on it.

Briefly: 10 months ago the New jersey legislature passed a law authorizing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes and polls show 82% of New Jerseyans support it. But Gov. Christie, elected since then, isn't fond of the law and is in charge of implementing it through regulations. The draft regulations he has issued seem informed by myths rather than anything resembling scientific information. He wants to limit the THC potency of cannabis used medically -- an utterly wrongheaded idea since the only effect will be that patients smoke more to get the same effect. He also wants to mandate that doctors every three months try to get patients off marijuana, even terminal patients, when there's simply no evidence that it's addictive.

It appears that medical marijuana advocates still have enough legislative votes to stymie the governor's stupid proposals (a vote has been postponed from November to Dec. 13), but it will take an all-out fight and a good deal of time; more delays for seriously ill patients.

Meantime the feds are throwing up roadblocks to cannabis dispensaries despite the DOJ statement that the feds will leave well enough alone in states with medical marijuana laws. According to Americans for Safe Access, The latest tactic is to use an antiquated tax code to prohibit medical marijuana dispensing facilities from taking IRS deductions and credits attributed to amounts paid or incurred during the taxable year.

Monday, November 29, 2010

WikiLeaks performs a service, even if illegal

It has been amusing seeing various establishment figures trying to work up a sincere dudgeon over the release of State Dept. cable traffic that has turned out to be more amusing and titillating than dangerous to national security, whatever that is. I've done a few things for the Register on the drop and will do more (the links, by the way, are themselves links-rich). But personally I can make a pretty good case that there should be no government secrets kept from the taxpayers, who are paying for the government and deserve to know what the government is doing in their names. The prospect doesn't frighten me even a little bit. Government keeping secrets from us is more dangerous to our liberty than any foreign threat.

Few foreign diplomats will be shocked to know that U.S. diplomats say things in cables back home that they wouldn't say in public; they all do it. The notion that keeping more things secret can be equated with security is utterly fallacious. Even the establishment 9/11 commission noted that too-strict compartmentalization and turf jealousy almost certainly contributed to a failure to onnect the dots before 9/11.

My first experience with the classification system came when my dad, who was a chemist working for General Dynamics, got me a go-fer job there two summers. Even as a go-fer I had to be cleared to see classified material, since parts slated for incoming inspection were often classified or accom0anied by blueprints or schematics that were classified. It struck me that little of this classifications was really necessary. The impression was strengthened during the years I spent in Washington, noting that much classification seemed to serve no other purpose than making people who were already more egotisticsl than healthy feel self-important because they had access you didn't -- though at various times I did have pretty good access depending on who was employing me.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Brief description of my bout with cancer

Cathy Taylor asked me if I would write a piece about my bout with cancer and the medical system, so I did and the Register printed it on Sunday in the Commentary section. I know some people who read this already know much more tha is in this piece, but I think it's not a bad summary. It elicited quite a few comments from readers and more e-mails to me than my articles normally get. Not surprising, I suppose. Most people tend to like that personal stuff.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Quote of the Day

"If you want government to intervene domestically, you’re a liberal. If you want government to intervene overseas, you’re a conservative. If you want government intervene everywhere, you’re a moderate. If you don’t want government to intervene anywhere, you’re an extremist." -- Joe Sobran

I take refuge in the fact that I was on sick leave and not paying much attention when Joe Sobran died on Sept. 30 this year at (gasp!) 64. I met him a few times and found him delightfully erudite and fun to talk to. I think he did become unduly focused on Israel and Jews at some points, but I doubt that he was anti-Semitic. At any rate I'm sorry he's gone. he was a graceful and persuasive writer.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The empty promise of green jobs

The Washington Post had an interesting and insightful piece today revolving around how the promise of green jobs in at least one Florida county has turned out to be hollow. Seems the local colleges (using federal stimulus money, of course) are active in training people to work in "green" jobs like detecting lead in old paint, carbon sequestration, alternative fuels, solar panels and the like. But 3/4 of those with such training, including impressive-sounding certificates of completion, have been unable to find green jobs. Even though Florida should be a prime spot for solar energy, for example, and the fedgov provides a 30% tax credit, the industries just aren't growing. Partly it's the collapse of the economy, led by the collapse of the housing and therefore the construction market.

I don't honestly know if I understand the desire to "push" the market for so-called green jobs with federal subsidies, tax credits and the like. The superficial short-term appeal seems obvious -- though it obviously isn't working in a down economy. But the problem with providing subsidies of various kinds is that it creates incentives for subsidies to remain permanently, which distorts the market, keeps taxpayers on the hook forever, and makes it virtually impossible to determine whether the green jobs are or ever would be self-sustaining -- i.e., would they pay for themselves in a voluntary marketplace. I suspect that for some jobs a genuine market will emerge, but trying to push the process with subsidies prevents a realistic assessment and in some cases -- subsidies behind jobs or technologies that turn out not to be viable but are continued anyway, like ethanol -- may actually delay the onset of truly viable alternatives to those favored by gummint bureaucrats.

A footnote: Maybe it's because I've seen newspaper operations from the inside and consorted with people from other papers at various conferences and the like, but I think many of the criticisms of the "lamestream" media are somewhat misplaced. I acknowledge that most editorial boards, whether putatively "liberal or "conservative" are unremittingly statist and more inclined to try to explain the wayward ways of government to benighted readers than to lament or excoriate them. Even so, however, as this WaPo article attests (and I could find many other examples) on some occasions newspapers are quite willing to document wastefulness or misdirectedness in government programs, and when they get on a case they are generally more competent and professional at it than (most) bloggers and citizen-critics because running down stories and documenting facts is what reporters do, and many of them still take pride in doing it well. Not that the media should be exempt from criticism -- far from it, and I can tell you stories from the inside too -- but much of the standard criticism from both left and right is overblown, based on misunderstanding of how newspapers work, or not well rooted in fact.

Inverted language

There's not a specific instance that brings this to mind now, just something that I've noticed for quite some time. In popular culture the terms "mature" and "adult" tend to mean the opposite of the literal, common-sense meaning, in part I suppose because of Hollywood ratings systems. But I think most would agree that when you see something labeled "for mature audiences" or "adult material," it really means something designed to appeal to the adolescent (perhaps the adolescent still lurking in all of us?) with a particularly prurient frame of mind (or glands).

Adolescents seem fascinated with sex and violence, so naturally our would-be keepers want to "protect" them from such nasty things so they label films, books and such with lots of sex and violence "adult," or "mature," even though most reasonably mature adults have probably outgrown the need for porn or quasi-porn or undiluted violence (perhaps because they have actually experienced both and the glamor is diluted (or gone in the case of actual violence) and the "forbidden fruit" syndrome no longer applies).

Do you know of other examples where words in common or popular parlance turn out to mean pretty close to the opposite of what the dictionary or common-sense meaning is? I have but can't think of them just now. Additions to the list are welcome.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A thoughtful nomad

I reviewed Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new book, "Nomad" in the Register for Sunday. She is a remarkable woman -- in case you don't know the story, Somali-born, Muslim-raised, but took off and ended up in Holland when her father was sending her to Canada to marry a relative she didn't know. She stayed in Holland, attended university and eventually renounced Islam, in part for the way it treated women and in part for the way it stilted the mind, and was elected to the Dutch parliament from the free-market Liberal Party. She helped Theo Van Gogh (great-grandson of Vincent's brother) make that film about the treatment of women under Islam, shortly after which Theo was shot and stabbed to death in Amsterdam by a fanatic Muslim. After that she had to have bodyguards wherever she went and eventually decided to move to the United States.

This is a deeply personal book, more so than her first book, "Infidel," with lots about her personal experiences, doubts and troubles, and her various relatives who have mostly failed to integrate into the West though they live there. The only thing that concerns me is that she would consider banning madrasas. I understand the depth of her own experience, and also agree that they are mostly used for indoctrination into the most poisonous form of Islam, but still think that should be allowed in a free society.

Still, an eminently worthwhile book.

Good bye, Dave Nolan

I managed to do a blog for Orange Punch and an edit for the Register, but it has been difficult coming to terms with the death of Dave Nolan, founder of the Libertarian Party. Dave and his wife Elizabeth lived in Orange County for most of the 1990s, through 2006 or so I guess, and I got to know him a bit better as a person than as a personage. We even tried a radio talk show together, and while we thought we had a pretty good show going, it didn't catch on quickly enough for it not to be a money-losing proposition. Burt we each learned a fair amount about how the other thought. David was plenty smart -- you don't get a degree from MIT if you're not -- and an unusually principled hard-core libertarian. Yet when looking at the real world he was a realist, hardly ever seeking the ideological answer to a question (Lord, I get tired of some of our Orange Punch blog commenters who are so cocksure their pat ideological attitude means there's no need for further discussion) or being content with an easy answer. That's probably one of the reasons why we got along although I never joined the LP and remain a non-voter to the core.

I suppose that to some people Dave might have seemed a little remote, and outwardly he wasn't necessarily one of the warmest of human beings. But he was crazy about Elizabeth and passionate about liberty, and deep down a lot more warm-and-fuzzy than he let on. In founding the LP and devising/publicizing the Nolan Chart he made signal contributions to the cause of liberty. He will be sorely missed, byt many more people than I, but I will miss him greatly.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

S 510 not as obnoxious as could have been

The National Health Federation, the nation's oldest health freedom organization (since 1955) reports that although the Senate is poised to pass S 510, a "food safety" bill that had included quite stringent restrictions on vitamins and supplements and organic farming, is somewhat less obnoxious than it might have been. As NHF lobbyist Lee Bechtel reports:

" During the debate, Senator Harkin described some of the key points in the yet-to-be-voted-on Manager's Amendment. Among other changes, the final Manager's Amendment included the exemption for dietary supplements from Codex food guidelines, exemption language for dietary supplement manufacturers and retailers from the conventional food company and distributor registration fees, reporting and product traceability requirements. The final Manager's Amendment also included the Testor-Hagan amendment exempting small farmers and retailers; organic farmers were already exempted from FDA registration fee, reporting, and product traceability requirements, for farms with less than $500,000 in gross receipts. The compromise language was very close to the original Testor amendment, which is why Senators Testor and Hagan both voted in favor of moving the bill forward."

A Senate vote on the bill is now scheduled for Mon., Nov. 29, after the Thanksgiving recess. The NHF is still not pleased with the bill even though it has been amended to be a mite less repressive and hopes that the incoming more-Republican Congress will be inclined to repeal the bill or to amend it further. Unfortunately, one can't always count on Republicans to be freedom-friendly.

Back in the 1990s (I think 1994) a similar ambitious bureaucratic effort to increase federal regulation of supplements engendered a huge grassroots vbout of activism that eventually led to a bill exempting supplements from FDA regulation. But the urge to regulate everything, built into the institution, is strong and will probably not be eased until the FDA is abolished -- which I don't expect but would welcome, if only on the cost-benefit grounds that delaying approval of medications has led to more deaths than have come from approved medications that turned out to have side effects or unapproved medications that possibly would have led to more deaths. In the case of the FDA, overregulation turns out to be more dangerous to peoples' health than underregulation.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Starting last round of chemo

Well, I had the first chemo treatment in what Dr. Sehgal assures me is the last round. Two more coming, complicated by the Thanksgiving weekend. The schedule they tentatively gave me is way too long for my taste and for the plans we have around pre-Christmas, so we'll be on the phone Monday getting it changed. The good news is that as of now (Saturday afternoon after Friday afternoon treatment) I haven't side effects beyond mild fatigue. So my hope -- fairly solid I think -- is that this round of chemo will be as relatively uneventful as the first two rounds were. And then ... at least that's the plan ... it will be done and I can get on with my life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

More nutrient regulation coming on

I've been seeing stuff about S.510, a food safety "modernization" act that of course increases federal FDA regulation over all kinds of things it hasn't had jurisdiction over before -- supplements, seeds, organics, what you can plant in your own garden or on your own little organic farm, etc. The motion to invoke cloture passed 74-25. That doesn't necessarily mean it will pass during the lame duck session, though it seems likely to pass the Senate. The House might resist, but only if there's a hue and cry from the grassy grass rots. The National Health Federation and others are trying to get phone calls, e-mails, signed petitions and letters to congresscritters going, but I don't know how successful the campaigns have been.

It seems to me this is not so much a power grab but a case of the bureaucratic imperative for an established agency to keep growing and expanding its authority. When it comes time to move toward expansion there will be no shortage of ambitious regulators convinced that the poor benighted public needs far more "guidance" (and coercion) than it has been getting with agendas and proposals. Thus we get a S.510. And passing it in the lame-duck session, before opposition has coalesced, is plenty shrewd. There will have to be substantial mobilization if the House is to decide not to pass this turkey.

There goes the season?

I was thinking about writing that the score was more lopsided than the actual game, but in fact that would be inaccurate. The halftime score of 7-7 reflected the game to that point, with UCLA scoring on the opening drive and the defense being fairly solid while the offense didn't get untracked again (or Washington's defense figured out how to stop the running game). The second half was a disaster, with Washington completely dominating. Locker wasn't all that spectacular but he was good enough. If anything, it's almost a surprise the score wasn't more lopsided than 24-7.

Of course it didn't help to have Brehaut knocked out of the game on virtually the first play from scrimmage of the second half. But it seemed as if the entire team fell apart. You might expect reserve quarterbacks without a minute of game-time experience to throw erratically and perhaps have interceptions. But the way to counter that should be with a running game that doesn't require the rookie to throw under pressure, and the offensive line didn't seem able to deliver the kind of blocking that should have made that possible.

Yes, it's theoretically possible to beat Arizona State and USC, but . . . Is it time to chalk this season up to injuries -- there is certainly some justification -- and give the rookies with little or no game experience some playing time with an eye toward next year?

Bruins just might win tonight

At least Register sportswriter Scott Reid seems to think so, giving the Bruins the edge in most categories and predicting a 34-17 UCLA win led by Jonathan Franklin and the ground game. I may be a little less certain. It is true that Washington, and especially Jake Locker, who almost went early to the NFL lat year, had been disappointing and inconsistent. And it's also true that UCLA seems to have regained a touch of momentum and Rick Neuheisel, even though he hasn't (yet) brought UCLA to the kind of glory we'd like to expect, has generally kept his UCLA teams improving as the season progresses.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to it, on ESPN at 5 PST. It's supposed to be cold and rainy in Washington, which I wouldn't think bodes well for a visitng team as a general rule, but might bode well for a visiting team with a solid running game. Am I expecting too little when I say I'll be content if they look respectable and as if they really came to play?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dump Michele Leonhart

Hearings were held today -- don't have a report yet -- on the appointment of one Michele Leonhart, a Bush holdover, to head the Drug Enforcement Agency. In response to research from the Drug Policy Alliance that documents that she has been an anti-medical marijuana zealot, that the DEA has repeatedly gone against stated (though perhaps not actual; watch what they do more than what they say) administration policy on medical marijuana states by raiding dispensaries and going after patients, I did this editorial for the Register today urging Obama to withdraw her nomination -- or at least that senators ask some reasonably piercing questions. Bill Piper of DPA's Washington office e-mailed me that a copy was sent to every senator. Don't know if it did any good or not, but one has to try.

Quote of the Day

"An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that they will also make better soup." -- H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Back in the drug law reform groove

I'm still somewhat disappointed that the Register chose not to take an official position on Prop. 19 this time around, and I'm not the only one, but I think I understand Terry Horne's reluctance. This was something of a first for him, being asked to have the newspaper of which he is publisher take a position he knew would be controversial on a hot-button issue. But he has done so much for the register from a business perspective -- diagnosing the problems the Internet would create for newspapers way ahead of most people in the business and devising strategies to keep us profitable (one of the few major newspapers to be so, though at a radically reduced level) -- that I'm quite ready to understand him. It also helps that I like him personally; when I came in to pick up a computer and prepare to return to work he made a point of coming in to say "welcome back." Not every publisher we've had during my tenure would have done that.

I am sorry, however, that the Register didn't run the back-and-forth memos and drafts around prop. 19 the Sunday before the election, as we considered doing. I think people would have been fascinated.

Anyway, I did get the opportunity to blog fairly extensively on various aspects of Prop. 19 and to write some editorials that came right up to the edge of endorsement, so the Register is not entirely out of the business of urging drug-law reform. I also did this piece on the prospects for marijuana legalization in the next few years and 391 people shared it with their Facebook page and friends. I don't know if that's a record, but it's more than most of our Opinion pieces get. Of course the fact that Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance distributed it to the DPA e-mail list probably didn't hurt. At any rate I'm back at the old stand reporting on drug policy reform efforts and making a few of them myself and the Register does nothing but encourage me.

Recovery: it's different

Now that my bout with treatment for cancer is almost over, it occurs to me that I haven't commented on one of the more curious aspects of treatment and recovery. Of course al;l the good nutritionists recommend high-fiber foods and some even say raw food is better for you than cooked or processed -- the less processed the better. And of course, even though many debate just how useful antioxidants are, in general even skeoptical doctors think it's not a bad idea to have a fair amount of one's diet con tain antioxidants, whether from food or from supplements.

However, the recommendations for my treatment and recovery have been pretty much the polar opposites. My surgeon, Dr. Nissen, said that at least for a while I should avoid raw food and go for more-processed food, largely because it's easier to digest. Since the Whipple surgery rearranged my insides and especially my digestive system pretty drastically and it will take it a while to get used to its new configuratuion, that makes sense. Also, since I had a serious lver infection in conjunction with the tumor (but thank goodness no liver malignancy; we tested), sticking with easy-to-digest and low-fat foods is best.

It also makes some sense to reduce my intake of antioxidants from the fairly large amounts I had been ingesting, at least during chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Chemo especially seeks to go after malignant or potentially malignant cells (and other cells as well) and having them protected by antioxidants would tend to reduce the efficacy of the treatment. So I have cut down my vitamin C and E intake, almost to one multivitamin a day. I'm looking forward to chemo being over (only 3 more treatments!) so I can return to my usual (well, maybe slightly improved) eating habits and vitamin intake. I'm convinced that my overall good health helped me tolerate all the surgery and treatments I've been through better than almost any patient the doctors in question had seen, and that following Durk and Sandy's advice on supplements had something to do with that base of good health.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Real spending cut suggestions

I have to admit, this is one of the reasons I'm glad to be back to the work and still proud (there were some moments when so many were bewitched by the election) to be working for the Register. Amid all the brave talk about cutting spending -- most of which will disappear after most of the newbies have had a chance to settle in and realize what a sweet deal being in Congress is and how much fun it is to spend other peoples' money -- we've heard almost no specifics about what should be cut. This Register editorial has specifics, including several, like ending the drug war and cutting back on "defense" spending, that are intellectual slam-dunks but will get almost no traction in the political world. Nonetheless it's helpful, I think, to raise flags that won't be saluted for a while. The topic of cutting spending by the fedgov is almost always accompanied by talk of pain and sacrifice. To be sure, some spending cuts will cut off some parasites from sweet subsidies or nice salaries, but it's important to make the point that lower spending will not be painful to most Americans and in fact is likely to make our lives better. Who else emphasizes that?

Reason magazine in its November issue also has some excellent (and more detailed than can be done in a single editorial) suggestions for spending cuts. Unlike conservatives, libertarians are not afraid -- indeed are eager -- to be specific about what kind of government spending can be cut or eliminated to the benefit of most Americans.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

End the college amateur pretense

The exhibit today is Cam Newton, the remarkable Auburn QB and possible Heisman candidate. The allegation is that when he was on a recruiting trip to Mississippi State that his father or somebody purporting to represent him asked for a considerable sum of money for Cam to come to that school. No allegations of under-the-table money at Auburn yet, but it's now under investigation. Add the recent Sports Illustrated story by a former sports agent who detailed all kinds of fairly prominent athletes to whom he gave money ostensibly to secure representation (which the athletes in question sometimes just ignored when it came time to choose an agent, leaving open the question of whether they got more from some other agent) and it appears that "amateur" college athletics isn't so amateur. Then there's Reggis Bush deciding to return his Heisman Trophy even though he earned it on the field. And Enes Kanter, a Turkish-born basketball player at U Kentucky who has been ruled ineligible because he got paid while playing in a Turkish basketball league. Not that it ever has been all that pristine. Back in the day when my father got his MS from USC (late '30s) they were singing the song "Time out for old SC; the fullback wants his salary,"

The obvious solution is to stop pretending and just make it copacetic to pay college athletes to play. It would be open and above-board then. Schools that wanted a big-time athletic program would openly pay athletes to give it to them.

The cult of amateurism was invented by European aristocrats in the 19th century who figured it would be demeaning to compete against working-class stiffs (and quelle horreur, they might lose to them), so they invented an ideal of amateurism that pretty much nobody without inherited wealth could live with, since they needed some kind of money to live. Ever since it has been a source of endless hypocrisy.

The colleges that go in for athletic competition on a big-time scale make plenty of money, at least off the football and often off the basketball programs. But the athletes who make it possible get scholarships and meal money (and way back when I was at UCLA in the early '60s varsity athletes ate free in several Westwood restaurants) -- which in some ways is already a monetary inducement, but not as much as they might be worth to the schools. While attending college athletes risk a career-ending injury that could make it impossible for them ever to turn pro and get the kind of outsized return on their abilities that pro athletes get these days. Might it not be better if they got at least something while in college?

Colleges should bow a little more to reality and end this amateurism pretense. Pay the athletes who make the programs possible openly and above-board. It would be a potential boon to the thousands of athletes who are extremely good but not quite good enough to make it big in the pros. At least they would get a little something while in college.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is the TSA backlash imminent?

No matter how long you have observed social and political trends, there are always surprising developments, or at least developments whose timing is surprising. It's beginning to look as if the introduction of full body scanners by the Truly Superfluous Agency at airports is triggering something resembling a full-scale protest from passengers and pilots alike. I have seen several Facebook invitations to join a boycott-flying group in protest, but since I have no immediate plans to fly I didn't do so. But it seems that enough people have either decided not to fly unless they absolutely have to, or to refuse a full-body scan in "favor" of a more time-consuming but still intrusive pat-down procedure.

It is almost to restore one's faith in humanity. Every time you decide that Americans are hopelessly sheeple-like, some cantankerous bunch shows up to resist authority. Plenty of socio-cultural factors are poised to breed such individualism out of us, but maybe because most Americans are descended from people who took notable risks in migrating here, it hasn't quite worked just yet. Stay cantankerous!

Obama fumbling abroad

Somebody should have told Barack Obama that they report U.S. election results overseas and everybody would know that he is considerably weakened. His Asian trip, after some mutual flattery in India and Indonesia, is shaping up as something of a disaster. He wasn't able to finalize a U.S.-South Korean trade pact, in part because he is busy carrying water for the United Auto Workers instead of the American people. Other countries laughed at Turbo Tim's idea of putting a numerical limit on trade surpluses and deficits, micromanagement on steroids, though they agreed on a statement (as such conferences tend to) that made it appear there was more agreement than in fact was in evidence. And the Fed's decision to unleash $600 billion in paper money undermined any credibility the U.S. might ever have had in criticizing (for example) China's policy of undervaluing its own currency.

So maybe it wasn't the election results but the stupidity of the policies the administration was trying to peddle at the G-20. Not that most G-20 leaders would know a stupid policy from a smart one.

Honor veterans with conflicts worthy of their sacrifices

Sorry I didn't get to this yesterday. Iwrote this Register editorial, in fact, a year ago, suggesting that one of the best ways to honor veterans is to make sure the U.S. doesn't engage in conflicts without clear objectives, sensible strategy and an exit plan. In other words, let's have only conflicts worthy of the sacrifices the government demands of those in the military. I haven't seen any that meet the standard in my adult lifetime. Sorry.

The gold standard poised to return?

Well, that hardly seems likely. But it's nonetheless interesting that Robert Zoellick, head of the World Bank, of all places, referred to the possibility of using gold in some way to help stabilize the international currency system. That's a long way from referring to the idea of a gold standard as a "barbarous relic" of nastier times. Of course Zoellick explained that he wasn't talking about an actual; gold standard, oh, no, just some way to use gold (in ways I have yet to see him specify) to stabilize what is inherently an unstable system with all those paper currencies based on the will-o-the-wisp of full faith and credit. Still, an interesting step.

I have noted many times that governmentalists seldom if ever adopt a more freedom-oriented approach to policy unless and until an entire subsystem is falling down around their ears. we didn't get airline deregulation until the system was widely acknowledged to be a complete mess, or welfare reform or school choice. It's hardly flattering to those of us who spend our lives trying to make sound arguments for freedom that little steps in the direction are seldom the result of our persuasiveness and sound arguments, but there it is. So I'm thinking the international economic system is unstable, but not so disastrous that they'll consider anything resembling a gold standard -- yet.

Drat! More chemo

I had a meeting with Dr. Sehgal, my chemotherapy doctor, today, thinking it would be something of an exit interview. However, he is recommending another cycle of Gemzar chemotherapy -- three weeks at once a week, beginning next Friday. So I won't be finished by Thanksgiving, though I will be finished well in time for Tom and Patty's wedding Dec. 18 -- and I'm going whatever it takes.

This is a little disappointing to me, as I thought I was done. But Dr. Sehgal explained to me that my blood work cancer indicator has been unstable -- up and down -- and while he's not overly concerned, he thinks it's reason enough to take a cautious or even overcautious approach, just to make sure there's aren't cancer cells lurking somewhere that haven't been zapped yet. And he did say that after this there's nothing much more that can be accomplished with chemo, so this will be the final round. I was a little concerned, but the rationale makes enough sense to me that I have gotten over it already. But still . . .

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

UCLA still rather inscrutable

UCLA has a bye week this week, so I probably won't write about them again until they frustrate me a little more. I thought this set of comments by the Register's sportswriter Adam Maya (whom I don't know even to recognize passing in the hall was rather insightful. Washington, Arizona and USC are still on the schedule, and if they win two of those games they will be bowl-eligible, which will be nice. The problem is they could win them all (yes, I think beating USC is not out of the question this year) or lose them all, depnending on which team shows up. Hanging in with and finally beating Oregon State was a good sign, and the offensive line may have geled. But this seems like a year for inconsistency.

Maya sees Richard Brehaut improving at QB (poor injured Kevin Prince), but wishes Norm Chow would give him more opportunities to pass when the run game isn't going all that well. I think he's got a point. Neuheisel last year was pretty good at getting the bruins to improve late in the season, so I haven't lost all hope -- or even very much.

Bush lied . . . of course

I haven't read Georgie-Porgie's memoir yet, but I've read news stories, excerpts, and have seen the highlights/lowlights of book-flogging reputation-hoping interviews on TV. I made some comments here on the Register's Orange Punch blog. One of the main things I wanted to stress was that Bush keeps getting away with the outright lie that Saddam kicked out the UN weapons inspectors and that helped to precipitate the decision to invade. Pure untruth.

The weapons inspectors were given free rein and kept begging U.S. intelligence services to come forward with the info on which political leaders were making scare remarks like not wanting the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud. The intel services didn't come forward because there was no such information. In the end, the U.S. advised the weapons inspectors to pack up their instruments and leave a couple of weeks in advance of the invasion, which was inevitable not matter what the inspectors did or didn't find. The WMD allegations, as even Wolfowitz admitted, were what the planners thought would most alarm the public and that the public might buy.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Limiting government won't be easy

In the wake of Tuesday there has been a good deal of brave talk about limiting government and reducing both spending and deficits; even Obamaites claim to be devoted to fiscal discipline (or is that only when the talk is of maintaining the Bush-level tax rates and the question is how to "pay for" those rates -- the implicit assumption of which is that everything you earn belongs of right to the government and you should be grateful that they allow you to keep anything).

As I explained in this book review, in the Register's Sunday Commentary section, John Samples's book "The Struggle to Limit Government" is a reminder that such limitation has been tried before, with decidedly mixed result. They got rid of a few agencies and programs during Reagan's presidency, and reduced the rate of growth of government spending, but didn't actually reduce spending year over year. Republicans thought they could force spending cuts when the voters gave them control of Congress in 1994, but Clinton outmaneuvered them. There's some evidence that some tea Partiers really want to get some cutting done this time, but we'll see how gutsy they are after actually being in power for a while. Usually that brings on contentment with the spending culture.

Done with chemo, feeling fine

I had my last chemotherapy treatment Friday (all right, there's a remote possibility of one more), and the visible results were pretty much what they have been for previous treatments -- i.e., no particular side effects. No vomiting, constipation diarrhea -- maybe a touch of fatigue, but not much of that either. I know from talking with other patients that this is unusual. Most people have at least some negative side effects, some pretty debilitating, from radiation and chemo, but I have had virtually none. Thank God and general good health. The only lingering effect from my bout with cancer is still a bit of sensitivity if I pull or stretch a bit on the eight-inch incision in my belly that will likely still be finishing the healing for a while. Otherwise my prognosis is excellent. I'll want to spend a little more time building up my immune system before I go out in public completely, but that's it. I am very grateful to everybody who has expressed good wishes, offered prayers or just sent along a kind thought.

Obama hat-in-hand to India

Perhaps the most potentially encouraging thing about Obama's 10-day trip to Asia just after the elections that left him a diminished character is that it is an unabashedly pro-trade, pro-commerce trip. As this Register editorial notes, contracts for Boeing and a few others were already in the works and will be available to make the trip look like a success. The 200+ corporate executives along for the ride may be good at what they do, but it's obviously not promoting a free marketplace. They would rather function as lickspittles of the government than true competitors competing openly and honestly for consumer preference, but let's face it, sucking up to the government can often be a profitable endeavor.

At any rate, it is healthy for Americans to see their president as a diminished character -- true of any president but perhaps especially this one, who has such a high estimation of himself, an estimation still shared by all too many of the chattering classes. People should note that now that the election is over, and there's no mileage to be gained by claiming to believe that foreign trade "ships jobs overseas," the president is out there promoting more foreign trade. He may not be doing it because he actually believes in free trade, but even his administration can see that more trade and more commerce eventually means more jobs here and overseas, which seems like a win-won to me.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Nice job, Bruins

Well, it didn't look easy, but the bruins finally pulled out a game, against Arizona State, that they should have won but easily could have lost. Nice to see Forbath, after missing a couple of field goals, make the deciding one at the end of the game. Still too many mistakes, but the offensive line does seem to be coming together. And Brehaut is showing potential especially as a runner. Maybe a decent year in the offing?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The myth of wartime prosperity

I noticed the David Broder column arguing that what really ended the great depression was prosperity brought on by wartime spending and frenetic government activity. As Wendy Honett points out on, however (with links I would have had to spend more time tracking down; thanks), Robert Higgs and others have documented that WWII did not bring on prosperity but the illusion thereof. Of course unemployment declined as hundreds of thousands and then millions were drafted into the military, but the real indicators of prsoperity didn't kick in until around 1946, when most wartime economic restrictions were eliminated in one fell swoop.

As Robert Higgs himself put it to Wendy: "if you mix one part historical superficiality, one part economic confusion, and one part sheer immorality, you get the combination that qualifies a journalist to become known as the dean of the Washington press corps.” I did a review of Bob Higgs's book on the myth of wartime prosperity, but I can't find it this moment in the register archives.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What's wrong with gridlock?

There was a segment on Nightline and it was a running subtheme on all the TV news I caught election night, and while I had to do some writing, it was part of the job also to switch among news channels fairly regularly. The Nightline segment tonight wondered whether Barack Obama and incoming Speaker John Boehner wold be able to find common ground, and ended with the ever-vapid Terry Moran saying we should all hope so? Should we? Is it good for the American people when politicians from the two major parties get along so they can "do things for the people," i.e., spend a lot of the taxpayers' money? I would argue that we do much better when there's gridlock.
The politicians and most of the media want to perpetuate the myth that, as arch-conservative Willimoore Kendall once put it in a debate, "Nothing happens when nothing happens in Washington." To the contrary, as Kevin Hassett documented, when we have divided government the economy generally does better -- and the American voters seem to know this on some kind of instinctive Jungian level, because they've given us divided government 70% of the time since 1970. When government is gridlocked, you can be fairly certain no large-scale new initiatives will be passed, so people doing business and engaging in other productive activities can be reasonably certain they won't have new swarms of bureaucrats eating out their substance, at least for a while, and they can act productively.
I'm not saying voters have worked this all out intellectually, but there seems to be an understanding that gridlock is good. The politicians and media have to work overtime to try to obfuscate this instinct and try to convince us that when the Stupid Party and the Evil Party get together to do something both stupid and evil it's really constructive bipartisanship and we sheeple should be pleased to see them getting along so splendidly. (Not original with me. I first heard that at a Ron Paul rally, I forget by which speaker, around the time of the 2008 GOP convention when the party showed Ron just how much it appreciated his stirring up enthusiasm nobody had seen before about limited government.)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

No, I won't be voting today

I decided to explain my long-standing decision not to participate in elections at some length on the Register's Orange Punch blog today. Briefly, I don't want to get invested one way or another in candidates, which might affect how I cover them once they're elected. And I prefer not to give even my implied consent to the system of way-beyond-the-Constitution misrule we have in place in the USA today. So I withhold my consent by withholding my participation in the system whereby the rulers justify themselves. Comments welcome.

Not voting doesn't mean I won't be commenting on the voting. There should be continual election updates tonight on the Register's Orange Punch blog if you're interested

Chemo treatment almost over

I had my second chemo treatment in this round on Friday, and as of Tuesday I still haven't felt side effects. We purposely scheduled the treatments for Friday afternoon so that if it did have fatiguing or debilitating side effects I would have the weekend to get over it. But so far none -- partly controlled, I think, by the steroids and anti-emetics they give me in conjunction with the Gemzar and partly due to my own (legal now) herbal ministrations. The last treatment is scheduled for this Friday (though the doctor may decide another is appropriate). So that will be the end of cancer treatment for now, with what I expect to be a clean bill, mitigated by the fact that the incision is still slightly tender sometimes and will likely require a little more time to be fully healed to the point of being able to ignore it.

I am fully aware, having sat in waiting rooms and treatment rooms with other patients, that my experience is unusual and unusually fortunate. I am grateful to God and my genes.

Why riot after winning?

When it comes to sports, since sports are an atavistic pursuit, my preferences when I don't have a favorite based on experience (UCLA in my case) are essentially atavistic. I almost always root for the most westerly and/or southerly team, except when I have a personal interest that goes otherwise. I spent 8 years in Babylon-by-the-Potomac and participated in Redskins Madness, so I still have a soft spot for the Redskins. My wife is from Buffalo, so I always have a slight preference for the Bills winning, a preference that sadly hasn't been fulfilled this year. My nephew loves the Yankees, my boss loves the Phillies, so I go along with them unless we're talking about Angels, the truly atavistic choice for me.

All that is prelude to being fairly pleased that the SF Giants (pace Sports Illustrated) trounced the Rangers in the World Series. Even though I grew up in Southern California and absorbed a certain amount of anti-SF propaganda as a youth, once I visited and spent time in San Francisco it became one of my favorite cities. If I could afford it I might even like to live there.

But why oh why did the San Francisco fans decide to riot in the wake of the World Series clincher? It couldn't have been because Barack Obama didn't call, could it? I have never understood the "we've won, let's trash the town" impulse, although I think I understand why mobs sometimes get out of control when a few people start with the violence. But it's regrettable nonetheless.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Obama backlash begins

I'm not sure whether or not this column ran on RealClearPolitics or some other Website, or whether people on the Eastern seaboard picked it up from the Register Website and sent me comments by e-mail, as several did. It did get recommended/shared 19 times on Facebook, so maybe that's where some of the hits came from.

Anyway, for the Register's Sunday Commentary section two days before the election I did a little column suggesting that Obama will be facing something closely resembling rejection tomorrow in large part because he and his henchmen misread the 2008 election results. I think a lot of voters actually believed the blarney about being a post-partisan president working with all and sundry to get things done. Instead, however, he told Republicans that "elections matter; I won," and embarked on an ambitious agenda that has proved unpopular -- and more unpopular the more people think about it. So his party will get some comeuppance tomorrow. How much -- and how much it might matter -- are still to be determined.

Those frustrating Bruins

Perhaps I should take it as a signal that UCLA is likely to be better and more competitive next year, especially if Richard Brehaut gets more playing time and experience. But the game against Arizona was more furstrating than encouraging. The score was only 29-12 and UCLA had several chances to take the game -- as well as two Arizona touchdowns that probably shouldn't have been except for sloppy tackling. The Bruins could beat any of their 4 remaining opponents, but I don't kbnow if they have the proper winning attitude. Last year the Bruins had a pretty respectable defense, and this year we have some good defensive players. But poor tackling and a somewhat sloppy attitude about technique will blow up the best defensive scheme.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hope for the Bruins?

Well, Dallas Raines, Channel 7's weatherman, offered his prediction during the rain-in-the-morning weather report, that UCLA would beat Arizona 35-31. Not that I've ever seen him predict football games before, or that I have the slightest idea whether he has a track record or not, for a stubborn Bruin loyalist desperate for some shred of hope for a respectable season, that was enough. I also note that the Register sports writers (whom I know only enough to say hi when passing in the hall) are split 2-2 on this game. Arizona has been inconsistent also. Well, hope springs and all that. I now plan to watch the game with a degree of hope, perhaps even confidence.

Quote of the day

"When a new source of taxation is found it never means, in practice, that the old source is abandoned. It merely means that the politicians have two ways of milking the taxpayer where they had one before." -- H.L. Mencken

Thursday, October 28, 2010

China-bashing by the Dems

Maybe it's just because it's election season and linking opponents to sinister furriners is a hardly honorable but time-tested tactic. But the curious thing is that this cycle the Democrats and liberals (modern American style, not classical), who in the recent past worked hard to associate themsleves with cosmopolitanism, openness to the other and all that are sounding like jingoists. Union preferences have something to do with it, of course; U.S. unions are always angling for protection from foreign companies in the fear that downward pressure might be put on wages.

The upshot is that we have the Obama administration sounding for all the world, as this Register editorial explains, like late-1990s neoconservatives, when those unworthies were casting about for a credible enemy to justify continuing to build up the military-industrial complex and throwing America's weight around the world. The Yellow Peril! Barbara Boxer claiming she yearns to see more "made in America" goods! Very strange if you took stated beliefs seriously, but perfectly understandable in the context of political opportunism in an election year.

I talked to Cato's main trade guy, Dan Griswold (former editorial page editor at Freedom's Colorado Springs paper, but that was a long time ago). He just wrote an excellent piece on the "shipping jobs overseas" canard, and he says it seems more like election-year blustering than a serious move to start a trade war with China. I hope he's right, but anti-trade and fear-of-trade sentiment cuts across ideological lines appealing to know-nothings on both "left" and "right." I'm afraid it will persist after the election is over.

Judge Gray's drug war heroism

Here in a video from London's Telegraph, is Judge James P. Gray of Orange County (and someone I'm proud to call a friend), explaining why he decided after years in the judicial and law enforcement system to oppose the war on drugs. I would almost defy anyone to listen to him and then defend drug prohibition. Almost no drug warrior will stand up and debate him.

The WikiLeaks doc drop (part 1)

I find it amusing that Fox News yesterday featured stories about how it is participating in a suit (with Bloomberg) to get the Federal Reserve to release information about the specific banks bailed out or bolstered with money from the Fed and to what extent, while the WSJ ran a piece today about why the Fed should release this information. Yet Fox News and the WSJ are both terribly upset that WikiLeaks released raw reports on actions in Afghanistan. I'm all for releasing both kinds of information; government in general operates too much in the dark, relatively free of scrutiny from the people who are forced to fund it and on whose behalf it supposedly operates. In a decent society government would have almost no secrets. The fact that it has operated so secretly for so long -- and sold various portions of the population on the notion that such secrecy is essential and actually in the interest of those being blindfolded -- obviates any realistic notion of government transparency and breeds a culture of cover-up and eventual corruption.

One can see some rationale for secrecy. The Fed and its partisans will argue that if we knew which banks had been bolstered we might lose confidence in some of them and a bank run might even ensue. Keepers of military secrets will argue that letting loose of secrecy gives our enemies insight into how we operate and in some cases might reveal the names of people who cooperate with the U.S. and might therefore be targeted by insurgents and other bad guys.

Neither rationale holds up against the desirability of people knowing what their government is doing "on their behalf." In a sensible market weak players would be capable of being identified and would pay the price for their poor decisions rather than being bailed out in secrecy, making for a system in which there would be more incentives to make good decisions. In the military, it's often enough the case that our adversaries ((which we seem to create systematically; apparently governments need enemies to thrive) know full well what our government is up to, and the only people in the dark are Americans. Even here, however, secrecy is overrated; it is more often used to cover up embarrassments than to serve anything remotely resembling "national security," that catch-all concept so capable of covering a multitude of sins. In both cases we are talking more about history than about current operations. How long should government be allowed to keep its activities secret? Forever?

I haven't read more than a few of the WikiLeaks papers in question -- too much else to do -- but I've read a few along with news summaries of what's there, about which I'll have more to say in a future post.

Quote of the Day

"Public policy was not a high-minded nor even an ideological endeavor, but simply a potpourri of parochial claims proffered by private interests parading in governmental dress. Much of the vast enterprise of American government was invalid, suspect, malodorous. Its projects and ministrations were not spawned from higher principles, or even humanitarian sentimentality; they were simply the flotsam and jetsam of flagrantly promiscuous politics, the booty and spoils of organized thievery conducted within the desecrated halls of government." -- David Stockman in "The Triumph of Politics: How the Reagan Revolution Failed" (1986)

Stockman was Reagan's first budget director and actually labored mightily to try to reduce the cost of government, but also talked to reporters while on the job and had to be "taken to the woodshed. But he had a pretty good fix on the essence of American politics back then -- and of course things have mostly gotten worse since then.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quote of the Day

"There is no power on earth so worthy of honor in itself, or clothed with rights so sacred, that I would admit its uncontrolled and all-predominant authority. When I see that the right and the means of absolute command are conferred on any power whatever, be it called a people or a king, an aristocracy or a republic, I say there is the germ of tyranny, and I seek to live elsewhere, under other laws."

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America [1835]

GOP candidate killed two unarmed Iraqis in 2004

One Ilario Pantano, a Tea Party-backed Republican candidate for Congress in North Carolina's 7th District, was charged with murder after a 2004 incident when, as a lieutenant with a three-man platoon, he killed two unarmed Iraqis, firing 60 rounds, and then put a sign over the bodies stating the Marines are "no better friends, no worse enemies." A sergeant who was with him later complained and murder charges were filed, but they were later dismissed for lack of corroborating evidence.

Interestingly, Pantano's Democratic opponent isn't the one publicizing this history, but the Republican he beat in the primary, also a veteran who thinks the episode is shameful in its reflection on the US military and will ensure Pantano's well-deserved defeat, is doing that work.

Police still busting patients in Seattle

In Seattle, as authorities say that in response to public demand marijuana enforcement is the lowest priority for the police, apparently some raids still occur. As this article relates, police came down hard -- a virtual 10-man SWAT team heavily armed and armored -- on an apartment in a four-unit complex. They had sent drug-sniffing dogs earlier to help get a warrant. But the person they burst in on was a 50-year-old veteran with intractable pain (thrown face-down on the floor), using marijuana in compliance with Washington state law, who had what he described as "my pathetic grow," consisting of two 12-inch plants that had barely begun to flower.

Until we have full legalization of marijuana (and preferably other currently illicit drugs whose prohibition causes even more direct problems) I suspect that we are going to have continuing incidents like this. The police in most jurisdictions are simply too accustomed to treating marijuana as some kind of quintessential evil for their enforcement culture to be changed much by changing laws. Note that Gil Kerlikowske, now the federal "drug czar," was Seattle police chief and publicly went along with lowest-priority marijuana enforcement then -- but now that he's a national figure his apparently instinctive drug-warrior side is coming out, what with using his position to campaign against California's Prop. 19 and making various threats he can't possibly follow through on (thank goodness) to really enforce federal prohibition if California is too uppity in its voting.

To be fair, however, once the situation became apparent, the police didn't confiscate the plants or arrest the apartment occupant.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Still avoiding chemo side effects

Well, I had my latest chemo (Gemzar if you care or know about it) on Friday and it's now Tuesday, and so far I haven't experienced any of the potentially debilitating side effects the chemo can sometimes bring on. I purposely scheduled the treatments for Friday so that if there were side effects I could get through them over the weekend and be ready to work on Monday. However, while there are other reasons Friday is a good time for the treatment -- by 3 pm Friday if something hasn't been written for the Register it's not going to be written for weekend or Monday editions unless it's a huge event constituting a national emergency -- the weekend turned out to be quite pleasant. Having sat in the waiting room and treatment room with other patients undergoing radiation and chemo, I know full well that I have been fortunate -- although I think good health in general (still there despite the travails of the last 6 months) and other medication s have been a factor. At any rate, I am on the road to full recovery and very pleased. More updates later, but they might not be necessary very often.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mixed record on ObamaCare lawsuits

As this Register editorial notes, several lawsuits challenging primarily the individual mandate to buy health insurance as a condition of living in the country are going forward -- notably in Virginia and Florida, while a federal judge in Michigan has ruled that the mandate is constitutional. However things develop at district court, of course, the decision will be appealed. Sooner of later the Supreme Court is almost certain to take up the case, probably by consolidating several cases into one case.

I hadn't noted, as Ilya Somin does, that a federal district court in California has dismissed a suit brought by Calif. legislator Steve Baldwin and the Pacific Justice Institute on the grounds that they lack standing to bring a suit because they haven't been harmed by any of the provisions -- yet. Noting that the mandate doesn't go into effect until 2014, the judge reasons that Baldwin might have acquired health insurance by then, of the Justice Institute may have resolved any problems it has revolving around ObamaCare mandates. Ilya, who thinks strict standing rules are seldom advisable, suspects that standing will be restored on appeal to the Ninth Circuit because liberal judges are generally more latitudinarian on standing than conservative justices. But consistency does sometimes give way to politically preferred outcome. In our judicial system? Nah! Never happen.

Why do some pro-pot activists oppose Prop. 19

In this blog item for the Register's Orange Punch group blog, I took a stab at explaining why some legalization advocates and medical marijuana activists and dispensary proprietors are opposed to Prop. 19, which would decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for over-21 adults. The short version: some who prefer full legalization seem willing to wait for another measure that doesn't include so many restrictions. Some medical marijuana patients think they will be limited to the one-ounce limit rather than more generous limits under current laws. But Prop. 19 specifically reinforces the special status of patients under current law and gives them limit exceptions. And, I'm afraid, some dispensary proprietors would prefer not to have the additional supplies and competition that Prop. 19 implementation would entail, preferring to9 see prices remain at their current sky-high levels.

Bruins in deep trouble

The Register sports guys zero in on some UCLA football problems coming up that those of us who are clear partisans might prefer to ignore but will find difficult. UCLA has to go 3-2 to be bowl-eligible and it is 3-7 against the teams remaining on the schedule during the Neuheisel era. The defense, which in previous years had at least sometimes been solid in previous years is eminently suspect even against weak teams like Washington State. Prince is out for the season, which might be a good thing for Brehaut's development, but he is still awfully green and prone to rookie mistakes. I'll continue to watch, but it may seem much more like a chore for loyalists than a pleasure or something undertaken with very much hope.

Friday, October 22, 2010

NPR blunders in firing Juan Williams

Well, I have long thought National Public Radio should be weaned off taxpayer money -- there's no need to have a Government Broadcasting Service when so many radio stations and TV channels are readily available -- so the firing of Juan Williams doesn't change that belief or even make it much stronger. Still, the firing was about as big a blunder as one can imagine for NPR. All Williams said (on the O'Reilly show, so I didn't see it when it was first broadcast, though I've seen countless reruns) was that when he sees somebody in an airport line dressed to emphasize his or her devotion to Islam, he can't help but get a little nervous. He also said it was a feeling that wasn't entirely rational and should pass, and that it wasn't Muslims as such but radical Muslims that give one reason to be nervous, but post-9/11 he just couldn't help it. NPR said that was "over the line" but didn't come close to explaining where the line is.

I'm inclined to think that despite NPR denials, as Juan himself noted, Williams's association with Fox News was a big part of the real reason he was fired. Among self-described progressives, hatred of Fox News is visceral and well beyond rational, approaching the kind of knee-jerk hate many had for Nixon or Reagan. The fact that he was drawing down a paycheck from Rupert Murdoch had to rub the conventional thinkers at NPR the wrong way in spectacular fashion. I don't think Williams contributes all that much of great substance to Fox, but he is a moderate liberal voice who is given his say fairly often there, contributing to what is a Potemkin-like effort to create the impression that the channel really is "fair and balanced."

Of course congressional Republicans can sputter all they want about defunding NPR, but it's unlikely to happen while Obama is president -- and probably if any Republican who can get elected becomes president as well. I don't listen to NPR as much as I did when I commuted by car everyday, but I still enjoy some of its offering, which are often worth listening to if you have an active ideological filter. The network could get by nicely on contributions and "non-commercial" commercials from "non-sponsor" sponsors as it does now, and doesn't need money forcibly extracted from taxpayers.

Back to chemo

I visited Dr. Saehgal yesterday, and we decided to start the last round of chemo. It will actually begin today with an appointment at 3:00. Last time we did chemo I had close to zero side effects beyond sometimes nodding off during the day, so I don't expect much in that area this time around. But having the treatment (it's Gemzar administered through an IV drip, I presume like last time with anti-emetic and a steroid added) on Friday will give me the weekend to recover just in case there are side effects. It's extremely important to me to be able to continue to work, both because I enjoy it and for reasons I will explain further if certain developments at the Register continue to develop.

Hard to watch

I have to admit that it was tough to watch Oregon shellac the Bruins 60-13 (with the 13 only because UCLA scored a lat-minute meaningless touchdown -- well it was the first time oregon had been scored upon in the 4th quarter) last night. The sad thing was that considering Brehaut with little experience was starting in place of the injured Kevin Prince (who apparently will have arthroscopic surgery), the Bruins didn't play disastrously badly. But the vaunted UCLA defense stopped Oregon short of scoring only once all night. You're not going to win many that way.

Trying to remain modestly optimistic about the rest of the season, but it's not easy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Go Bruins! I can still hope, can't I?

UCLA's game with Oregon starts in a few minutes and I don't know whether to be excited or resigned. The Bruins have shown, even this year, that they can stay with -- well, get ahead of at the outset and keep up the pressure -- and beat good teams. Even though Texas probably didn't belong in the Top 25 when UCLA played them, they were a good team. They have also shown that when a team getsd ahead of them in the first quarter it is difficult to impossible for the bruins to recover, and in the case of Stanford and Cal, it looked as if they just rolled over and prayed for the game to be over.

Oregon is not just a good team but a very good team. I am loyal enough to be able to hope for the best, -- and Neuheisel has had an extra few days following an embarrassing gsme to get the team ready. But I have some trepidation.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mothers, Willie Nelson, Tommy Chong and Joe McNamara

Prop. 19 has gotten a nice boost from a group of mothers who held an event in Sacramento to bemoan the failure of the drug war and endorse Prop. 19, as this blog from the Register (YouTube included) notes. There's also a nice YouTube of Tommy Chong and Joe McNamara offering their reasons for endorsing Prop. 19, to which I'll connect tomorrow.

You can check out jinx evidence yourself

So no sooner do I write a somewhat whimsical little post about the supposed Sports Illustrated cover jinx than in the next issue they have an offer for a book called "Sports Illustrated: The COVERS," which has every single cover of the magazine since 1954. And editor Terry McDonell in a little promotional letter even touches on the presumed jinx. "Not that being on the cover 22 times adversely affected Jack Nicklaus. Nor did Michael Jordan, who hit the cover trifecta by being photographed playing basketball, golf and baseball, suffer from his 49 appearances."

To some extent that doesn't necessarily disprove the jinx, which supposedly applies to the week ahead. Even great ones have bad games or bad weeks, so Nicklaus, Jordan et. al. might have had bad weeks after their SI covers. But how many out of 33 or 49? Probably not that many considering those two had precious few bad weeks, at least when it came to their sports.

I'm not the person to do the in-depth study -- though I suspect somebody out their is doing so even now. I rather doubt if it will p[rove the cover jinx theory, but it's still fun to contemplate.

Wiillie Nelson endorses Prop. 19

I guess this is hardly a surprise, but it's nice that somebody asked Willie Nelson and that he endorsed Prop. 19, the modest partial cannabis decriminalization in California. Don't know if it will make that much difference, but every endorsement helps. HT to Ed Rosenthal who posted this on his Facebook page, where I found it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sarah Palin invokes Pat Tillman on behalf of war

I was fascinated at Sarah Palin's tone-deafness in invoking the memory of Pat Tillman as a hero of our wars of aggression. Tillman was a hero of some kind for giving up the NFL to enlist, but it's pretty certain he became disillusioned with the war in Afghanistan, it's certain he was killed by "friendly fire" from U.S. troops, and the government tried its damndest to cover this up, including lying to his family for months at the least. Pat Tillman didn't want to be a poster boy for U.S. wars and his family certainly doesn't want that. You'd think Sarah would have known, but she seems clueless and shameless.

Phony fears about marijuana decrim

As this Register editorial notes, California's Prop. 19, the modest marijuana law reform proposal on the November ballot, is not a perfect proposal. But those who have suggested that having a local option for sales will create a hopelessly confusing mess, or the employers won't be able to discipline people who show up to work stoned, are stretching the possible implied meaning far beyond what any court is likely to. The polls still show Prop. 19 ahead. If it does pass, the Register will have been the only major newspaper in California that was on the side of the people.

Monday, October 18, 2010

SB 1449 no reason to oppose Prop. 19

A few people -- notably OC Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and former state senator Dick Ackerman -- have actually made the case that SB1449, which makes marijuana possession of up to an ounce an infraction (formerly a misdemeanor) punishable by a $100 fine and no jail time or criminal record -- obviates any need for Prop. 19, which would make adult possession of up to an ounce simply a non-crime. It's amusing to see strict prohibitionists who opposed even the slight reform embodied in SB 1449, have the arrogance to tell people who question prohibition what their true political interests are, but sometimes the arrogance is so ingrained that people aren't even aware of it in themselves. This Register editorial explains why Prop. 19 is still important to those who believe prohibition has more costs than benefits. Some advocates are even afraid that under 1449 there will be more hassling of people with marijuana. Infractions don't have to be recorded or reported, and a boatload of $100 fines could easily be seen as a way for "cash-strapped" (but don't they always say they are?) local governments to raise money under the radar.

Can UCLA beat #1 Oregon?

Being back to work means being more in touch with the news, which means I actually figured out before last weekend that UCLA wasn't playing. It is playing Thursday -- against Oregon, which is undoubtedly the class of the Pac-10 this year and now rated as Number One in the country.

So is there a chance that the #1 team will be upset by an upstart for the third week in a row? It depends on which UCLA team shows up, the one that beat Houston and Texas or the one that rolled over and died against Cal? UCLA has been so inconsistent this year that I wouldn't be amazed if they beat Oregon and lost to Arizona State.

At any rate, I have all my jerseys and caps ready for Thursday night. I'm hoping for another miracle -- or at least a respectable performance.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Walking the walk in Afghanistan

I reviewed Rory Stewart's excellent book, "The Places in Between," about walking across much of Afghanistan, taking the mountainous route in the dead of winter, in the Register's Sunday Commentary section. The book illustrated, whether purposely or not, as if there weren't enough reasons, why Afghanistan is likely to be a more difficult task than Iraq -- which is still a tale regarding the U.S. unjustified invasion whose ending has not been written yet. People in one valley often enough don't know much or care much about the people in the next valley, let alone a phony central government in Kabul.

Quote of the Day

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the public alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." -- H.L. Mencken

Prop. 19 stirring considerable attention

I could hardly believe that there was some question among some Register staffers as to whether we would endorse Prop. 19, which would make it legal for adults to possess and use (recreationally or otherwise) up to an ounce of marijuana and grow a 25-square-foot patch. However, it's not the perfect proposal. The local option on cultivation and sales (and local taxation) could make for some confusion across jurisdictions. There are questions about whether employers could effectively discipline impairment due to pot (though overblown and the intention is not to reduce their options), and whether it will increase impairment problems. I talked with Dale Gieringer and Joe McNamara at Hoover and plan to talk to Judge Jim Gray tomorrow to get some of these questions cleared up. I dealt with US AG Eric Holder saying he would continue prosecutions even if 19 passes (no doubt to display his profound respect the the will of the people in a democracy here and here.

Bottom line: don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The question is whether, even with imperfections, the Post-19 environment will be less socially harmful and corrosive than the status quo. There's little question that it would be.

Work agrees with me

Well, I worked for the Register all last week -- from home instead of going to the office, but I wouldn't be surprised if, if anything, I was more productive. At any rate the writing came fairly naturally and by Wednesday or so it was almost as if I had never been away. I contributed quite a few posts to the Register's Orange Punch blog. I'm staying home on the doctors' recommendation because my immune system is still a bit compromised and it would be better if I didn't ride in a train or bus with all those random germs in an enclosed space. Plus I still have three chemotherapy treatments to come, maybe beginning late this week, which will compromise the immune system probably a bit more than it is now.

As time and energy permit I'll start linking in this blog to most of the things I end up writing for the register, so there should be quite a few more items here than has been the case for the last several months.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sports Illustrated curse still works -- sometimes

The Sports Illustrated curse, whereby the athlete featured on the cover has a bad game or bad luck that week, seems to be fairly intact. The Oct. 11 cover boy was David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays, who promptly lost to the Rangers. The cover also featured Aroldis Chapman of the Reds, who lost their series. The week before featured Braves' reliever Billy Wagner -- and of course the Braves lost the opening series to SF.

Of course I've never done a systematic study of the kind that would have to involve every SI c0ver over a number of years and the game results of the athlete on the cover to see if the curse has some substance or is merely another urban legend. Whatever the truth, it's fun to think about a curse. And sometimes it seems to happen.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cheers for Mario Vargas Llosa

It is gratifying to see that the great Peruvian novelist and sometime libertarian politician Mario Vargas Llosa finally was chosen for the Nobel prize in Literature. Based on his dozens of novels, screenplays and plays, as well as an impressive group of philosophical and political essays, he has long deserved the prize. I was impressed some years ago by "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter," which was entertaining even though I didn't realize at the time that it was very loosely autobiographical. I'll have to reread it with that knowledge in mind.

For a Register editorial I spoke with Mario's son, Alvaro, who lives in DC and works for the Independent Institute. He was very excited, though he told me he had long ago given up hope thast his father would get the Nobel, given the quirky leftiness of the Swedish Academy, which seem to prefer obscure fashionable leftists, the more clumsy in their didacticness (is that a word? Is now.) the better. He looks forward to a family reunion (his siblings are almost all in different countries) in Sweden in December. I had met Alvaro briefly some years ago in an undisclosed location after being told that just now Alvaro didn't want people to know where he was. Since then he has been quite public, working for the Independent Institute on global prosperity issues, writing a column the New Republic often carries, and doing a special on Latin America for National Geographic. He's a bright and competent advocate of undivided -- economic as well as social and cultural -- liberty and a credit to his family.