Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Or maybe, as I suggested elsewhere, he's just a fatuous fool.
The only time I ever heard from anybody regarding my choices as to what information to reveal was in 1970, when somebody called from the Census Bureau to try to talk me into disclosing more. I was watching a Lakers game and they were not winning, so I was in no mood to be messed with. I went through my argument that a constitutional census would ask only for sheer numbers, and that there was no constitutional warrant for them to know more -- I'm pretty sure I also said something about being offended at the census being used as tax-funded marketing research for corporations, which should spend their own money to acquire such data. When the poor girl asked whether it wouldn't be relevantwhether I was registered to vote or not I came back with the sheer numbers argument. Finally she gave up and that was the last I ever heard from the census people.
It’s been a long time since Orange County has had a libertarian supper club, but if I do say so the one that started last night with Murray Rothbard and Sam Konkin as inspirations and me as speaker is off to a pretty good start. I saw the e-mails to the Karl Hess Club list from Mike Everling on Thursday noting that there were only 22 reservations and urging those who wanted to attend to make themselves known. By last night there were at least 70-75 people in attendance. I saw people from LA and San Diego whom I haven’t seen in years. Like me, come of our local libertarians are getting a little long in the tooth, but the level of enthusiasm was high.
Of course it’s not a hard sell to convince libertarians that war is not healthy for liberty and other living things. I used Robert Higgs’ book “Crisis and Leviathan” to explain how wars and depressions have led to dramatic growth in government and restrictions on civil and economic liberties through the 20th century, with a “ratchet effect:” at the end of a war or crisis government gives back some of the powers it seized on a supposed emergency basis, but not all. At the end of each war government is a little bigger and a little more intrusive, and people have become accustomed to it, so there’s an ideological shift. I also referenced the late Brown political scientist Eric Nordlinger’s 1996 book, “Isolationism Reconfigured,” which argues that the U.S. would do well to declare North America the U.S. sphere of defense and let the rest of the world take care of itself.
Thanks to Mike Everling and Howard Hinman, who have been willing to do the organizational work to get this supper club — which will meet only when there’s a fifth Monday in a month for now and be focused on geostrategy and economics — going. And thanks to all those who came up and said they get something of value from the Register editorial pages. One doesn’t always hear that — indeed, complaints tend to predominate — and I appreciated it.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
In some ways California started it with medical marijuana in 1996. The fact that states' rights are being invoked on behalf of causes that could be called "liberal" to me validates the founders' wisdom in creating dual sovereignty guaranteeing a certain tension between state governments and the national government. In some ways it is downright annoying having several levels of government oppressing us and taking our money, but every so often the system works the way it's supposed to and different levels of government check one another's power.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Anyway, by mid-afternoon the post had gotten around 7,000 hits. By way of comparison, in a moderate week the entire Orange Punch blog usually gets 7,000-8,000 hits. It lkooks as if the ket to success is getting other sites to link to our material -- but we knew that anyway; the problem has been figuring out how to get them to do so. It turns out that we did little or nothing to urge RealClear to link to us, we just gradually started to appear on their radar. Maybe it's good (or provocative) writing? Maybe it's provocative headlines. Thirty years in this business and I'm still often baffled by what appeals to people or pisses them off.
So even though it's old news by now, I wanted to commend him for taking on Michelle Obama's exercise in nannyism, her supposedly noble campaign against childhood obesity. When I was in school we used to call it "picking on the fat kids," and nobody pretended it was anything but mean-spirited. (If one wanted to be mean-spirited in return, one might note that Michelle, with her large behind about which she probably can't do anything, might not be the best spokesperson for svelteness.) Campos notes that the marker for obesity was picked arbitrarily, with no attempt even to justify it on the basis of demonstrated effects on health. He also notes that the trends have been that "by every objective measure, including life expectancy and rates of chronic disease and disability, like American adults, American children are bigger and healthier than they were a generation ago."The notion that today's children will have shorter life spans than their parents is sheer speculation, utterly innocent of any supporting demographic or epidemiological evidence.
In short, Michelle Obama is nannying on a totally phony cause. Perhaps you could say it is at least harmless, but there's evidence that social stigmatization is harmful to children and teenagers and there's a real danger that the obsessiveness with food she wants to urge on parents could lead to eating disorders.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
That's prelude to being pleased that in this op-ed for the WaPo a while ago -- I've had it on my stack of stuff for a while -- director James Cameron appears to get it about the intelligent way to go forward with space exploration. He notes that NASA's budget reflects the policy going forward -- knowing the shuttle will be retired soon they're ready to let private companies provide transportation to low earth orbit -- though they might have to rely on the Russians in the interim, while NASA will focus on deep space exploration, both robotic and human. This has made sense for a long time, but it wasn't inevitable that NASA would come to this conclusion.
When I went to Mojave to see SpaceShipOne get into space for the second time and win the X-Prize a few years ago, I was a little surprised to see a high-ranking NASA official take part in the subsequent press conference and sound supportive. I had been to a conference a few years before that at which Burt Rutan, the visionary genius behind SpaceShipOne, was extremely dismissive of NASA, and with good reason. The Space Shuttle was a wasteful detour and he was on the verge of proving that a private company could do low Earth orbit space trips better. But apparently NASA has seen the light, and it's encouraging that James Cameron gets it too.
Of course Heinlein in one of his novels had private companies do almost all the space exploration, and it's theoretically possible for a private companies, or competing private companies, to do deep space exploration, probably better than NASA. But for better or worse NASA is probably not going away, so letting it handle deep space and let the private sector commercialize what has become almost routine may be the least-worst of the readily available policies.
Monday, March 15, 2010
If health care passes, it will be almost impossible to eliminate even if the Reps take back Congress in November. Obama would veto a repeal of course, and before long, like most entitlements it would be part of the landscape, fiercely defended by recipients even as they complained that it didn't deliver enough or deliver it well. Mark Steyn explains much of the process in this recent column.
As this Register editorial explains, the big-ticket bribes in the Senate bill -- the Cornhucker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase and the like -- which have raised so much negative controversy, are supposed to be off the table when the House and Senate get together to pass a "reconciliation" bill when -- if -- the basic bill passes the House. But White House counselor David Axelrod said Sunday that similar stuff might become part of the final package if it isn't targeted at a single state but offers similar taxpayer-paid to two states. Only two states? Judging by what Axelrod said, it could be that. The administration considers your tax dollars an open wallet.
It would be helpful to watch what happens over the longer term, when and if a bunch of Democrats lose their seats. Will those who stuck with the president get sweetheart jobs in the administration or from think tanks or colleges that are aligned with the president. Keep an eye out. I will be.
It turns out that Independent Women's Voice commissioned a poll in 35 swing districts and found even more dramatic results. 60% of those voters want Congress to start over from Square One on health care, 75% oppose an individual mandate, and strong majorities think it will make their immediate families, the economy, and the quality of health care worse. A daunting situation for congresscritters from those districts.
(In case anyone has forgotten, I have consolidated my thoughts on genuine reform several times.)
Sunday, March 14, 2010
The mistake is compounded by making such a big deal of it. The U.S. is in the position it has been in through much of the last 30 years or so -- wanting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and a two-state settlement more than either of the parties involved want it right now. If Obama were smarter he would say nothing and start cutting off aid -- informing the Israelis but not making a public announcement. But after lookiing "soft" after letting the firm demand to stop settlements wither and die, he has to look "tough" now. Or so the constricted logic of too much of what passes for diplomacy goes.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
However, Joe Liebrman and some others have a bill to restore the program. Harry Reid hasn't brought it to a vote yet and seems in no hurry to do so. But there's some hope. I'm a separation of school and state kinda guy myself, but anything that weakens the government monopoly on schooling even a little bit is welcome
Wouldn't it be nice? Cal is clearly the class of the league, but UCLA did beat them (and lose to them). Stanford upset Arizona State tonight. I'm not getting my hopes up too much just yet, but all the so-called experts have been saying for a while the tournament is wide open and the winner could be a surprise.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
And just in case you haven't read the Declaration of Indpendence in a while, here's a link. Except for the listing of British outrages, it seems ever fresh to me. And while we're at it, here's an archive of Frank Chodorov's writing, from the ever-provocative Lew Rockwell.com
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
For more background, Marina Ottaway, head of Middle East studies at the Carnegie Endowment, who was very helpful to me in preparing my piece, provides helpful context. Carnegie has been monitoring the Iraqi media -- fiverse and surprisingly free-wheeling -- for onths now.
The handling of this case was -- so far -- utterly absurd. The teacher apparently felt guilty and turned herself in. The prosecutor wanted bail of $175,000 but the judge said oh, no, it's going to be $400,000. This lady's life is ruined for a mistake in judgment that to my way of thinking doesn't qualify as a crime. She faces a maximum sentence of up to -- get this -- 7 years in state prison! She's unlikely to be good-looking when she comes out if she gets that kind of sentence.
I learned about this from Tim Conway Jr. (son of that Tim Conway from the old Carol Burnett show) on radio KFI. He was outraged too, and good for him. It takes a certain amount of cojones to take that stance in public, on the radio. But this prissy self-righteous attitude that sex is something close to the worst thing people can do to a young man needs to be challenged.
Plenty of social critics have noted that modern America is one of the few societies in world history that artificially extends childhood with adolescence (some would say many Americans extend childhood well into their 40s). My grandfather was sent out on his own to make his way in the world at 15 (he ended up working on the railroad and later became a civil engineer).
How does anybody know? Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania checked the NYT's list of most-e-mailed articles every 15 minutes or so for more than six months and did their best to correct for placement in the paper or on the Web page. They had expected articles with practical tips to be most prominent, or maybe stuff about sex. But they found science articles disproportionately predominant, and not the practical applied-science stuff but the pathbreaking eye-opening, mind-expanding stuff, stuff that invites you to see the world in a different way, on things like paleontology and cosmology.
Maybe there's hope for humankind after all.
Monday, March 08, 2010
Still, if he's so all-fired opposed to ObamaCare, why not stick around a while longer and vote against it? Can his cancer be all that invasive that a couple of weeks doing what he thinks is right would threaten his life or recovery? Maybe so. But the case just gets curiouser and curiouser.
Sunday, March 07, 2010
It's too bad this wisdom no longer guides U.S. foreign policy. We would be freer and more prosperous if it did.
A free Internet is one of the great achievements of our time. It would be tragic if the feds started regulating it; you know regulation would increase. I'm a little surprised that more Netizens aren't expressing alarm at the FCC's power play.
Saturday, March 06, 2010
It turns out, as this Slate story demonstrates, that people with obsessions who end up opening private museums are all over the country. Michael Frederick and his wife bought an 1830-era British Stodart piano in 1976 and he restored it -- and thus began an obsession. His private museum is in Ashburnham in mid-Massachusetts. It has 24 pianos, all kept in concert-ready shape, including names like Graf, Boesendorfer, Streicher, Pleyel, Bluthner, some of whom aren't making pianos any more. The phenomenon allows Jan Swofford to muse on the variety of pianos past -- a variety of personality of instruments we may have lost even as our standardized modern pianos are in some ways technologically superior and on balance better. He reminds us that Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, Chopin, etc., all had different pianos they used for compsition, and in some sense the pianos are co-creators -- and unless we hear compositions played on the pianos of the era we aren't hearing the music as the composers heard it.
Click on the article. It includes excerpts of pieces played on pianos of different eras to demonstrate just how different they sound.
Or maybe not. There are those moves away from total government control of health care in Europe, and it turns out there are also moves away from complete government sponsorship and subsidization of the arts as well. The shadow culture minister for Britain's Tory party promises to usher in"a U.S.-style culture of philanthropy" abnd move toward tax breaks rather than government subsidies for the arts. In France Sarkozy is replacing two museum workers who retire with only one. If the museums want to hire more workers, they'll have to raise money through donations. Although some have noticed that when culture is liberated from market forces it tends toward the mediocre and then becomes subject to political and bureaucratic forces, for the most part this liberalization comes from desperation -- the welfare states running out of money -- and is widely resisted: "It gives the impression that culture is merchandise." But it's happening nonetheless.
Friday, March 05, 2010
The headline seems to be that he admits not finding weapons of mass destruction in Saddam's Iraq "badly damaged Mr. Bush's presidency," as the NYT puts it. But he insists that Bush didn't consciously lie during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, and (NYT again) "he blames himself for not countering the narrative that 'Bush lied.'"
Sorry Karl, that would have been a difficult one to counter, for the simple fact that Bush lied serially. Now it may be that Bush did not consciously lie about believing Saddam had WMD. There are fairly credible accounts that he confronted then-CIA director George Tenet in December 2002, suggesting that the intelligence was pretty thin, and Tenet told him it was a "slam-dunk." So maybe Bush convinced himself -- but the evidence is that he has always been able to convince himself of self-flattering narratives.
Robert Parry of ConsortiumNews.com has helpfully provided once again the evidence of one of Bush's repeated post-invasion lies -- one the MSM never challenged him about. Again and again, once he noticed nobody challenged him, he said that Saddam refused to let the IAEA inspectors in to check for WMD, so since he acted so guiltily, there was no choice but to invade.
The truth, of course, is that Saddam did let the IAEA inspectors in for months in late 2002 and gave them full access to anything they wanted to see. The IAEA inspectors kept reporting they had found nothing and urged US intelligence, who seemed so convinced those weapons must be somewhere in Iraq (after all, Chalabi and Curveball said so), to provide them with leads. Nothing panned out. Finally Bush informed thje IAEA inspectors that they should get out of Iraq, not quite saying ec-licitly that the decision to invade had been made, but everybody got the message. So Bush invaded after the IAEA inspectors had been in Iraq for months and found nothing, and he knew that. And every time he told the story afterward, he lied and said Saddam denied access. He may even have c0nvinced himself it was true --he seems to have quite a capacity for self-deception -- but in fact he lied and lied and lied.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
Don Boudreaux at George Mason U also expounded on the differences in property rights. Chile's are relatively secure, while in Haiti property rights are less secure than in almost every country. Who has the incentive to build to high standards when your property can be taken away on a whim?
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
It all suggests Babs just might be vulnerable.
This Register editorial explains only fleetingly (we do have space limitations) what may be an even more significant aspect of the case. The Supremes over the years have "incorporated" most of the Bill of Rights into state and local largely by using the "due process" clause of the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed former slaves the full rights of American citizens. The Slaughterhouse case of 1873 incorrectly -- even the NYT agrees -- restricted the scope of the clause prohibiting the states from violating the "privileges or immunities" of citizens The framers of the amendment meant the scope of those to be expansive, including an array of rights not necessarily included in the Bill of Rights (unless you interpret the 10th Amendment correctly). The plaintiffs in McDonald have invited the court to use the privileges or immunities clause to apply the 2nd Amendment to the states, and if the court does so it could have far-reaching implications. Arcane stuff, but significant in the arcane world of constitutional law.
That explains why libertarians have been joined by the ACLU and other liberals who filed amicus briefs asking the court to use the privileges or immunities clause. The liberals, of course, have fond dreams of getting a future court to recognize a "right" to health care, housing, and a nanny to wipe your butt furnished by the government. That desire betrays an incoherent theory of rights. True rights are those that can be exercised without violating the equal rights of any other person. If a right requires somebody else to furnish it to you at his or her expense (which means at the expense of all taxpayers if the government does it), then it isn't a right at all, but a privilege and a systematic violation of the rights of others.
Monday, March 01, 2010
But this year's team turns out to be one of the down years, as Saturday's game with Oregon showed yet again. Yes, yes. Reeves Nelson, the tough freshman who is going to be a force and sometimes is already, was out with an eye injury. And after trailing badly the Bruins came back and even tied the game -- but eventually lost. Inconsistent defense, a listless offense and bad foul shooting. I do think a foundation is being laid for next year. But it seems very strange to try to get solace from good efforts and moral victories. Ah, well. Next year should be better.
As an incurable book man, even in this day of blogs and pixels, I hope it works.