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.

Salon.com open to merger to staunch red ink

Salon.com, 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 ...to 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 Antiwar.com, 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.