Friday, December 31, 2010

Some things to watch out for in 2011

At PJ Media, a list of Ten Political Flash Points for 2011. First on the list:

Obama Governs by Executive Power

Having lost large majorities in both houses of Congress, expect Obama to deploy his considerable executive powers. A glimpse of what to expect occurred near Christmas as the administration unilaterally issued three new regulatory rulings governing the Internet, greenhouse emissions, and federal wilderness areas. These actions taken by the Federal Communications Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Interior Department exhibited raw regulatory power.

The FCC action defied a federal court. The EPA greenhouse ruling came even as the Senate voted last June to deny the agency power to issue rules over climate change. The Interior Department administratively reversed Bush-era rules on limiting wilderness protection.

In the absence of the consent of the governed, we are seeing rule by decree.

No mention of those Iranian missiles going to Venezuela. There was a Democratic President in the last century who thought that sort of thing was a pretty big deal. This one … apparently not so much.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hardening a soft science

The study of cities might be called urbanology, or something like that. An area of sociology, perhaps. There does not seem to be much science to it. As described in "A Physicist Solves the City" in the NY Times Magazine, an actual scientist named Geoffrey West is working to put some science into what has been a matter of essays on lifestyles and matters of taste. If his work receives the followup it deserves, we may begin actually to learn something about the way that cities actually work. Found in Jerry Pournelle's mail.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

DHS isn't waiting for COICA

Sen. Leahy's COICA bill to permit blacklisting and seizure of domains is progressing through the Judiciary Committee. It has 18 cosponsors. Most of them are "the usual suspects" types, Senators who don't care about whether the legislation they support is Constitutional, as long as it makes them feel good. I still think this is a violation of their oath of office. Constitutionality should be the first filter. I am disappointed to see Inhofe on the list, as I thought he had more sense than that. Sen. Ron Wyden has vowed to block a vote at least until 2011. So that's good.

But in the meantime, DHS is "seizing internet domains left and right." As Don Surber says, they are "protecting rappers instead of the border." By what authority do they do this, I wonder. If this can be done as an executive function, without the need for Congress to pass legislation, then COICA is superfluous. Or else it's the way the administration wants to handle other issues as well, that is, by executive fiat. I'm thinking of using the EPA's regulatory powers to declare CO2 a pollutant and regulate it without any legislative authority. That "government of laws" business sounds nice, but it gets in the way sometimes. Pesky laws!

Natural News links to Demand Progress, where there is a petition.

I said last year that the days of the free Internet were numbered: Federal Marshals will be coming in to clean up this town, or Yes we can stop the signal.

Update: More on this from David Post at The Volokh Conspiracy: Copyright Enforcement Tail Wags Internet Dog, Cont’d; or, What the Hell Ever Happened to Due Process? An excerpt:

It’s an outrage. To begin with, there’s the bizarre spectacle of the Department of Homeland Security – which, last I looked, had some important issues before it that actually relate to “homeland security” — expending time and resources to protect purely private interests (of. e.g., the Louis Vuitton handbag manufacturers and Warner Brothers’ Records). And the operation perfectly illustrates the objections we raised in the COICA Letter: 80 websites — many of them operating overseas — have now been prevented from speaking to US citizens even though the website operators, whose domains were seized, had no notice or opportunity to respond to the charges against them (and to argue, for instance, that they are NOT infringing copyrights or trademarks), no adversary hearing, and certainly no adjudication before a neutral, that anything unlawful is going on at these sites, only an affidavit to that effect submitted by the ICE.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Back door to debtors' prison

It is common knowledge that there are no debtors' prisons in the United States. Wikipedia says "In 1833 the United States abolished Federal imprisonment for unpaid debts, and most states outlawed the practice around the same time."

But it would be reckless to conclude from this knowledge that one need not worry about being jailed or imprisoned as a consequence of not paying the bills. At Making Light, commenter Magenta Griffith points to an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "In jail for being in debt." It recounts a number of recent cases in which debtors have found themselves behind bars.

The amounts can be small. $35 is the amount in one case.

A sidebar asks "Is jailing debtors the same as debtors jail?" Not quite. The trick is that the collector has obtained a court order. Failure to appear in court is the offense for which the debtor is jailed. The sidebar explains,

"We have created a de facto debtors prison system in the United States that is largely unconstitutional," said Judith Fox, a law professor at Notre Dame Law School. "In some parts of the country, people are so fearful of arrest they are scrambling to pay money they might not even owe."

In states such as Indiana and Illinois, people are being locked up for not making court-ordered payments. Known as "pay or stay," it can mean days in jail and multiple arrests for the same debt. Some legal experts say the practice is unconstitutional because the arrest is directly linked to the failure to pay a debt.

In Minnesota, the issue is less clear because warrants to arrest debtors are issued for disobeying court orders, such as not filling out a financial disclosure form and missing a required hearing, not for failure to pay debt. So long as someone fulfills the court order, they can avoid incarceration.

All too often, debtors are not aware that a court date has been set or a warrant issued.

An article at Walletpop about the Star-Tribune piece received 100 comments, some of them substantive.

The NY Times had an editorial about the practice last year.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Subtle in the woods

First seen here. Not exactly seen, but you know what I mean. First not seen there.

This reminds me of an Ambrose Bierce story, but it's much more pleasant than the thing in the story.

True tale of computer crime

Albert Gonzales and Shadowcrew stole millions of credit and debit card numbers, intercepted millions of transactions, and saw "profits in the millions of dollars." James Verini has the story: The Great Cyberheist. From Jerry Pournelle's mail.

Also in the Chaos Manor mail: a TSA screener just can't stop touching a three-year old girl. Following orders, you know. Update: That video has been taken down. As of midnight Nov. 16, Nerve dot com has a working version. Another update: Nerve's video is down, too. Eyeblast has it now.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Suffocated by Red Tape"

This morning's email brought a link to Suffocated By Red Tape – 12 Ridiculous Regulations That Are Almost Too Bizarre To Believe at Economic Collapse. I had heard of some of these, had not heard of others. They make more of an impression gathered together into a bunch. A few samples:

#1 The state of Texas now requires every new computer repair technician to obtain a private investigator’s license. In order to receive a private investigator’s license, an individual must either have a degree in criminal justice or must complete a three year apprenticeship with a licensed private investigator. If you are a computer repair technician that violates this law, or if you are a regular citizen that has a computer repaired by someone not in compliance with the law, you can be fined up to $4,000 and you can be put in jail for a year.

#2 The city of Philadelphia now requires all bloggers to purchase a $300 business privilege license. The city even went after one poor woman who had earned only $11 from her blog over the past two years.

#8 A U.S. District Court judge slapped a 500 dollar fine on Massachusetts fisherman Robert J. Eldridge for untangling a giant whale from his nets and setting it free. So what was his crime? Well, according to the court, Eldridge was supposed to call state authorities and wait for them do it.
Go over there for the rest, an Institute for Justice video, and some discussion of opportunity cost. If the government were serious about stimulating the economy, much of the current regulatory regime, at all levels from Federal to local, could be yanked out by the roots.

Chicago Climate Exchange is closed

It was not going to work without coercion in the form of cap-and-trade. If Al Gore and the rest have let it go, then it looks like the lame-duck session of Congress will not be trying for cap-and-trade.

What Ed Barnes has to say. Here's another take from the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute. CCX's parent company runs carbon exchanges in other countries, which are not closing. So is this a victory for American exceptionalism? Wouldn't that be nice.

"The [Democratic] party's candidates are like brides of Dracula …"

Daniel Henninger mentions Calvin Coolidge, the Form 1099 expansion, cap-and-trade, the EPA, public sector unions, and some other things that have been on my mind, in a look at the Democrats' anti-business attitude and activities.

His conclusion may be over-optimistic.

Thanks to Maggie's Farm.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Can you govern yourself?"

Asks Bruno Behrend at ChicagoBoyz.

“Can you govern yourself, or do you need a Federal Czar to govern your life for you?”

That question should be asked of every interested person who might vote in the next few elections. Everyone.

“Can you find a doctor, a light-bulb, or control the flow of your toilet, or should one of our Federal Czars take that decision out of your hands?”

When framed in this fashion, the answers to these questions probably have a 75-25 pro-freedom response rate, even in today’s electorate.

Behrend goes on to say that advocates of smaller government should frame the debate to emphasize self-government. Maybe if Tea Partiers can persuade establishment Republicans to join them in the message that Americans do not need to be closely supervised every minute, some inroads can be made against the forces of the nanny state.

I hope he is onto something with this. What we keep hearing from government is that we are too damn stupid to come in out of the rain.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Reynolds calls for clarity over confrontation and compromise

In the Washington Examiner today:

Often when Washington insiders talk "compromise," they really mean engineering a situation where nobody really has to take a position, or responsibility … Virtually the entire superstructure of today's legislative branch is designed to minimize clarity, and hence accountability.The survival instincts of politicians involve the avoidance of taking stands, and Republican politicians aren't immune from them any more than Democrats are. Republicans just have more to worry about in terms of Tea Party primary challengers.
To use Codevilla's terms, the Country Class is trying to get some power back from the Ruling Class. Many establishment Republicans view themselves as part of the Ruling Class, and those need to be challenged right along with the Democrats.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Annuat cœptis

After the election, Professor Althouse offers a blessing for the years to come:

Let's hope last night's revolution was a revolution toward reality, away from government, and a return to belief in what individual human beings can do on their own, without magical dreams about government.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Save the data!

Maurizio Morabito:

The prestigious collection of hundreds of years of weather observations, historical books and meteorological instruments from the Collegio Romano in Rome is at risk of being dispersed for good. Please sign the appeal to prevent such a disaster: (in the signature section: “Nome”=First name; “Cognome”=Family name; “richiesto”=Mandatory field)


A few days ago I have received the following letter via e-mail (translated and adapted in English from the original in Italian):

Dear friends,

It is with great sadness that I am forwarding the attached letter – press release by the staff at the Research Unit for Applied Meteorology and Climatology in Agriculture (in Italian: CRA-CMA), the direct descendant of the first Italian National Weather Station inaugurated in 1876 and headquartered at the Collegio Romano from 1879 (in an area previously occupied by the Meteorological Observatory built in 1782 by Abbot Giuseppe Calandrelli (the first to apply gravitational theory to cometary atmospheres)). I hope that those who have taken this decision will go back on it, at least reconsider this meteorological site, by declaring its historical importance for Italian meteorology. That would mean leaving untouched its Library, Historical Archives and the Museum of Ancient Meteorological and Seismographic Instruments, as well as the historic Calandrelli Observatory. The Library is at present unique in Italy, after the closure, in the 1990s, of the Air Force Weather Service Library.
Joanne Nova says,
How valuable is empirical evidence and long term data? The Collegio Romano is one of the few places in the world with multi-centennial meteorological and climate data series (228 years!) … Not many people in the world appreciate how important and rare those long temperature series and historic collections are.
If the warmingists were really interested in science, this would be a big deal. Al Gore has made enough on climate alarmism to buy the place, single-handed. It's just as well, though, since the alarmists have shown what they think of data. Data are to be extrapolated, adjusted, inferred, or deleted. The actual records can be so, uh, inconvenient. Look at New Zealand for a current case, if you're tired of Phil Jones.

From Jerry Pournelle's mail.

Friday, October 29, 2010

We could use a man like Calvin Coolidge again

Archie Bunker liked the wrong President. Of course he did. Archie was written that way.

America missed a bet when Coolidge decided not to run in 1928. He would have been reelected in a landslide. If he had been in office, and the 1929 crash came anyway, he would have been able to follow Harding's example in dealing with it. The 1920 depression was a short sharp shock, followed by the Roaring 20's.

Coolidge presided over an era of unprecedented prosperity. He (and Harding) cut taxes and spending radically. The budget in 1929 was half what it was in 1920 [p. 21 of this GPO pdf.] At the end of Wilson's Presidency, the top income tax rate was 77%. Coolidge was able to push it down to 25%. (Robert Novak says he was not such a budget-cutter, but does so by comparing Wilson's pre-war budget to Coolidge's last budget. In the same essay, Novak points out that Coolidge made use of the Laffer Curve before Arthur Laffer was born.)

He wrote his own speeches. Contrary to the "Silent Cal" cliché, he "made use of the new medium of radio and made radio history several times while President. He made himself available to reporters, giving 52o press conferences, meeting with reporters more regularly than any President before or since." [Wikipedia, from David Greenberg's Calvin Coolidge.]

Here's a speech from 1924 in a talkie made with Lee De Forest's pioneering sound process:

I like this speech well enough that I have transcribed it. A highlight:

I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves. I want them to have the rewards of their own industry. This is the chief meaning of freedom. Until we can re-establish a condition under which the earnings of the people can be kept by the people, we are bound to suffer a very severe and distinct curtailment of our liberty.
The full text is below.

Here is the text of his address at the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

A few more links: David Bozeman calls Coolidge "The Great Un-Obama."

Alan Snyder's article explains why he did not run in 1928. It reminds me of the way George Washington term-limited himself in 1800.

Amity Shlaes calls Coolidge "The Great Refrainer."

Shlaes and Joe Thorndike have been writing a blog devoted to Coolidge, Silent Cal. Thorndike's personal blog is thorndike dot com.

Some notes on De Forest's sound film process, Phonofilm, here, here, and here.

Full text of the speech in the movie above:
[The] country needs every ounce of its energy to restore itself. The costs of government are all assessed upon the people. This means that the farmer is doomed to provide a certain amount of money out of the sale of his produce, no matter how low the price, to pay his taxes. The manufacturer, the professional man, the clerk, must do the same from their income. The wage earner, often at a higher rate when compared with his earning, makes his contribution perhaps not directly but indirectly in the advanced cost of everything he buys. The expenses of the government reach everybody. Taxes take from everyone a part of his earnings, and force everyone to work for a certain part of his time for the government.

When we come to realize that the yearly expenses of the governments of this country reach the stupendous sum of about seven billion, five hundred million dollars, we get [garbled] hundred million dollars is needed by the national government, and the remainder by local governments. Such a sum is difficult to comprehend. It represents all the pay of five million wage earners receiving five dollars a day, working three hundred days in the year. If the government should add one hundred million dollars of expense, it would represent four days' more work of these wage earners.

These are some of the reasons why I want to cut down public expense. I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves. I want them to have the rewards of their own industry. This is the chief meaning of freedom. Until we can re-establish a condition under which the earnings of the people can be kept by the people, we are bound to suffer a very severe and distinct curtailment of our liberty.

These results are not fanciful. They are not imaginary. They are grimly actual and real, reaching into every household in the land. They take from each home annually an average of over three hundred dollars, and taxes must be paid. They are not a voluntary contribution, to be met out of surplus earnings. They are a stern necessity. They come first. It is only out of what is left, after they are paid, that the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter can be provided, and the comforts of home secured, or the yearnings of the soul for a broader and more abundant life gratified.

When the government effects a new economy, it grants everybody a life pension, with which to raise the standard of existence. It increases the value of everybody's property, raises the scale of everybody's wages. One of the greatest favors that can be bestowed upon the American people is economy in government.
—President Calvin Coolidge, August 11, 1924

Monday, October 25, 2010

Kyoto Protocol by any other name is Wirtschaftskampf

That's "economic struggle," or trade warfare.

Back in 2002, there was still a lot of talk about how the US should hurry up and ratify the Kyoto Protocol before New York sank beneath the waves, or something. I asked Megan McArdle* if it might have been "designed to be harmless to EU economies while handcuffing ours? So that the ratification really requires no changes on their parts?" She looked at the numbers, and agreed that

The European politicians who pushed it care less about absolute prosperity than relative prosperity. They're okay with hurting their economies if ours is hurt more.
But she was too kind to those European politicians.

Recently in the Weekly Standard, John Rosenthal has taken a look at "The Secret History of Climate Alarmism: A very German story of power politics disguised as environmentalism." He goes back to 1986:
The original impulse to take action had come from the German Physics Society, which in January 1986 published a “Warning of an Impending Climate Catastrophe.” Just over six months later, in August, the newsweekly Der Spiegel popularized the German physicists’ “warning” in a spectacular cover story headlined “The Climate Catastrophe.” The image on the cover of the magazine depicted Cologne’s historic cathedral surrounded by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean: a consequence of the melting of the polar ice caps, as was explained on the inside of the issue. Thus was the “global warming” scare born. In Germany, in 1986.
The whole protocol, or "framework convention," was carefully tailored to fit events in Europe. It's no coincidence that the base year for most countries in Kyoto was the year after the Berlin Wall fell.

Rosenthal raises a concern about the wisdom, and priorities, of our diplomats:
The real questions that Americans need to ask concern their own negotiators. How could they have permitted the United States to be boxed into such an obviously prejudicial corner, and why did neither they nor the Clinton administration as such do anything to expose the ruse?
The Senate at least saw through it, and refused to ratify, 95-0. Here's the actual Senate resolution (pdf). So the 95 "Yea" votes are votes against adopting the treaty.

The science has always been secondary to the politics.

The Kyoto Protocol is still out there, not dead yet. A few more Al Frankens in the Senate and it still might pass. Here's Franken in 2009:
We can start by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. One of the dumbest things that President Bush said -- and that's a high bar -- is that Kyoto would cripple the U.S. economy. I think the opposite is true.
Funny, Al.
* I was using my real name on the Internet in those days. The Anglosphere Challenge was published in 2004, and it was shortly after that I grew tired of having to explain over and over again that I was not the author of that fine book, but someone else entirely.

If the world is not going to end in 2012 ...

… as a new critique of the conversion from the Mayan suggests, some recalculations may be in order.

It's a good news/bad news situation for believers in the 2012 Mayan apocalypse. The good news is that the Mayan "Long Count" calendar may not end on Dec. 21, 2012 (and, by extension, the world may not end along with it). The bad news for prophecy believers? If the calendar doesn't end in December 2012, no one knows when it actually will - or if it has already.

A new critique, published as a chapter in the new textbook "Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World" (Oxbow Books, 2010), argues that the accepted conversions of dates from Mayan to the modern calendar may be off by as much as 50 or 100 years. That would throw the supposed and overhyped 2012 apocalypse off by decades and cast into doubt the dates of historical Mayan events.
I guess I'd better start stockpiling light bulbs after all. (From Jerry Pournelle's mail.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Instruments of dubious value

Not the robosigned mortgages causing such an uproar among the bankers, but "the 10 Most Ludicrous Musical Instruments Ever Conceived." All are described and presented with videos so that they can be seen and heard. All are unfamiliar to me, and for most of them, I'd just as soon they stay that way. There might be a future for the violimba in horror movie scores. The Samchillian Tip Tip Tip Cheeepeeeee, a keyboard "based on relativity," is intriguing and might actually have a future. Or it might be from the future.

Second Rate Snacks ...

… is the name of a blog devoted to, guess what? I read the whole thing and didn't even need an Alka-Seltzer afterwards. Recommended for anyone who has debated the merits of different brands of potato chips and cheese puffs, and, really, who hasn't?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sen. Leahy's plan to dismantle the Internet on hold for recess

The bill is S. 3804, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, or COICA. (Full text.) It has 16 co-sponsors, including a few Republicans.

Commentary and comments at Techdirt, PC Mag, Fox News, ZDnet (Australia), EFF, and elsewhere.

From the Fox News story:

Internet advocates warn the legislation would open a door for a handful of people in the federal government to wantonly power off entire websites that may be operating legally under current law. Though senators suggest the bill would save jobs by cracking down on piracy, critics say it will hurt the economy by threatening fledgling companies whenever copyrighted material shows up on their sites. "If this bill had been law five or 10 years ago, there's a good chance that YouTube would no longer be around," Peter Eckersley, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told

Eckersley said the bill would mark a drastic departure from current law by allowing the government not just to strip copyrighted material off an offending website, but to order the shutdown of a domain name altogether.

Eighty-seven engineers who played a role in the creation of the Internet have sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee urging it to sideline the bill.

"If enacted, this legislation will risk fragmenting the Internet's global domain name system (DNS), create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure," they wrote. "All censorship schemes impact speech beyond the category they were intended to restrict, but this bill will be particularly egregious in that regard because it causes entire domains to vanish from the Web, not just infringing pages or files. Worse, an incredible range of useful, law-abiding sites can be blacklisted under this bill."
They can't keep their grubby paws off.

Leahy has been in office far too long. All the political crystal gazers seem to think that there's no chance he will lose this election. I'll be hoping for Len Britton to surprise them on election night. It's a shame that the Republican Party is not supporting its own candidate.

Update: David Post at The Volokh Conspiracy says that COICA is "a truly awful bill."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What to do if accounts are hacked

A friend had this happen last week. So, possibly a useful resource:
What to Do If Hackers Steal Your Online Accounts.

10:10 — Deep Greens fantasizing in public

Everybody's seen this by now, right? The video produced by the environmental group with the red button and the people getting blown to bloody bits for being indifferent about this environmental action. Richard Curtis, Gillian Anderson, Radiohead, so on and so forth.

Treacher has found a video response. Taranto and commenters at the WSJ have commentary. James Delingpole has a couple more examples of the enviro-terror genre.

Nothing new about this. Paul (Sea Shepherd) Watson's call for ~6,000,000,000 deaths, as soon as possible please, is still on the Sea Shepherd website. James Hanson was calling for trials for AGW deniers, not so long ago. Paul Krugman used the expression, "traitors to the planet." The penalty for treason is death.

Lefties, "progressives," enviros, what have you, they don't see human beings. They see economic units, or classes, or elements of the dialectic. In connection with which, Andrea Harris wrote about "The people Obama doesn't see." She also has a piece about the 10:10 video.

In the fantasies of "environmentalists," somehow all those awful people just disappear, but the dreamers are spared to view the resulting Paradise. That will only work if the environmentalists supervise the slaughter themselves. In the 10:10 video, the fuzzy teddy bear mask slipped.

Added: Andrew Bolt has a couple more of these toxic ads. Via Hot Air. S. Weasel has a recycling ad. Ed Driscoll has a post with many links, and a follow-up. Eric S. Raymond writes, "From now on, this video should be Exhibit A whenever the global-warming alarmists pretend to moral or intellectual superiority over the rest of us."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A ray of hope for incandescents

A few brave congress persons have introduced a bill to repeal the incandescent light bulb ban. Powerline:

Representatives Joe Barton, Michael Burgess, and Marsha Blackburn have just introduced the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act (or BULB). The legislation would repeal the de facto ban on the incandescent light bulb contained in Subtitle B of Title III of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
It's H.R. 6144, for those who care about that sort of thing.

There is some vaguely scientific sounding noise being made in certain quarters about health hazards of compact fluorescent bulbs. For some reason that I don't understand, most of it seems to be in the form of videos rather than articles. A number of these are assembled for your viewing pleasure at CFL Impact.

I find it offensive that the ban has no justification other than that incandescents are inefficient. That's a matter of one's perspective. A CFL is terribly inefficient, in fact downright ineffective, in an Easy-Bake oven. And since when has mere inefficiency been a reason for legislation to outlaw anything? If something is inefficient enough, people will stop buying it. Non-radial tires have just about disappeared, without ever being banned. For instance. Even though radials are more expensive. The better product naturally supplants the worse. Yet bias-ply tires are still available, if you want them.

Now that there have been two failed attempts to repeal the 1099 madness in the health care bill, I do not have much hope for this first attempt to repeal another piece of lunacy. But hope springs eternal, I suppose. Hope for a change in direction. Yes, I'll have a cup of tea, thanks.

Added: Peg at "what if?" appreciates her incandescents.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Doctor Zero cuts through the claptrap: "No more control"

Everyone who gets elected thinks he or she is smart enough to run the system. In a free market, nobody runs the system. If somebody is running the system, it's not a free market. Doctor Zero at Hot Air:

Political control is what’s killing us. It is expressed in hundreds of ways: high tax rates with carefully tailored exceptions, massive bailouts, laws rigged to favor government-controlled industries, restrictions on resource development, and a vast poppy field of subsidies and penalties. The Democrats have added thousands of pages of fabulously expensive legislation since Obama took office. Two messages echo through those pages: Obey and be rewarded. Resist and be punished.
Hands off!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Can Republicans run on light bulbs?

An issue for the election coming up. Do people even know this is coming? I wonder how many do.

Discussion at Althouse, occasioned by the closing of GE's last US light bulb factory.

Obama's anti-colonial inspiration

Thanks to Neo-neocon, an important article by Dinesh D'Souza, How Obama Thinks.

Barack Obama is the most antibusiness president in a generation, perhaps in American history. Thanks to him the era of big government is back. Obama runs up taxpayer debt not in the billions but in the trillions. He has expanded the federal government's control over home mortgages, investment banking, health care, autos and energy. The Weekly Standard summarizes Obama's approach as omnipotence at home, impotence abroad.

The President's actions are so bizarre that they mystify his critics and supporters alike. Consider this headline from the Aug. 18, 2009 issue of the Wall Street Journal: "Obama Underwrites Offshore Drilling." Did you read that correctly? You did. The Administration supports offshore drilling--but drilling off the shores of Brazil. With Obama's backing, the U.S. Export-Import Bank offered $2 billion in loans and guarantees to Brazil's state-owned oil company Petrobras to finance exploration in the Santos Basin near Rio de Janeiro--not so the oil ends up in the U.S. He is funding Brazilian exploration so that the oil can stay in Brazil.

This piece is a must-read.

Update: D'Souza talks about it some more.

Friday, August 27, 2010

"The Gravestone Carver"

John Benson, stonecarver, calligrapher, sculptor, singer, fiddler, friend, narrates a short video about himself and his work.

The stone-carving shop in the video is the John Stevens Shop in Newport, Rhode Island.

John will be showing some of his work at Imago Gallery in Warren, Rhode Island, starting today, August 27.

Update, Sept 29: John's son, Nick Benson, who has run the John Stevens Shop since John retired a decade or so ago, has been named a MacArthur Fellow. He speaks about it in this video.

It seems I share a birthday ...

… with a poet. I have mentioned Gerard Manley Hopkins here before. For an appreciation, and another poem, go visit Sheila O'Malley. You won't regret it.

Seen on a hospital wall

Tomorrow is not promised us
So let us take today
And make the very most of it
The once we pass this way.

Just speak aloud the kindly thought
And do the kindly deed
And try to see and understand
Some other creature's need.

Tomorrow is not promised us
Nor any other day
So let us make the most of it
The once we pass this way.
On the wall of Four South at Wayne Memorial in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. There was no author or title given.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

James Cameron thinks I'm a swine

Good to know, I guess.

Apparently Cameron invited a couple of AGW skeptics (and Andrew Breitbart) to debate with him on the topic of AGW, at an event called the American Renewable Energy Summit. At the last moment he rescinded the invitations.

Meanwhile, Cameron attended the event on Sunday and used the platform to say of those who question man-made global warming: “I think they are swine."
Insulting empty chairs is always a good debating strategy. Sharon Waxman has the story. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

"You were doing it wrong"

That's the title of a thread at AskMetafilter that has been keeping me entertained for days. The initial question:

What in life did it take you a surprisingly long time to realize you've been doing wrong all along?

"Crap, I've been doing it wrong." We've all had those sudden epiphanies where we realize we've been doing something incorrectly, ineffectively or just suboptimally our whole lives, in domains from handicraft to human relations to technical stuff to personal grooming. What have you spent large portions of your life doing wrong?
The first answer: "Tying my shoes." Many people have problems with words such as segue and epitome. Another answer up near the top is "It took me until adulthood to realize that courage, tenacity, and hard work get you a lot farther than plain old smartness." So there are all kinds of things posted here. I was pleased to discover howjsay dot com, an English dictionary of pronunciations. Just pronunciations, no definitions, and it is English, so "balmy" is pronounced as "barmy," and so forth. Another discovery would be this video, demonstrating how to tell when the pan is hot enough.

That video is extracted from a post at Houseboat Eats which explains the whole thing much more fully.

Then there's this mirror trick:

Mirrors are a recurring theme in the thread.

I learned of this from Prof. Althouse, who learned of it from her son John Althouse Cohen.

Metafilter mods are not pleased with the thread and might have killed it, if they had not been distracted, as is revealed in another thread called Doing it right.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lesson in maintenance

I've heard it said that one can save money by buying good stuff and taking care of it. Case in point: Irv Gordon, who recently turned 2,800,000 miles on his 1966 Volvo P1800.

In Wired:

Irv Gordon has some advice for keeping your car running forever: Follow the factory service manual, replace worn or broken parts immediately and don’t let anyone else drive your car.

Some say, "Run Your Car Into The Ground: It's Cheaper" when what they mean is that if you don't have to buy a car every few years, but can just do maintenance on the one you already have, you'll save money. You don't actually have to run it into the ground, if you can manage to keep it above the ground.

Here's another article about Irv Gordon and his Volvo, with emphasis on the numbers: Irv Gordon's Volvo Goes Metric at Four Million. For instance:
Four million kilometers is 2,485,484 miles, or put in a different way, Irv and his trusty Volvo P1800 have traveled the equivalent of ...
-  Almost 100 times around the world (via the equator).
- Nearly five round-trips to the moon.
- 1,111.111* completions of the Tour de France (*recurring).
- 7,104 swims across the English Channel.
- More than 114 Great Races (New York to Paris).


Via AoS HQ. I had a '64 Volvo 122-S Amazon for a while. (Purchased used, and fairly beat-up.) I got a fair amount of miles out of it. I don't know how many, because the speedometer cable broke the first or second year I had it, and I never repaired it. The Wikipedia articles on these cars told me things I had not already known: P1800, 122-S.

Happy motoring, Irv Gordon!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The ruling class are not the right people

But they are, you know, "the right people," as determined by themselves. The Ivy degrees, the social connections, the families that intermarry. Angelo M. Codevilla describes some of what's going on in America's Ruling Class — And the Perils of Revolution. Jerry Pournelle says the article is important, and goes on to say,

There have always been elites in America, and there have always been local ruling classes and aristocracies; but it is only comparatively recently that there has been "a ruling class" of the kind we have now. Codevilla traces its development and some of the consequences.

This development was predictable and predicted. The authors of The Bell Curve understood the phenomenon, and postulated some of the causes; of course the development of the ruling class was well under way when The Bell Curve was published, and interestingly enough the establishment, although created in large part by the process described in The Bell Curve, soundly and roundly rejected the book, its principles. and everything about it. That's because the authors of The Bell Curve were not part of the ruling class and never could be; and besides, part of their thesis was wrong. The US hasn't become a meritocracy; but the pretense of creating one did bring together the elements of the ruling class.

Some of this development was, if not predicted, at least strongly implied in some of my earlier papers on The Voodoo Sciences, all written long before the current crisis or indeed before "the global warming consensus." And of course there's The Iron Law. Codevilla's thesis isn't all that new (nor does he claim it to be) but this presentation is done well. It's particularly relevant on what has to be done.

The main thesis of Codevilla's article is that America's majority -- an overwhelming majority -- is not represented by the Ruling Class and is increasingly unhappy with it -- and the remedy is not merely turning the Democrats out in November. The storm clouds are gathering.

Important as they are, our political divisions are the iceberg's tip. When pollsters ask the American people whether they are likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the next presidential election, Republicans win growing pluralities. But whenever pollsters add the preferences "undecided," "none of the above," or "tea party," these win handily, the Democrats come in second, and the Republicans trail far behind. That is because while most of the voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well, only a fourth of the voters who identify themselves as Republicans tell pollsters that Republican officeholders represent them well.

Sooner or later, well or badly, [the national] majority's demand for representation will be filled. Whereas in 1968 Governor George Wallace's taunt "there ain't a dime's worth of difference" between the Republican and Democratic parties resonated with only 13.5 percent of the American people, in 1992 Ross Perot became a serious contender for the presidency (at one point he was favored by 39 percent of Americans vs. 31 percent for G.H.W. Bush and 25 percent for Clinton) simply by speaking ill of the ruling class. Today, few speak well of the ruling class. Not only has it burgeoned in size and pretense, but it also has undertaken wars it has not won, presided over a declining economy and mushrooming debt, made life more expensive, raised taxes, and talked down to the American people. Americans' conviction that the ruling class is as hostile as it is incompetent has solidified. The polls tell us that only about a fifth of Americans trust the government to do the right thing. The rest expect that it will do more harm than good and are no longer afraid to say so.

Codevilla also agues that the ruling class is busily dumbing itself down. Having been created in theory as a meritocracy, it never really was that, and is less so now than ever. I might note that the collapse of the public school system works toward that end. We've discussed this in previous essays, and coincidentally there's relevant mail today. As to the consequences:

Beyond patronage, picking economic winners and losers redirects the American people's energies to tasks that the political class deems more worthy than what Americans choose for themselves. John Kenneth Galbraith's characterization of America as "private wealth amidst public squalor" (The Affluent Society, 1958) has ever encapsulated our best and brightest's complaint: left to themselves, Americans use land inefficiently in suburbs and exurbs, making it necessary to use energy to transport them to jobs and shopping. Americans drive big cars, eat lots of meat as well as other unhealthy things, and go to the doctor whenever they feel like it. Americans think it justice to spend the money they earn to satisfy their private desires even though the ruling class knows that justice lies in improving the community and the planet. The ruling class knows that Americans must learn to live more densely and close to work, that they must drive smaller cars and change their lives to use less energy, that their dietary habits must improve, that they must accept limits in how much medical care they get, that they must divert more of their money to support people, cultural enterprises, and plans for the planet that the ruling class deems worthier. So, ever-greater taxes and intrusive regulations are the main wrenches by which the American people can be improved (and, yes, by which the ruling class feeds and grows).

There's a lot more, some of which you will have encountered here, such as Adorno's influential book that few have ever heard of, and other stuff from the Voodoo sciences, or our discussions of education.

The question is, what to do about it. A large majority of Americans rejects the current ruling class. Codevilla (who came to America from Italy unable to speak English as a youngster, and was thoroughly assimilated by the time he was a graduate student) summarizes the task for Americans this way:

[The] greatest difficulty will be to enable a revolution to take place without imposing it. America has been imposed on enough.


Ever-greater taxes and intrusive regulations are signs that the rulers fear and mistrust the people. The occasional victory for liberty, e.g. the Heller case, shines like a lantern in the darkness. And of course all the usual ruling class suspects are trying to extinguish that.

The story of John Kerry's failed attempt to dodge some Massachusetts taxes on his boat nicely illustrates the point that the ruling class is not a meritocracy. It only pretends to be one. Glenn Reynolds says:

TAXES ARE FOR THE LITTLE PEOPLE (CONT’D): Sen. John Kerry Docks Luxury Yacht In Rhode Island To Avoid High Massachusetts Taxes. A reader calls it “not-so-swift” boating. Yeah, you have to be grateful for John Kerry, who illustrates the problems with his class so well, and who isn’t bright enough to hide it.

UPDATE: Check out the Boston Herald front page, which is giving it the full Thurston Howell treatment.

There's more at the WBZ-TV website, with videos and comments. Kerry is doing that thing Obama does, where he says "It's not an issue." and expects that all who hear will obey.

By the way: in case you have not clicked those links yet, that's a $7 million yacht, making the Senator liable for close to half a million dollars in Massachusetts use tax. Will he pay the $70,000 annual property excise? I suspect not.

I wonder why a Massachusetts Senator would have a yacht designed in Rhode Island and built in New Zealand? Are there no yacht builders in Massachusetts or any nearby states? Has he been in Washington so long that he has forgotten that seven million dollars might make a difference to the economy of the state he represents? Represents in some sense. Local boosterism is so déclassé, isn't it. And it's all about the class. Ruling class, that is.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tattoo news

At Reason. Katherine Mangu-Ward seems to have a series going on about

underworld tattoos—those useful inkblots that indicate to those in the know who you were in prison with, and why, and what kind of employment you might be seeking, all without the trouble of taking out an ad in the classified section.
Follow up with mad scientists.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Case to watch: Ike Brown

J. Christian Adams is writing about this case at PJ Media. How will the DOJ deal with this one?

This story hails from rural east Mississippi: majority black Noxubee County is home to Ike Brown, one of the most lawless purveyors of racial discrimination the nation has seen in decades. (I have written in greater detail about the racially motivated lawlessness Brown used to victimize minority white voters in the county.) Brown canceled ballots cast by white voters. He stuffed the ballot box with illegal ballots supporting his preferred black candidates. He deployed teams of notaries to roam the countryside and mark absentee ballots instead of voters. He allowed forced assistance in the voting booth, to the detriment of white voters. He threatened 174 white voters by declaring that if they tried to participate in an election, he might challenge them and not let them vote. He publicized the 174 names.


Brown’s overall behavior was so outrageous that the court stripped him of all authority to run elections until 2012, and gave the power to a former justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court as a special administrator. The remedy was unprecedented, but upheld on appeal because of the brazen lawlessness of Ike Brown.

Fast forward to 2010, to the Eric Holder Justice Department.

Every change in voting in Mississippi must be submitted for approval to the DOJ voting section — where I worked for five years — under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 gives the DOJ power to object to any change motivated by a discriminatory racial intent or with a discriminatory racial effect in nine states and portions of seven. Changes to the law in 2006 made it clear that any discrimination would suffice to trigger an objection under the act.

Right now, the Holder Justice Department has a submission from Ike Brown to allow him to do precisely the same thing he tried in 2003 — prevent people from voting based on their party loyalties.

The Department must decide this week if white victims are worth protecting, by imposing an objection to the same behavior a federal court has already ruled was motivated by an illegal racial intent. If the races were reversed in this submission, there is zero doubt the DOJ would object to the proposal.

Following up:

On July 12, it silently sent a “no determination” letter, effectively a cop-out against using Section 5 to protect the white minority in Noxubee County. I am told by a news outlet that the supposedly transparent administration played hide the ball for almost 24 hours, not providing the letter to the public.

There’s more. On July 13, it filed a motion to extend for a few years a remedy in the civil court case the Bush administration brought in 2005 and won in 2007. The order seeks to extend the remedy until after the next presidential election. This means the Department will never have to roll up their sleeves and monitor what Ike Brown, their political friend, is doing in Noxubee.

Amazingly, the Department is also seeking an order from the federal court to prevent Ike Brown, the discriminator, from making any more inconvenient submissions to the Obama Justice Department which might reveal the hostility toward equal enforcement of the law. Simply put, they are asking the court to prohibit Brown from sending any more submissions under Section 5. Not only would this go beyond the powers of the court to order, it is a naked play to avoid facing the issue of unequal enforcement for the remainder of the first, and maybe last, term of the Obama administration. If Brown can’t file submissions to the DOJ, the DOJ won’t have to take the side of the white victims. This is unnecessary and shamefully transparent.

We'll see what happens.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Franken-Coleman recount continues

Sort of. Fox News:

The six-month election recount that turned former "Saturday Night Live" comedian Al Franken into a U.S. senator may have been decided by convicted felons who voted illegally in Minnesota's Twin Cities.

That's the finding of an 18-month study conducted by Minnesota Majority, a conservative watchdog group, which found that at least 341 convicted felons in largely Democratic Minneapolis-St. Paul voted illegally in the 2008 Senate race between Franken, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent, then-incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman.

The final recount vote in the race, determined six months after Election Day, showed Franken beat Coleman by 312 votes -- fewer votes than the number of felons whose illegal ballots were counted, according to Minnesota Majority's newly released study, which matched publicly available conviction lists with voting records.

Via Althouse.

That whole thing was so transparently crooked ... The Democrats are utterly without shame at this point. Cash in the freezer, ballots in the trunk of the car, who cares.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Just like old times: Russians still spying

Ron Radosh at PJ Media:

It seems that some things never change. A few moments ago, this breaking story came in from the website of the New York Times. It seems, as this early report informs us, that ten Americans have been arrested for spying on behalf of Putin’s new Russia.
Via Reynolds.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Refined, erudite, nuanced BS at NY Times

J.M. Bernstein, University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York City, goes on at considerable length to demonstrate that he has no idea what the Tea Party people are talking about, but he thinks they are just awful! Angry! Scary!

A type specimen of academic bafflegab. Many of the commenters say they agree with him, and herein lies the danger of this kind of claptrap. Bernstein presents his strawman in so persuasive a way that those leaning in his direction feel that they have been provided with logical, intellectual proof for the gut feelings they already had.

Part 1: The Very Angry Tea Party

Part 2: The Usefulness of Anger: A Response

Hey there, Professor Bernstein: who is it that's angry?

Tea Party people are upset about the spending. (This graphic is old; numbers are much bigger now, with Obamacare in the mix.)

Democrats are angry that anyone dares question their authoritah.


ALEX LIGHTMAN ON FACEBOOK: “After researching the issue carefully and interviewing people in a position to know, I can now reveal that the current primary purpose of the United State government is to bankrupt the United States. It comes as a relief to know this. So many things now make sense.” Least hypothesis, and all that.
Doing everything possible to allow the oil blowout in the Gulf to go on fits right in with that. Golf on, Obama.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

USA invaded, surrenders

Gateway Pundit:

The federal government is now telling American citizens to stay out of three southern Arizona counties.
It is too dangerous because of armed smugglers from Mexico.
Is anyone answering the phone at "Homeland Security?"

Thanks to commenter njartist49 at Neo-Neocon's place. Neo's post is "How hard can it be to be a competent president?" Read the whole thing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Nuke the Gulf

See the update to the preceding post.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Perspective on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Oil has been spilling for 45 days. The estimated rate is between 500,000 and 1,000,000 gallons per day. That's a lot of oil. (And a pretty loose estimate.) So, that's somewhere between 22.5 million and 45 million gallons so far. Horrifying!

But ten times as much oil was deliberately spilled from Kuwaiti wells by retreating Iraqi forces in the 1991 Gulf War. Ixtoc I spilled 140 million gallons in 1979. The collision between Atlantic Empress and Aegean Captain, also in 1979, spilled nearly ninety million gallons. Those figures are taken from a slideshow at Popular Mechanics: 10 Biggest Oil Spills in History.

Meanwhile, in Alabama,

Gov. Bob Riley complained that there are hundreds of private boats ready to get out in the waters with skimmers to try to protect the shoreline from oil. But they're waiting on authorization from the U.S. Coast Guard to be able to do so.
And in the White House, a panicky Obama is shutting down much of the industry in the Gulf. He has no idea of what to do, but knows that he must be seen to be doing something, and if he can do something that will damage the economy even further, then that's the way he will go.

A dyspeptic observer might say: Change!… Bush Restored the Iraqi Marshes – Obama Destroyed the US Marshes.

On a personal note, I recall that when I was a kid in the 1950's, a visit to the beach always entailed removal of black stuff from the feet. Kerosene was the usual solvent. We didn't have sunblock in those days, either, so fun in the sun was always followed by painful peeling sunburn and tarry feet. We loved it anyway.

Update: 3 brilliant comments by Bruce Hayden at Althouse. Start with this one.

Another update: Nuke it. Dan Foster at NRO:
It was September of 1966, and gas was gushing uncontrollably from the wells in the Bukhara province of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. But the Reds, at the height of their industrial might, had a novel solution. They drilled nearly four miles into the sand and rock of the Kyzyl Kum Desert, and lowered a 30-kiloton nuclear warhead — more than half-again as large as “Little Boy,” the crude uranium bomb dropped over Hiroshima — to the depths beneath the wellhead. With the pull of a lever, a fistful of plutonium was introduced to itself under enormous pressure, setting off the chain reaction that starts with E = MC2 and ends in Kaboom! The ensuing blast collapsed the drill channel in on itself, sealing off the well.

The Soviets repeated the trick four times between 1966 and 1979, using payloads as large as 60 kilotons to choke hydrocarbon leaks. Now, as the Obama administration stares into the abyss of the Deepwater Horizon spill, and a slicker of sweet, medium crude blankets the Gulf of Mexico, slouching its way toward American beaches and wetlands, Russia’s newspaper of record is calling on the president to consider this literal “nuclear option.”
In the NYT: Nuclear Option on Gulf Oil Spill? No Way, U.S. Says. Is it a crisis, or not? We can do some things, but we'll have to see environmental impact statements for those berms, and we can't have just anyone going out in boats with skimmers. Skimmer skippers and crew must be properly trained. That could take months.

More from Foster, at The Corner:
a properly-executed 20-30 kiloton detonation beneath a solid layer of impermeable rock would let virtually no fallout escape into the waters of the Gulf. I am surprised that Green, like Wonkette, is treating one itty-bitty A-bomb as Vishnu, Destroyer of Worlds. Bikini Atoll, which was nuked to the high heavens in the 40s and 50s (twenty times, all told) has some radioactive coconuts to be sure, but is even as we speak safely inhabitable, and the waters around it are no worse for wear. In the Gulf case, BP has a detailed knowledge of the stratigraphic situation down there, and already has two ideal delivery sites in the form of the relief wells. The U.S. government has 60-plus years expertise in sub-surface nuclear detonations. Put all that together and this isn't "crazy." This is workable.
I wonder if the nuclear option is off the table because our nuclear weapons have not been maintained. They have not been tested in decades. Who's to know? Maybe none of them work any more, and Deepwater Horizon is calling our bluff.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Generation gap

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Evil mutant rises from the dead ...

… to threaten industry and prosperity. First, it was Waxman-Markey; then it was Boxer-Kerry; now it's Kerry-Lieberman; but it's all cap 'n' trade.

funny pictures of cats with captions

Left to right, Kerry, Obama, Lieberman. Al Gore is out of the frame.

If it passes, it will be the American economy that's the zombie. But the Chicago Carbon Exchange will be doing fine.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Monorail dog

While looking for LOLcats for the preceding post, I came across this:

Funny Pictures

which reminds me of someone.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Not opposed to immigration ...

... opposed to crime. Illegal immigration is illegal. Even LOLcats can do tautologies. Sneaky cat is sneaky:

Sneaky cat. Is Sneaky.

Illegal alien is illegal. It's not hard to understand. I'm old enough to remember when legal aliens were required to register at the Post Office annually.

Jan Brewer tells Obama that it's no laughing matter:

We are unwilling to enforce our own immigration laws. The Mexican government has much stricter immigration laws, which they enforce. J. Michael Waller in 2006: Mexico's Immigration Law: Let's Try It Here at Home.

Twitter phishing on the phone

Cory Doctorow thought he had all his ducks in a row.

Even so.

Via Jerry Pournelle's mail.

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Better late than never, dear"

The Sunday afternoon concert comes on Monday evening this week. Here's Janey Cutler, of Glasgow, Scotland. (Via Reality Rocks.)

Someone's already put up a website.

Bad language warning

I put that language warning right in the title so it would not be missed. This is ugly stuff.

Alternate title: Democrats are such lovely people.

At Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion:

Voices of Hate

There are many voices of hate, but the voices most ignored by the mainstream media come not from Tea Parties or maligned conservative groups, but from the intolerant left.

After someone who did commercial voice-overs for Geico was fired for leaving threatening messages at FreedomWorks (which has supported the Tea Parties), a call went out for others to leave threatening messages.

As a result, FreedomWorks has been inundated with threatening phone calls, leading blogger Tabitha Hale, who also works at FreedomWorks, to put together this video (via Right Wing News):

In light of GeicoGate and the recent accusations from the media regarding the violent rhetoric of the conservative movement, I've taken the liberty of editing together the voicemails and emails we've received as a result of DC Douglas' call to contact FreedomWorks. Here's the result.

WARNING: This is intense. Violent language is an understatement. I haven't censored - only edited to remove names and phone numbers.

Video at the link. When they say that the Tea Partiers are racist and violent, it's projection. And, of course, deflection, distraction, and deception.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Billions of 1099 forms

Lunacy in Washington, sheer lunacy. Via Reynolds, TaxProf quotes CNN:

CNN: ObamaCare's Massive, Hidden Tax Change

An all-but-overlooked provision of the health reform law is threatening to swamp U.S. businesses with a flood of new tax paperwork.

Section 9006 of the health care bill -- just a few lines buried in the 2,409-page document -- mandates that beginning in 2012 all companies will have to issue 1099 tax forms not just to contract workers but to any individual or corporation from which they buy more than $600 in goods or services in a tax year.

The stealth change radically alters the nature of 1099s and means businesses will have to issue millions of new tax documents each year.

Right now, the IRS Form 1099 is used to document income for individual workers other than wages and salaries. Freelancers receive them each year from their clients, and businesses issue them to the independent contractors they hire.

But under the new rules, if a freelance designer buys a new iMac from the Apple Store, they'll have to send Apple a 1099. A laundromat that buys soap each week from a local distributor will have to send the supplier a 1099 at the end of the year tallying up their purchases.

The bill makes two key changes to how 1099s are used. First, it expands their scope by using them to track payments not only for services but also for tangible goods. Plus, it requires that 1099s be issued not just to individuals, but also to corporations.

Taken together, the two seemingly small changes will require millions of additional forms to be sent out.
TaxProf has more links. Warren Meyer has a post: Horrible New Paperwork Requirement Slipped into Health Care Bill.

In the email this morning:
I guess we had to pass the bill to find out what was in it.

I wonder who inserted this provision, and what in the world it is supposed to have to do with health care or health insurance, or anything but destroying the private sector.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


That's the volcano in Iceland that's causing so much havoc. Looks like this:

They are saying it may erupt again. This, you see, is geoengineering, as done on the large scale, by Gaia herself. Piddling plans of self-styled climatologists to launch particles into the atmosphere to raise the Earth's albedo, to block those deadly warming rays from the Sun, are shown up as the silliness they always were. If we get another Tambora event ("eighteen hundred and froze to death") out of this volcano, will the cap 'n' traders and greenies finally realize that warmer is better? I expect not. There's too much money already invested in the contrary view.

Waco, Reno, Clinton

So the Waco massacre of the Branch Davidian children was not entirely Janet Reno's doing, after all. She ran the notion past President Bill Clinton, first. There's a fairly vigorous discussion going on at Althouse.

Morgan Freeberg makes one of those non-obvious connections

Warning to Young People. Go, listen, read. And get off my lawn!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

QuickTime is a pain in the neck. What do you do?

Sooner or later you find this page: How do I stop QuickTime from playing audio files in my browser? Follow the instructions, and then, ahhh, the sigh of relief.

I was about ready to go to California, find Steve Jobs, and, well, I won't continue with that. Programs should not highjack file associations. I say that unequivocally. Furthermore, QuickTime is not a good player of mp3 files. It stutters too much. And what good is that, I ask you?

Apple, mend your ways. And your software.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday afternoon concert: Katie

I suppose you'd want to imagine a man singing this, since it was written by Jimmy McCarthy. Yet this version by Mary Black is the canonical one, to my mind anyway. Lyrics. Lit-crit explication is beyond me, as with much of the modern Irish pop music. Too densely personal, too obscure, for easy comprehension. I like the sound of it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Obama surrenders the high ground, without a fight

Three things.

An open letter from Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan, and 25 other astronauts, about Obama's new direction for NASA. They don't like it.

Charles Krauthammer says,

We are seeing the abolition of the manned space program.

When Neil Armstrong speaks out, that’s an event. This is a guy who is the most self-effacing American hero in our history. He could have been Lindbergh and he became J.D. Salinger.

And now he speaks out in an open letter together with [Eugene] Cernan, the last guy that walked on the moon, and James Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13. And they are saying that the program that Obama has abolished — has cancelled — is essentially the end of man in space. It turns NASA into an R&D agency for pie-in-the-sky ideas like having humans on asteroids and ends its role as the agency that actually gets us into space, even low-Earth orbit and back.

Obama spoke about — we’ve done the moon, so we are going to do asteroids and Mars. This is total pie in the sky. On what rocket? With what space capsule? With what simulators? With what training program? There’s nothing here of substance.

And when Kennedy committed us "in this decade," as he said, he meant it within his presidency. He intended to be — he expected he’d be — president until January 1969. Obama is talking about 2025, 2030. All of this is total speculation.

And what it does is it ends our human dominance in space, which we had for 50 years. We have no way to get into earth orbit. We’re going to have to hitch a ride on the Russians who are charging us extraordinary rates and are only going to increase that.…

All the private stuff [launching humans into space] is complete speculation. What we’re doing is we're ceding the certainty of access into space. We are not going to have it. The Russians will have it. The Chinese will have it.

We spent tens of billions on the space station and spent three decades in constructing it. We're not going to have any way to get there....

And we'll look up in a decade and there’s going to be a lunar base ... [there are] not going to be Americans on it.

Sarah Palin, on Facebook, asks,
"Mr. President, is a strong America a problem?"
Asked this week about his faltering efforts to advance the Middle East peace process, President Obama did something remarkable. In front of some 47 foreign leaders and hundreds of reporters from all over the world, President Obama said that “whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower.”

Whether we like it or not? Most Americans do like it. America’s military may be one of the greatest forces for good the world has ever seen, liberating countless millions from tyranny, slavery, and oppression over the last 234 years. As a dominant superpower, the United States has won wars hot and cold; our military has advanced the cause of freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan and kept authoritarian powers like Russia and China in check.

It is in America’s and the world’s interests for our country to remain a dominant military superpower, but under our great country’s new leadership that dominance seems to be slipping away. President Obama has ended production of the F-22, the most advanced fighter jet this country has ever built. He’s gutted our missile defense program by eliminating shield resources in strategic places including Alaska. And he’s ended the program to build a new generation of nuclear weapons that would have ensured the reliability of our nuclear deterrent well into the future. All this is in the context of the country’s unsustainable debt that could further limit defense spending. As one defense expert recently explained:

The president is looking to eliminate the last vestiges of the Reagan-era buildup. Once the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are “ended” (not “won”), the arms control treaties signed, and defense budgets held at historic lows while social entitlements and debt service rise to near-European levels, the era of American superpower will have passed.

The truth is this: by his actions we see a president who seems to be much more comfortable with an American military that isn’t quite so dominant and who feels the need to apologize for America when he travels overseas. Could it be a lack of faith in American exceptionalism? The fact is that America and our allies are safer when we are a dominant military superpower – whether President Obama likes it or not.
And the question is, Are the first two things related to the third thing?

Private space development would be great. But what Krauthammer says about ceding the certainty of space is not speculative.

Will NASA and the FAA and the rest of the government get out of the way of private space efforts? Encouragement would be too much to ask for.

Update: Harrison Schmitt, astronaut and US Senator, has more to say:
“I am very much of the mind that America can’t afford to be second-best in space. It’s the new ocean. It would be as if the United States decided in the last 200 years or so not to have a Navy. The oceans were where the competition between nations existed, and now that competition has moved into space. We should not be afraid of it. We should embrace it.”
Via Althouse. One of the commenters at the linked CapTimes article says,
"Wait, so here's an area where Obama would just as soon not spend $230 billion (likely more, because, remember, the shuttle program ultimately came in at a 55% cost over-run), and the same people who scream about the exploding deficit are saying we need the program, we need to spend the money? This just proves that nothing Obama could do would appease these people."
This is the kind of thinking that comes from someone who would eat the seed corn, or skip the oil changes to buy spinner hubcaps and mag wheels. Speaking of wheels, I'm inclined to agree that NASA has been spinning its wheels for years, as a result of being run by pork-minded bureaucrats who have lost sight of the mission, but what's called for is not abandonment of the mission, but a return to it. As I said in an earlier post, "Men will go to space; but no law of nature requires that they be Western, or free."

There are a couple of fairly zingy comments by yours truly on that Althouse thread.