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.