Mar 182008


At a news conference, Clinton declined to expressly support or oppose the actions, saying, “I’m not going to second guess the Fed.”

Doesn’t anybody challenge statements like this? She is willing to second-guess everything else. Why not the Fed?

URL is here.

Mar 152008

So what’s the problem? The Michigan votes WERE counted. It was reported by the news media at the time, and the results are still available. Here, for example.

“I feel really strongly about it,” Clinton said. “The 2.5 million people (in Michigan and Florida) who voted deserve to be counted. If it were my preference, we’d count their votes but if not, then they should have the opportunity to have a full-fledged primary waged for them and revote.” (AP news article URL)

Mission accomplished. The votes were counted, and 237,762 Democrats in Michigan would prefer somebody other than Clinton, Kucinich, Dodd, or Gravel.

Mar 152008

If it’s so terrible to have a nomination decided at a nominating convention, doesn’t that mean it’s time to end the farce that these gatherings have become? Who needs them?

March 14 (Bloomberg) — Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo said the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could be “ruinous” for the Democratic Party if the contest isn’t resolved before the August nominating convention.

Mar 152008

In light of Russia’s recent use of “hate crimes” to prosecute an anti-government blogger, is it ominous that The Sunday Times would use the word “hate” to describe the situation in Tibet?

Headline: “Fears of another Tiananmen as Tibet explodes in hatred”

So that’s what it’s called when oppressed people rebel against their oppressors? I wonder who or what put it into their head to call it that. Why hatred? Why not, say, anger?

The article itself says the initial emotion among the Tibetians was “almost a spirit of liberation and joy.” So why would the reaction to the “predictable and harsh” response by the Chinese (as the Times calls it) be “hatred”? And don’t we have equal reason to refer to what the Chinese government is doing as “hatred”?

And why apply that word “predictable” to what the Chinese government is going? Wouldn’t what the Tibetians are doing also be called “predictable”?

Mar 142008

I’m still reading Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag”. One thing I like about her writing is the way she tells about marks the gulags left on the landscape. (Historical “marks on the landscape” is what a lot of my Spokesrider blog is about, too.) I don’t know if Putin would allow her to see all those things anymore, but she was able to visit a number of the sites. She tells how one can still see depressions that are left from the semi-dugout zemlyanka structures where prisoners lived in temporary camps at the building sites of roads and railways in Siberia. And she remarks on how all that’s left of a number of the camps are the “punishment isolators,” one of which was being used by an Armenian car mechanic at the time of writing.

Of course, the marks they’ve left on people are the more important thing. What is it like living with those of the older generation who once were prison guards and administrators?

And of course, what about the prisoners?

I actually met one of them, back in 1965. I looked him up just yesterday, and saw from a Wikipedia article that he died just last November. This was John Noble, who had written a couple of books about his experiences. He was born in Detroit, and was living outside Dresden when the Soviet army came. He was a prisoner until sometime after Stalin’s death. I think his books are still in our house somewhere. I saved one of them when my daughter thought she would clean out some of our stuff a few years ago. They had made quite an impression on me at the time. One of them was titled, “I was a slave in Russia.” When Anne Applebaum wrote about the establishing of the prison camps at Vorkuta, I recognized that name as one where John Noble had been. Now, thanks to the maps in her book, I have a better idea where it is.

In 1965 I was at a summer camp for highschoolers that was put on by the Minnesota Farm Bureau. Our principal said the Farm Bureau wanted to pay for two students from our school to attend, and asked if I’d like to be one of them. The Farm Bureau was a conservative, Republican type of organization, and that’s the type of program that was put on. I do remember meeting some of my first proto-campus-radicals there, who would soon be heading off to college, too, and who weren’t buying what was said. I liked it pretty well, though. I had read John Noble’s books long before that, and was glad to get a chance to meet him. I was surprised that he was such a small man. Afterwards I asked him whatever happened to the radio show that he was going to be doing, and he gave some answer that didn’t explain much. As far as I know, the radio program never came off.

But even before I ever heard of John Noble, I had heard about the midnight knock on the door. I am told kids of my generation grew up fearing the nuclear bomb. I certainly heard about atomic weapons when I was in elementary school, and about what they could do, but what I really learned to fear was the midnight knock on the door. I’ve been fascinated by the prison camp genre ever since, but I guess not fascinated enough to have read Anne Applebaum’s book before now.

Much of what she writes about life in the prison camps is familiar to me, from my reading of Noble, Solzhenitsyn, and others, but there is much new information, too, to put their accounts in perspective. More on that some other time.

Mar 132008

So George W. Bush is now against the 2nd Amendment, or at least against gun ownership as an individual right. Robert Novak reports here on the brief his administration presented to the Supreme Court in the case now before it.

The amazing thing is that people are surprised about this.

And now after nearly 8 years of stabbing conservatives in the back he has the gall to endorse John McCain, as if he’s qualified to judge who is a conservative and who is not.

Mar 132008

Well, I guess that’s cutting to the chase. Here in the U.S. some of us have been worrying about how hate crime laws could eventually be used to shut down dissenting political views.

Now we see that Russia is making a Great Leap Forward. No messing around with “eventually”. A blogger is being charged with hate crimes for making a post critical of the government.

Link: Blogger Charged in Russia

And it’s interesting that Putin wants to regulate bloggers who get more than 1000 readers a day, treating them the same as newspapers. Keep in mind the extremely high death rate among journalists who were critical of the government, and you can see that Putin hs painted a bullseye on his country’s bloggers.

And by asserting control over those who get more than 1000 readers a day, he’s effectively asserting control over the small ones, too. Small ones will have to jump through govt hopes in an attempt to convince the govt that they are too small to submit to censorship. That in itself will induce plenty of self-censorship.

Mar 122008

This latest Spitzer scandal had me wondering if the world had gone mad. I heard people on radio programs talk about how they were shocked that someone who was such a moral crusader could do such a thing. Even the Wall Street Journal’s lead article on Tuesday talked about a “jarring contrast to the governor’s carefully crafted image.”

Don’t these people remember the real scandal from just last year, the one that should have got him booted from office for abuse of power? The prostitution scandal is certainly worth noting. But even if he was using government money to pay for prostitutes (and I haven’t heard that he was) it’s not nearly as serious a violation of public trust as to what he was doing when he was using the power of his office to wage a personal vendetta against Joe Bruno.

But nobody was talking about that. The print edition of the above WSJ article has a timeline about the Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer which doesn’t even mention the 2007 scandal involving the state police and Joe Bruno. All it has for 2007 is “Inaugurated New York’s 54th governor.”

New York is not the center of my universe, so I was starting to wonder if I was mistaken and had the players and events all mixed up in my mind. But I see that at least John Fund at the WSJ hasn’t forgotten the real scandal:

As the political career of Eliot Spitzer melts down, many will lament that what the governor on Monday called his “progressive politics” fell victim to his personal foibles. If only he hadn’t made mistakes in his private life, they will moan, New York could have been redeemed from its squalid, special-interest dominated stagnation.

That’s nonsense. More is at issue here than a mere private mistake. The governor’s frequent use of a prostitution ring was of public concern — because, notes Henry Stern, head of the watchdog group New York Civic, “people could easily have blackmailed him, you can’t have that if you’re governor.”

True enough, New York’s dysfunctional and secretive state government desperately needs fumigation, with both political parties sharing in the blame. But Mr. Spitzer’s head-butting approach to redemption — involving the arbitrary use of power and bully-boy tactics — was no improvement. …

Mr. Spitzer seemed to excel only in the zeal with which he would go after perceived adversaries. Last summer, his staff infamously used the state police to track the movements of Joe Bruno, the Republican president of the state senate, in an effort to destroy his career. Mr. Spitzer then ferociously fought investigators who wanted to examine his office’s email traffic for evidence the governor himself may have been involved.

Carefully crafted image, indeed.

Mar 112008

When the government (or big business in the service of big government) comes up with a new way to intrude on our privacy, there will always be someone who tries to defend it. “Privacy doesn’t exist”, he might say. “It’s an illusion.”

Or, if it’s government censorship, he will say, “There is no such thing as an absolute right to free speech, therefore it’s fine for the government to restrict whatever it wants.”

I like the way the current Robert X Cringely handled one of those in his Infoworld blog. It’s in the responses to an article he wrote about Google’s unforthrightness about what it’s doing with our IP addresses.

One person responded:

Thinking about this… When was the last time you had your picture taken? No not by your wife, but by a survaliance camera? I bet it was yesterday when you stopped at the bank, had a cup of coffee at the corner coffey shop, how about when you picked up the bagle, or at the grocery store last night. […]

Privacy does not exhist! It is an ilusion…

Cringely cut through the nonsense thusly:

finally, to those who say ‘we have no privacy’ or that it’s merely an illusion, I say this: drop your pants. and while you’re at it, I’d like your social security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name and home address. post them here if you like.

everyone has information they want, need, and should keep private. the game isn’t over yet.

I think I can also use that on people who say, “I don’t care if the government knows X. I don’t have anything to hide.” The answer is yes, you do have something to hide. Yes, the government knows your social security number, but think of the government official who dislikes you most being in a position to ask you to a) drop your pants and b) explain what you and your wife/lover were talking about in bed last night.

Mar 092008

I’m currently reading Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag : A history” (2003). In the introduction is a section about pre-Soviet times, which tells about an earlier version of Soviet justice.

The practice of exiling people who simply didn’t fit in continued throughout the nineteenth century. In his book, Siberia and the Exile System, George Kennan–uncle of the American statesman–described the system of “administrative process” that he observed in Russia in 1891:

The obnoxious person may not be guilty of any crime…but if, in the opinion of the local authorities, his presence in a particular place is ‘prejudicial to public order’ or ‘incompatible with public tranquility,’ he may be arrested without warrant, may be held from two weeks to two years in prison, and may then be removed by force to any other place within the limits of the empire and there be put under police surveillance for a period of from one to ten years.

And now that type of justice is coming to the west. Great Britain now has “Anti-Social Behaviour Ordinances” by which that country has casually tossed aside a thousand years of progress in the rule of law.

Consider the information on the web at

The law says that someone is behaving in an antisocial manner if:

* they are acting in a manner that is causing, or is likely to cause, alarm or distress, or
* they are doing several things over a period of time that cause, or are likely to cause, alarm or distress to at least one person living in another household.

This definition also covers verbal abuse, so if someone has been shouting and swearing at you or even saying things which make you and others feel uneasy, then it could be classed as antisocial behaviour under the law.

Whatever the problem is, it has to have happened more than once to at least one person. If it’s an isolated incident, it won’t count as antisocial behaviour, although there may be other things you can do to solve the problem, such as getting an interdict from a court

You don’t have to be guilty of any crime, you only need to be doing something the local authorities don’t like. It’s a rather arbitrary power. There is an appeals process, and the power isn’t supposed to be completely arbitrary, but words like “alarm,” “distress,” and “feel uneasy” can cover just about anything.

Why do I care what the Brits are doing? Well, we seem to be following in their path to a welfare-police state. That’s what a lot of Americans are counting on the coming elections to do for us. I am not sure how something like this cannot come here in the aftermath.