Jul 142008

Debra Saunders is just one of many conservatives saying stuff like this:

And the average voter certainly isn’t going to lose sleep if the price of that security is that the ACLU does not have carte blanche to sue AT&T for cooperating with the government.

It boggles the mind that conservatives think it good to have private companies cooperating with the government. They ought to be at each others’ throats, not ganging up on us.

Jul 142008


PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Former President Bill Clinton warned Saturday that the country is becoming increasingly polarized despite the historic nature of the Democratic primary.

URL here

This from the guy who has never missed a chance to bash his Republican opponents and question their motives. Example here

Jul 122008

I’m moving my posts about Russian movies to a separate blog at kino.reticulator.com . It’s something I had thought about doing anyway, but when Alexander Sedov brought up some interesting comments and questions about them, I decided it was time. Most of my comments about non-Russian movies and language-learning in general will be there, too. But since the movies I watch are mostly Russian ones, that will be the dominant topic.

Jul 102008

I haven’t heard much about Neil Boortz and his Fair Tax lately. But I was reminded of it when reading Chapter One of “The Whiskey Rebellion : Frontier epilogue to the American Revolution” by Thomas Slaughter (1986). I’m reading it in preparation for a bicycle tour later this summer.

Fair Tax proponents think a sales tax would be unobtrusive. But here is how one writer described the enforcement of a sales tax (known then as an excise tax) in 18th century Britain.

Excise, a monster worse than e’er before

Frighted the midwife, and the mother tore.

A thousand hands she has, a thousand eyes.

Breaks into shops, and into cellars pries;

With hundred rows of teeth the shark exceeds,

And on all trades, like Casawar, she feeds. . . .

She stalks all day in streets, conceal’d from sight,

And flies like bats with leathern wings by night;

She wastes the country, and on cities preys.

Jul 092008

I remember thinking, back during the 1964 presidential campaign, before I was of draft age, when Barry Goldwater was being portrayed as a warmonger who would blow up the world along with little girls and their daisies, that Lyndon Johnson would be getting us deep into war in Vietnam. I had no idea how bad it would be, but if peace comes through strength, I figured Johnson would be getting us into war. He would of necessity have to do the things he was accusing Goldwater of wanting to do.

I’m definitely having a sense of deja vu this summer, 44 years later. I’m no fan of George Bush’s warmongering, but Barak Obama seems to be following in the same rut that Lyndon Johnson made. From an article by Bret Stefens in the WSJ:

Now Mr. Obama tells us that the 16-month timeline is contingent on (1) “[making] sure that our troops are safe and that Iraq is stable” (my emphasis), and (2) the opinion of “the commanders on the ground.” Also in question is the size of the “residual force” that the Illinois senator envisions for Iraq after the bulk of U.S. forces is withdrawn. Will it be an embassy guard, plus some military advisers and special-ops forces? Or, as suggested in a March paper by Colin H. Kahl, who runs Mr. Obama’s working group on Iraq, an “overwatch force” of between 60,000 and 80,000 soldiers?

Jul 092008

So you think the mainstream media are an incestuous pack of hounds, promoting their agenda by attacking targets on the right and covering up scandals on the left? If you read this article by Anne-Elisabeth Moutet in The Weekly Standard, you’ll never again have such a charitable view of them.

Jul 052008

Before GWB, conservatives liked to quote Benjamin Franklin: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

More recently their tune has changed. Now, the only deciding factor on whether to enact warrantless wiretaps is whether they will make us safer. Whether they will make us freer is not discussed. Conservatives defend the right to gas-hogging SUVs for the sake of safety, never mind that they aren’t so safe for soldiers who have to go overseas to defend our oil supplies.

Once upon a time the Fourth of July was for celebrating freedom. Now it’s all about safety. The local newspaper at my parents’ place in Minnesota has a list of 18 rules for how to deal with fireworks safely. My oldest son points out that that’s 8 more rules than there are Commandments. Any list of rules that exceeds 10 is too repressive.

The same newspaper has not a single word of advice on how to make ourselves into the kind of people who will take risks to ensure freedom for all, which is what would truly honor those people who gave us the Fourth.

Maybe all is not lost, though. For the past 3 hours I’ve been listening to loud fireworks around the lake at my parents’ house. One didn’t used to hear such things here. In Minnesota it used to be that fireworks were pretty much restricted to official displays put on by the authorities. A few years ago they were democratized, I am told, with the result being the noise that I’m still listening to while people in the house are trying to sleep.



This photo, taken in fall 1956, shows where we used to live in northeast Nebraska, back in the late 50s and early 60s. (The weird tree in the foreground is mostly a fingerprint smudge.)

We kids didn’t have much money to spend, but each July 4 we’d go to town and buy some fireworks. It was generally a pitiful collection. But some friends of my parents would usually come to help spend the evening watching them, and they would come with a shopping bag or two full of them to add to our meager collection. The parents and younger kids would sit on the front steps of that house in the center of the photo, and watch the show. It was nothing like what we’ve been seeing tonight, but at the time we thought it was great.

The next morning I’d go around to collect the spent rockets and other remains, which included some wicked-looking whirly things with metal blades. You wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of one of those if they went astray. We would take any duds that still had powder, cut them to expose the powder, and light them. And someone usually would have some firecrackers that one couldn’t buy legally even in Nebraska.

It wasn’t all as highly regulated as the fireworks available now, but they did help us truly honor the spirit of the day, which is a time to do something slightly illegal, unsafe, and annoying.

I don’t wish any child to lose an eye or anything else by playing with fireworks, but it is important for our children to learn how to take risks for the sake of freedom. If those who went before us had always put safety first, we wouldn’t have a Fourth to celebrate. And if we aren’t ever willing to risk anything, there will be no freedom in the future.


Jul 042008

This is amusing. I don’t have a copy of Anne Applebaum’s “Gulag” with me, so was googling about it for stuff I remembered reading. The amusing part is in this review by a William J. Dobosh, Jr., which complains that all the good historical information in the book risks being tarnished by her apparent political conservatism. It’s so bad, he points out, that some conservative commentators like her book and defend it.

Poor baby. I’m afraid those of us who tend toward conservative liberalism don’t have much sympathy. If we restricted ourselves only to histories written by those who leave out their statist and/or leftist biases, we wouldn’t have much to read. We’ve learned from years of experience how to discount the leftish prejudices of most academic authors and extract the information that gets revealed anyway, whether it’s put there by accident or by honesty.

Dobosh also complains that Applebaum didn’t encourage readers to use her history to analyze the practices of our own government. But he seems to be lacking a few clues himself as to how the lessons can be applied. He writes:

[Stalin] apparently never understood–possibly due to either misinformation from subordinates or his own willful ignorance and denial–that the capacity to work tends to decline when people are cold, starving, poorly housed, and neglected.

That’s an amazing statement. It leaves one wondering if Dobosh thinks the capacity to work is unimpaired when slaves are warm, well-fed, well-housed, and attentively looked after.

Dobosh concludes with this complaint:

Gulag does allow readers to learn historical facts and glimpse the human tragedy of prisoner camp life, but it does not inspire them to use this knowledge for important modern applications. Readers of Gulag, especially those serving as judge advocates, must undertake this analysis on their own.

He’s 100 percent wrong about her book not inspiring readers to apply the knowledge to modern applications. In fact, it was one such application that I was working on when I got sidetracked by this review. I don’t think Dobosh will like getting what he asked for, though.

Jul 042008

This article inspired me to see if the domain name swiftbloggers.com is available. The old Swift Boaters have such piddling amounts of money to spend on their work, and I don’t have much to add. And I’m not interested in supporting the McCain campaign. I don’t think I’ll even vote for him. (I got in the habit of not voting for his type when I didn’t vote for Bush – twice.)

But I could come up with ten dollars for a domain name to honor the work of democracy as was undertaken by the Swift Boaters four years ago.

Unfortunately, the name is already taken.

SwiftBicyclers.com might be a good alternative, except that my riding is far from swift.

Jul 022008

How do you keep government out of the bedroom? You do it by keeping government out of the health-care business.

If you don’t believe it, check out this story about Amish health care. The Wall Street Journal has a story about the high costs of treatment for Amish people who are at high risk of genetic disorders caused by inbreeding: “Opting out: ‘Old Order’ Mennonites and Amish who shun insurance face rising bills. Should hospitals cut them a break?” There is some useful commentary at Amish America.

If you read it, you may respond, “Hey, there’s nothing in that article about government health care. This is between people and health care providers.”

That’s true, but there are people lurking around us who see every health care problem as one for the government to solve. They may present nationalized health care to us as a way of growing a magic money tree to pay for all of these things that nasty insurance companies don’t want to pay for. Or, in this case, to pay for things that nasty hospitals and doctors won’t provide at a reasonable rate. Under government health care, the risks people take will become government business, because the money to treat them will be money that isn’t used to treat other maladies. Under government healthcare, it will be government business as to whether Amish should be allowed to breed with other
Amish who might be a high risk factor for Hirschsprung disease. Under government healthcare, the government is in our bedrooms, making decisions that used to be personal matters.