Nov 302008

I see from Google News that Al Franken isn’t doing so well in the Minnesota recount. There used to be a lot of recount stories in Google’s “Top Stories.” But when they dried up I suspected it was because Franken’s cause had taken a turn for the worst. Sure enough, a little digging behind the “Top Stories” showed that indeed, that’s what happened.

Similarly, you can know from the absence of any “Top Stories” about it that term limits did very well in referrendums in the last election. The ruling class doesn’t like term limits, which means Google isn’t going to do anything to call attention to the fact that the people like them. But Paul Jacobs gives us the information that the MSM doesn’t publish.

Nov 302008

I don’t know if it’s allowed to blog about an article that’s over 10 days old, but I just came across one by Jim Manzi called “Factory Guy.” In the comments Jim in turn links to an article he wrote earlier this year: “A more equal capitalism: preserving the free-market consensus.” He summarizes the dilemma thusly:

So here we have our current economic situation: We are rich and economically successful, but increasingly unequal. If we give up the market-based reforms that allow us to prosper, we will lose by eventually allowing international competitors to defeat us; but if we let inequality grow unchecked, we will lose by eventually hollowing out the middle class and threatening social cohesion.

Conservatives and libertarians understand the first part of this, but have their heads in the sand about the 2nd. Because they won’t face reality, leftwingers eat their lunch at the polls, and then join with rich businesspeople in making the situation worse by enacting regulations and controls that make the rich richer and the poor poorer. (Milton Friedman explained how that part works.) Liberals have nothing to say about it, because there are no liberals.

Manzi explains the social cohesion part:

Absolute income equality, a.k.a. communism, is a poor goal, but if inequality becomes sufficiently extreme it undermines the social support required for a democratic and capitalist society to flourish. To take only the most obvious example, how much do you think high-income Americans would make in the absence of our armed forces? All of the material delights that we enjoy ultimately require men to stand watch all night looking through Starlight scopes mounted on assault rifles, and die if necessary, to protect the commercial, law-bound society that provides those delights. Would you do that for a millionaire hedge-fund manager who happens to live within a country that he considers some lines on a map, and who considers you a sucker for doing it? The United States is nowhere near such a dystopia, but it’s generally not a good idea to keep pulling bolts from an airplane in mid-flight just because it hasn’t crashed yet.

I’m not sure about the few suggestions Manzi gave for what to do about it, but I am extremely pleased that somebody who appreciates markets is discussing it at all. I have a few ideas of my own, but I don’t have the resources to give them the study they would require, and I have found nobody with whom to discuss them.

Conservatives and libertarians are hopeless. They won’t admit that there is a problem. And leftwingers fear and loathe markets so much that they can’t hear anything except reasons for why markets (i.e. choice) need to be shut down and control turned over the state.

You can’t get a discussion going of good vs bad regulation. All you get is regulation vs deregulation. At least that’s what I’ve been saying until now. But Manzi is providing a small ray of hope that it doesn’t need to be that way.

Nov 292008

LA Times headline: “Obama’s strong-willed national security team

If Barak Obama will include people of differing viewpoints in his administration, that could be a refreshing change from the type of personal loyalty demanded by George W. Bush. Good for him if he is more like a Ronald Reagan than a GWB in that respect.

But why that term “strong-willed” to describe people of conflicting views? Isn’t that just a little Leni Riefenstahlish?

Nov 292008

Jon Friedman at CBS News Marketwatch says he and others in the MSM are having some Obama-Remorse. Now that they’ve puffed up Obama when it counted, they would like to balance it by criticizing him a little when it doesn’t matter so much. It’s similar to what happened when Clinton was elected, and for that matter after every election that I can remember. The MSM waits until it doesn’t matter any more and then sets the record straight so it can claim some semblence of objectivity.

CBS Marketwatch concludes by posing the MEDIA WEB QUESTION OF THE WEEK: “Have the media treated President-elect Barack Obama too kindly for the past year – and, if so, should that kind of treatment end now that he has won the election?”

I presume the answer to the first question is obvious to everyone. As to the second, I suggest that the MSM not overdo the Obama-Remorse. They should criticize him just enough to salve their consciences, but not so much as to reform their behavior. It’s a great time-saver knowing that the MSM are completely predictable. If they tried to report objectively, then people would have to start taking them seriously — perhaps even reading and watching what they have to say. This would cut into peoples’ already busy schedules. Other, more worthwhile activities would have to be eliminated to make room.

No, it’s better that the media just keep on doing the behaviors we’ve come to expect.

Nov 282008

Suzanne Fields says Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday.

Maybe, maybe not. People of many cultures, on many continents, have had harvest festivals in the fall. And I can’t tell for sure from here, but I’ll bet they have had contained some sense of acknowledgment of the source of all the harvest goodies.

One thing Thanksgiving is, though, is a religious holiday. And one of the neat things is that the extreme secularists don’t notice, probably because they don’t think about it hard enough.   Those who are intent on the most extreme separation, not only of church and state, but of religion and public life, are so busy removing the word Christmas from official use that they don’t stop to think that the concept of Thanksgiving makes no sense except as an acknowledgement of the divine.  They might argue that it’s a time for thanking each other, not thanking God.  But thanking each other in the sense that there is any morality associated with it makes no sense if there isn’t a concept of God lurking in the background.  I challenge anyone to try to make it otherwise.   That is, I challenge anyone do any thanking without any “attaboy me” or “ought to”s or other morality associated with it.

Thanksgiving isn’t a religious holiday in a sectarian sense, like Christmas is, but in an abstract sense it is a  religious holiday — perhaps the most purely religious holiday we have.

Nov 272008

Page One headlines from Wednesday’s WSJ:

  • “Fear Recedes in the Debt Markets”
  • “The Numbers Only Feed Fear of Deflation”
  • “Dollar Appears Safe for Now As Fears of Inflation Recede”

So much fear. One wonders how our intrepid WSJ reporters can come up with so much objective information about the states of mind of the millions of people involved in the markets. Polling? Intensive surveys? Do they get psychologists and psychologists to analyze people?

But here’s one where they slipped up:

  • “Dow’s 3-day Gain is First Since August.”

I predict the writer who came up with that is not going to be in Murdoch’s organization for long. There is not a word in it about fear or any other inner emotional state.

Nov 272008

Jiansheng Chen (not her real name) gets a Leviathan’s Anklebiter award. She is a Falun Gong practitioner, and had an effect on the policewoman who was part of the torture crew in charge of her. Ethan Gutmann tells about it in “China’s Gruesome Organ Harvest” in the latest issue of The Weekly Standard. The last paragraph below describes it. A person has a responsibility to try to save those who would torture him/her, according to this belief system. In this case, there were genuine tears from the police woman.

Chen was a “nontransformable”–with an edge. Not only did she refuse to renounce Falun Gong, but she shouted down anyone who did. Chen was getting medication three times a day (possibly sedatives), so drug-testing can’t be ruled out. Yet as her resistance dragged on, the police said: “If you don’t transform, we’ll send you away. The path you have chosen is the path of death.” For eight days efforts were made to persuade Chen to renounce Falun Gong or gain her submission by torture. Suddenly the guards ordered her to write a suicide note. Chen mocked them: “I’m not dead. So why should I sign a death certificate?”

The director brought in a group of military police doctors wearing white uniforms, male and female. The labor camp police were “very frightened” at this point, according to Chen. They kept repeating: “If you still won’t transform, what waits for you is a path to death.”

Chen was blindfolded. Then she heard a familiar policewoman’s voice asking the doctors to leave for a minute. When they were alone, the policewoman began pleading with her: “Chen, your life is going to be taken away. I’m not kidding you. We’ve been here together all this time, we’ve made at least some sort of connection by now. I can’t bear to see this–a living person in front of my eyes about to be wiped out.”

Chen stayed silent. She didn’t trust the policewoman–why should she? In the last eight days, she had been hung from the ceiling. She had been burned with electric batons. She had drunk her own urine. So, the latest nice-nice trick was unconvincing. Then Chen noticed something dripping on her hand–the policewoman’s tears. Chen allowed that she would think about transforming. “That’s all I need,” the policewoman said. After a protracted argument with the doctors, the police left.

Practitioners like to talk about altering the behavior of police and security personnel through the power of their own belief. It’s a favorite trope. Just as a prisoner of war is duty bound to attempt escape, a Falun Gong practitioner is required by his moral code to try to save sentient beings. In this spiritual calculus, the policeman who uses torture destroys himself, not the practitioner. If the practitioner can alter the policeman’s behavior, by moral example or supernatural means, there’s some natural pride, even if the practitioner still gets tortured.

Nov 242008

From a Google News screen shot:


No short cuts or quick fixes wanted, but we need quick action.

Obama’s buddies in the media really ought to pay a little attention to the words they’re using.

I envision a wartime planning meeting: “Gentlemen, the enemy has penetrated our perimeter in three locations. We need quick action. There is not a minute to lose. The situation is deteriorating rapidly. But we want no shortcuts or quick fixes.”

Such decisive leadership.

I imagine it could be a lot worse, though, if he actually did exert leadership.

Nov 222008

We’re getting a good look at what “re-regulation” of our economy means. It means that government regulators can violate the privacy of individuals’ records for partisan political gain, and get by with a belated slap on the wrist.

Mind you, it doesn’t always work this way. When a couple of employees in the administration of Bush the Elder took a peek at Bill Clinton’s passport files during the 1992 campaign, they were fired immediately.

But that was a Republican administration. In Ohio, under Democrat Governor Ted Strickland, some employees took a look at Joe the Plumber’s records for information to use against him. They’re getting by with short-term suspensions. Nobody is getting fired over there, which serves to send the message to future privacy violators that if you do it for the right cause (i.e. the right side) it may very well be worth the risk.

When Linda Tripp’s records were illegally leaked for partisan political purposes, nothing substantial was done about it. Guess which party benefited from that one?

When health care workers violated the privacy of celebrities at UCLA’s medical center, at least one person was fired. But I suppose there was no overt partisan political cause to be served by that one.

Yes, government regulation is a wonderful thing to have. Keeps those nasty free marketers under control.