Mar 302009

I see that President Obama has decided to impose regime change on General Motors. He is overthrowing the government of GM and is going to replace it, with, well, who knows?

I hope he is better at picking people to head a giant multinational corporation than he is at picking people to run the Treasury Department. Like maybe he’ll be able to find somebody who can at least do TurboTax.

Unless he proves to be very good at running an auto company, I presume this move will cool the ardor of people for a bailout of our health care system. (It’s the concept usually referred to as universal health care.) Our President seems to take the position that providing money means he gets to call the shots. Actually, most people who provide money in any context will take that position, but he’s considerably less subtle about it than most. Will he insist on regime change in unhealthy households. Will he pick replacement spouses where needed? Will he insist on picking the fetuses that are allowed to come off the production line?

I presume he’s not going to be a completely hands-on executive at GM, and that he will let others call the day-to-day shots except in cases where there is some political advantage to be had by intervening directly. But how is he going to decide who gets to make these day-to-day decisions. Aside from TurboTax skills, what will he look for in a job applicant? Is he likely to allow a critic of the administration to run the company? Will loyalty to the administration be a factor?

There are the same dangers as when the United States helped overthrow the governments of Vietnam, or Iran, or any other country. The guys he puts in place are then his responsibility. If he allows a tinhorn dictator to come to power, that person becomes Obama’s tinhorn dictator.

And what are the other auto companies going to do now that one of their main competitors is now the United States government? Where do they go to find a government that will ensure that they all play by the same rules, now that Obama administration has a vested interest in the success of its protege?

[Now posted at the Conservative community on LiveJournal, too.]

Mar 252009

This is ominous news for The Reticulator, who predicts he’ll end up in one of Hillary’s internment camps but hopes he’s wrong.

George W. Bush asserted the right to put “enemy combatants” in detention camps without even charging them with a crime.

That was quite a power grab on his part, but now Barak Obama has gone him one step better. He asserts the right to put people in camps even if they aren’t enemy combatants. A lot more people will fit his definition of who can be locked up than fit GWB’s definition.

From the World Socialist Web Site:

Importantly, the filing asserts that the president has the right to continue to seize individuals it deems to be members or “substantial” supporters of Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. It does not define what is meant by “substantial,” but suggests that the executive branch alone will determine what constitutes membership in, or support of, these organizations. The New York Times called this definition “not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.”

The administration asserts its right to interpret ambiguously even its own vague description of those to be seized. According to the Justice Department, “the particular facts and circumstances justifying detention will vary from case to case.” US Attorney General Eric Holder indicated that the legal status of the inmates will remain in limbo, referring in a statement to “developing a new policy to govern detainees.”

Mar 252009

While looking for something else on the White House web site, I found the following:

On health care reform, the American people are too often offered two extremes — government-run health care with higher taxes or letting the insurance companies operate without rules.

Part of that is true. I’ve heard many people propose higher taxes for government-run health care. But I’ve never, ever heard anyone, not even the laissez-faire libertarians, suggest that we allow insurance companies to operate without rules. Maybe someone, somewhere, in a dorm room littered with pizza and beer bottles, has come up with that idea. But it’s simply not true that this is one of the extremes that are offered to the American people.

Health insurance is already highly regulated. That doesn’t mean improvements couldn’t be made in the regulatory system. But it’s hard to have a good national discussion about this when the discussion leader starts off with nonsense.

Mar 242009


My crusade to outlaw television in public places is not going very well — certainly not as well as other crusaders’ measures to outlaw smoking.

I figured it would probably be an issue when I took my wife in for outpatient surgery this morning. But I’ve been able to deal with it in the past. I usually complain politely, or just find a place where I can turn off an offending television and wait in relative quiet. Last time I was hospitalized myself I made my opinions known, and got paired with a roommate who was willing to leave the thing off. A big HMO-type dentist place I used to go to wasn’t so bad — the large waiting room was divided into two parts, TV and non-TV. It was somewhat like restaurants that have both non-smoking and smoking sections; some noise still ended up in the non-TV section. But it was tolerable.

Last time my wife was hospitalized, she was paired with a roommate who refused to turn the thing off. My wife couldn’t get any rest. The thing was so loud her physician couldn’t talk to her. The roommate refused the physician’s requests to turn the thing down; which led to my wife getting moved to a private room.

Anyhow, this morning we ended up in a new, improved waiting room. But now there are even more televisions, not fewer. Big, flat-screen television screens were everywhere. There was no getting away from them. After my wife was taken to surgery prep, I tried all corners of the room, but couldn’t get away from the sounds of idiocy coming from CNN or whatever was on. Finally I found a chair in a location that was a little less bad. I sat and held my hands over my ears while I read Anna Lawton’s book, “Kinoglasnost”. Just cupping the hands over the ears doesn’t quite work, but I can block out the sounds well enough by pushing on the tragus (I think that’s the term) — not just holding it still but pressing on it repeatedly and continuously. I had to take my hands off to turn the pages, but occasional blasts of noise like that are tolerable.

I tried to resume that routine after my wife went to surgery, but finally my arms got tired, and I asked the person at the desk if there was any place to get away from the televisions. I didn’t want to get so far away that I wouldn’t be around when the surgeon came out to talk to me; finally, I decided to just stand in the hallway outside the waiting room and read. If I can walk around a little, and if I stand straight, I can stand up and read for long periods, like I did once outside a jury assembly room. That worked OK, and a person at the desk came and got me when the surgeon came. (My wife’s surgery went very well — we are thankful for that. Maybe they don’t have television blaring in the operating room.)

I suppose a person could get used to the television noise, but I don’t care to. I’m not sure, but I think the purpose of all that television is to turn peoples’ brains to jelly so they’ll vote Democratic. In looking around the waiting room to see if it made anyone else unconfortable, all I saw was people — even elderly people — looking at the idiots on the screen. Maybe it was because I was reading about Russian movies, but at one point while looking at the people I was reminded of a scene from Gruz 200. It’s pretty close to the one in the above screenshot.

The old woman spends her time watching the TV and drinking vodka. Some reviewers say she’s senile; but really, she’s worse than that. The movie is one of the filthiest, most disgusting I’ve ever seen — but there is an important point to it, which I won’t go into here. The son is a police chief, and is also a crook and rapist. He discusses the rapings with his mother, who has a perverted solicitude for her son. She tries to convince the girl to like it. But mostly, she just watches the television, oblivious to the evil and violence going on in her house except for those times when she is facilitating it.

I wondered if that’s what all the television would do to us someday. It also occurred to me that we’re coming to be more like North Korea, where it is said radios in public places are constantly blaring at people. You can’t get away from them there, either.

My kids give me a bit of a hard time about my inability to stand radio or TV noise, because when I watch Russian movies I tend to crank the volume up. It’s true — I do — mostly because I can make out unfamiliar sounds better that way.

And I do watch some television. Some years I watch the baseball playoffs and World Series, though maybe the last time was 4-5 years ago. And I watch the NCAA basketball tournament with my wife. When we do this I want to listen, not just watch. But even so, it is a blessed relief when the games are over and we turn the TV off. It’s as if a oppressive weight is lifted off my head, and I can breath free again. I wish more people would find out how wonderful the sounds of silence can be.

But it doesn’t have to be silence. While my wife was recovering after surgery, a one-year-old baby nearby was bawling its head off. Some people seemed to be bothered by it, but to me that sound is almost like music in comparison to television. Crying is not as good as laughter, but either way, it was the sound of a real person, not a TV idiot. I hope we don’t create a TV-drenched world for that baby — like that apartment in Gruz 200.

Mar 232009

Back in 2002 George W. Bush signed the McCain-Feingold bill, despite having said that parts of it violated the First Amendment. (So much for his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.)

Now in 2009 Barak Obama is telling us that the ex post facto tax on AIG bonuses is of doubtful constitutionality. That’s true and it’s good of him to point it out. But is he going to pull a George W. Bush and sign it anyway?

Mar 232009

Jay Leno asked a good question of his guest the other night when Barak Obama made a celebrity appearance. Well, technically speaking it wasn’t a question. But he pointed out how it’s scary that Congress can decide to tax people because they are unpopular.

I didn’t watch the program, but has a link to a YouTube clip of this part. And I’m also glad to see that activerain makes the points that our Constitution prohibits Bills of Attainder and Ex Post Facto laws.

I don’t know why Obama didn’t take the opportunity to demonstrate that he’s a statesman-like person by expounding on those topics. It has been reported elsewhere that in the same Jay Leno show he made some comments about how Congress was being more vindictive than constructive, so it would seem he has some understanding of why those things are bad. (I watched as much of the show as I could stand on other video clips, but my tolerance for television and politician talk is very low, even when people I like are talking. I didn’t find the part of the Leno show where he said this before my stomach said to stop, so I’ll just have to assume that the written word about it is correct.)

Obama could also have told how this sort of Congressional behavior could lead to hate crimes and pogroms if not kept in check.

But instead, he changed the subject. Before the Leno show went to a commercial break he said he had a good answer, but as is usual with politicians, he wanted to talk about something else.

He said the change he would like is to tax well-off people like himself and Leno a “little bit more” to pay for health care, to pay for energy, and to make sure kids can go to college.

He got applause for that line, but he can’t possibly have done the math if he thinks a small tax on the rich is going to pay for all of those things. To mislead people about the cost of these projects is not going to lead to the kind of responsible economic behavior we need to get us out of our current mess.

Mar 222009

Alex Harrowell at A Fistful of Euros provided me with some new examples of why cap-and-trade systems are a really bad idea. I’m not sure he’s against cap-and-trade like I am, but he makes the point that a carbon tax is a lot simpler to enforce, and a lot less prone to political influence trading. For one thing, with a carbon tax there are a lot fewer entities to keep track of:

Further, how many SKUs (Stock-Keeping Units – individual products) does the Chinese export sector produce? It’s got to be in the tens of thousands at the least. Under this proposal, each one would have to be carbon-audited accurately and regularly and assessed for taxation on that basis. It is far from clear whether the importing state or the exporting state would do this. Just taxing fossil fuel, already, involves less than a dozen SKUs, which happen to be bulky, smelly, heavy, or black and dusty, and therefore difficult to hide on a big scale.

Of course, the governments of the world have little motivation to institute a simpler, easier-enforced scheme that would deal with the problem of carbon emissions directly.

If tens of thousands of carbon-emitting products need to be audited and assessed, that will create lots of jobs for government employees, which directly or indirectly will create lots of rewards that can be offered to political supporters. And it would provide lots of reasons for lobbyists to come, hat in hand, to the governing officials to make sure their products are treated well in the process.

If global warming was really an important issue, we’d go with the carbon tax instead. But unfortunately, there are very few people out there who think it’s more important than an oportunity to expand governmental power.

[spelling correction, 24-Mar]

Mar 222009

I will be spending some time in a hospital waiting room tomorrow, so I went to the web site to find out what the policy is on computers and cell phones. For example, I can go to the University of Michigan Health System site to learn that cell phone use is restricted, but wireless access is available for computers.

So I went to, hoping to learn whether the policies and facilities are the same at our local hospital. There is no link on the main page for Visitor Information, but there is one for Patient Info. I clicked on that and found no information, but there are two (2) links.

  • Patient Grievance Process Brochure
  • Patient Grievance Form

and over on the sidebar:

  • Questions or Comments.

That last one is a place where one can e-mail questions. It’s a little late for that now, but I tried using the search function to look up pages about wireless. No help there, either.

Oh, well. I don’t think our local hospital has as much money to spend on web design as the U of Michigan hospital does, but this gave me an idea on how companies that sell electronic products could save a ton of money on their web sites. Under “Support,” instead of providing links to FAQs, manuals, and downloads, they could just provide a link to lawyers who will handle class-action lawsuits. Not only would it eliminate the need to employ a lot of geeky web types, but it would instill confidence in the products — the kind of confidence that comes from knowing that the products require no explanation.

Mar 212009

Matt Spivey comments on President Obama’s NCAA picks. (URL here.)

Throughout his campaign and into his presidency, we learned of our new leader’s affinity for hoops. President Obama revealed his NCAA Tournament bracket yesterday, and to no one’s surprise, he has chosen the most obvious teams to advance in every single round, with three number one seeds predicted to advance to the Final Four. No creativity. No gambles. Not even an often-reliable 12-seed over 5-seed upset pick. His riskiest choices are (11) Virginia Commonwealth over (6) UCLA and (10) Maryland over (7) California. Hardly out on a limb. Hardly very generous to the overmatched and underprivileged that Obama seems to love so much in his domestic policies. Rather, he has chosen to root for the big boys, the evil corporate teams with the deep pockets. Perhaps his basketball mind is as contradictory as his political one.

Matt missed one point about Obama’s two upset picks: He picked two teams close to the seat of government — you know, the place that accounts for the giant sucking sound of power and money leaving the states and going to the federal government at an ever accelerating rate.

It would be interesting to know if he favors government towns generally. Other things being equal, I usually root against teams from government towns. I especially root against the Baltimore Orioles because of the anti-human-rights record of their owner. But other things are seldom equal.

I became somewhat aware of how government towns are different on my 1996 bicycle tour to all the towns in the Midwest League (Class A minor league baseball). One of the teams is located in a state capital. Before the game, a police chief addressed the crowd, going on and on and on about some program — I think it was called “Take Back the Night.” It could be a worthy program, but this was supposed to be a baseball game. Any comments should be short and sweet. In any other town, the crowd would have gotten restless and called for the game to get started. But I was amazed to note that people listened respectfully. And if I’m any judge of dress and demeanor, a lot of these respectfullly-listening fans were government workers. Only in a government town could something like that happen. (Some of the crowd were university professors who were trying hard not to look and dress like university professors. But they listened respectfully, too.)