26 February 2010

Orderly retreat

I have very mixed feelings about this story which concerns the Mayor of Detroit’s effort to have an orderly retreat of the people of Detroit, rather than a general collapse.

The big thing is that this is a result of how badly the city and state economies have been handled for the last 20 or 30 years. This end was clear at least that long ago and the response of the city government and the voters was to keep on partying until the money ran out.

On the other hand, when ⅓ of the buildings in a city are abandoned or turned in to vacant lots, you’ve got a problem that needs to be dealt with and the Mayor’s plan doesn’t seem so outrageous given the existing situation. I do wonder, though, why he’s not pitching it as “green”, i.e. more concentrated housing with green corridors, the standard sort of watermelon style city planning.

I liked this bit —

he’s already facing opposition from activists such as Ron Scott, who said he is “adamantly opposed” and believes the business community is pushing Bing to get cheap access to large tracts of the city.

“Sounds like reservations to me, it sounds like telling people to move,” Scott said. “The citizens of the city of Detroit who built this city, the working class, didn’t create this situation. You are diminishing the constitutional options people have by contending you have a crisis.”

I was unaware of any Constitutional “option” that guarantees city services. I would also object on the basis that the citizens of the city did, in fact, create this situation by repeatedly electing crooks, looters, and incompetents to city office.

Finally, I am a bit puzzled by the Mayor resorting to eminent domain. One would think he should exactly the opposite, and un-domain the non-viable sections of the city. If they’re not part of the city, there’s no requirement to provide services, which is what the Mayor claims is the problem.

24 February 2010

Applied Retroactive Continuity

I can’t see how the North American MSM can cover the collapse of AGW theory without losing total credibility. My hunch is they will do what they did with the surge - just ignore it. Then in two or three years Joe Biden can can claim that Obama brought science back to the climate debate unlike the idiot Bush.

— Fritz at Just One Minute

Yes, I often wonder about people who depend on our “premier” media outlets like the NY Times and the whiplash they must experience when the political line reporting changes on a subject with no warmup in a “old news” sort of way. I suppose they just must be used to it by now.

23 February 2010

Definition of kleptocracy

PowerLine has a post about the recurring subject of 401(k) accounts being converted to government annuities. I thought this was very fringe but apparently there are government agencies requesting comments on the subject. I have to agree that a claim that it will be just “voluntary” is not be trusted — any one with clue realizes that the expected conversions will vastly outnumber the actual ones and at that point would could trust Congress to not steal once the precedent has been set?

On the other hand, it would seem that any such move would set off a near revolution of protest from the American Street. That such a thing is even being discussed demonstrates, to me, a near pathological disconnect by our ruling class. It’s even worse now that literal pitchforks and torches have been made legitimate for political protests by the MAL.

22 February 2010

Subsumption

I have to agree with Instapundit and Sarah Palin that going third party should be a last resort, not something that should be a standard approach by the Tea Party. A far better idea is to filter in at the ground level and influence the next generation of politicians. The target has to be the GOP which is at least nominally aligned with Tea Party ideas, in contrast to the Democratic Party which is irreconcilably oppose.

In general, the most realistic option for third party politics is to be destroyed by having your platform stolen by a major party. It may mean a local defeat but if the real goal is policy implementation that’s not so bad. Still, I strongly support cross listing ballots so that third parties can endorse major party candidates. I think that gets the best blend of the benefits of parliamentary politics and our first-past-the-post system.

It's just an Israeli plot

Orrin Judd approvingly cites this article

Netanyahu has decided to teach Abbas a lesson. For three days, day after day and program after program, Channel 10 (Israel’s second biggest TV station) has broadcast shocking “disclosures” about financial and sexual scandals at the top of the Palestinian Authority.

A person who was presented as a “senior commander” of the Palestinian Security Service, with the rank of general, appeared on Israeli television and accused the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and the Fatah movement of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars and committing disgusting sexual offences.

The “disclosures” may endanger the very existence of the Authority and Fatah.

Ah, the naive faith of the leftist! As someone who has a bit more in depth knowledge of the situation notes-israel’s-legitimacy-and-the-war-on-andrew-sullivan/

Increasingly we [Jews] are accused of practically supernatural powers (again) such as Running the Government, The Media, And Causing Earthquakes and Tsunamis. Israelis/Jews/The Israel Lobby are generally blamed for anything and everything that goes wrong especially in the Middle East, from the wars in Iraq even to suicide bombings in Israel. (I’ve actually read comments on American political blogs claiming that Israelis bomb themselves to get sympathy.) Anything that happens in the Middle East or to Middle Easterners is automatically Israel’s fault, even plane crashes.

I certainly expect two things from these “revelations” —

  1. The Palestinians already believe their leaders are doing this sort of thing. Convincing them of that isn’t hard, it’s convincing them that such things are not standard in modern liberal democracies (something we’ve learned from Iraq).
  2. If it’s a problem, it will be blamed on Zionist plotting or agents.

In the end, I think it’s probably a good thing to do, but I wouldn’t expect any return for a very long time.

Beyond special interests?

Mickey Kaus writes

Glenn Reynolds’ sensible account of the Tea Party movement notes that it is largely blogger-powered. My colleague Bob Wright would agree, but finds this technological development ominous. I dunno. Wright calls tea-partiers “Special Interest 3.0.” But they look like people to me. Sure, they are not the majority—in that sense they are “special.” But they are not “special” in that they seem to be representing their holistic interest as American citizens, not their partial identities as seniors, or union members, or veterans or employees of corporations. …

Of course it would be easier to pass health care reform if all you had to do was cut a deal with labor unions and insurance companies and PhRMA—the o.g. lobbies of “Special Interest 1.0”—while ignoring the mass of individual voters. But you have to really contort yourself to think the replacement of narrow, economic interests with broader citizen interests is some sort of tragic turn of events. For decades good government types have been attempting to summon broad popular interests in order to defeat narrow economic interests. Now that it’s happening they’re having second thoughts (because they don’t like the first result). … Alternative theory: We got all the reforms we could get through old-fashioned interest group bargaining. The big reforms that have yet to be done are the ones that can’t be accomplished that way. Empowering voters might ultimately be one way to achieve them. … 

Anyway, in the “good old days” of elite corporatist dealmaking you still would probably have trouble passing a giant piece of legislation that was 10 points underwater in terms of popularity. We had democracy even in 1950. …

P.S.: Lots of intellectual effort now seems to be going into explaining Obama’s (possible/likely/impending) health care failure as the inevitable product of larger historic and constitutional forces. There’s something to this of course—the Framers went overboard in making it hard for the government to act, for example. But in this case there’s a simpler explanation:  Barack Obama’s job was to sell a health care reform plan to American voters. He failed. He didn’t fail because 55% of Americans can never be convinced of anything. It happens all the time. He just failed. He tried to sell expanding coverage as a deficit reducer. Voters didn’t believe him and worried that they would pay the bill in some unadvertised way (through Medicare reductions or future tax increases, mainly). That’s not constitutional paralysis or Web-enabled mob rule. It’s just bad salesmanship.

And if Obama thought he didn’t have to succeed in convincing voters because he believed he was operating in a “Special Interest 2.0” world where all he had to do was get AARP, labor and the business lobbies on board—well, that’s his failure too.

I think that’s insightful. I certainly think it’s a common theme for TranZis to start with some bold, innovative idea and then get ground in the works of unintended consequences because they don’t like how that make things turn out. You could probably describe the last century or so as “Neat progressive ideas that went bad”.

21 February 2010

Weathering weatherization

I have been waiting for a hook to report on one of President Obama’s key initiatives — home weatherization. Obama has brought it up multiple times during key speeches so I presume it’s a big deal for him.

However, it turns out that just like his community organizing, huge piles of money were spent on appartchiks and croneys and almost nothing on the putative beneficaries. Another item in Obama’s long record of success I suppose.

At least it’s better than the similar Australian effort in that it hasn’t actually killed anybody yet. As usual, when discussing Obama one has to set the bar very low in order to have any sort of discussion.

20 February 2010

Grinding away the blocks

We had a recent back and forth about the extent of Old Media’s protection of Barak Obama during the 2008 Presidential campaign. This took two forms, one a vigorous investigation and reaction to any one who might damage Obama’s political prospects (e.g., “Joe the Plumber”) with its opposite when the subject was Obama. Hence the lack of investigation of, say, Obama’s years at college, his travels in Indonesia, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, the details of his relationship with Bill Ayers, etc. The classic example remains the treatment of Jack Ryan vs. Obama during the Illinois Senate race.

A corollary of this is the ability of the person with Old Media favor to make bogus claims and not get called on it while the statements of their opponents are critically analyzed. I will admit that one amusing side effect of this is how Old Media tends to believe its own spin and is constantly surprised when reality doesn’t conform to pronouncements by the favored ones.

In this regard I thought I would bring up another subject which is treated in the same way by Old Media, particularly in the USA, which is global warmening. The same techniques are used, where AGW skeptics are investigated and their motives questioned, while the biggest scandal in scientific, and possibly world, history is left mostly unreported. Yes, the information is out there, but if that’s really the argument, that if citizens were interested they could find out through personal investigation, what’s the point of Old Media? Other than to promote particular ideologies by presenting a distorted version of reality?

If those techniques don’t work, then there’s the “racist!” smear which is now wheeled out regardless of any facts1. There’s a whiff of this in calling AGW skeptics “deniers” but it’s the Tea Party that really brings it out. Semi-fringe people like Keith Olberman get it started but then it’s followed up by more respected organizations. I’m sure someone will get around to comparing them to StormFront.

The one hopeful thing is that Old Media’s ability to frame the Narrative is being ground away by its own mistakes, excesses, and new communication technologies. When defenders of Old Media start to care about it’s abuse of its position, then I might start to care about its demise.


1 You can see it in things like the fringe attempt to link Amy Bishop to the Tea Party, the more mainstream attempt at linking the Ausint pilot as well, vs. the treatment of the suicide of a census worker in Kentucky.

18 February 2010

More taxes means more deficit

According to Rasmussen polling 58% of of the American Street think that if the federal government raise taxes, the money will be spent on new projects, not reducing the deficit (that is, that raising taxes will at best not affect the deficit but likely will make it worse). I wonder why anyone would think that. Or possibly it is because our President thinks (via Brothers Judd)

“our real problem” is neither the spike in stimulus spending of the last year — as many Republicans charge–or the sharply lower tax collections from hard-hit businesses and individual taxpayers. “The real problem,” he [President Obama] said, “has to do with the fact that there is a just a mismatch between the amount of money coming in and the amount of money going out. And that is going to require some big, tough choices that, so far, the political system has been unable to deal with.”

I’ll bet that unlike our “intelligent and well educated” President, Sarah Palin, who ran a small business, grasps the concept that a mismatch between outflow and income is in fact related to revenues and expenses.

That's my boy!

Boy Two had to write an essay at school on the subject “a dream you have for improving the lives of children in the world”. His dream?

I wish that there was no war, no guns, and that everyone is safe. There will not be any assassinations or dead. I wish that everyone is happy and healthy and enough money. I wish that everyone will be eco friendly, no fossil fuels and litter. I wish that we won’t kill any animals. And the world won’t be a wasteland. I wish school was only 5 seconds long. I wish earth wasn’t the only habbital [sic] planet.

While reading this, keep in mind that his self proclaimed role model is Dogbert and when I asked him about this he just gave me his “I am getting away with something” smile. He’s learned to work the system at 9. I’m so proud.

Pension tension

Over at Just One Minute is this comment on the theme of “follow the money”.

The BBC has been about as big a spouter of this AGW doctrine as any organization on the planet. In a comment on a column last week by the BBC’s Climate Proselytizer Richard Black, a commenter questioned the reason for the BBC’s AGW bias by linking to the following and asking for Black to reply:

IIGCC

That organization’s first paragraph reads:

“About the IIGCC

“The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) is a forum for collaboration on climate change for European investors. The group’s objective is to catalyse greater investment in a low carbon economy by bringing investors together to use their collective influence with companies, policymakers and investors. The group currently has over 50 members, including some of the largest pension funds and asset managers in Europe, and represents assets of around €4trillion. A full list of members is available on the membership page.”

“Did you catch that: FOUR TRILLION EUROS” posted the commenter.

Then he followed with the link to the Membership List, which prominently included among many others:

“BBC Pension Trust”

Knowing that, rereading a sentence from the first link now really stands out:

Under the “Categories: Investment” paragraph we read1:

“IIGCC chairman and BBC head of pensions investment Peter Dunscombe…”

Catch that? The BBC is the Chair of this 4 Trillion Euro AGW Carbon Trading investment scheme.

BBC correspondent Black did not respond to the comment.

But certainly there could not have been any conflict of interest, just because their pensions were invested in this scam.


1 I couldn’t find that precise link but there are a number of other ones with the same information, such as this one.

16 February 2010

15 February 2010

Fool me once and you'll fool me twice

Hot Air notes the changed tone of President Obama with regard to the banking industry. He railed against them while shoveling mind boggling amounts of money to a selected few. But after failing to continue the money train, his Wall Street backers are having second thoughts about him. It hurts when your gravy train is shut down but those who profit by diktat go bankrupt by diktat.

I have to disagree with this view, though —

Obama made the mistake of acting like a bull in a Wall Street china shop during a bear market, deliberately inflaming class warfare and making clear the Democratic antipathy towards wealth and success. In doing so, he alienated the very people who funded his rise to power (who deserved the Captain Louis Renault award they got two days ago for doing so), pushing them by default into the ranks of his political opponents.

First, as I noted, I think the favoritism was standard regulatory capture by a select few at the expense of the rest (with regard to financial companies). Two, if these people were dumb enough to be be fooled before the election, they’re plenty dumb enough to be fooled for the next one.

Lack of historical perspective

Both Brothers Judd and Extreme Wisdom have jumped on the bandwagon of a story from New Zealand which concerns lowering income taxes in exchange for raising the GST / VAT. I laugh at the concept. Tax cuts are temporary, new taxes and tax increases are permanent. Especially here, we might get a few years of a revenue neutral shift but soon enough the old tax would be raised back to the original level.

I would be more impressed if anyone could cite a place where this shift actually happened and lasted more than a decade. Certainly when we look around at other Anglospheric nations we see a common mode of failure in this regard. Why should we expect different results from the same actions in the future?

If, in exchange for a VAT, the 16&th& Amendment was repealed, I would be all for that.

14 February 2010

Movie dating

One fun thing to do when watching movies is to guess when the movie was made based on the haircuts. I caught a few seconds of some movie recently while passing through the family media room and I thought “couldn’t we date movies by cellphones?”. Cell phone styles and functions change so much that I think if you studied a bit you could make some fairly accurate guesses about the production date of a movie by looking at what the characters make phones calls with (e.g., grey scale vs. color display).

P.S. SWIPIAW has been watching classic Star Trek. I must say, I did not really notice when I watched those originally just how short the skirts were. You can see the actresses underwear most of the time when they’re walking away from the camera.

11 February 2010

Precise demographic targeting

The “Green Police” advertisement for Audi has been getting a lot of buzz, especially about what the actual point of it is. I think it’s pretty clear — I should have Dream Police on my MP3 player.

Haha. I think it’s clear that the advertisement plays to the central ideology of its target demographic, over educated tranzis. The kind of people who think it’s wonderful to visit that kind of oppression guidance on others but expect to have a signifier of their enlightened state that gives them a pass.

They're just wrong, not confused

I liked this article at Real Clear Politics which cites a Gallup poll that a majority of people who identify as Democratic Party members have a positive image of socialism. I used to think that the promotion of socialist policies primarily the leadership who expected to be the ruling class afterwards with the rank and file not putting the pieces together and understanding where it would end up. But clearly I was mistaken.

Definitional issues

Orrin Judd is still going on about corporate political speech while vigorously avoiding the real issue, even when it is explicitly pointed out to him. That issue is, what distinguishes a corporation that is “the Press” from one that is not? I understand, and think it is a good point, that corporations are legal creations and as such can be regulated to an extent that is impermissible for citizens1. Judd says “it’s the Constitution” but in this case that document contributes to the problem by specifically noting “the Press” without providing any definition of what, exactly, that is. Judd defines it as a corporation that does “press activity” which evasive even for him. Personally, I interpret “the Press” as a noun meaning “any mechanism for disseminating information”, e.g. an actual printing press and the use thereof. That is, “the Press” isn’t a type of organization, but an activity and to ensure free speech, use of such machinery should not be restricted by Congress. In that view, the recent decision by the Supreme Court is constitutionally correct.


1 That of course applies to unions as well, although that seems to be a rather taboo subject. Others have noted that the recent decision by the Supreme Court is discussed only with regard to corporations because unions have already evaded almost all restriction on political spending. I personally would be fine with any restrictions on corporations as long as they were applied to unions as well which benefit just as much from legal machinery as do corporations.

10 February 2010

Understanding men

While previewing a fluffy article for possible forwarding to someone, I came upon what I think is the best bit of advice for women I have ever seen.

Men are simple, not stupid.

That should be printed on 3×5 cards and handed out to every girl at puberty.

04 February 2010

Everyone has limits

Actually, [New York City Mayor] Bloomberg asked for the trial to be moved because KSM wants to be able to smoke in the courtroom. You can only push Mike Bloomberg so far.

Barry Dauphin

New measurement

Instapundit notes a key point about economic intervention by a government — that same government is also responsible for putatively objective and disinterested regulation of the economic activity.

Of course, it’s very convenient for GM, etc. that Toyota had a problem right about now. As reader Hugh Myers writes: “Has it occurred to anyone that as owner of GM the US Government’s rather enthusiastic pursuit of Toyota regarding supposed product defects involves the government in a conflict of interest?”

This is not a problem specific to the Obama Administration but is a fundamental flaw for any government intervention. Of course, this Administration has a way of making bad things worse with people like Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. Now, if the Administration wants to claim that this isn’t malicious but just a result of a Biden class idiot, I am quite prepared to believe them.

No wonder the current state of the American Street is fear.

They take all your spare change and let you hope for rewards later

One thing I find bizarre in the discussions of the current health care nationalization effort is the view, not just among the Democratic Party leadership, that if legislation is passed

  • It can be explained to the American Street
  • The American Street will like what it once all the goodies are explained to them.

Leaving aside the idea that you have a problem if you are trying to pass legislation that is so vague and indeterminate that you can’t explain what it is until it is passed, the elephant in the room seems to me that this completely ignores the fact that the payments start immediately but the benefits don’t kick in until 2014 or later. What exactly would be explained after passage, “Your taxes are going right now up but in just 4 years you’ll get some good stuff unless Congress changes things. But don’t worry about that, Congress will be ‘fixing’ all the problems before then.”? That despite the deficit of trust that our current Administration has so unexpectedly incurred.

03 February 2010

Importing the superior culture?

Here we go, Jews are fleeing Sweden for Israel so they can feel safe.

Skånska Dagbladet highlighted the case of Marcus Eilenberg, a 32-year-old father of two who has decided to move to Israel.

“My children aren’t safe here. It’s going to get worse,” he told the newspaper.

How to get to a state like that? You start by passing on prosecuting cases like this where civil order is threatened. It’s the same thing that let Nidal Hasan stay and be promoted in the US Army. I understand the people in the military who did this — they had to weigh acting vs. their career as it was clear to them that they would be punished severely for doing so because as “Army Chief of Staff General George Casey said it would be worse to attack diversity than prevent such attacks.

I understand, as some note, that it would be counter productive to gratuitously insult or demean other cultures / beliefs. But I think it is even worse to offend one’s culture for the sole reason of avoiding offense to others. If you really think that other culture is more deserving of deference, one should just switch and adopt it. Why stay in a culture you think is inferior?

After all, it is the slave that worries what the master thinks. To worry what others of different cultures think of you more than you worry about what your own culture says of your actions is surrender that culture to others and it would be better to openly surrender.

On a more practical level, the USA and the Anglosphere in general are the dominant powers on the globe, culturally, economically, and militarily. It should be everyone else who worries about what we think.

And the lesson is …

Kaus Files notes that one of the interesting aspects of the entire John Edwards saga is how complicit Old Media was in helping him out. He quotes an article from Gawker

This is why, says our source, who is close to Hunter, major media organizations could not stand up the affair story despite well-intentioned efforts. “They [staffers] would do anything to stop it coming out — they lied, they bullied, they called reporters’ editors and bad-mouthed them, they exchanged access.”

So, should we read this as Old Media bias in willing to be so easily intimidated, or that GOP aides are simply not as ruthless and vicious as Democratic Party ones?

Time to let go

Tim Blair is mocking Charles Johnson yet again. It’s not that the mockery wears false, as it is well earned by Johnson’s fervent occupation of the crazy zone. But as with Sarah Palin, not letting go indicates that the target still matters. When Johnson lost it, I just quietly delinked him from my weblogs and moved on. Active responses by those he attacked and betrayed, I understand. But it’s a dead parrot, move on to things that matter.

02 February 2010

Clueless in Washington

As I catch up on things, I want to mock President Obama’s spending freeze because you just can’t do too much of that. Let us be careful to note that not only is it a pointless exercise, not only is it something Obama himself mocked when he was on the campaign trail, but it’s also stupid politically because it won’t mollify his opponents nor impress the moderates, while it has managed to enrage his only remaining partisans. How much more reality dysfunction could he exhibit?

Coding Corner

Inspired by Skipper’s belief in self documenting code I thought I might start dropping in some little tidbits I generate as I go about my code slinging day.

Today’s little gem is this —

bool
Clause::visit(visitor const& v, int depth) {
    return ! (! _d || ! v(depth, *this) || ! this->visit_children(v, depth));
}

The Clause class is a unit in an expression. The visit method takes a function object v and invokes it on the clause and every nested clause (as long as the function object returns true), an implementation of the standard visitor pattern. I have split this method in to two, visit and visit_children because in some cases I do want to visit on the children of a clause and not the clause itself. The _d is a member variable of the class (I use the leading ‘_’ as my typographic indicator for member variables) which holds the actual data in the class. I would argue that even if you know all of this, and you are familiar with C++, the purpose of this code is not immediately obvious. I would say a short comment about the thought processes that lead to this code would be appreciated by anyone else trying to figure it out.

I will admit that well chosen method names can help but they’re hardly sufficient.