Saturday, October 30, 2010

Carlin sums it up


Hat tip -- Lloyd Sloan:


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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Yeah! What he said!


Jacob Sullum on same-sex marriage in Reason:

I realize opponents of same-sex marriage think they have good reasons for denying gay couples the rights and privileges that straight couples enjoy, and they would argue that homosexuals and heterosexuals are not "similarly situated." But you know what? Screw them. I am tired of defending the constitutional principles that social conservatives use to restrict liberty, because they so rarely return the favor by supporting those same principles when the effect is to expand liberty.

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Apropos of nothing in particular


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Monday, October 25, 2010

Heh!


I scooped Wired by six hours.

Of course, the Wired piece is much more detailed and comprehensive.

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Who Knew?


Did they know I was coming, or is there just a general bestiality problem at Grant's Farm?


Just kidding (pun intended) -- good way of getting a high-value keyword in a blog post, though, don't you think?

Here's Liam feeding, and Daniel brushing, the critters:


The animals seemed quite taken with my cane. A couple tried to eat it, several used it as a post to scratch themselves on, at least one tried to get it to fight.

We hadn't been out there in a number of years, but Tamara got a "Groupon" for $10 -- free parking (they charge $11 per car, usually) and $10 in scrip for the concession stand.

If you haven't visited Grant's Farm, it's a nice day trip in the St. Louis area (and cheap -- free admission, although they do take you for the parking).

As the name indicates, it was the farm of Union general and later US president Ulysses S. Grant before the War Between the States. The original cabin he built is still there.

The Busch family (of Anheuser-Busch fame) bought the place in the early 20th century. Much of it is now a wildlife park (mustangs, buffalo, elephants, llamas, camels, various species of deer, cattle, birds, etc.). And of course the baby goat petting zoo is a hit with kids and adults.

There's also a big outdoor food court ... and an Anheuser-Busch hospitality bar where each adult can get two free samples (six-ounce or so cups). The up side of the AB/InBev merger is that Stella Artois is one of the available brews now.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wikileaks "Iraqi War Logs" reveal chemical weapons finds?


From the Wikileaks "Iraq War Logs" --

ATTK ON ___ BUNKER ___ BY TF -___ IVO : ___ INJ/DAMAGE
2005-08-20 04:51:00

AT 1015D IVO ___, A TF -___ PATROL CONDUCTING ROUTINE RECONNAISSANCE OF THE ___ CHEMICAL COMPLEX VIC ___ IDENTIFIED AN ATTEMPTED BREACH OF BUNKER ___. PATROL REPORTS A LARGE EXPLOSION HAD BREACHED THE TWO LAYERS OF DIRT AND THE EXTERIOR CONCRETE ___. INTERIOR CONCRETE ___ REMAINS INTACT. TF -___ IS ON SITE AND IS ASSUMING ___ SECURITY MISSION. PATROL HAS INCREASED ___ LEVEL FROM READY TO ZERO. INITIAL ASSESSMENT IS NEGLIGIBLE RISK TO WARNED EXPOSED SOLDIERS AT THIS TIME. FURTHER EFFECTS ON AREA OR OTHER IMPACTS ARE BEING ASSESSED AT THIS TIME. ADDITIONAL ASSETS ISO TF ___ BEING COORDINATED. UPDATE THE BUNKER CONTAINED NON PERSISTENT NERVE ___ THAT WAS ___ INERT BY ___, MUSTARD AND BLOOD ___. TF - ___ ALARMS AND REMAIN ___ OF BREACH.

My educated* guess at the unredacted penultimate sentence:

UPDATE THE BUNKER CONTAINED NON PERSISTENT NERVE AGENT THAT WAS RENDERED INERT BY SUPER-TROPICAL BLEACH, MUSTARD AND BLOOD AGENT.


-----
* I think "educated" is a reasonable claim. "Expert" would be pushing it. I completed military courses in Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Survey/Monitor and Decontamination (first by correspondence and then, circa 1992, a two-week course under the aegis of the 3rd Marine Air Wing at MCAS El Toro, CA) and did a stint or two (both before and after that school) as NCO in charge of continuing training on the subject for a Marine Reserve infantry company.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like a deleted scene from Downfall


I'm talking about Joe Miller's campaign for US Senate, of course. The latest:

The editor of the Alaska Dispatch website was arrested [sic] by U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller's private security guards Sunday as the editor attempted to interview Miller at the end of a public event in an Anchorage school. ... the owner of the Drop Zone, the private security firm that's been providing Miller's security, accused Hopfinger of trespassing at the public event, a town hall sponsored by the Miller campaign.

As you can see, Anchorage Daily News journo Richard Mauer bobbled the lede there.

"Arrested" implies an at least nominally lawful detention of someone, usually by police, on suspicion of having committed an actual crime.

When one is grabbed and handcuffed to a chair by a couple of goons who ended up working "private security" because they couldn't get into the military or police force even under the "relaxed" standards of the post-9/11 era, for asking inconvenient questions of a political candidate at a public event on public property, one hasn't been "arrested," one has been "assaulted and abducted."

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Are Baca and Cooley in stir yet?


And has the Governator requested that Holder be extradited to California yet?

When you publicly announce your participation in an illegal conspiracy to commit mass violations of the California Penal Code (sections 207 and 236), there should be consequences.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

He shoots, he scores


Paulie, in comments at Independent Political Report:

Historically, right and left wing are determined by goals. Right wing goals are the maintenance of existing social and economic privilege, traditional social and religious values, and existing social and economic hierarchies. They also frequently include degrees of cultural, social and national chauvinism. Left wing goals are to level the playing field for the underdogs, break down barriers of privilege, and in general the opposite of the right wing goals as outlined above.

Libertarianism is a philosophy of acceptable means. Radical libertarians believe in completely outlawing initiation of force, while moderate libertarians seek to minimize initiation of force while maintaining that a functional society is impossible without some initiation of force.

Big government is the opposing philosophy of means -- that is, whatever your goals are, they are best achieved by a powerful state.

So, the assumption above -- one shared by most people in America today -- is that big government is what serves to achieve leftist goals, and small government leads to rightist results. But, I believe that in fact the opposite is the case ... that big government naturally goes hand in hand with big institutions and static hierarchies in all other fields of life.

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A TV Liberal Explains


As The West Wing's CJ Cregg told an unhappy PR client:

You know why the New Coke marketing campaign failed? Because nobody liked New Coke. The movies were bad, Roger. If they were unknown, I could help you, but they weren't. They were just bad.

Note to Smitty, One Each:

The commenters aren't the problem. The problem is, you filled your race card with brokedown nags. No amount of admonishing the spectators to quit pointing and laughing will turn Christine O'Donnell into Secretariat or Joe Miller into Seabiscuit.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Switch's Law


There's really only one thing we can say for sure in answer to the question "what will the stateless society look like?"

Not like this ... not like this.

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Is Joe Miller getting nervous yet?


He wants to be the next US Senator from the state of Alaska, but he also wants his prospective constituents kept in the dark about his previous history as a government employee.

Matter of fact, he's lawyering up to keep their prying eyes off his record as attorney for Fairbanks North Star Borough. Why am I not surprised to see that Sarah Palin's "threaten to sue anyone who doesn't just unquestioningly reprint our spin" guy got the gig?

Miller has to know that continuously acting like he has something to hide will cost him votes. Apparently he's betting that it will cost him fewer votes than coming clean would.

And I'm still betting that either approach will cost him more votes than he can afford to lose.

I'd like to feel sorry for the Tea Partiers, but I just can't. A movement that adopts Palin as its mascot, falls for the Scott Brown scam in Massachusetts, and even invites Wayne Allyn Root to speak at its events is effectively hanging a big "GULLIBLE -- CON ME!" signboard around its own neck. I'd have been surprised if the charlatans hadn't swarmed.

-----
memeorandum thread

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Geller, the Short Version


Anne Bernard and Alan Feuer killed a lot of trees today -- about 3,500 words in the New York Times -- attempting to explain Pamela Geller.

I can name that tune in 20 words: "Geller is crazy as a shithouse rat, has figured out how to turn a buck on bigoted hysteria, or both."

At least as accurate, far more environmentally friendly. You're welcome, no charge.

As usual, Memeorandum has the blogosphere reaction collection.

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A couple of notes on the Cranick fire


Gary Chartier considers the whole thing in more depth over at LiberaLaw. Definitely worth a read!

I had hoped there would be a public support/rebuild fund for the Cranick family, and finally found it, courtesy of Keith Olbermann.

The usual: I'm not a wealthy guy, but I'm usually willing to help someone out, and to ask those I know to do so as well. I'm in for $5, PayPaled to CranickFireFund@Yahoo.com (screen capture below). Please match me!


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House Un-Beautiful


Writes Gonzalo Lira [hat tip -- LewRockwell.Com]:

TV has given us the illusion that anarchy is people rioting in the streets, smashing car windows and looting every store in sight. But there's also the polite, quiet, far deadlier anarchy of the core citizenry -- the upright citizenry -- throwing in the towel and deciding it's just not worth it anymore.

If a big enough proportion of the populace -- not even a majority, just a largish chunk -- decides that it’s just not worth following the rules anymore, then that society's days are numbered: Not even a police-state with an armed Marine at every corner with Shoot-to-Kill orders can stop such middle-class anarchy.

Glittering prospect ... but I suspect that if it comes to that fork in the road, the political class will throw some of its members under the wheels for additional traction and take the other option, even if it only gets them a few more miles down the road in the driver's seat:


Think it can't happen here? Think again.

Nationally, 21.5% of mortgaged homes are "underwater," i.e. in negative equity -- the buyers owe more on the mortgage than they'd reasonably expect to get for the home if they sold it.

That's the average. Try 2/3 of homes in the Phoenix, Arizona area, nearly 3/4 in Las Vegas and, a friend tells me (I don't have a sourced stat for you on it), 46% in the state of Florida.

A lot of people are at the point of showing the banks their middle fingers and walking away, credit scores be damned. And now it looks like many of them may not have to:

The banksters got sloppy -- maybe even criminally dishonest -- with the paperwork. They're running into troubles with foreclosures as a result, and President Obama just vetoed a bill rammed through Congress for the purpose of slipping them a free pass.

It's about to get ugly. Scratch that -- it's already ugly and will almost certainly get a lot uglier. The question is how just how ugly it can get, and for whom. Two years into this game of catch-me-fuck-me with the banks, it's starting to look like sudden-death overtime with the banks on fourth down, long and fresh out of friends among the referees.

-----
Graphic is a screen capture from Kurumi's Signmaker

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Mini-Review: Cignot


I continue to enjoy "vaping" -- sucking nicotine-laced vapor out of an "electronic cigarette" instead of lighting up a tobacco-filled paper tube. I've placed additional orders with VaporKings.Com, which I review elsewhere, and continue to be happy with the quality and price of their products and the speed of service.

However, VaporKings doesn't carry one thing I wanted to try, so I had to look elsewhere.

Specifically, I wanted "e-juice" made from a base of vegetable glycerine rather than propylene glycol. Some reading on the web indicated that "VG" liquids produce more vapor than "PG," and that the flavor is more pristine ("PG" apparently lends a slight additional sweetness to any flavor of "e-juice").

After looking at various vendors' web sites, I settled on Cignot for my test purchase of VG liquid.

PROS: The prices are eminently reasonable, in line with or cheaper than other vendors of similar products. I paid $9.00 for a 20ml bottle of menthol "e-juice" with 26mg of nicotine (I meant to order the 16mg dosage -- I don't know if the mistake was mine or if there's a bug at Cignot's site, but I'll take the blame until I know for sure). I was paying $8.95 for 10ml or $21.95 for 30ml of 16mg "juice" at Vapor Kings. I placed my order on the 5th; it arrived today (the 7th).

So, decent prices, fast shipping. The VG "juice" does, in fact, produce more vapor. So far, I like it. I'll probably switch to it entirely once I've run out my supply of PG "juice." I can't say whether or not Cignot's product is better than others of its type, since I haven't tried any other VG "juices."

They're also friendly, with a personal touch (the packing slip had a hand-written "thanks, Tamara" (the stuff was ordered on my significant other's card) and a flowery doodle. Not to read too much into that, but it indicates to me that the people at Cignot think of their customers as people, not just account numbers on invoices. I'm guessing they've got good customer service at the "my order was wrong" complaint end and so forth, too.

CONS: VaporKings has cheap shipping -- I've run $1.xx to $2.xx per order for US Snail "First Class" delivery. Cignot's lowest rate is $5 "flat," meaning that my $9.00 order actually came to $14.00. That makes Cignot less competitive on price than it looks at first, at least for small orders. Unfortunately, other VG "juice" vendors seem to have similarly high shipping rates.

That's a fairly small "con" in my view. Now that I'm fully equipped for "vaping" (three portable "e-cigarette" batteries and a charger, a USB "pass-thru" that I can use when I'm sitting at my computer, a stock of "e-juice" and quite a few "cartomizers" to hold/heat the liquid and discharge vapor), I'll probably place less frequent, but larger, orders in the future, meaning that my shipping costs will come down as a percentage of total costs.

Conclusion: Recommended!

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Contra Long


Writes Roderick T. Long:

1. Should a fire company be legally required to put out the fires of nonpayers?

In a free market, the answer is obviously no. In an oligopolistic market where the company is the beneficiary of artificial restrictions on competition -- or, as in the recent case, is an actual government monopoly -- the case for yes grows a lot stronger.

I guess the Obion, County Tennessee firefighting market is oligopolistic -- and moreover, artificially/coercively so, to the extent that the South Fulton city fire department is subsidized by city taxpayers, where private competitors would not be.

So long as South Fulton is willing to fight fires for rural county "subscribers" at $75 per year, the market for a private for-profit alternative shrinks and is distorted. Presumably the South Fulton FD couldn't charge such a low fee if its equipment and operating overhead weren't tax-subsidized. The same distorting effect applies to efforts to get the county voters to approve a tax-supported county fire department -- why reinvent or buy a copy of the South Fulton wheel when that wheel is for rent?

It is not, however, an "actual government monopoly" outside the city limits of South Fulton (it may not be one even inside the city limits of South Fulton). There's no law to stop a private firefighting company from setting up in the county, or to keep the county's residents from forming a volunteer fire department (there are a bunch of volunteer fire departments in Tennessee, including at least four in Obion County), or to keep the county's voters from supporting formation of a tax-subsidized firefighting operation.

That's not the only part of Professor Long's article I disagree with.

I reject the notion that a "positive obligation" exists to provide a service that one has offered for a fee if the fee hasn't been paid.

I also disagree that "[s]eeing a nonpayer forced to pay full price for having their house saved seems like sufficient incentive." As I've pointed out elsewhere, fire protection is basically a long-shot hedged bet. If you can still get the payoff without tying up your money by placing the bet in advance, even if you have to pay something of a premium, you're a lot less likely to make that hedged bet.

And the hedged bet is probably what allows the fire department, private or public, to equip itself, train its personnel, and keep them on the clock to respond if you "win" that bet. There are other possible mechanisms, e.g. selling stock in the department and such, but my guess is that a firefighting operation that bills at point of service instead of generating ongoing subscriber revenues isn't going to be nearly as attractive to investors, for the same reason that the hedge bet isn't placed if the payoff is available without placing it ... the return becomes less certain, less even, etc.

But, it's a thoughtful piece, anyway, so raad it.

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Penetrating Political Insight of the Day


In my Senate predictions post, I called the Delaware election for Democrat Chris Coons and said that Christine O'Donnell isn't going to win.

Christine O'Donnell, Delaware Republican U.S. Senate nominee, smiles during remarks to the Family Research Council's Values Voters Summit in Washington, September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
Christine O'Donnell, Delaware Republican U.S. Senate nominee, smiles during remarks to the Family Research Council's Values Voters Summit in Washington, September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
One obvious reason for that prediction is the polling: O'Donnell trails Coons by double digits.

There's more to it than that, though.

As a commenter over at Libertarian [sic] Republican notes, "Scott Brown was polling 11 points behind [Martha] Croakley [sic] less than two weeks before the [Massachusetts January special] election."

True. But are the situations similar?

So far as I can tell, Scott Brown has never lost an election. He started off as a local property assessor, served three terms in the lower house of Massachusetts's legislature, won a special election to fill an unexpired term in the State Senate, and was subsequently re-elected to three full terms before running for US Senate.

O'Donnell, on the other hand, has never been elected to public office. This is her third run for US Senate -- she ran once before as the GOP nominee, and another time as a write-in after losing the GOP primary.

I don't care one way or another who wins that election. I don't live in Delaware, I'm not a voter, and even if I did live in Delaware and even if I did vote, I wouldn't vote for a Republican or a Democrat. But res ipsa loquitur, people: When you've lost this same election twice before, when you're down double digits in the polls, and when you're still stuck trying to convince your state's voters that you're not a witch a month before the election, the smart money just ain't on you.


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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Like Stan on South Park ...


... I learned something today.

What I learned is that even a link from the comments at Hot Air means a sizable bump in traffic at the ol' blog ranch. Thanks, Rae!

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

November Senate Predictions


About a month out seems like the best time to make predictions -- far enough in advance that if I'm right I'm a prognosticator, not just someone who watched the exit polls. Of course, I'm also a lot more likely to be wrong, but hey, that's how it works.

General prediction: The Republicans will pick up three four* US Senate seats. That gets them to 44 45*, which will make it easier to block cloture on bills -- less need to whip "moderate" Republicans into line or shill for "Blue Dog" defections.

This is actually a good outcome for the Republicans. Even if they were to gain a majority in both houses of Congress, they still wouldn't be able to get anything done. Obama has a veto pen. But if they get a majority in even one house, Obama will be able to lay on the "Republican obstructionist" stuff more thickly and more credibly. Remember, Bill Clinton's numbers went up after the 1994 "Republican Revolution." Remaining in the minority now boosts Republican prospects in 2012, because they can spend the next two years forcing the Democrats to accept ownership of everything that comes (or doesn't come) out of DC.

Specific Predictions

Alaska: Lisa Murkowski will become the second American, after Strom Thurmond, to be elected to the US Senate by write-in vote.

Arkansas: Not even getting caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy can stop Republican John Boozman from unseating incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln.

California: Incumbent Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer will be re-elected. Not by a huge margin, probably, but she'll pull it out. It's not so much that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown has coattails for her as it is that his Republican opponent, "NutMeg" Whitman, has negative coattails for GOP Senate nominee Carly Fiorina.

Colorado: This state will be a GOP pickup as Ken Buck unseats incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet.

Connecticut: Democrat Richard Blumenthal bests Republican Linda McMahon for the state's open (due to Christopher Dodd's retirement) US Senate seat. As with California, this won't be a blowout. It may even be a nail-biter (Blumenthal's lead has been shrinking for some time). But it's just not going to happen for the GOP there.

Delaware: Sorry, guys, Christine O'Donnell isn't going to win. Chris Coons holds Vice President Joe Biden's former US Senate seat for the Democrats.

Florida: A few months ago, I'd have picked Republican governor Charlie Crist to win this US Senate race as an independent. I was wrong on that. Republican Marco Rubio has it pretty much in the bag.

Illinois: The polls show Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk in a tight race for the US Senate seat formerly held by President Barack Obama and currently filled by Roland Burris. Don't believe the polls. There's no way the Democrats are giving up this seat, even if the dead have to rise and go to the polls to help them keep it.

Indiana: Another Republican pickup, with Dan Coats beating Brad Ellsworth to replace the retiring Evan Bayh.

Missouri: Republicans will hold on to the seat being vacated by retiring Kit Bond. As disgusting as the GOP nominee, US Representative Roy Blunt, may be (however tall he is, I didn't know they stacked shit that high), I can't really blame Missourians. The Democrats managed to find and nominate Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, one of probably only three politicians in Missouri less popular than Blunt (of the other two, Claire McCaskill was busy being a Senator already and former Governor Matt Blunt didn't run against Dad).

Nevada: Incumbent Democratic Senator Harry Reid will beat Republican nominee Sharron Angle like a drum.

Washington: Incumbent Democratic Senator Patty Murray will beat GOP nominee Dino Rossi.

I think the only even nominally competitive race I'm leaving out there is DioGuardio v. Gillibrand in New York. It doesn't look that competitive, and I'm betting it's even less competitive than it looks -- Gillibrand in a walk.

So, like I said, three four* Republican pickups in the Senate.

-----
Update, October 8th: FOUR! FOUR GOP PICKUPS IN THE SENATE! I was just looking back over this post, and jumping Jeebus, I spaced an entire state, and an important one -- Wisconsin. Big brain fart, and I have no excuse or explanation for it. If the current polls and the trend are right, and I think they are, incumbent Democratic Senator Russ Feingold will go down on November 2nd to be replaced by Republican challenger Ron Johnson.

Feingold's scalp is probably the most prominent one that will get mounted on the GOP's trophy wall this year. He's high on the Republicans' hit list (for good reasons, including "McCain/Feingold") and low on the Democratic Party's support list (for bad reasons such as the fact that he didn't stop talking about torture, civil liberties, etc. once his party took the White House and commenced Bush's third term). Them's the breaks.

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Monday, October 04, 2010

Cranick's Folly


No, Daniel, this isn't "bad for the libertarians." It's bad for Gene Cranick.

I'm sorry the guy's house burned down, really I am, but given the circumstances it was the best thing that could have happened.

My guess is that homeowners in Obion County, Tennessee are lining up to pay their $75 and get their fire protection right about now -- and that local insurance agents are getting up form letters to let their customers know that their homeowner/fire policies will be discontinued if the $75 isn't paid.

When this is all said and done, the results will be that the South Fulton Fire Department will be better funded and better equipped, and that those homeowners will be better protected than they were before.

If the firefighters had saved Mr. Cranick's home, on the other hand, people who paid the $75 last year would have received a clear signal that they don't need to pay it next year, and eventually there wouldn't be a fire department to respond to county fire calls.

This scheme is basically a form of insurance -- a hedged bet. Your house probably won't catch on fire, but it's worth $75 to know that if it does, the guys will rush out to hose it down for you.

It costs a lot more than $75 to roll the trucks out and extinguish a single sizable fire. Those guys don't buy their trucks and helmets and oxygen tanks and so forth when they get the call that there's a fire to put out. They have to buy those things, and learn to use them, beforehand ... and that costs money. This insurance scheme lets them get that equipment and that training, and puts it at the perpetual disposal of the customer who will probably never need it.

Cranick's Folly makes it clear to everyone just what's at stake. That's bad for Mr. Cranick, but it's a good thing to the extent that it teaches his neighbors an important lesson. And it's much better than stealing $75 from every homeowner in the county, even the ones who are willing to risk losing their stuff in a fire rather than pay it, just because Daniel Foster's "moral intuition" tells him that stealing's okay if he means well.

A perfect example of libertarianism in action? No. For one thing, the fire department in question isn't, strictly speaking, a private organization (it's a public city fire department that offers its services in the county for that $75 fee). But a damn good one, and certainly not one that libertarians should give conservatives or liberals a bullshit "moral intuition" pass on.


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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Come and See the Violence Inherent in the System!


For some reason, the video below seems to have a number of libertarians all freaked out.

I say "for some reason" because I can't for the life of me figure out why.

I understand the opposition to message content -- a lot of libertarians reject the notion of anthropogenic global warming and regard calls for people reduce their "carbon footprints" as so much nanny state bullshit.

In terms of presentation, however, I have to suspect that most of the individuals linked above have watched and enjoyed one or more of the following: Monty Python's Flying Circus, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, etc.

"It's only a wafer-thin mint." "It's only a flesh wound, c'mon, wot, you scared?" "We have come for your liver." "No Pressure" is 100% in the Monty Python tradition of over-the-top humor -- a bit drawn out and belabored perhaps, but what I'm seeing isn't criticism of comedic skill, it's the kind of bizarre response I'm used to seeing from politically correct lefties when a public figure uses a word that sounds suspiciously like something which might be racist even though it isn't.

Guys ... chillax and enjoy the violence inherent in the system:




Update: Hmmm, I was actually closer than I knew to the truth. Per Stephen Gordon (unfortunately in full PC overreaction mode like, it seems, everyone else), the author of the video is Richard Curtis of Black Adder fame. Not Monty Python, but very much in the immediate vicinity as such things go. Huzzah! Room for another affiliate link!

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

Fatal Attraction


I don't generally make it a point to buy books the day they're released, but there are exceptions and one of them is F. Paul Wilson's "Repairman Jack" series. I thought that Fatal Error was due out October 1st; turns out the release date is October 12th. Not to worry ... I pre-ordered it.

One reason I usually wait is that I'm a cheapskate. I hate to say it since a number of my friends are authors, and authors don't make bank on used copies of their books, but I almost always buy used.

On the other hand, it's often the case when I buy used that I'm simply replacing something I bought new: I lost it, or loaned it out, or read it until it fell apart. So the author made his buck the first time around; the second, he's going to have to settle for the fact that if I liked the book enough to buy it twice, I'm probably going to tell everyone about it.

For example, the new F. Paul Wilson novel came to $17.15, and I pre-ordered. Being, as I mentioned, a cheapskate, I decided I'd rather round out my purchase to $25 and get free "Super-Saver" shipping than end up popping $22 for that $17.15 book. Sooo ...

I've said it right here before, and I'll say it again -- if you haven't read Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution cycle, you need to. I've read each of the four novels at least twice, and three of them more than twice. I was able to find used "fulfilled by Amazon" (and therefore eligible for that free shipping deal) copies of Fractions (an omnibus edition of the first two novels in the cycle, The Star Fraction and The Stone Canal) and The Cassini Division (the third novel). That got me over the $25 mark. Instead of one book for $22.xx including shipping, three for $28.xx. Good deal. Now I just need to keep an eye out for a good deal on The Sky Road, the fourth novel in the cycle (that one is in the "read until it's falling apart" category).

I need to get all the F. Paul Wilson stuff in one stack and figure out what's missing and what I need new copies of -- I foresee a complete re-read of the "Repairman Jack" books leading up to the release of the finale (Nightworld). Actually, what I really need is a stimulus grant to hire a curator for my damn library.

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No, Andrew, We Aren't


"At war," that is, assuming that Andrew Sullivan means the government of the United States (a reasonably safe assumption, since the topic under discussion is the limits of executive power within that system of government).

The US Constitution delegates the power to declare war to Congress. Congress hasn't exercised that power since 1941.

No, the "authorizations to use force" passed by Congress after 9/11 were not declarations of war. They included "war powers reservations" to make it clear that they weren't declarations of war, and Congress overwhelmingly voted down resolutions declaring war on e.g. Afghanistan and Iraq.

If you want to argue that the US is in a state of de facto war, or that the current situation is morally equivalent to war, knock yourself out. That's irrelevant to what powers the executive branch possesses in time of war, because that's a legal matter -- until and unless Congress has declared war, the US is not, in any legal sense (the Constitution being "the Supreme Law of the Land"), at war. Period.

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Friday, October 01, 2010

Rather a bit "man bites dog"


It's not very often you'll see me commend a local police department, but I have to hand it to the Jennings, Missouri PD. They did a good thing:

The city of Jennings has asked St. Louis County police to take command of its Police Department in the wake of a federal and state investigation into missing public money that was meant to pay for drunken driving checkpoints.

Jennings Mayor Benjamin C. Sutphin said grant money totaling tens of thousands of dollars was paid to several city officers in recent years for overtime work on sobriety checkpoints that was never performed.

"The officers got the overtime pay, but they never did the overtime work," Sutphin said. "The department did not conduct a single DWI checkpoint over a period of 2½ to three years."

I suppose I could work myself into a snit over the "waste of taxpayer money" and that sort of thing, but I'm choosing to see the glass as half full here.

First of all, that taxpayer money was going to be spent whether the Jennings PD took it or not. It's US Department of Transportation grant funding, handed out by the Missouri DOT. It's not like Barack Obama was going to send everyone a partial refund of income tax if Jennings PD turned down the loot.

Secondly, any other police department would likely have actually used that money to conduct the blatantly unconstitutional "DWI checkpoints" it's earmarked for. If we're going to pay cops, I'd rather we paid them to go home and watch TV than to cruise the streets hassling the serfs.

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