Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Letting Government Order (for) You, Recipe for Disaster

Sometimes, news items far from the main topic of discussion can help clarify ideas enormously. Case in point...

MSNBC, otherwise known as the American version of Pravda, reports that top chefs are encouraging Obama to "improve food policy".

Right. See a problem? Ask the government to fix it. That method has worked so well up 'til now. Hearing that recommendation, the fundamental question to ask is: Why should America have a food policy?

This is both collectivism and the inevitable consequent lack of self-responsibility run amok. Surely, what food to buy and eat should be an individual or, at most, family decision. But it points to a much larger problem, one that reveals one of the root causes of the current crisis: the longing for the 'safety' of dependency, the desire to have an all-wise parent solve your problems.

Up to about the mid-20th century, Americans were used to solving their own problems. Granted, Uncle Sam was always on their backs to some extent. But prior to about 1910, that load was so light as to be almost non-existent for most everyone. Even the Depression Era had plenty of influential voices that still advocated that people help themselves. Fascist-style propaganda of the sort exemplified by a popular song of the period still touted the need to "dig, dig, dig, dig for your supper." It didn't sing, "let someone else feed you while you stand on your shovel and do nothing."

Then came the era of the late 1960s and later that asserted "we are all in this together" followed soon after by "therefore, the President must tell everyone what to do." Or, as Ayn Rand eloquently summed it up: "One neck for one leash."

That it has reached the stage in recent years of trying to control food choices clearly shows that we are on the path to slavery. Nanny state advocates have been yakking about the food supply for decades now. But with Obama in office, the advocates of no-preservatives now want to add steroids to the dish.

"What I'm hoping is that he's going to recognize that we need to do what we can in our country to encourage real food for everyone."

One could spend much useless time debating what constitutes "real food." It always comes down to whatever the collectivist-statist believes would be "best" for health, animal life, or what have you. But debating the specific issue is entirely beside the point. It's not appropriate for the government to even think about discussing to develop a plan to study the subject. It's simply none of anyone else's business, as is an entire range of other concrete issues on the news menu today.

Yet, this state of affairs has hardly been forced on everyone. The majority have invited it, even down to such personal details as what to eat. That this is a big step forward on the road to totalitarianism is summed up by this quote from one of those 'top chefs': "My advice would be more of a symbolic nature, and to not underestimate what can be done through the White House."

If ever was there a statement that eloquently reveals how much some people want a dictator, this is it.

One can't blame Obama entirely, because that commits the same mistake of focusing on one man. He was elected by a wide margin. Just over half the people of the United States are responsible for that, not just the man himself. If it hadn't been him, some other power hungry bacterium would have happened along. Circumstances such as the present create a ripe environment for the growth of that type of germ and there are many more like him in Congress on both sides of the aisle.

Only when the cultural influences and influencers shift in the direction of freedom will we see an end to the trend. Who those are and when they'll operate effectively is anybody's guess. The New York Times continues to be widely read, but also widely mocked. The major media are often roundly criticized by Left and Right (and other points on the political compass), but sometimes by people like Rush Limbaugh, who is clearly a major media figure himself.

No one, including myself, knows exactly how to get the right ideas implemented (though there are thousands who have a pretty clear notion of what they are).

Turning the major universities around seems impossible at this stage. Public education won't be reformed in the next two lifetimes to become once again a place for teaching students not what to think but how. TV news has finally fulfilled to completion Newton Minnow's characterization of the medium in the early 1960s as "the vast wasteland." None of these venues for the spread of facts and ideas will anytime soon favor objectivity, much less individual freedom.

The only feasible options appear to revolve around online columns. If enough right-thinking bloggers, online news and opinion columnists, et al can somehow persuade the right people, and enough of them, with the right ideas, there is still a chance to keep America, Land of the Free, from becoming more than just an obsolete slogan and an historical anomaly.

In the meantime, given the toxic pork the Feds are about to force feed us, try to keep your food down.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Myth of Hands-Off Hoover Updated

For those interested in learning more about how George's Bush's Herbert Hoover's policies led to Barack Obama's FDR's New Deal debacle, I've updated my post on The Myth of 'Hands-Off' Hoover.

The post (and additional material) destroy the hypothesis, popular among Keynesian commentators today, that Hoover stood by idle while the Depression turned Great.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Greens Getting Warmed Up

Peter Cresswell at Not PC quotes Kathleen O'Brian at the Star-Ledger pondering: "Now that money is tight, will environmentalism turn out to have been just a passing trend—the political equivalent of the pet rock?"

Pretty unlikely, given Obama's picks for Sec. of DOE, EPA, etc. Right after he's done signing the $825 billion dollar boondoggle, look for Green issues to get much more press as Cap and Trade or Carbon Tax debates take center stage.

Progressives have gotten a whole new political lease on life with the election of the most 'environmentally friendly' administration in American history and they are just getting warmed up.

My evidence? Well, apart from the continuing talk in Congress about the need to "do something," there is this:
"People are becoming more in cognito in whatever their little luxuries are," she said. "So even if they buy organic or fair trade products, they're not going to flaunt it. They're going to be a little more subtle about it."
When a movement can exert the degree of moral leverage that instills this kind of guilt, you can be sure a culture is in the grip of a new medievalism.

If that sounds like an exaggeration, consider this:
"It's going to be the official policy of the land that we now do worry about greenhouse gases," [Cornell University economist Robert H. Frank] said. "This idea that, 'I'm an American — I can spew out greenhouse gas to my heart's content' will die off," he said. "There is a new sensibility about being sustaining, and not just in the environmental sense. The economy wasn't sustained, in that we couldn't go on forever the way we were."
Green totalitarianism continues unabated, just as the AGW hypothesis is crumbling in the face of new data and continual blowback from skeptics. Things are about to heat up.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Captive Heart

Full review sometime in the future. In the meantime...

If you're in the mood for a quiet, sometimes even slow in parts, but intensely dramatic WWII POW film, watch The Captive Heart (1946).

In order to avoid being taken by the Gestapo, who are hunting him after his escape from Dachau, a Czech captain takes the identity of a killed British officer just before he's re-captured and sent to a prison camp. To keep up the charade and throw the Gestapo off his scent he begins to exchange letters with the man's wife back in England, who is unaware of the switch.

The dramatic interest is intensified as we learn that the dead man was callous to his wife before the war and they had fallen out. Gradually, the letters rekindle her love for him, while the captain finds himself falling in love with her as well.

This, along with several other intertwined sub-plots of prisoners and their loved ones back in Britain (seen in short flashbacks), forms the core of the story.

Plotwise, there are no rocket flares. But the way the story unfolds is compelling and there's no finer acting in any film than Michael Redgrave's performance as Captain Hasek. Many of the supporting cast are also superb, though few are well known even to film buffs. This buff ranks it in the top 25 films ever made, possibly, but unquestionably in the top 100.

There are many films which show courage in action. But to show the greater kind of courage required merely to endure the unendurable, day after day with no end in sight, and to never lose one's thirst for life and freedom, is a rare cinematic achievement. The Captive Heart does that with supreme skill.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Quote of the Day: On Writing

"Writing is easy. All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead." - Gene Fowler

Woodhill on Why Stimuli Fail

I've never heard of Louis Woodhill before. But, he's given me a rare pleasure. It's very unusual to read an article that exposes an error so accurately, simply, and thoroughly. Here's an excerpt.
The very first step in every “stimulus” program is for the government to go out into the market and sell bonds.

When the government sells bonds, it takes money—and therefore demand—out of the economy. Then, some time later, the government puts the money back into the economy in the form of spending or tax rebates or whatever. Later, when the data becomes available, economists are shocked, shocked to find that “consumers saved their rebates” or “business investment fell by an unexpected amount”, or “imports increased”, thus completely negating the “stimulus”. Their hopes dashed, but their belief in “stimulus” unshaken, the stimulunatics then call for more “stimulus”.

The fact is that for the government to be able to sell the bonds in the first place, consumers have to save, or businesses have reduce their investments, or foreigners have to sell more in the U.S. Otherwise, where would the dollars to buy the bonds come from?

“Wait!” the stimulunatics cry. “What if the Federal Reserve buys the bonds with newly-created money? Won’t that increase demand?”

The answer is, “Sure—but then you don’t need the ‘stimulus’ program.”
The Keynesians who object in the comments are equally interesting.


Peter Creswell at Not PC has an extended commentary that adds meat to the subject.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rosett On UN-Iran Lovefest

Another great column from Claudia Rosett, in Forbes.
To chair the 2009 governing board of the U.N.’s flagship agency, the multibillion-dollar globe-girdling United Nations Development Program, dedicated to promoting good governance and ending poverty, the U.N. has now picked–wait for it–the Islamic Republic of Iran.
But handing Iran the gavel of the UNDP executive board ranks right up there with the U.N.'s choice in 2003 of Libya to head the old Human Rights Commission, or Zimbabwe in 2007 to chair the Commission on Sustainable Development.
Another demonstration, as if we needed it, that the UN is years past its sell-by date. The U.S. should eliminate the stench and close the building in New York.

[Hat Tip: Pajamas Media]

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Citi Shoe Drops

"Citigroup finds itself pushed to abandon its universal banking model" the headline reads.

And just who is doing the pushing?
Under pressure from Washington and Wall Street, Citigroup plans to split itself in two, according to people with knowledge of the plan. The government, which has twice supplied it with public funds during the financial crisis, totaling $52 billion, wants to avoid a repeat, insiders say.
As one insider put it:
Where Citi goes from here is no longer entirely under its control. Citigroup has "a new CEO," said William Smith, a Citigroup investor who has long sought a breakup of the company. "His name is Uncle Sam. He is an activist, and he wants the company monetized."
Take money from the devil, be prepared to dance to his tune.

Welcome to the surreal world of Fascism where business decisions are made not by projecting profit and loss, but by gauging the disapproving expressions of regulators. Reap what you've sown, pragmatists.

Carbon Tax: Pragmatic Suicide

Pragmatism claims another victim. Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon, has conceded that a carbon tax may be the best among bad alternatives.
"A carbon tax is also the most efficient means of reflecting the cost of carbon in all economic decisions — from investments made by companies to fuel their requirements, to the product choices made by consumers," Tillerson said in a speech to the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington.
Yes, it might be that, dollar-for-dollar, taxing industrial output based on the amount of carbon produced (as if that could actually be measured with any accuracy) is less costly in the short run. But the precedent established is among the worst ever in a very competitive field.

Tragically, what pragmatists invariably fail to realize is that what is expedient today is suicidal within a few years. The proposed carbon tax schemes are a prime example.

It concedes the validity of the AGW hypothesis, just as it's crumbling. Worse, it accepts that governments have a right to tax industrial success. Worst of all, it gives a major victory to the most vicious species of Anti in history: the Greens, people who are in principle opposed to humans using the resources of the Earth for their benefit.

(Ironically, they're not celebrating, since they think it's a trick. I grant them one thing: Tillerson may actually believe he's acting in Exxon's best interests, given the constraints. That, it's no surprise, infuriates the Earth Firsters. Heaven forbid these 'climate criminals' should try to make a profit by selling a commodity millions want, one that powers much of modern civilization.)

Given the option between accepting some form of cap-and-trade regulations and a carbon tax, the proper choice is not to acquiesce to the latter. It is to stand up even more loudly for your property rights and declare, "Give me liberty, or you'll get death!" It may be no more than a heroic gesture, but better to be killed by the enemy while resisting valiantly than fall of your own volition on a Green sword.

And resistance need not be futile. If anyone can afford it, it's Exxon-Mobil. They've been doing it for years, and could keep on doing it with impunity. Certainly, they're not losing sales because of a refusal to drink the green Kool-Aid.

There is no way to know what has caused Tillerson to reverse his stand. He may see the graffiti on the political wall and want to move the conversation in a less disastrous direction. He may be worried about his job, after years of arguing with the Rockefeller family, who are determined Greens. He may be, and probably is, getting the kind of threats behind closed doors that the bankers got when Paulson told them to sign or else be 'audited'.

We also have to keep in mind that no major news outlet gives the actual speech, just the money quote. It might be that Tillerson isn't advocating what the papers say he is. Deliberate distortion by reporters in environmental-related stories has become commonplace. Nevertheless, I can find no quote from the Exxon CEO saying that the Greenies are loonies and that a carbon tax is immoral and impractical.

Now that would be news.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

U.S. Now Officially Europe Jr.

The U.S. abstained on a UN resolution calling for a cease fire in Gaza. A long-time leader of the "can't we all just get along" school of diplomacy, the outgoing Secretary of State wanted to vote for it, but Bush moved her enough to at least wait until Egypt had finished selling Israel down the river.

This represents another moral inversion in the minds of foreign policy leaders. Anyone who would vote other than strongly for Israel finishing the job of polishing off Hamas has not just lost their compass. They have reversed its poles.

At this stage, it's hard to believe that even the incoming communalist Hillary Clinton will be any worse. She at least sometimes acts counter to expectations, one would guess out of a desire to upset them and remain unpredictable.

John Bolton, in the linked article, has another view:
Unfortunately, the Bush administration's failure of leadership on Resolution 1860 has set the precedent. And so on this issue, as on so many others, the new president will, sadly, simply copy his predecessor.
Either way, Israel — and America — are screwed.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Marie Antionette, Speaker of the House

Marie Antionette Nancy Pelosi clearly believes whatever money the Feds confiscate belongs to the government, not the people from whom it was taken.
Even before Obama’s plan was formally unveiled, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made plain her displeasure with parts of Obama’s emerging fiscal plan, which she believes does not move fast enough to raise taxes. “I couldn’t be more clear,” she said Thursday at her weekly news conference. “Put me down as one in favor of repeal [of the Bush tax cuts] as soon as possible.”
Sounds like time for a little storming of the Bastille.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Obama Creates 4 Million Jobs Out of Thin Air

But that air is soon to become thick with tax dollars.

Estimates vary, but Obama is promising that his proposed $775 billion stimulus program will create up to 4 million jobs. That may well be, if you count getting paid to stand on a shovel while some guy runs a tractor as a job.
President-elect Barack Obama said his two-year plan to boost the U.S. economy will generate as many as 4 million jobs, higher than his previous estimates, the biggest portion of them in construction, manufacturing and retail.
Of course, not counted in this estimate are the many more productive jobs not created by private companies as a result of having the economy wrecked by deficit spending so Obama can appear the savior of America. Clearly there is no hope that he will anytime soon even consider that governments do not create net jobs.

According to Obama's economic advisers — geniuses such as Larry Summers who proposed taxing the top 1% an additional $800,000 in order to send $10,000 checks to the 80% making less than $120,000 per year — I'm being unduly pessimistic.
The plan would also result in the U.S. gross domestic product increasing by 3.7 percent more by the end of 2010 than it would without the stimulus
Uh, huh. And I hear Bernie Madoff has a few open slots left in a group investment plan that promises... well, never mind.

Obama continues to live in his fantasy world, forcing the rest of us to deal with a harsher real one because of his wishful thinking and pernicious philosophy.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Publication Moves to Once Per Week

Starting today, Shaving Leviathan will be published approximately once per week, usually on Wednesday.

My heartfelt gratitude to those who have checked in regularly. I hope you'll continue to do so.

Jeff Perren

Nanny State Nonsense From UK

Whenever I think the petty dictators in the U.S. are unbearable, I look to England to see how much worse things could be. Still a great country despite their embrace of so-much Nanny State nonsense, this latest report from the Telegraph shows what I mean:
Among the reams of red tape [the theatre group] must cut through is a rule that boiled sweets must not be thrown into the audience in case someone is hit. Bags of crisps have been used as an acceptably soft alternative.

Only people named on an official list are allowed to close the curtain, while the temperature of milk being used with any pantomime cows must now be allowed to fall below a set level.

Meanwhile, all sets and stage material must be checked for sharp edges and splinters and actors are banned from the props room in case of any dangerous accessories.

Graham Smith, the chairman of the theatre group, described the regulations laid down by Dudley Council as "ridiculous" and "microscopic", and said that they added hours to their workload.

He said that in the group's pantomime last year, the actor playing Jack was only allowed to climb four feet up his 30ft beanstalk - and only if he wore a harness. Due to the regulation, the idea was abandoned and he just gazed up it instead.
When will people ever learn? When will they rise up and demand that their masters back off?

I'm betting, not hoping but betting, on bloodshed within 40 years. To take a free people and chain them when they've known freedom, is to create a great, hot pressure.

Still, if the public school system and major media outlets continue to do their bang-up job of pacifying all but the occasional Patrick Henry who refuses to submit, the pols may have little to worry about. Instead, the West will just fade passively into barbarism, as did the Romans, and a new Dark Ages will descend to last who knows how long.

I'm fervently hoping we stand up in time.

One Leader Understands: Vaclav Klaus

It's a perpetual puzzle why, out of the thousands of decent, highly educated men and women around the world, there should be only one well-known political leader who sees things rightly. But, thankfully, there is that one: Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic.
The economic crisis should be regarded as an unavoidable consequence and hence a “just” price we have to pay for immodest and over-confident politicians playing with the market. Their attempts to blame the market, instead of blaming themselves, are unacceptable and should be resolutely rejected. The Czech government will – hopefully – not push the world and Europe into more regulation, nationalisation, de-liberalisation and protectionism. Our historical experience gives us a very strong warning in this respect.
Aggregate demand needs strengthening. One traditional way to do this is to increase government expenditures, probably in public infrastructure projects, on condition these are available. It would be much more helpful, however, to have a great reduction in all kinds of restrictions on private initiatives introduced in the last half a century during the era of the brave new world of the “social and ecological market economy”. The best thing to do now would be temporarily to weaken, if not repeal, various labour, environmental, social, health and other “standards”, because they block rational human activity more than anything else.
Our historical experience gives us a clear instruction: we always need more of markets and less of government intervention. We also know that government failure is more costly than market failure.
Consistently on the side of reason and freedom, Klaus continues to give fits to the Greens, the Reds, and every other putrid anti-liberty color around the world. This year he assumes the rotating presidency of the EU. Would that our own Presidents had half his wisdom.

I'm not fond of the idea of leaders, in general. Those who need them tend to be the kind of uncritical, passive persons who encourage those who lust for authority, which describes nearly all leaders. But, for Klaus, I'm willing to make an exception. It's the only time I've ever regretted the inclusion of the 'natural born' clause of Article II in the Constitution.

Thank you, Mr. Klaus.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bailout Epidemic Spreads to States

Governors of several states, notably New York and California, have become infected with the virus that destroys the economic centers of the brain.
A group of Democratic governors warned Friday that without as much as $1 trillion in federal assistance, many states will not be able to pay their bills in the next year.

"There are states that are talking as California has of not being able to meet their financial obligations in the coming months," New York Gov. David Paterson (D) said on a conference call with reporters.
Well, they might consider spending less. Both California and New York have been on spending sprees for several years now. (Though, California did reduce the rate for a couple of years.)
"We are not crying wolf. This is one of the worst situations our states have faced,” [Ohio Gov. Ted] Strickland said. "This is a real crisis. These are real problems. And if we don’t get some significant assistance many of those in our states will suffer greatly."
Yeah, so?

Whether the state budgets have been well or poorly managed, it's as irresistible as it is pointless to ask how that becomes the responsibility of the entire country. Why should the Federal Government rush to do anything about it? Yes, that rhetorical question has a depressingly familiar answer these days. But sane people trapped in an insane asylum should never passively accept their fate unquestioningly.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Who Says There Are Two Parties?

Republicans are preparing to sell the citizenry down the river again. In discussions about the proposed economic 'stimulus', Senator McConnell is whining that the Democrats may decide to rob the American people without Republicans being consulted on which pocket.
If they pursue a fair process...and give both sides an opportunity to have input, to have a true bipartisan stamp, he’s likely to get significant support... I don't think that they even seriously can defend doing this without bipartisan consideration.
But wasting still more taxpayer money on immoral and impractical schemes is defensible if Republicans get to tweak some knobs? Why do we even have two parties?

Many would argue that the Republicans can and should return to principles of limited government — protecting individual rights to life, liberty, and property consistent with their Constitutional constraints, and nothing else — and I concur. But you have to ask why one party should have to act as opposition to a party now based on ignoring those rights. Shouldn't both parties be dedicated to that philosophy of government?

True, the Democrats passed the point of no return on that issue 40 years ago. But Republicans have been scarcely better during that same period. Oh, occasionally, when things get far enough out of whack — like $4 per gallon gas as a result of hobbling the oil business within our borders for decades — they will briefly stand up like men and demand change. Then, weeks later they move back to business as usual, me-tooing the Democrats.

Madison would be more than appalled. He would apoplectic.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Gaza, Moral Inversion

I have little to say about the situation in Gaza except to hope that when the Israeli military is done there they continue on to Tehran. I wish them every success in their present endeavor.

But what is especially interesting are the protests. How often do we hear of angry, violent mobs suing for peace? How often do those agitators asking Israel to stop firing urge Hamas to stop firing rockets? Worst of all are those in the mainstream news outlets taking the side of the Palestinians. They are the real jihadists.

The moral inversion of the modern world continues.


David Harsanyi, as usual, says it better.
Gaza is free. Obviously, the Palestinians cannot be placated with an independent state -- a gift they never had until Israel handed them Gaza with nary a condition. But this is not a 3,000-year-old war steeped in ancient history, despite widespread perceptions. This was a 20th-century battle between Jewish and Arab nationalists. It has turned into a more insidious 21st-century war with Islamic fundamentalism.

Hamas will not be romanced by the idea of "building bridges" with Israel. There are not enough conferences rooms in Oslo or Davos to persuade Hamas even to recognize the existence of a Jewish state.

And Hamas is uninterested in cease-fires, except when it is in need of reloading rocket launchers -- supplied by mullahs of Iran.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Virus Destroys Economic Centers of Brain

Is there a better explanation for the ongoing economic insanity?

The outbreak has reached epidemic proportions, hobbling the thinking powers of those in the steel business as well. Apparently they are equally lacking in economic wisdom and self-respect, two notable symptoms.
Executives add[] their voices to pleas for a huge public investment program — up to $1 trillion over two years — intended to lift demand for steel to build highways, bridges, electric power grids, schools, hospitals, water treatment plants and rapid transit.

“What we are asking,” said Daniel R. DiMicco, chairman and chief executive of the Nucor Corporation, a giant steel maker, "is that our government deal with the worst economic slowdown in our lifetime through a recovery program that has in every provision a ‘buy America’ clause."
That's not quite as bad as asking for a direct bailout. At least the steel companies are willing to provide something for the money. But his wish is first-cousin to a tariff and the manager of a steel business should know better by now. And, that, after "[t]he third quarter was one of the best in U.S. Steel’s history," according to a spokesman for U.S. Steel.

Charles Schwab and Henry Clay Frick, two early titans of the steel business, never asked anything of government except to protect their property from vandalism and to keep the peace. Too many of today's businessmen have no such constraints of conscience nor much understanding of Constitutional constraints on what government should do.

Those at the top of the payscale aren't the only ones infected, either. One recently laid-off 48-year old woman who has worked on the line for years is concerned about her future after being laid off. Given her income it's hard to be too sympathetic, though.
On layoff, she is collecting $20 an hour, which is 80 percent of her base pay of $25.12 an hour. That base pay, rather than rising significantly, is fattened by incentive bonuses tied to amounts of steel produced and to profits. It had been averaging an additional $7 an hour — money now gone until the mill reopens.
Shades of the automakers... Do all these people have the same labor contract negotiators? Would that I could get paid $20 an hour for doing no work, or 80% of my regular income. I'd seriously consider not working. Perhaps that's partly why the company finds it so hard to stay above water during economic downturns.

In the meantime, we don't need to be too anxious about Ms. Loepker. She'll be fairly comfortable, since she "lives by herself in a four-bedroom home she bought in nearby Belleville, three blocks from a married sister." If things get truly tight, maybe she can rent out some rooms. Too bad the steel companies don't have that option.

If the Feds want to do something good for the country, maybe they could throw a little R & D money toward someone who could come up with a vaccine. But then, if it came from them, it might just spread the disease further.

Friday, January 2, 2009

UK Newspapers, Always A Hoot

From the London Times:
Police found elderly woman's body, bound with duct tape, in her London bedroom and are treating death as suspicious.
Suspicious? Ya gotta love the way British newspapers use language. Is there some alternative explanation? Did they think maybe she engaged in some kinky sex and her lover had a mental pause, stepping out for some fish and chips and neglecting to release her?

It's a funny old world, even amid tragedy.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Wall Street Down $6.9 Trillion in 2008

The losses in 2008 were so broad and deep that every sector in the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index took a double-digit hit, and the financial sector lost more than half of its value. The Dow Jones industrial average, an index of 30 blue-chip stocks, and the S&P, a broader index watched by market professionals, were down 34 percent and 38 percent, respectively, their deepest losses since the 1930s. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index was down 41 percent, its worst year since the exchange was created in 1971.
Thank you Washington, for such a stellar devastation of all those greedy Wall Street buggers. A special tip of the hat to all those pretend-capitalists in business and media feverishly looking no farther than two days ahead who egged them on. Most especially, a rousing huzzah to the Progressives of the past 100 years who pushed so hard and so untiringly to make it happen. But the ultimate expression of gratitude must be reserved for those Americans who never bothered to crack a book or care very much about the character of their intellectual and political leaders' ideas, making the disaster inevitable.

So much for the practicality of Pragmatism.

Welcome Back to the 19th Century...

...the bad part.

Many people like myself would welcome a return to the political philosophy of the 19th century. That doesn't mean I'd be pleased at being reduced to its level of technology. Sadly, that is happening in many parts of the country. Thousands have resumed burning coal to heat their homes.

Granted, contemporary devices are somewhat more convenient and cleaner to use than those of 100+ years ago. But, when homeowners and small businesses are forced by higher oil and gas prices to use coal, and when proposals for more nuclear power plants are still met with ill-informed hysteria, this is the inevitable result.

Never mind the more fundamental issue that it's none of the viros' bloody business how you power or heat your home. In the usual collectivist manner they'll argue that what you do affects everyone else. Ignoring entirely the fact of 'downstream laws' and reasonable issues of degree, they insist on trying to control your every choice.

And it should not go unnoticed that, thanks to environmentalism, the environment is now getting even dirtier. Yes, it's ironic that the success of their own campaigns should lead to actual degradation of the environment. Ironic, but not surprising. Viro regulations that restrict nuclear power and raise the cost of oil and natural gas necessarily reduce capital and innovation that would lead to cleaner heat production.

Of course, the truly faithful will respond that people should simply use less, insulate better, blah, blah, blah. Using less heat isn't simply uncomfortable, though, nor is increased insulation necessarily better. Both lead to greater risk of health problems. Less airflow means less fresh air. Colder fingers means less manual dexterity and more accidents, such as dropped steak knives and glasses. And, just to beat that horse once more, it's none of the viros' affair what temperature you prefer.

Well, let us all install solar panels and wind turbines, then. A small extra price to pay for a cleaner environment, no? Great idea. That way we can spend time pointlessly clearing snow off the panels on a cloudy day and dodging flying icicles.

But then, environmentalism was never about making the environment better for you in the here and now. The middle of the roaders, like softcore socialists, want to make it better for some amorphous "everyone" in an ever-receding future. The more radical think we should "leave no footprint." And never mind that rise in lung diseases from indoor coal dust. That will just leave fewer people to mess up the planet.

Happy shoveling.