Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tim Geithner's Plan to Save the World

A recent headline for a Financial Times story reads: "Geithner Plans to Save the World Economy"*

Uh, I hadn't even read the story and I was already Beelzebub-level scared. Unfortunately, things don't get much better when you read it.

Geithner is credited with pushing the idea to:
broaden the focus from exchange rates. G20 countries, he says, should commit to keep their current accounts – whether deficits or surpluses – within a percentage limit of national output.

Reorienting the discussion towards current accounts makes good sense. They are at the heart of the global imbalances; exchange rates are merely instruments – and far from the only ones – for influencing them. Current account targets would leave open how excessive balances are to be shrunk – through nominal or real exchange rate adjustments or through other policies that affect public or private sector surpluses and deficits.
That's it! Why didn't I think of that? The worlds' economies are going down the tubes because of bad current account targets. We need more central banker intervention! No wonder they call him The Boy Wonder.

*Full disclosure: This was RCP's headline for the story, not the FT's. The former clearly knows a thing or two about generating clicks. The FT has it as: "A walk in the old Bretton Woods"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Radio Interview for The Wells Report Scheduled Oct 28

As promised, the Jon David Wells radio interview has been rescheduled. Same time, new date.

I'm scheduled to be interviewed on The Wells Report at KSKY radio (660 AM), this Thursday, Oct. 28 at 3:20 pm Pacific (6:20 pm ET, 5:20 pm CT, 4:20 pm MT, 11:20 am NZ). The show broadcasts from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in Texas.

Here's a link to listen in. I hope you will. [Click the red "Listen Live" button near the top of the main text, roughly in the middle of the screen.]

We'll be talking about my recent Pajamas Media article, Beyond Politics: Removing the Progressive Drag On America, and presumably other things.
It promises to be lively, since I'll no doubt be asked my suggestions for how to straighten out the mess the U.S. is in.

Your suggestions are also welcome.


Read FDR's Folly by Jim Powell

I've recently finished reading FDR's Folly and I'm here to say it's one of the best books on the subject I've read. It's chock full of fact-filled horror stories with a moral: each one tells you exactly what America's first unopposed dictator was up to and what the results were. That is, he was unopposed by all but the Supreme Court of the day.

It's now all-but forgotten, but the Supreme Court — flawed from day one, admittedly — once stood as a bulwark protecting individual rights. They shut down several of FDR's more egregious rapes of liberty. Even when the vote went the wrong way there were some heroic statements made by justices of the time. (This was before they were castrated by FDR's bluff to pack the Court and his subsequent appointments.)

From Chapter 12 comes this one:
Nebbia v New York, 291 U.S. 502 (1934). A Rochester grocer was convicted of selling two bottles of milk for less than the nine cents per quart ordered by the Milk Control Board.

McReynolds, "The Legislature cannot lawfully destroy guaranteed rights of one man with the prime purpose of enriching another, even if, for the moment, this may seem advantageous to the public...

To him with less than nine cents it says-- You cannot procure a quart of milk from the grocer although he is anxious to accept what you can pay and the demands of your household are urgent."
The odds of even the allegedly conservative members of today's SCOTUS recognizing that principle are less than 1 in 4. I.e., only Thomas would come close, and then not consistently.

Anyway, the point is, if you have time to read only one book about that period, so supremely relevant to events of today, FDR's Folly by Jim Powell should be the one.

Monday, October 25, 2010

ObamaCare and the Election

"The control of the production of wealth is the control of human life itself." Hilaire Belloc

That quote came up in the context of an editorial in the Washington Examiner about Sebelius' bullying of the insurance companies to shut up and get in line, or else.

It's worth a reference here because — with the election only a week away — the repeal of ObamaCare hangs in the balance. If the House and Senate turn Republican in large enough numbers it's possible GOP leaders will grow (at least, temporary) spines and back the effort fully.

Several court cases are winding through the system, but they chiefly involve the individual mandate, which — morally grotesque as it is — really has no teeth. (The IRS is authorized by the bill to deal with refusniks but they have no legal authority in it to exact any punishments.) So, even if when the case(s) finally make it to the Supreme Court and they knock it down, the rest will still stand.

On top of that, even such staunch pro-freedom politicians as Rep. Paul Ryan are not optimistic about any rear-guard effort to defund it. If a guy that committed and knowledgeable says it won't be a slam dunk to starve the beast, I have to give it some weight.

There's another relevant aspect to that Belloc quote: ObamaCare is an attempt to control both wealth and life itself. You don't have to be a paranoid right-winger to believe there will be something like death panels, if ObamaCare stands.

The NHS is Britain already exercises a very similar authority and ObamaCare is much worse than socialized medicine — it's fascist medicine. At least under a socialized system the government is on the hook for providing something. Here, they do nothing but stand on the sidelines and make it near-impossible for health insurers and health care providers to engage in trade.

So, please join the effort this November not only to vote the Democrats out of power, but to prevent Progressive and labor union activists from their usual vote fraud. If any given race is close, they'll stuff ballots like you never saw before, and they have admitted as much openly. (Fronting faux-Tea Party supported candidates to siphon Republican votes is just one of the ways they're doing that, even in advance of the election. Illegally registering thousands of new Democratic voters is another.)

We're in for the fight of the century. It's time to make Progressives around the country even more depressed than they already are.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

NPR's Contradictions

NPR's moral failures go far beyond firing Juan Williams for a politically incorrect remark. It's deeper than being irked over his appearances on allegedly right-wing Fox News.

NPR's CEO, like Progressives everywhere, is caught in the contradictions of subjectivism. Faux liberals that they are, they preach tolerance for everything - because according to their ethical philosophy there are no objective principles of morality - then display intolerance for a remark they regard as "inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices.”

There's no way out of this inconsistency for a faux liberal. It's built into the basic fiber from which the Progressive cloth is cut.

Not content with CEO Schiller's getting herself into hot water by publicly remarking that Williams should've "consulted his psychiatrist" before making the statement, NPR's Ombudsman doubled down on the lunacy.

In a story headlined: "NPR's Firing of Juan Williams Was Poorly Handled" the lying fence-sitter said:
Juan Williams once again got himself into trouble with NPR for comments he made at his other job, at Fox News.
Right. His firing was "poorly handled" but he really did bring it on himself.

She tripled the foolish factor by adding:
Instead, this latest incident with Williams centers around a collision of values: NPR's values emphasizing fact-based, objective journalism versus the tendency in some parts of the news media, notably Fox News, to promote only one side of the ideological spectrum.
That's rich. NPR is objective but Fox is biased. Um, NPR proudly upholds Progressive values (a fact favorably noted by over a third of its listeners as one reason they tune in). Those values are entirely the opposite of fact-based and by definition are not objective. Progressivism's core epistemology comes from Pragmatism, whose central premise is there's no such thing as objective anything.

Apart from all that blatant hypocrisy, the firing of Juan Williams shows that contemporary liberals never mean anything they say about black people.

Here, a black liberal gets fired for making a mild comment about Muslims. (One that even moderate Muslims in this country would agree with if they weren't too scared to speak up, and one he even qualified to nullity later in the same program.) But since blacks no longer have it institutionally bad in this country, they've outlived their usefulness to white race hustlers like Vivian Schiller. So, Muslims are now the au courant 'oppressed' group that faux-liberals can drool all over with their faux sympathy.

If it should come to pass someday that this idiotic series of wars finally comes to an end - contrary to Gen. Petraeus' belief — then Muslims will settle into being just another group whose more vocal self-appointed spokespeople yammer about their victimhood. Then there will no doubt be some new convenient 'oppressed' group that so-called liberals can use to undermine individual freedom.

Of course, the real outrage here is not chiefly the depressingly familiar hypocrisy of yet another Progressive, but that NPR - a (partly) taxpayer funded news and editorial radio program - exists in the first place. Let them compete in the open market and they can be as intolerant - and embrace as many contradictions - as they like.

A Blast From the Past: About Vietnam

While organizing some old columns and comments I ran across this Feb, 2007 response to Jack Wakefield on the Forum 4 Ayn Rand Fans, produced during a 'conversation' about the effects of the Vietnam War. It has only slight relevance to things that are going on today — in particular the issues of a military effort 'discrediting' a philosophy, and the weariness of the American public after years of war. I'm reproducing it here mostly because I thought the writing and the ideas were worth sharing.

Note to those (most, I presume) who don't know who Jack Wakefield is. He's a nuclear power plant engineer who lives in Chicago and comments occasionally through and for Robert Tracinski's The Intellectual Activist.

Those facts are all the more remarkable because Jack is not a professional pundit, yet he is one of the finest cultural analysts in America. I don't always agree with him, but he always has something worthwhile reading.

Anyway, without further ado, here's me responding to his claims (I summarize) that the American defeat in Vietnam knocked the wind out of America's sails for a while.

On Discrediting

It's often put about in Objectivist circles (and elsewhere) that President Bush's actions have "discredited the effort" against the jihadists – intellectually and morally.

I'm no fan of George Bush in general, but I think this view is wrong for reasons that go far beyond the current president. No action that the American President, or anyone else, can take can discredit an effort which is appropriate. Even if the view is modified to be 'discredited in the eyes of (some) onlookers', this is incorrect in three ways.

(1) Many are still supporting Bush's efforts – there are die-hard faux-conservatives just as there are die-hard faux-liberals.

Some support Bush because he's not a (so-called) liberal — they use him as a philosophical whip to combat larger causes. The die-hard faux-liberals, interestingly, do the same thing. They are not pro anything; they are simply anti-everything the faux-conservatives are for. Other conservatives genuinely believe in what they think he's trying to do, just as the so-called liberals are genuinely opposed.

(Aside: Large and vocal segments of the two main wings of current political non-thought haven't much in the way of ideas at all, other than 'I hate what you stand for'. In the case of the faux-liberals, they happen to hate what the faux-conservatives partially and inconsistently stand for: everything that makes a human life on Earth possible – reason, individual responsibility and effort, political freedom, etc.)

(2) By and large, people have much the same fundamental view they had three and a half years ago (or three and half decades ago): do it, or get out. They are seeing that the President's team isn't doing it, so they're leaning now toward 'get out'.

Be that as it may, whatever the President does or doesn't do, says or doesn't say, everyone who wants to is capable of thinking for himself. That means he can judge that the right thing was done incorrectly, or for the wrong reasons, or the wrong thing done for the right motives, but incompetently, or any mixture thereof.

George Bush, for example, can — foolishly — say that 'the primary reason we are going to war in Iraq is the threat of WMD which the Iraqis possess or will soon develop'. (This wasn't his initial argument, but it quickly took center stage. Such is the measure of how easily manipulated by the press he is.)

This is the wrong reason to make war on Iraq, or at least far from the best reason. Nevertheless, it isn't too late even now to say 'No, these are the reasons.' and his story has, in fact, evolved over time — especially since the WMD weren't found in abundance sitting on the porch steps of Hussein's palace.

(3) The point is, whether or not he ever states the correct reasons that would objectively justify the effort, the correct reasons still exist and could be identified and voiced now or after the effort by any right thinking person — no matter the actual outcome. The correct moral case doesn't depend on the President carrying out the enterprise correctly, nor what reasons he gives for undertaking it.

That people will, it's true, be affected by what the President says are the reasons, that some will agree others not, doesn't change that. Unless, we have in mind a very different meaning of the word 'discredit'.

If all that is meant by that is that many will disapprove of the past effort and not want to undertake a similar one in the future, then the word is a paltry thing, because it then just refers to a (potentially large) group of individuals subjective whims.

In the latter case, the only proper response is: 'so what?'.

But, I assert that most people at the start, in the middle, and still today are capable of judging well the effort without the President's interpretation of events — nor that of the New York Times.

Thus, the President isn't necessarily discrediting (or crediting) anything by his actions. Failure doesn't necessarily discredit an effort — it depends on how one analyzes the situation after the fact.

Also, importantly, when asserting that the 'effort is discredited', one has to be very careful about exactly what 'the' is — the Iraq War?, battling the jihadists? Most people are perfectly capable of making the distinction, no matter what the majority of newspapers and magazines would have them believe.

On Vietnam and Its Aftereffects

"Military defeat in Vietnam opened up a hole in the American culture and the New Left dove [sic] a wedge deep into that hole. The defeat influenced good people, undermining their self-confidence and moral assertiveness, causing them to grow silent and withdraw...and evil advanced with little obstruction into the political culture." Jack Wakeland

I disagree from many perspectives with these views.

A military defeat of the sort that occurred in Vietnam can make one angry, sad, (temporarily) depressed, or any number of things. It can not cause good persons' self-confidence or moral assertiveness to waver, in general. Some may, but the majority will go on much as they were before. The American people in the 1970s were not similar to Germans between 1918 and 1935 in this respect.

The American people were, rightly, tired of the debacle in Vietnam — an undertaking which should never have been undertaken and (like so many military efforts begun by Democrats) one in which the U.S. had no self-interest to assert.

Thus, they were largely glad to be out of it. That many had a largely negative view of the military afterwards is a different matter. The press certainly had a field day advertising My Lai, the Tet offensive, the withdrawal, and other actions in which the U.S. allegedly didn't look so good. This has been the bread and butter of U.S. journalism since the 1930s and it accelerated in the 1960s, as so-called leftism became more prominent in American culture.

It took another 15-20 years or so for most people to catch on to the fact that, on the whole, journalists are worse liars than the average politician. (One way they're worse is that one expects politicians to lie, journalists are supposed to tell the truth.)

But that doesn't show that the American people lost 'assertiveness'. It means the media were successful, to a degree, in their (still ongoing) campaign to paint the facts a certain way, in order to achieve their cultural agenda: the permanent alteration of American culture to look like Europe.

The result was not a lack of self-confidence, nor moral assertiveness. It was, as it had been for the period of most of the 20th century, a failure of the majority of Americans to hold their government accountable — a trend which has only been slightly reversed in recent years.

What did happen after Vietnam?


With respect to the majority view of the military, the conclusion is simple. During, and therefore afterward, the majority thought (rightly or wrongly) that the military were doing wrong. They thought the military had no business being there and that while there they did many bad things. My Lai was the poster child, but the general view was pretty much the same before and after that.

(Unfortunately for the military, the average soldier who was there also thought much the same thing. Any 'gung-ho' captain was a good candidate for getting his head blown off by his own men. They had no interest in or intention of dying for what they thought was a ridiculous cause. Such is only one result of the draft.)

That view continued largely intact until the Gulf War. (Though Reagan did make some difference in restoring respect for having a strong military.) When the cause was considered just, the American people were behind it. The military gained swift, sure victories and looked like heroes (as they were). The American people were glued to CNN like it was a Tuesday Movie of the Week.

In this sense, a just cause carried out correctly did 'credit the effort'.


Economically, the period after the Vietnam war was a disaster for about 10-15 years, it's true. But the Vietnam war didn't cause, nor exacerbate, that situation. It wasn't expensive enough to account for such a major effect, and it didn't cause people to suddenly lose their will or ability to produce. The Vietnam War didn't produce bad economic philosophy or policies.


The defeat in Vietnam didn't produce hippies, it didn't produce New Ageism, and it certainly didn't create New Left philosophy, nor give it something to feed on that wasn't there already. The roots of that philosophy, as I'm sure you know, go back much further.

Even looking largely at less fundamental causes, New Left influences were not fed by the defeat in Vietnam. After the war, there weren't large groups, nor influential voices saying, "See we lost the war, so we should do X."

The blatant hostility to science, technology, and civilization that gave growth hormones to the environmental movement didn't grow out of the defeat in Vietnam. The amoralism that took hold of American culture for about 20 years didn't grow out of the defeat in Vietnam. The pragmatism that engulfed American culture wasn't given birth nor fed by the defeat in Vietnam. The egalitarianism, multiculturalism, and puritanism of politically correct thought that came along soon after didn't grow out of the defeat in Vietnam. None of the real-world instances of these abstractions was caused by the Vietnam War, nor America's defeat.

All those things have something in common: they are all 'anti' ideas, anti-actions. I.e. they are not positive ideas or actions undertaken for a positive goal; they are rebellions. That rebellion was extant and grew with the Vietnam War, but wasn't caused nor fed by it. Quite the contrary, to a large degree the defeat in Vietnam was the effect of these things, not their cause.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

RESCHEDULED: Dallas Radio Interview Oct. 22

UPDATE: As often happens with these things, the radio interview is to be rescheduled. Once the publicist for Pajamas Media lets me know, I'll advertise the new date/time.

Thanks to all those who sent congratulatory emails (and all those who didn't, too; I know you're busy).

I'll update you when I know more.

All the Best,


I'm scheduled to be interviewed by Jon David Wells of KSKY radio 660 AM, this Friday, Oct. 22. It broadcasts from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in Texas.

Sorry for the last minute notice, but the whole thing was arranged very quickly.

We'll be talking about recent Pajamas Media article, Beyond Politics: Removing the Progressive Drag On America, and presumably other things.

It's scheduled to begin at 6:20 pm ET [5:20 pm CT, [4:20 pm MT, 3:20 pm Pacific].

Here's a link to listen in. I hope you will. [Click the red "Listen Live" button near the top of the main text, roughly in the middle of the screen.]

It promises to be lively, since I'll no doubt be asked my suggestions for how to straighten out the mess the U.S. is in.

Your suggestions welcome.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pajamas Media Article: The Risk of Republican Betrayal

My new article at Pajamas Media, The Risk of Post-Election Republican Betrayal, is hot off the presses. It begins:
"There’s been a sea change in the country, much quicker and more substantial than liberty lovers might have expected as recently as a year ago. Yet for some of us, it’s hard to escape a nagging question.

What happens after January when the new congressional session begins? ..."
Please read the rest and add your comments.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Article at Big Govt: Obama Headed for Waterloo

Please head over to Breitbart's Big Government and read my latest article, "Follow Napoleon’s Advice on the Chamber Pot ‘Scandal'," a short commentary on Obama's ill-conceived attack on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Among other things, I point out that:

"[S]omeone might actually take Obama seriously. (Yes, I know that’s increasingly unlikely as each day passes, and not chiefly because of Chamber Pot.) If they do — “they” being, say, some ambitious young lawyer in the DoJ — they might just start looking into all his foreign campaign contributions collected illegally via credit card in mid-2008."


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Carter v Reagan on Energy Policy, A Review

Recently, Richard Cohen published an article touting Jimmy Carter's energy policies, and excoriating Ronald Reagan's. This trip down memory lane may be pleasant for Mr. Cohen. And somehow, in his deluded mind, it may help him establish that Mr. Obama, to the extent he is like Carter, is among the angels. But history says otherwise.

According to Cohen,
"Reagan had his virtues, but coming to grips with energy reality was not one of them. In contrast to Carter's scolding approach to energy policy, Reagan simply declared it was morning again in America (his 1984 re-election campaign slogan) -- and left it at that. The wonders of the free enterprise system would provide. God would provide. It was a very Third World approach to a First World problem."

This is the usual (so-called) liberal lie combined with the typical Progressive viewpoint. To such a person, only government can create, business is always parasitic - the exact opposite of reality.

Below are three brief pieces showing clearly that Reagan had a very good grip on "energy reality." He advocated free market solutions, on the whole, and worked to remove barriers built up by the Federal Government for decades prior.

Unfortunately, Congress blocked him at every turn, whenever possible.

Worst of all may be the claim that turning to the free market, rather than central government dictates, for solutions is "Third World." Uh, I don't see a lot of free enterprise in energy production (or anything else) in Guatamala, Cuba, or Venezuela, now or 30 years ago. Ditto, most of Africa, Yemen, or any other Third World country.

But let's leave fantasy aside and turn to actual evidence.

A timeline of Reagan's Policies:

January 28, 1981
President Reagan signs Executive Order 12287, which provides for the decontrol of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

February 25, 1981
Secretary Edwards announces a major reorganization of DOE to improve management and increase emphasis on research, development, and production.

October 8, 1981
The Reagan Administration announces a nuclear energy policy that anticipates the establishment of a facility for the storage of high-level radioactive waste and lifts the ban on commercial reprocessing of nuclear fuel.

April 5, 1982
Secretary Edwards announces placement of the 250-millionth barrel of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

May 24, 1982
President Reagan proposes legislation transferring most responsibilities of DOE to the Department of Commerce. Congress fails to act on the proposal

January 7, 1983
President Reagan signs the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the Nation's first comprehensive nuclear waste legislation.

October 7, 1983
DOE establishes a Civilian Radioactive Waste Management Office.

October 26, 1983
The Senate refuses to continue funding the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, effectively terminating the project.

Reagan on ANWR:
"In 1987, when President Reagan asked Congress to open ANWR along with a required report showing that it could be done safely and help supply 1 million barrels per day, Congress ignored him, and instead expanded the amount of wilderness in the US greatly, taking even more lands away from energy production. Congress did finally pass a bill to open a small piece of ANWR in 1995, but President Clinton vetoed it."

Reagan on Oil Price Controls and Taxes:
"At the beginning of his presidency, Reagan ended the price controls on domestic oil which had been started by Richard Nixon; they had contributed to both the 1973 Oil Crisis and the 1979 Energy Crisis.[33][34] The price of oil subsequently dropped, and the 1980s did not see the gasoline lines and fuel shortages that the 1970s had.[34]

Reagan also attempted to make good on his 1980 campaign promise to repeal the "Windfall Profit Tax" that Carter and Congress enacted in 1980 on domestic oil production; he was able to do so in 1988, when Congress agreed that it had increased dependence on foreign oil.[35] The tax was not a tax on profits, but an excise tax on the difference between a statutory "base price" and the market price.[36] Reagen also stopped aggressive pushing of new auto efficiency standard by Carter administration, descended on alternative energy researches started by Carter administration."

As I've said before, these people don't even lie well anymore.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Feds Engage in Insider Trading... And It's Perfectly Legal

Veronique de Rugy writes at NRO about a Wall Street Journal editorial exposing the practice. She says pretty much everything I would need to. So, without further ado:
Now, this is called insider trading in the private sector, and people are going to jail for it. Whether one thinks that insider trading is a crime that deserves punishment is not even the issue here.

What is stunning is that while insider trading is illegal in the private sector, it is totally legal for government employees to do it, because insider-trading laws don’t apply to Congress. Basically, Congress passed a law making insider trading illegal for the private sector and exempted itself. [emphasis added]

Some lawmakers find the double standard shocking, and a few years back, a few of them proposed a bill that would prevent members and employees of Congress from trading securities based on nonpublic information they obtain. That bill went nowhere.
I'll just add this: That highlighted statement encapsulates everything I've been writing about for months about the Federal rape of the rule of law.

Every single person engaged in this — since they can't be jailed or deported, as they deserve — should be shunned by every person who learns their names. Restaurateurs should refuse to feed them. Gasoline station owners should refuse to sell them gas. Banks should refuse to accept their deposits.

This policy – once in force in many subtle ways in America – is the one, peaceful and unstoppable method of public protest that would truly bring the Federal government to heel. Associate the appropriate consequences once again with immoral behavior and it would taper off to a livable hum, as it was in generations past.

Waiting for Congress to tame itself, no matter who is elected — as the old Samuel Johnson saying goes — represents the triumph of hope over experience.

Monday, October 11, 2010

McDonald’s ObamaCare Deal Violates Rule of Law

Please pop over to Breitbart's Big Government and read my newest article, a short commentary on McDonald's getting a waiver to avoid some of ObamaCare's required actions.

It starts:

"In a blatantly unconstitutional move, the Feds have let McDonalds off the hook from some of ObamaCare’s requirements. This violation of the Equal Protection clause is just one more reminder, as if we needed it, that D.C. is now completely ignoring the rule of law and deciding issues based on political pressure and pull."

I encourage you to comment, there and here. Especially there.


Sebelius Pegs the Irony Meter

Commissar Kathleen is at it again. Rushing to rationalize her decision to let McDonald's opt out of certain ObamaCare-required actions — violating the Equal Protection clause in the process — she had this to say: "This is a health care model built around the private market," she said. "It might be the salvation of the private market."

I guess she's now joined the George Bush school of capitalism, where you violate it in order to save it.

If nothing else, it demonstrates that Progressives are so far gone, they can't even recognize the distinction between the free market and a fascist one.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Chemistry Nobel Winners Are True Heroes

To round out my Nobel Prize commentary, I highlight the story of this years winners for Chemistry: Richard Heck, Ei-Ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki "for developing a key synthetic technique to make complex organic molecules used in medicine and electronics."

I can't explain what got into the water in Sweden this year, but handing out the prize for "develop[ing] a key synthetic technique for making complex organic molecules used in medicine, agriculture and electronics" was another stroke of right on.

Similar to the Physics Nobel, the researchers earned the award for investigating carbon bonds. As the LA Times story describes it

Among [Heck's] first feats was joining a short carbon chain to a ring of carbon atoms to produce styrene, the raw material of the now widely used plastic polystyrene.

A similar process is also used in the production of the anti-inflammatory drug naproxen, the asthma drug montelukast and the herbicide prosulfuron.


One of the most spectacular feats was the 1994 synthesis of a naturally occurring chemical called palytoxin, which was first isolated from a coral in Hawaii in 1971. Palytoxin contains 129 carbon atoms linked in a precise three-dimensional structure that chemists were able to reproduce using the Suzuki reaction.

What's most interesting about this type of research is how even relatively mundane things like this are still part of leading edge science. We've come a long way, but there is still much to be learned, highlighting the importance of the freedom required to let it continue.

And for anyone who gives all this a big, fat yawn, I'll try to demonstrate its value with a personal anecdote from just this morning.

I made steak last night on my stove top grill. This morning, I sprayed the cast-iron surface with fume-free Easy Off and let it sit, where it didn't stink up the kitchen one bit. Less than an hour later, I rinsed it off, wiped it a couple of times with a sponge (no scouring), and I was done. Safe, effortless, and quick.

Multiply that savings of time and effort by a billion people for fifty years worth of days and you have some idea of just how important even ordinary chemistry truly is.

Now consider this: how many politicians names do you know versus how many chemists'? Yeah, me neither.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Llosa Awarded Literature Nobel

If Mario Vargas Llosa is everything that's being said about him, it's a complete mystery how he won the Noble Prize for Literature. In the past 76 years, that has invariably gone to writers who are, when they aren't explicitly left wing, at least postmodern Anti(s).

On principle, I'm opposed to giving that prize in the first place, since the Academy employs nothing close to objective criteria for choosing the winner. But, at least it was one of the five listed in Nobel's will, unlike the bogus Economics Prize. (It's also not to his credit that he left out specifying a mathematics prize, but the Fields Medal more than makes up for that.)

Still, if the following quote is any indication, Llosa certainly deserves some kind of a prize:
The liberal I aspire to be considers freedom a core value. Thanks to this freedom, humanity has been able to journey from the primitive cave to the stars and the information revolution, to progress from forms of collectivist and despotic association to representative democracy.

The foundations of liberty are private property and the rule of law; this system guarantees the fewest possible forms of injustice, produces the greatest material and cultural progress, most effectively stems violence and provides the greatest respect for human rights.

According to this concept of liberalism, freedom is a single, unified concept. Political and economic liberties are as inseparable as the two sides of a medal. Because freedom has not been understood as such in Latin America, the region has had many failed attempts at democratic rule.

Either because the democracies that began emerging after the dictatorships respected political freedom but rejected economic liberty, which inevitably produced more poverty, inefficiency and corruption, or because they installed authoritarian governments convinced that only a firm hand and a repressive regime could guarantee the functioning of the free market.
Whether or not that has anything to do with writing great literature is, of course, a different matter. Nevertheless, I'd much rather see it go to Llosa than any previous winner I can think of (except Kipling).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2010 Physics Nobel Well Deserved

The Nobel Prize in Physics is sometimes given for stuff that strikes me as pretty pointless. The Committee too frequently hands them out for things that advance neither theory nor technology.

They're also often influenced heavily by 'science politics' (i.e. popularity and jostling for attention, not the sort of politics in environmental science). But this year the Swedish Academy has really done themselves proud, granting the prize to two University of Manchester researchers (Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov) who did pioneering work on graphene.

Among the many amazing properties of this stuff is:
“[it's] stronger and stiffer than diamond, yet can be stretched by a quarter of its length, like rubber. Its surface area is the largest known for its weight.”
[and formed the world's first] "one-nanometer graphene transistor, only one atom thick and ten atoms across."
[Not to mention} using carbon nanotubes to create wearable electronics — clothes that can power and charge electrical devices — are beginning to switch to graphene, which is thinner and potentially less expensive to produce.
[Also,] strong, flexible, light-sensitive graphene could improve the efficiency of solar cells and LEDs, as well as aiding in the production of next-generation devices like flexible touch screens, photodetectors and ultrafast lasers. In particular, graphene could replace rare and expensive metals like platinum and iridium, performing the same tasks with greater efficiency at a fraction of the cost.
This list goes on for some length. What's most striking about all this is that all these possibilities come from a form of simple carbon, one of the most common elements on the planet. And here we are stupidly burning the stuff to make electricity (producing genuine pollution — like radioactive particles that wind up in your lungs — in the process).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Taxes to Rise, Unless...

The mighty Veronique de Rugy outlines several taxes that will go up unless the Bush tax cuts of 2001/2003 are extended before January 2011. Among them are:
  • The estate tax will return to pre-2001 levels, socking estates worth more than $1 million with a 55 percent tax.
  • The capital gains tax on most assets will jump from 15 percent to 20 percent.
  • Dividends currently taxed at 15 percent will skyrocket to individual tax rates that go as high as 39.6 percent.
  • The Making Work Pay tax break will cease to exist.
  • The Alternative Minimum Tax will hit the middle class for 2010 tax returns.
  • A slew of tax breaks that expired last year, including credits for research and development expenses and relief for college tuition, will not be available for 2010 tax returns.
  • The Child Tax Credit will revert from $1,000 to $500.
When combined with inaction on the Bush tax cuts affecting marginal rates, taxpayers would be hit with a tax increase that easily tops $4 trillion over the decade if all the tax issues are untouched. Next year’s increase alone would amount to over $200 billion, according to Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee.
What Ms. de Rugy doesn't ask is: Why weren't these made permanent in the first place? To which the answer is sadly obvious: the Republicans who managed to get them passed didn't have enough guts to go all the way. Let's hope the new crop coming in this January will have more.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pajamas Media Article: Why the 10:10 Video Is a Distraction

Please head to Pajamas Media and read my article on Why the 10:10 Video Is a Distraction.

In it, I argue that the real enemy is much more dangerous, because much more benign looking.

Here's how it begins...

A British group called recently released (then quickly pulled) a viro snuff film. In the video, teachers press a red button to explode schoolchildren reluctant to accept the Green dogma of AGW (anthropogenic global warming) and other environmentalist fairy tales.

There's no question that the film is revolting and its producers are vicious, no matter how much they try to claim it was intended as humor. Still, the pundits up in arms over it are making a tactical error.

Your comments are invited.

Read the rest here.



Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Case for Legalizing Capitalism

Someone I've never heard of, Kel Kelly, has written a book with the title of the post. (That's not intended as a slam; I'm sure he's never heard of me either.)

I haven't read it - and given the current length of my reading list it will be 10 years before I can even crack its cover - but I have to salute one of the best book titles I've ever seen.

From the review on
He considers every important topic: banking, education, taxation, labor, environment, trade, war and peace, safety, medicine, drugs, and far more. He presents the reader with a basic explanation of how capitalism is supposed to work and how society functions when commerce is free. He then turns to all the areas of life that are distorted and destroyed by the great "helping hand" of government.
Hmmm... maybe I'll bump this up on the list.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Commissar Sebelius Rankles at Free Speech

Here's an interesting little P.S. to my recent rant about Commissar Kathleen. Here, batting way out of her league (not a far stretch, I admit), she expresses her fear of unfettered and anonymous political advertising against things she favors.
The Secretary argued that for voters to determine which campaign advertisers are on their side “is difficult if not impossible right now and I think that is pretty dangerous.”
Well, that should surprise no one, I guess. Not satisfied with ignoring the 4th and 5th Amendments, she naturally now feels compelled to openly attack the 1st. As the old saying goes, "Those who believe absurdities will soon enough commit atrocities." (A variation on an aphorism of Voltaire's.)

Ah, the so-called liberal mind. Always worried about the big bad forces of evil pulling the wool over the eyes of an unsuspecting public. Why, it might even lead to something like the astroturf Tea Party movement! If only we were as smart as the Obamamites. Thank heavens we don't need to be with good Samaritans like Commissar Kathleen watching out for us.

It would be funny if it weren't for the fact that this woman is in the process of becoming Public Enemy #2 as the features of ObamaCare begin to take effect.