31 December 2009


It is hard to believe we are already a decade into the 21st century. For those of us who have been around awhile it is the future, but it hasn’t turned out quite as anyone expected because such things are unpredictable. We certainly live in a time of technological wonders, particular in personal communications. But personal computers and cell phones have been around since the 1980’s, though in a more primitive form. The main difference for consumers is in audio-visual areas as a result of an increase of processing power. On the other hand we’ve gone nowhere in space for decades except for discoveries in the universe that the Hubble telescope has revealed. Medical progress has been exceptional, largely due to the now-threatened American health care system.

The economy, on the other hand has largely flatlined for most people. The stock market is more or less where it was when the decade began and many people feel they have made little material progress. But growth will almost certainly resume in the near future on a more sustainable basis provided that inflation does not spin out of control, which is almost inevitable unless the government slashes spending and stops printing money.

We can look back on a happier time at the turn of the century, when celebrations around the world occurred magnificently without incident. Then our biggest worry was Y2K, before the arrival of the age of terror in 2001. Yet as awful as terrorism is, the war is asymmetrical and no standing army threatens us anywhere. The “American century” is far from over, really beginning only after World War II. It has been a time in which the world has enjoyed unprecedented progress and prosperity thanks largely to the American umbrella. No more benevolent power has ever dominated world. This should continue well into this century if we intelligently address our current problems, which will happen over time as long as we remain an open society. All that troubles us should balance out in the long run for nothing is more resilient than a free society, and so I end this year on a somewhat optimistic note.

30 December 2009


In posing this question from the standpoint of a head of state Machiavelli clearly thought it was better to be feared. When President Obama was elected there was an international outpouring of “love,” following the departure of the fearsome George Bush, culminating in the Nobel Peace prize. Obama has done everything possible to encourage this sentiment, opting for multilateralism, dialogue, closing Guantanamo, ruling out “torture,” effectively apologizing for his predecessor, etc.

But while western Europeans may be enthralled, our enemies remain unimpressed, for this has only reinforced Al Qaeda’s notion that Americans are weak, vulnerable, and can be worn down in the long run. “Change” has engendered new “hope” that we can be defeated. Terrorists know they will be treated kindly if caught and now be turned over to the dysfunctional U.S. justice system.

In this case is it not better to strike “fear” in the hearts of our enemies? Killing them alone will not work because they want to be martyrs. What we need to do is make them face the most horrific circumstances possible from their standpoint. How about assigning them aggressive female guards and whatever else they would view as a fate worse than death Let them face what they perceive to be hell on earth. Let them fear us. Let us not hear any more about “our” values, which only generates contempt on their part. We should terrorize the terrorists. Only then will we gain their respect. It is nice to be loved when possible, but in this case it is better to be feared.

28 December 2009


If the federal government uses the logic of its shoe-bomber strategy then it would follow that we may all have to drop our drawers at airports due to the underpants bomber. In case you forgot, the reason we all have to take off our shoes to get on an airplane is due to one guy who tried to blow up an airplane with an explosive in his shoes. He was stopped by passengers, and again passengers handled the underpants man, yet now security will be further "tightened." Yet according to Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano, the "system" worked. Sure. That's why they were so good at coordinating terrorist lists. Given the ineptitude of government our primary line of defense is ourselves.

If we weren't so squeamish about "profiling" maybe we'd have a more effective security system. Instead we have grandmothers being scrutinized and forced to remove their shoes. All the security apparatus in place makes flying ever more miserable and humiliating, yet the underpants man still got through. Fortunately this time he only burned himself. But it makes no sense to continue to harass normal people equally instead of focusing on potential threatening characters.

On the other hand this incident also indicates weakness, stupidity, and lack of imagination on Al Qaeda's part. Despite all the various doomsday scenarios we have effectively suggested to them, they are still apparently focused on airplanes (and secondarily trains, as in London and Madrid). There is a remarkably consistent profile of terrorists so far. Like the 9/11 bombers, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was an Islamic male, came from a relatively affluent background, and was educated in the west. They all became alienated from societies that are so obsessed with multiculturalism and self-loathing of "liberal" elites that they no longer believe in themselves, and so discourage others from doing so as well. There is a self-destructive death spiral gripping Europe and the American left.

How much confidence can we have in this administration's ability to protect us from terrorists when it won't even acknowledge that there is, or ought to be, a continuing "war on terror?" We cannot always count on our enemies being so inept and must recognize that these attacks will continue. Next time we may not be so lucky. It is time to stop wasting resources, profile the likely attackers, and recognize the fact that, despite softer euphemisms,whether we like it or not, these people are at war with us. The only way to be rid of this menace is to ruthlessly pursue and destroy them.

21 December 2009


As Air Force One returned the President from a conference on global warming to a blizzard in Washington my skepticism on the subject was further increased. We are supposedly facing a global catastrophe within the next century and this is gospel for many people. Indeed they approach it with a religious fervor that tolerates no contradictory information, such as the fact that temperatures have dropped in the last ten years, the models are faulty, and long-term prediction is almost impossible.

But suppose there was some certainty about rising sea levels. Wouldn’t it make sense to limit and reduce development along threatened coastlines? Instead we have a truly nutty EPA declaring that carbon dioxide, a naturally occurring gas, is a threat to our health. Tell that to the plants. This is yet another prescription for seizing control and wrecking the entire economy. The logical answer would be more plants, stopping the destruction of rain forests, planting trees, etc. in ways that might actually benefit people.

Of course we have a choice of disasters, each as plausible as the worst global warming scenario over the next hundred years. There is more certainty in the likelihood that the social security and medicare systems of the western world will go bankrupt in the coming decades. Volcanoes could erupt spewing toxic matter into the atmosphere and blotting out the sky. An asteroid could strike the earth as in previous mass extinctions. Sunflares could erupt and destroy our atmospheric shield. A new plague could emerge that could wipe out much of the population. Or we might all simply transfer ourselves into cyberspace.

The point is that no one can predict what will happen over a century into the future. The only certainty is that the future ins unknowable. The more likely scenario is that we will somehow muddle through, experiencing neither the best nor the worst of anything as we always have up until now.

24 November 2009


I went to the American Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium (now folded into something called the Rose Center for Earth and Space) for the first time in decades. I was not impressed. In my view the changes that have taken place are not for the better. To begin with there are exorbitant charges for special exhibits of dubious value. We bought a pass for everything, but that was of limited use since you have to tell them the specific time you want to go in advance, even for less-than-crowded walk-through exhibits.

For me the sense of mystery and wonder is gone. That could be my age, or more likely the way things have been redone. Other things haven’t been updated so you find interesting gemstones with obsolete place names like “West Germany” and “Zaire.” There is a lot of build-up for the space show in the planetarium. You get on line, then take an elevator to a room where you wait around until the relatively brief show starts. I remember walking with awe through dark halls of star walls to get there as classical music played until you entered the room with the old projector. Then the show was about astronomy; now it is generically about everything and nothing. The digital screen over the rotunda offers great possibilities but the show, purporting to be a "Journey to the Stars" was pretty mediocre.

There’s another section that is supposed to deal with with the origin of the universe narrated by someone obviously reading a script they don’t understand. It is a large spaceship-like circle that is also digitally projected, but it only lasts a few minutes and is largely wasted. Then you stroll down a walkway with small indications and nonworking screens that are supposed to be indicative of all the eons since the origin of the universe. It is less than awesome. Incomprehensively there is nothing about astronauts and human space travel except for a few incidental photos on a hallway wall. The Rose Center is a total waste of space.

The real trouble is we’ve seen all this before done better on science, nature, and space shows on television every week. Given that, the museum ought to offer something special, but regrettably it doesn’t. It somehow manages to make the wondrous routine. If you’re planning a trip to New York City you can skip this. You won’t have missed much.

17 November 2009


Every day the dollar continues to decline against other currencies. There are some who think this is good because it increases exports, but there are downsides as well. The government is pursuing a weak dollar strategy to the long-term detriment of the country as well as the rest of the world. The decline is caused by increasing debt and a balance of payments deficit. This is before the government goes further in the red with health care and other spending schemes that will only exacerbate the situation.

A weak dollar is not in anyone’s interest. First it means a decline in living standards relative to the rest of the world, second imports and travel become more costly, third it generates currency instability throughout the world, and fourth it makes each one of us lose wealth because our assets and income are worth less. This is what usually happens with high inflation, which we don’t have yet, but is almost inevitable down the road if deficits continue to pile up.

This is the classic state solution to debt- inflate the currency so that dollar debt holdings are worth less and easier to pay off. This does not just screw the Chinese who are holding massive amounts of dollar debt, but any citizen who has savings or lives on a fixed income. This is beneath the dignity of the United States, but under the present course it will happen. This will end the dollar’s reign as the world’s reserve currency because its stability cannot be counted on. We will lose many of the advantages that come with reserve status, and it will represent an overall decline in American strength and influence.

A strong, stable dollar is in everyone’s interests. We need a reliable and predictable standard of value that we can trust in. Unfortunately the government has an ongoing interest in inflating currency because it is easier than the pain involved in cutting spending and reducing debt. But once the world loses faith in the dollar the government will be reduced to the constraints usually born by third world countries. So it is that the President of the United States this week was the recipient of humiliating lectures on fiscal responsibility from Asian countries.

07 November 2009


While unemployment rises to 10.2% this administration and congress are obsessed with health care and cap and trade legislation instead of the economy. The latter in fact will lead to an economic train wreck costing an untold number of additional jobs. In foreign affairs while Iran and North Korea threaten a nuclear nightmare the administration is advocating nuclear disarmament at a decidedly inauspicious moment. The US is in the curious position of being to the left of France, Germany, and Britain for the first time. Never have the government's priorities been so warped. Left-wing ideology rather than reality is triumphant.

It is now clear that this is the most radical government in the history of the United States. Although Obama gives the impression of soothing moderation in his pronouncements and demeanor, what he actually is doing is completely different. The congress, the House in particular under Nancy Pelosi is even worse. They are pursuing a radical restructuring not only of government, but of society, based upon faulty assumptions, and in spite of the public’s opposition. The outcomes of these policies are likely to be disastrous. On the bright side it is increasingly likely that there will be a shift in 2010, hopefully in time to put the brakes on all of this.

04 November 2009


I receive daily Email news aggregations from a number of conservative sources. Unfortunately many also bombard my mailbox with ads for really dopey products, which are written to be persuasive but ought to be suspect to anyone with half a brain. There are two types- health and financial products.

The health claims are totally off the wall although written to sound convincing. Any time alternative health cures deviate from mainstream medicine they should be greeted with a high degree of skepticism. A cursory search on the Internet will usually yield contrary information from reliable medical sites or user testaments that the product doesn’t work as advertised. These are the sorts of things one would expect from new age weirdos, not conservatives.

The financial “advice” is even more insidious to the extent that the proponent has probably loaded up on the new hot stock they are urging everyone to buy. Such promotions are based on the other idiot principle; that someone else will buy what you own at a higher price until it eventually crashes and the last person winds up losing their investment. We also hear gold being constantly promoted in television commercials by people who own gold. If they can induce enough people to buy in the price will increase and they will benefit. I don’t propose to give financial advice here but to my mind gold has already had a big run up. If enough people buy gold the price will rise but eventually hit a point that is at odds with reality. Nor do I suggest that one ignore the real danger of eventual high inflation due to government debt and not invest defensively, but there are always alternative commodities and investments.

I find it offensive that these organizations are using subscriber lists to lure the gullible into risky if not dangerous situations. It undermines their overall credibility and is an inappropriate abuse of subscriber trust.

26 October 2009


I had an indication of what health care may become like the other day when I had to stand in line for an hour and a half to get a flu shot at a pharmacy, since none of my doctors had it on hand. Whatever the outcome of this legislative process it is going to result in something infinitely worse than what we currently have. The original purpose for health care “reform” was the forty something million who are uninsured. Never mind that this consists mostly of illegal aliens and young people who don’t want to pay for insurance. Nevertheless if the government was really interested in a safety net for those without coverage, it would provide for that, not upend and revolutionize the coverage everyone else has.

Over 70% of the population is satisfied with the coverage they have, so the liberals, in typical fashion want to destroy something the majority has because they cannot abide a minority without. In the liberal mindset any minority that is at variance with the majority average must be accommodated, almost always at the expense of the majority. Think about “affirmative action, “ etc. and you get the picture.

But in the process they are pursuing two mutually exclusive objectives- expanding coverage and reducing costs. This is a no-brainer that most people can figure out; it just isn’t possible without taking something away from someone else. As a result there is skepticism and opposition from many quarters, even as pernicious organizations like the AARP betray their members interests. In desperation the administration has proactively attacked perceived enemies, such as Fox News and the Chamber of Commerce, going beyond anything Nixon ever did.

I’m particularly nervous about News Corporation, the parent of Fox. I own stock in the company, although as an investment it is a turkey. I had mixed feelings about the purchase of the Wall Street Journal, for as people like John Stossel move over to Fox you have virtually the entire right located in one company. This is a recipe for disaster should anything go wrong. Although the head-on attack on Fox backfired as even the “official” media balked at excluding them from briefings, the company is particularly vulnerable to back door pressure, via administration appointments to the FCC, which will certainly be gunning for them. Meanwhile Fox ratings are increasing while the administration’s popularity is decreasing, and continued public support and vigilance is the best safeguard for what in truth is press freedom. Jefferson said given a choice between a government without newspapers and newspapers without a government he would choose the latter, and his word echo to the modern media of today.

Overall I believe that the administration and congress have seriously overreached and there will be a reaction in 2010, which should help undo whatever damage they have done by then.


I had an indication of what health care may become like the other day when I had to stand in line for an hour and a half to get a flu shot at a pharmacy, since none of my doctors had it on hand. Whatever the outcome of this legislative process it is going to result in something infinitely worse than what we currently have. The original purpose for health care “reform” was the forty something million who are uninsured. Never mind that this consists mostly of illegal aliens and young people who don’t want to pay for insurance. Nevertheless if the government was really interested in a safety net for those without coverage, it would provide for that, not upend and revolutionize the coverage everyone else has.
Over 70% of the population is satisfied with the coverage they have, so the liberals, in typical fashion want to destroy something the majority has because they cannot abide a minority without. In the liberal mindset any minority that is at variance with the majority average must be accommodated, almost always at the expense of the majority. Think about “affirmative action, “ etc. and you get the picture.

But in the process they are pursuing two mutually exclusive objectives- expanding coverage and reducing costs. This is a no-brainer that most people can figure out; it just isn’t possible without taking something away from someone else. As a result there is skepticism and opposition from many quarters, even as pernicious organizations like the AARP betray their members interests. In desperation the administration has proactively attacked perceived enemies, such as Fox News and the Chamber of Commerce, going beyond anything Nixon ever did.

I’m particularly nervous about News Corporation, the parent of Fox. I own stock in the company, although as an investment it is a turkey. I had mixed feelings about the purchase of the Wall Street Journal, for as people like John Stossel move over to Fox you have virtually the entire right located in one company. This is a recipe for disaster should anything go wrong. Although the head-on attack on Fox backfired as even the “official” media balked at excluding them from briefings, the company is particularly vulnerable to back door pressure, via administration appointments to the FCC, which will certainly be gunning for them. Meanwhile Fox ratings are increasing while the administration’s popularity is decreasing, and continued public support and vigilance is the best safeguard for what in truth is press freedom. Jefferson said given a choice between a government without newspapers and newspapers without a government he would choose the latter, and his word echo to the modern media of today.

Overall I believe that the administration and congress have seriously overreached and there will be a reaction in 2010, which should help undo whatever damage they have done by then.

07 October 2009


We’re in Vermont for the week, doing some leaf-peeping. I have yet to come across any socialists, not a sign of them, (apart from an abundance of Venezuela-owned Citgo stations) which is odd insofar as this state has elected a bona fide Socialist to the Senate. I haven’t come across many Yankees either, and therein lies a tale. For generations this was a state of flinty Yankees, but two things caused this to change. First the Anglo-Americans failed to reproduce, as in much of the north and their culture faded away as they were replaced by others. Given the small population base of the state it did not take that many people coming up from New York and Massachusetts to cause a culture change, particularly insofar as many of them were Ben and Jerry types. Thus the whole political dynamic changed as the underlying culture shifted. The same thing is happening to a lesser extent in neighboring New Hampshire.

There’s not a hell of a lot to do around here and so the highlight of our trip so far has been across Lake Champlain in neighboring New York, where we visited Ausable Chasm, often called the “Grand Canyon of the east.” The natural scenery there is stunningly beautiful and our enjoyment was enhanced by the fact that we had the entire place virtually to ourselves. New York state offers a different kind of example of population change. Upstate New York has become depopulated and contains the most wide-open spaces you’re likely to find in the east. The state is continuously hemorrhaging population, which is partially masked by the large number of immigrants moving into the state.

When I was growing up the Empire state had the largest population in the union. It was eventually supplanted by California, which is now approaching nearly double the population of New York. It has been passed by Texas, and will be passed by Florida in a few years. As other states have progressed New York has declined. None of this was inevitable. It is largely a consequence of decades of miserable political leadership, high taxes, and government dysfunction. All of this has caused industry to flee the state leaving upstate cities a shadow of their former selves. Every election there is talk of reviving the state economy but nothing is done. If you don’t like living too close to your neighbors you definitely want to move upstate New York.

26 September 2009


There are three foiled terror plots currently in the news, designed to kill as many Americans as possible. All of the perpetrators are Islamic radicals. It is hilarious to hear the clueless mainstream media refer to Najibullah Zazi simply as a “Colorado man,” rather than say, an Islamic terrorist immigrant. Never mind that he just got there in January, and apparently traveled freely to Pakistan for terror training. A Somali immigrant returns to Somalia for a terror bombing and is referred to simply as an “American.” This kind of nuanced language is a major part of the problem we face. Unless we forthrightly recognize that the problem is specifically Islamic extremism, we will continue to be vulnerable. We should not take too much comfort in the fact that Zazi was caught before doing any damage. That may have less to do with great intelligence work and more to do with the fact that he was an unusually stupid terrorist, like the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing, But eventually there was a second.

It is utter lunacy for western countries to keep importing large numbers of Muslims without increased scrutiny. If that means discrimination, so be it. To discriminate means to be selective, and to discriminate between one thing and another. Do we really want Muslim extremists? There has to be a more rigorous screening process. The only country to do so is the Netherlands, where potential immigrants are tested as to their capacity to adapt to the Dutch way of life.

This is not to say that most American Muslims are suspect. In most cases these are people who have left Muslim countries precisely because of repression and wish to live in greater freedom. They will adapt as most immigrants have. But we cannot ignore the reality that what threatens us emanates from Islam and we must become far more vigilant.

22 September 2009


I recently had occasion to listen to the latest album from “Jay-z.” I listened to the whole thing although it was sheer torture. I was searching for the slightest bit of musical content, which eluded me, since the entire album consisted of boring raps over the same constant beats. There’s a tiny portion of music in the background either sung by a girl or chorus, and to my mind they’re the ones who should get the credit, not the dude that is simply talking over it. This is not music. It may be poetry, but bad poetry. What is incomprehensible is how anyone can occupy their time listening to this stuff and others in the genre that all sound the same, but every time I go on a subway there is a large number of young people with annoying loud headphones bobbing to this junk. I presume the lyrics must be of some import, although through most of pop music history lyrics were often jumbled and incomprehensible. The music was what mattered. Now it isn’t even there, or sampled and electronically re-processed sound.

The sad thing is that this crap has been around an awfully long time. There hasn’t been much originality since the 1980s. Change and creativity used to be far more rapid before then. It is tragically ironic that we live in an era when musical reproduction and fidelity has reached new heights of pristine quality, but there isn’t much worth listening to that isn’t more than a few years old. This is not to say there is not anything good or new out there; there is actually a lot going on in different genres but they don’t get the air play or promotion.

No wonder CD sales are down. It isn’t just Internet downloading. There just isn’t that much worth buying or listening to out there. How ironic that we have the best technology ever for reproducing music and just about the worst product available ever. It is great for things like classical music or jazz, but the sales are miniscule in the US (whereas in Europe they are still significant along with some good pop music). Here is some good dance-trance stuff, but otherwise you’re left with ciassic rock retreads. There is also a large pop market, but the songs all sound like retreads of older songs scrambled through a computer to come out slightly different, but still formulaic. There is very little originality.

The other explanation of decline is that everything has fallen into more and more niche markets with smaller audiences. While this may be true, it leaves no room for something coming along sweeping much of the youth, as has been the case many times over in the past. Hopefully something “new” will come along as a trend sooner or later; my guess is that it would come out of Latin music. There is still nothing better than a good melodic line along with a catchy rhythm to get people’s interest.

10 September 2009


For much of my adult life, initially as a college instructor and then mostly as a senior administrator of an organization almost everyone called me Mr. Sarant. Now that am that much older and unaffiliated, I keep getting addressed by strangers as “George.” I find this annoying coming from someone young enough to be my son or daughter, particularly in situations when I am a customer and due a certain amount of consideration. Sometimes I get irritated enough to ask if we are having intimate relations given that we are apparently on a first name basis. But most are clueless nowadays that they are being offensive. Unfortunately this seems to be universal now, and not just in the United States but in other countries with languages that have a polite form of address, which has largely fallen into disuse.

This may be nitpicking, but to me it is symptomatic of the wholesale coarsening of society. There is endless vulgarity on television, and total loss of standards of any kind, when virtually anyone can be rehabilitated via publicity no matter what they have done. There is no shame, and if there is no shame there is no honor. If there is no honor the bounds of deference and trust are reduced, straining social bonds.

Between television and social networks on the web there is hardly any separation any longer between personal and public, and younger people seem to find nothing unusual about this, though sooner or later they are likely to come across a situation that will make them rue the day they sacrificed their privacy. Things have changed radically. When I was growing up you didn’t curse in front of girls, though by the time I was in graduate school they found this quaintly amusing. Now anything goes. There are no standards, no expectations of restraint, and as a result dignity is increasingly rare.

Social restraints are more than custom. They have a functional utility. They mitigate the impulse to behave selfishly and without consideration of others, and thus make a cooperative society possible. We see this in increasingly anarchic driving habits, and other forms of everyone-for-himself behavior. Manners, politeness, and proper behavior are not just pointless conventions, but essential to social cohesion. Convention and tradition are what instill good habits and personal restraint. This is important because if we do not have personal restraint, the result is a necessary increase in external restraint and control, thereby increasing the sphere of the state and limiting aspects of life that properly belong to ourselves.

I’m not suggesting a return to Victorian values, although we could do worse. But even 1950s values would do, reflecting a time when almost everything was better than any period since. Good manners are what make a good society.

27 August 2009


Apparently not this administration, which is charting a disastrous course for this country. I wanted to throw up when I heard that September 11 has morphed into a day of national “service,” instead of remembrance of a terrorist outrage, which at this rate will certainly occur again. It is bad enough that nearly a decade after the event there is still nothing built on the site in lower Manhattan. Now community service is being substituted for commemorating those murdered on that day. Instead of being told that we must be ever vigilant against terror threats, it is being muted and redirected to “community service.”

Then we have the radical Attorney General Eric Holder launching an investigation of antiterrorism, i.e. the interrogation of terrorists, through the "justice" department, blatantly undermining our national security. Furthermore the White House will now control questioning of terror suspects. It is a virtual certainty that we are going to be attacked again because of the lame approach and lack of resolve of this administration, and they will be directly responsible for theconsequences.

11 August 2009


Any modern technology we use today can be used against us, should the government care to abuse it. This occurred to me as I was driving a loaner car from my dealer while my car was being serviced. The loaner had a GPS, which, on the one hand conveniently gave my exact position, but on the other could easily be used by someone else to track me. So it is with satellites and the Internet. The tools we use privately can become sinister devices in the hands of the state. We are always only one step away from tyranny. The price of liberty is truly eternal vigilance. For as much as we might like to ignore the messiness of politics, we cannot lest someone steal the show.

The federal government today is attempting to amass vast powers over all aspects of our lives, right down to health, life and death. Behind this are the Social Democrats, seeking to socialize and control vast realms of decision-making that properly belong to the individual. Standing somewhat against this are the Free Democrats. These two wings are now analogous to German political parties of the same name. Standing in stalwart opposition are the minority Republicans.

Where is the public on all of this? There are more “independents” than Republicans or Democrats, and they hold the balance of power. However the independents lean right on most issues. What they really express is a libertarian streak that says “Leave us alone!” Republicans can win again if they tap into this sentiment and make it the focus of the party’s position.

Leave us alone! Let the message go out to the statists that we will not be cowed, we will not be oppressed. Shout it loud across the land, “Leave us alone!” Let them know we do not want the government managing our lives- “Leave us alone!” Let our voices be heard in an unwavering chorus- “Leave us alone!”

01 August 2009


You may be surprised to learn that the United States is still the largest manufacturer in the world, with about 20% of total output. While this may eventually be exceeded by the Chinese, as we close industries, that is still off. Interestingly this also roughly corresponds to the alleged carbon footprint of the US. When you here stuff like we are responsible for 25% of the worlds carbon emissions with only 5% of the world’s population, the answer really is that we are also correspondingly responsible for the same amount of the world’s output.

There are many who like to use terms like “rust belt” and “post-industrial economy,” as we move more and more to a “service” economy based upon knowledge. This is presumed to be a good thing, offshoring manufacturing and presumably doing the brain work and selling these “services.” I find a number of problems with this notion. First of all the services are malleable and intangible. Second they are often pirated abroad- and easy steal once you know how to copy something or find out the formula. Third they do not exist in a vacuum. They are dependent on some kind of underlying productive economy. Someone else must be making all the basic necessities of life cheaply enough for other people to provide services.

To welcome de-industrialization is insane. It reduces opportunities for the less educated and working class. Getting alternative or more skills is not always an option. I am fascinated by TV programs like How It’s Made, How Things Work, Modern Marvels, etc. that show the insides of factories in the US (or Canada) producing a bewildering amount of products with state-of-the art production machinery. For any of this to disappear would be tragic. The notion that labor costs are at the root of the problem is nonsense (outside of some labor-intensive industries that are more logically offshored) because with modern automation it takes only a relative handful of people to run an entire factory.

The truth is that manufacturing job losses are as much attributable to more efficient automation as imports, as evidenced by the fact that the same jobs are declining elsewhere in industrial countries. But that should make it simpler to set up shop in the US (apart from government red-tape) since labor costs are not the primary consideration, especially in capital-intensive industries.

We have every reason to continue to encourage domestic manufactures. Apart from the question of jobs it is a question of national survival and ultimately security. We must know how to make things. Loss of such knowledge is disastrous. We have no way of knowing whether current trends will continue, but suppose there is a really serious decline of order. Basic skills are going to be more valuable than ephemeral intellect. Basic material things will matter; real things- real estate, real products. Services are little more than air. The bottom line is that they are not real at a material level, which is the basic building block of everything else. The truth is the services, i.e. the government, lawyers, educators, bankers, clerical workers, etc. are all dependent on the underlying “real” economy. A strong manufacturing base continues to be vital to our national existence, and we should encourage its growth rather than decline.

25 July 2009


When Pres. Obama described the arrest of his friend Henry Louis Gates by the Cambridge police as “stupid,” without knowing all the facts he did not anticipate the impact the story would have. It is a relatively slow news cycle and days later the story is still top news. He managed to overshadow his health care pitch with these ill-chosen words, and continued to make matters worse with partial retractions, and then inviting both parties to the White House for a beer, which is sure to keep the story alive until that meeting. Even the official liberal media ran with the story, which indicates that he is not the “post-racial” President he claimed he would be.

Henry Louis Gates, head of Harvard’s black studies (or “African and African-American” as they call it) department behaved obnoxiously with the police investigating an attempted burglary at his house, calling them names and charging there was some racial motivation for their actions. He once did a PBS show on Africa, where you heard more about racism than Africa, the kind of mindset that sees “racists” under every rock. He’s a little man with a big mouth, telling the police they have no idea who they are dealing with.

Instead of responding with no comment, Obama indicated the incident shows that there is still “racism” that “we” need to deal with, despite his own election. This reaction is unsurprising from a man whose wife majored in “black studies,” sat through Reverend Wright’s sermons for twenty years, and spent a lot of time not transcending race but developing a “black consciousness” evident even in his own writings. Despite this background he was able to win election as a congenial, inoffensive candidate, in good measure because McCain stupidly would not let these issues be raised in the campaign lest he be called “racist.” But the real racists are those who are racially obsessed, see nonexistent “racism” in daily life, and use this as an excuse to invoke the power of the state to “correct” it. So we have the promotion of “affirmative action” (i.e. anti-white) programs even in pending health care legislation, to assure not equality of access or opportunity, but equality of results. The more this stuff comes around, the more evident it will become that a black community organizer was never suitable for the presidency. .

21 July 2009


In connection with the entry below, we should ask where the great public projects are of today. Congress rushed through a $787 billion “stimulus” package that has stimulated nothing, as unemployment continues to rise. That’s not surprising given that most of the spending will occur in future years. But spending on what? It largely throws more money at areas where we are already spending, simply jacking it up and expanding government and the deficit to no good end.

At least during the depression we built dams, bridges, and roads. What will we have to show from this huge stimulus expenditure? What tangible legacy will it have? This shows nothing more than a failure of imagination and common sense in literally throwing money away. While it is increasingly likely that we will see some turnover of this mischievous congress in 2010, it is an open question as to how much of the damage they are doing can be undone.


It is hard to believe that forty years have passed since we first landed on the moon. It was probably the most memorable public moment ever for those of us around at the time. What is harder to believe is that nearly 40 years have gone by without any follow-up to this awesome accomplishment. That has to be considered one of the greatest failures of our time. In those days it would be hard to believe that four decades later we have not gone back to the moon or made all that much progress in manned space flight. The next mission at it’s earliest will be in 2020 based upon current plans, or eleven years from now. Considering that it took less than eight years from Kennedy’s announcement to the Apollo landing you have to wonder how we have become so timid, if not inept at achieving great projects.

We are often told we are living in “fast” times; that is that change is far more rapid than in the past. This is an illusion. Look at the world back forty years from 1969. 1929 would put you back in the Lindbergh era. Certainly the world of 1969 was far more different from the world of 1929 than the world in 2009 is from 1969 at least in technological terms, leaving aside computer processing. But change was otherwise far more radical between 1929 and 1969.

Hopefully something will happen to spur space development further. We need goals that lift the imagination and spirit.

18 July 2009


Some congressional Democrats have nothing better to do than harass the CIA. If targeted assassinations of Al Qaeda leaders was planned, so what? This is what we should be doing rather than cancelling the program, as the current director has done. Much of this is attributable to an attempt to protect Nancy Pelosi from getting caught up in her own lies. Only self-hating liberals would attack our national security. Given the complete lawlessness and immorality of the terrorists we should be using any means necessary to destroy them. The Israeli defense force was recently accused of using captives as “human shields.” Good for them! We should be doing the same thing. Consider that most of our casualties are the result of roadside bombs. Apart from the fact that we should have come up with a technical solution to this by now, I see nothing wrong in letting terrorist captives go first. It should also be noted that our casualties are disproportionately from the “red” counties of the country. Liberals have paid no cost in the war protecting them.
For a good take on this see: Liberals vs. the CIA.

09 July 2009


This is the coldest summer in memory in New York, and much of the rest of the country. Here on Long Island in the middle of the afternoon on a summer day the temperature hovers in the 60s. While this does not by itself disprove global warming, it does warrant some skepticism towards the declarations of Al “Goofy” Gore. Who predicted this cool summer? How reliable are predictions? Can any prediction really hold more than a year or two?

There is no question that climate change is an ongoing process, which has been occuring for billions of years, as well as in small increments within larger cycles, i.e. the last ice age ended only 10,000 years ago. Such things wax and wane with or without us. Let us see how things play out before panicking, This year may be an exception, or a harbinger of something different.

03 July 2009


Every time we exhale we produce carbon dioxide. CO2 is a byproduct of a myriad of natural processes, and essential to life on earth such as plants. It is also a byproduct of various agricultural and industrial processes that make our lives livable such as electricity, heating and cooling, and transportation. It is a naturally occurring gas, ubiquitous on this planet. Nevertheless the government has determined that it is a “pollutant” that can be regulated by the EPA. This effectively gives government bureaucracy virtual control of all aspects of life, since there is hardly a process that does not involve CO2. Based upon the dubious premise that it is harmful, the government is poised to issue thousands upon thousands of regulations over our entire way of life. The costs that will born will set our economy into reverse, significantly lower our standard of living, while making life considerably more unpleasant. Rather than looking towards natural processes, such as planting trees for a truly “greener” world, all of this is to be managed and controlled.

The greater tragedy is that none of this will work as intended or predicted. It never does, because it is based upon the false assumption, which Hayek called the “fatal conceit,” that those in charge know enough to control things. But no one can possibly possess all of the information necessary to effectively do so. This fantasy has caused more misery in the world than any other man-made factor over the last century. Life on earth involves a vast chain of events that are unpredictable, uncontrollable, and unforeseeable. Prediction about anything more than a year or so ahead becomes hazy; over five or more years it is useless. No one has the knowledge to manage things on so broad a scale, but as the government usurps decision-making on the minutiae of life its consequences will only be destructive, being riddled with errors, incorrect information, and false assumptions.

The government can no more manage the environment than it can manage the economy. Never mind health care and the condition of every individual’s life. These are processes that unfold in countless billions of discreet actions that are best left to self-determination. But the conceit of those in power is that they can remake the world and effectively manage everything. This involves not only control of institutions, but of people, for the more power that is assumed by the state, the less power is left to individuals to control their own lives. This can only lead to repression, as no one can stand in the way of the government’s attempt to reach its goals, and the liberty of everyone is thereby diminished, and for no good reason given that the government cannot manage what it claims it can. For in the end, the truth about those in power is, as Socrates said of those presuming to rule in his own time, is that they do not know what they claim to know.

30 June 2009


The former President of Honduras was ousted from office in what has incorrectly been described as a military coup. In fact ousted President Manuel Zelaya was lawfully removed by order of the country’s Supreme Court for attempting to subvert the constitution. Zelaya wanted to hold an illegal referendum to extend his presidential term, bypassing the laws of the country. This is in the tradition of America-hater Hugo Chavez, who has established a tyranny over Venezuela through such methods. What the Honduran officials did was right to frustrate his design for tyranny. Naturallly Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro objected strenuously.

What is incomprehensible is how Obama and Clinton could join in the chorus demanding the restoration of this scoundrel as president. Then again they have a predisposition to sympathize with the enemies of the United States. Imagine if an American president decided to hold an unconstitutional referendum to extend his term, given that the constitution can be warped by "empathy." What would be the consequences? Perhaps Obama, having been divinely selected feels that his term should be extended indefinitely as well. The Hondurans properly acted to prevent tyranny and deserve our support. Our government deserves our contempt.

28 June 2009


For as much as we are capable of reason, human beings are also creatures of passion. This is usually most pronounced in adolescence when a river of emotion and hormones can sometimes overwhelm us. At that age we usually do not have the requisite perspective to tame or control these feelings. We are subject to animal instincts that are difficult to temper. There are two possible mechanisms of control- external, under the supervision, restriction, or approbation of others, or internal, by way of self-discipline and conscience. If the latter are not sufficiently developed, passion will continue to reign in adulthood.

Passion can be all-consuming and once in its grip everything else becomes secondary as perspective is lost. The rush of emotion can be so intense it overcomes all other considerations, resulting in a total absence of common sense. We are all subject to it, even superficially; who is not drawn to an attractive woman? But mechanisms of control must be developed, and values we think ought to provide some restraint do not seem to. Love cannot control it alone; one may truly love their spouse and yet succumb to aroused passions. Rectitude, faith, reason, and the moral sense cannot ameliorate lust when the fire burns. Why do otherwise sensible men behave like lovestruck teenagers?

All of this is in play in the case of Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina and the widely reported affair that seems to have effectively caused him to flip out and disappear to Argentina for a number of days. Republicans are far less tolerant than Democrats of errant behavior because we expect people to practice what they preach. Given that he heads what is just about the most Christian state in the union his position seems untenable to me.

I believe there is only one thing that suppress such passions, and that is honor. A well-developed sense of honor is what can keep passion in check. In the past it was honor that sustained unrequited love, based upon one’s sense of obligation and duty. Unfortunately in modern times it has fallen out of favor and self-aggrandizement is the order of the day. Honor can only be instilled by proper upbringing that enables one to resist temptation despite all that is going on around us. Unless and until we restore the value of honor to its proper place there is little to control an unchecked ego seeking to indulge itself.

23 June 2009


Nikolas Sarkozy is now the de facto leader of the west, Obama having abandoned it for a “higher calling.” The President of France spoke up immediately on the phony Iranian election in strong terms while Obama vacillated. He is also seeking to ban burquas in France, as something denigrating and oppressive to women, while as Hussein he tells the Muslim world we welcome “cover” and that there are three times as many Muslims in the US as there actually are. It is obvious now that no action on Iran is going to come from here. Obama thinks he can talk to these lunatics, and because of his special gifts, convince them to see the light. But they already see the light, and it is that of uncompromising, extreme fundamentalist Islam with an apocalyptic vision for the world.

Even if the election were stolen, which clearly seems to be the case, there is still an undeniably large vote for Ahmedinijad, which indicates that millions of people are responsible for supporting this regime, though mostly in rural areas. It is a certainty that Iran will continue to develop nuclear weapons and little will be done to stop it. That leaves only Israel to strike and defend itself, and fortunately it is likely that Netanyahu will act no matter how the government tries to stop him.

20 June 2009


It is the height of the photo season in my country garden. Each day brings changes in a parade of new blooms. The heavy rain this season has produced a rich floral yield. I’ve been into serious photography over four decades, and except for some early Yashicas I’ve used mostly high-end Canons over the years. For most of that time I shot slides, and it is really sad to learn that Kodak will stop making Kodachrome. I switched largely to a digital Canon a while back once the megapixel count became high enough, although nothing can match the fine grain of film and probably never will. On the other hand film is costly compared to digital, perishable, and a real nuisance to get through airports undamaged.

I finally got a digital SLR last year because it had a very high 15 megapixel count along with some lenses. It was a Sony and now I regret switching away from Canon. It’s an A350, and although there is a phenomenal 18-250mm lens, the lenses are noisy even when no taking pictures, and the thing I hate the most is the viewfinder, because what you see is not what you get. After some experimentation I found that in order to get something in the center of a picture you have to view and shoot it at the top. This is apparently true for most other digital cameras. I haven’t seen anything like this since back in the rangefinder days, and in a supposedly advanced technology this is totally unacceptable. That said pictures are okay.

What is really scary is that a lot of people have their entire photo collection on a computer. If it isn’t backed up if the hard drive fails everything is lost. That’s the downside of digital. I’m watching nervously as my IPhoto library expands to well over 100 gigabytes wondering when a glitch is going to ruin everything. If you’re shooting digital photographs it pays to have at least one, if not more backups of all your pictures or you’re out of luck.

I still have a batch of film left so I pulled out my old Canons and took some pictures. I still find that experience far more rewarding than any digital camera.

14 June 2009


I don’t know who is responsible for the weekend and style sections of the Wall Street Journal, but they reflect a kind of mediocre liberalism that is at variance with the traditions of the paper. The weekend edition often contains really stupid “essays” of poor quality and shallow themes. One recently maintained that Obama is the most literate president since Lincoln. This weekend there was an essay on how the US might break apart into sectional republics favored by fringe independence groups, the distribution of which was not even well reasoned. There is nothing original in this. A Russian writer came up with a fanciful scheme about how the US might break apart and largely be absorbed by foreign countries, based upon little more than wishful thinking. Anyone can fantasize about regional divisions and the various configurations a dismembered US might take. There may even be some logic to some form of “independence,” should irreconcilable differences arise.

However, what is ignored in these schemes is the constitutional safety valve built into the country. It is called federalism. Under ideal conditions considerable autonomy is allowed to the states; in fact the constitution says that all powers not explicitly stated in the document are reserved to the states. There is no question that the federal government has usurped vast powers that were never attributed to it. However, this is not irreversible, and there can be a healthy balance between state and federal power. True diversity would allow for differences by region, where many of the salient issues of the day might be mitigated. For example, the case for or against gun control will vary dramatically between say Idaho and New York City. Abortion could be prohibited in some states and be legal in others. Then individuals have the choice to live in places where they are most culturally comfortable. This indeed is how thing should have evolved, and the restoration of federalism is the best hope for continuing.

12 June 2009


In the course of little more than half a century Europe has managed to swap 6 million Jews for 20 million Muslims. The former were assimilated into European culture, and their murders were an incalculable loss as well as a monstrous crime. The latter are largely unassimilated, and due to “multicultural” encouragement will continue to remain so, while outgrowing the declining European population. In many countries they have the audacity to aggressively assert their cultural autonomy and are out of control in the most tolerant countries, i.e. Britain and the Netherlands.

The only ones who have really gotten it right so far are the French. There the state encourages assimilation, considers everyone French, and does not maintain ethnic, religious, and racial statistics for nefarious purposes as the US does, and officially insists upon a single standard for everyone. Unlike Obama, and for that matter, Bush, they discourage Muslim headscarves and other outward signs of religion in public institutions. The downside of this fastidious public secularism, which dates back to the French revolution, is that the traditional Christian culture of Europe gets lost in the mix, but is offset by a cultural nationalism that is peculiar to the French. There the damage done to much of the western world by self-hating leftists has been mitigated by an appreciation for and encouragement of French culture. This can sometimes be overdone with a silly degree of chauvinism* when it comes to language and new terminology, but they at least have developed policies that will ensure the survival of the nation, including family-friendly policies to support a sustainable birth rate.

Virtually every other country in Europe is facing a disastrous combination of population decline, unassimilated immigrants, and low growth. The only hope for Europe is the populist right, and gains in the recent elections show that the Europeans are beginning to seriously consider their predicament. For it is clear that to have a future European countries must again believe in themselves- in their history, culture, and way of life.

*A term that is originally French, originating with a19th century man named Chauvin who was known for extreme, over-the-top nationalism. Parenthetically I saw a comment by a young airhead referring to a man as a “shovinist” without a clue as to the real meaning of the term. How things degenerate over time! .

04 June 2009


The rule of law is a requirement for a functioning, cooperative society. Its absence results in tyranny and arbitrary government, or anarchy and insecurity. Under the rule of law the same rules apply for everyone regardless of status, so that there is equal justice, which engenders a higher degree of confidence that everyone will be treated fairly. By extension this applies to government action, although reverse discrimination has shredded this principle in reality. Credence is further undermined when the application of law is perceived to be personal, or arbitrary.

If legal rulings can be permeated on nothing more than “empathy” then there are no fixed principles, no common standards everyone can or should adhere to. We can all make the law whatever we want it to be, with no objective standards, as a result of the “relativism” of this theory. Courts are supposed to be independent, objective judges of particular cases. They should not make policy. The consequence of this is the loss of government legitimacy as any side can then make the law be whatever they want it to be.

The federal government has gone further than ever before in ignoring such niceties as a constitutional foundation for the actions that have been taken. A centuries-old body of law has been violated. By what right does the federal government take property from one group, i.e. automotive bondholders and shareholders and give it to another, i.e. the UAW? What legitimate authority can pressure secured lenders who in any bankruptcy proceeding are first in line, to step further back in favor of the union and take losses greater than they otherwise would have to bear? Creditors have effectively been shaken down by illegitimate government actions. By what authority is there a “car czar?”

A fundamental barrier has been broken; the government can now act without due process. How does this differ from the state capitalism in China or Russia? What of constitutional protections? It is questionable now whether the damage that has been done to the principle that there is a public sphere of limited authority, and a private sphere encompassing the rest, can ever be reversed.

29 May 2009


The government took over Chrysler, while handing a chunk to the UAW and another piece to Fiat, an Italian maker of crummy little cars no one in this country wants to buy. Secured bondholders included TARP recipients who rolled over, but also others who objected. They were strongly “encouraged” to cooperate by the government and also went along with the deal.

For GM a similar deal was struck. The US and Canadian governments own most of the company, with another big chunk going to the UAW, while bondholders were forced to settle for 10% of the company in lieu of the money they are owed. Stockholders, like myself, get nothing, for what was once a blue chip, dividend-paying stock. Never mind that as owners of the company we had no opportunity to vote on the deal; it was simply forced by the government. Perhaps bankruptcy would have yielded the same results, but an unfettered bankruptcy would not have required billions from the federal government, and would have voided the UAW contracts that largely sank the company in the first place. Instead the government has taken our property and given it to the UAW, which is mainly what the administration was interested in saving.

Meanwhile GM had a viable international business that was making money and which, until recently, maintained its position as the largest auto manufacturer in the world. GM was doing well in China, South America, and Europe. But the US is effectively walking away and dumping GM’s Opel brand on the German government, which in turn is also working on a deal to give it to Fiat.

This all has been handled incredibly badly and truly amounts to Grand Theft Auto. The biggest losers will be the taxpayers, who will also have to subsidize little green cars no one wants to buy and the lot of these companies will just get worse. Meanwhile what about Ford? Ford hasn’t taken any government money and as a result has a large private debt that it is going to have to pay back, unlike the other two, whose bondholders have been screwed. This puts Ford at a competitive disadvantage; punished for being slightly more successful and prudent It simply isn’t fair. . All of this is the kind of thing you might expect from Hugo Chavez , not the US government. These unprecedented actions make a mockery of the rule of law (more on that subsequently). Personally I’m never going to buy a government car, and the next one I buy will most likely be a Ford.

27 May 2009


In seeking out in advance a “woman” and a “Latina,” for the Supreme Court and thus precluding everyone else, the administration has laid bare the Democrats penchant for reverse discrimination. Judge Sotomayor apparently shares this disposition, in ruling against white New Haven firefighters who scored higher on tests but were denied promotion for affirmative action reasons. This is a cancer the liberals have inflicted on our society, playing identity politics, assigning everyone to groups, and creating group “rights,” while having the audacity to accuse anyone objecting as being “divisive.” It is in fact the liberals who have made ascription the defining characteristic of people and destroyed the concept of individual merit. Their strategy has been to organize and mobilize minorities and self-hating liberals against white people, for alleged “oppression” and “discrimination,” when they are the only ones practicing the latter.

Unfortunately this strategy also diminishes Judge Sotomayor. She may in fact be well-qualified, but that has been superseded by her ascriptive characteristics in the way that the nomination has come about, although she has also not been shy about referring to them throughout her career because in today’s America being a “minority” carries obvious advantages. However the truth is it is totally superficial. “Women” are not a united interest group that identify with each other so this is meaningless. On the other hand “Latina” is also meaningless. Most Hispanics in the United States are of Mexican descent. Sotomayor is Puerto Rican. What does this mean to Mexican, Cubans, Colombians, etc. –nada. “Latino” is a construct of the media too stupid to understand the differences among people and left-wing activist groups using it to shake down favors and advance themselves.

To the extent that Sotomayor believes that the courts make “policy,” i.e. letting their personal feelings and “experience” determine judgments rather than the facts of the case, she fills Obama’s primary criterion of “empathy” for a Supreme Court justice. Then the biggest casualty is the rule of law.

23 May 2009


Maybe the only way to get the truth from Nancy Pelosi is to waterboard her. The proterrorist left claims that enhanced interrogation techniques are inconsistent with our “values.” The truth is that this is not inconsistent with our values, but with liberal values. The first duty of government is to protect the public from harm. That is “value” number one. If the state fails to do that it is effectively a “failed state.” This approach has successfully kept us safe for eight years. Former CIA director George Tenet said that enhanced interrogations alone provided more information than everything obtaine from "the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency put together."

This is fairly obvious to everyone but the loony left, who still seek tribunals to punish our own people for keeping us safe. These are people that hate the military, intelligent services, jet pilots, astronauts, and any other admirable Americans. They are more concerned with the “rights” of the terrorists than protecting the public. Pelosi now shares these views, while lying about having been briefed about terrorist interrogations, and claiming the CIA is lying. Obama, to his credit, has at least resisted releasing photos that make the military look bad, continued military tribunals, and supported the CIA, while unfortunately pursuing the “values” line in rejecting interrogations. But it will be interesting to watch Pelosi twisting in the wind as the truth emerges.

When it comes to a terrorist threat to thousands of innocent people, I believe that any means necessary can be justified in the face of attempted mass murder. These are not people who are impressed by “soft power” or subject to persuasion. The only way we are going to end this menace is to terrorize the terrorists.

18 May 2009


Due to the amount of interest and multiple comments on Facebook about a simple Twit I did on weather and global warming I have decided to elaborate on what that means in terms of a position. The arguments that I find most persuasive on the subject are those of the Copenhagen Consensus, which are well worth studying. That position essentially does not deny that some global warming is taking place, for whatever reason. The question is what do we do about it, and what should our priorities be? Should we upend the entire economy for dubious goals that will make us considerably poorer, while increasing the expense on society immensely? Or would it not make more sense to begin addressing those areas that are likely to be impacted by global warming? Does it make sense to have continuous development and population concentration in coastal areas that may be impacted? For that matter why concentrate population on earthquake faults? Shouldn't we discourage development in vulnerable places and encourage it elsewhere? Should affluent people on the coasts (and I am one) make policies at the expense of those, who are less affluent and living, i.e. in the midwest, desert, or mountain regions? These are the kinds of questions that have to be addressed comprehensively.

Furthermore we need to keep in mind that the earth is constantly changing, with or without people. Many kinds of disasters are possible. For example a rockslide in the Azores could create an tsunami that would flood the entire east coast of the US. The eruption of a series of volcanoes could do more damage than a nuclear war and threaten much of life on earth. These may be beyond our control. But there are other disasters looming that we can address, such as looming bankruptcy in Medicare, Medicaid, and eventually Social Security down the road. If this cannot be addressed before millions of baby boomers retire, thereby adding resistance to change, we will have a real crisis of our own making which is an unquestionable certainty as of now. There are numerous problems we are facing that require attention rather than what we think is a single Big One.

13 May 2009


I’ve just deleted a few hundred Emails off of my computer. Virtually all of them were things I might be interested in and would get back to them later. But when later came they were mostly obsolete. The same thing is true of periodicals. I used to subscribe to a lot of magazines, and they would just accumulate, meant to be read at some point, but the piles just grew larger. However, when enough time passes, they are obsolete, and can be perused quickly or not at all and be disposed of, with no real loss of information that has not since been updated. So at some point I seriously cut back on magazine subscriptions, which still left a lot to be disposed of. After enough time you can come across something interesting, such as the fact that in turn-of-the-century computer magazines I didn’t notice a single reference to the now ubiquitous Google. It was still under the radar.

It is less messy and obviously less costly to get information off of the Internet, which is the main reason newspapers and magazines are on a downward slope. I’ve frequently turned down free, complimentary, or nominally priced magazines with the realization that I’m never going to have time to read them. At the same time on the Internet there are an unlimited number of sources competing for attention, and no one can keep up with all they might like to. So it occurs to me now that our attention span has limited bandwidth, which means that time and space are at a premium. That being the case it would seem logical that not only should publications be free, but maybe they should pay you for paying attention to them given the limited amount of space that is actually available in your head. I don’t know if publishers would go that far, but at the very least they may have to look at a free delivery model, for what in fact is the privilege of getting your attention, given all the other things that are competing for your time. Thus it is well worth taking a moment to think about what is taking your time and what is really deserving of it.

06 May 2009


The house is currently considering legislation to establish “protected groups” such as “gay, lesbian and transgendered” individuals, among others. But when veterans were proposed as a group the Democrats rejected them.

“Hate” crime legislation is an abomination. Either there is a crime under existing statutes or there is not. The motivation or attitude of the perpetrator makes no difference. Hate crime legislation seeks to punish an attitude or speech. It is preferential to some groups but not others, therefore indicating there are classes of citizens with special rights. The absurdity is that the “hate” portion cannot legally be punished unless there is a crime, which is then treated more severely.

Suppose someone commits murder solely for profit, while someone else commits murder out of hatred. Is the latter any more egregious? Are victims of one crime of more value than victims of the other? Justice must be blind and treat all individuals equally. Such legislation destroys that concept and is therefore unjust. It is another example of PC run amok, and should be strongly resisted by all fair-minded people.

04 May 2009


There are some areas, such as appointing nutty radicals to legal positions, where Obama is predictably left-wing. But in other areas he has proven to be pragmatic and certainly far less doctrinaire than liberal Democrats in congress. Obama did not come into office with some design to take control of the financial system, and it is hard to see much difference between his administration and the Bush administration in this area. Indeed some of the most radical steps were initiated by the Bush administration in a final burst of big-government conservatism, which has proven to be disastrous for Republicans as a governing philosophy.

There is not much I would disagree with in this interview with the NY Times magazine. Although the interviewer is annoyingly presumptuous it is a revealing glimpse of the measured approach he takes on some issues. His remarks about education are particularly on target, although so far he has shown no inclination to take on the educational establishment and teachers unions. It is worth a read.

29 April 2009


The die has been cast for now. Arlen Specter’s defection to the Democrats makes it even more likely that much of their agenda is going to go through. For better or worse that is what we are going to have to live with, at least until there is enough blowback that can be attributable to these actions. Until that occurs the Republicans are fairly irrelevant, and internecine squabbles about the degree of conservatism don’t really matter. There will only be a shift when the public perceives that things have gone badly, which is not the case now. Hyper-partisanship is a waste of time.

It does not follow that the most radical policies being proposed will be enacted. A larger Democratic majority means a more varied party, and most politicians don’t vote ideologically as much as for what they perceive to be in the interests of their constituents. Inevitably there are geographical differences, and it is not yet clear i.e., that representatives from energy and industrial states are going to go along with the carbon tax. There are diverse interests at play and there still has to be some give and take and compromise. The more there is the less damage there will be, so all is not yet lost.

24 April 2009


For the first time in history we have a President whose commitment to this country is equivocal, if not tenuous. Only such a man could go abroad and criticize the US as though he were somehow above and apart from it. Only such a man could go abroad and apologize for his country, while shaking hands with Latin American radicals who excoriated the US, because he does not believe in this country and he does not believe it is good. It requires a radical transformation from the anointed one.

At first glance his soft approach might not seem bad, to the extent that it ratchets down anti-Americanism. But our enemies will only perceive this as weakness, and take advantage of it. He has called off the war on terror, released “torture” documents and photos giving aid and comfort to our enemies, and allowed that the Attorney General might prosecute officials of the prior administration for legal advice they gave that kept the country free from attack for seven years. Republicans must let it be known that if these political inquiries proceed, using the power of the state to punish political enemies, that the next time there is a Republican President they will go after the Obama administration for the treason they are committing.

What we have here is the most radical administration in American history, empowering the far left while claiming to be post-partisan. This is not surprising given that the instincts of Obama and his wife have always been those of black radicals, which was successfully hidden from the electorate and helped by the awful campaign run by John McCain, who refused to raise such issues. Under his policies we can expect the country to grow weaker, more vulnerable, and poorer as the government expands into every aspect of life. The policies of this administration make it a near certainty that Americans will be attacked again, and there can be no doubt who will have been responsible.
For the first time in history we have a President whose commitment to this country is equivocal, if not tenuous. Only such a man could go abroad and criticize the US as though he were somehow above and apart from it. Only such a man could go abroad and apologize for his country, while shaking hands with Latin American radicals who excoriated the US, because he does not believe in this country and he does not believe it is good. It requires a radical transformation from the anointed one.

At first glance his soft approach might not seem bad, to the extent that it ratchets down anti-Americanism. But our enemies will only perceive this as weakness, and take advantage of it. He has called off the war on terror, released “torture” documents and photos giving aid and comfort to our enemies, and allowed that the Attorney General might prosecute officials of the prior administration for legal advice they gave that kept the country free from attack for seven years. Republicans must let it be known that if these political inquiries proceed, using the power of the state to punish political enemies, that the next time there is a Republican President they will go after the Obama administration for the treason they are committing.

What we have here is the most radical administration in American history, empowering the far left while claiming to be post-partisan. This is not surprising given that the instincts of Obama and his wife have always been those of black radicals, which was successfully hidden from the electorate and helped by the awful campaign run by John McCain, who refused to raise such issues. Under his policies we can expect the country to grow weaker, more vulnerable, and poorer as the government expands into every aspect of life. The policies of this administration make it a near certainty that Americans will be attacked again, and there can be no doubt who will have been responsible.

18 April 2009


The one constant phenomenon throughout billions of years of geological history is that the earth is constantly changing. The continents shift, life evolves, the temperature fluctuates, and everything from anthills to mountains come and go. Throughout most of this history carbon dioxide has been present in the atmosphere, sometimes in greater quantities, sometimes in lesser, but there is no doubt that it is a naturally occurring gas. In fact every time we breathe we are exhaling CO2 (and plants are taking it in). It is therefore the height of absurdity for the EPA to label CO2 a pollutant. This is a political, not a scientific judgment. This of course opens the door to onerous government regulation that is going to cost us all dearly in terms of higher energy costs.

This is not to deny that there is a relationship between CO2 and global warming, or even that some of it is man made. The question is how we approach the problem. The horrendous costs and social disruption that are likely to result from C02 regulation are as disastrous as the consequences of simply leaving it alone, while modestly working towards more energy efficiency, but for cost savings, not cost increases. That there may be rising oceans and geological consequences does not require that we go into panic mode to address them and undermine our entire energy, industrial, transportation, and home infrastructure. Rather we should simply deal with them as they arise. Nothing lasts forever, and the earth will inevitably shift and change in any case, so what purpose is served by severely punishing ourselves, while the Chinese go on burning coal anyway? We are more than capable of adapting to circumstances as they arise. The costs will outweigh the benefits and we will be that much poorer as a result. Far greater problems could be addressed at a fraction of the cost according to the copenhagenconsensus.com. The self-flaggelation we are about to undergo at the hands of this administration is historically unprecedented. It is only about ten thousand years since the last ice age ended, and in half that brief time our civilization flourished. What are we going to do about the next ice age? What are we going to do if a series of volcanos erupt simultaneously, causing more atmospheric change than all our efforts combined? Government cannot manage anything effectively, yet we are now expanding its role to manage not merely laws and institutions, but the global environment itself. Unfortunately over time it will be abundantly clear that this is far beyond its competency.

16 April 2009


I have been getting a lot of Email lately from right-wing fringe elements regarding coming social chaos and collapse, secret concentration camps being set up, UN troops here, etc. This is reminiscent of the 90s "black helicopter" stories. This is the sort of paranoia that percolates when the "other" side is in control of the government.

The “government” in turn, through the Department of Homeland Security has announced there is a potential “terror” threat from right-wing groups, while presenting no evidence and including such menacing baddies as American veterans. Janet Napolitano subsequently gave an inadequate apology to veterans.

It is less than reassuring when the department charged with security is as nutty as the people that are purportedly a threat.

14 April 2009


There is a groundswell of enthusiastic activism for the various “tea parties”’ taking place around the country on April 15, which of course is the federal income tax deadline. I recall the atmosphere of such undertakings going back decades. What they do mostly is allow the committed to feel as though they are doing something about an issue they care about. But the policy consequences aren’t all that clear. The administration in power will simply look out and decide “those aren’t our voters.” This is not meant to discourage such activities, which by all means should take place, but the consequences beyond feeling good are likely to be muted, particularly because April 15 represents the wrong tax.

As it stands now barely half the population pays any income tax, which limits how much traction the issue can have. There is however, a good deal of resentment about “taxes,” generally. For most people the federal income tax is the least onerous tax they pay. Where they primarily get hit is with state and local taxes. For most people who pay taxes the single most burdensome levy is the property tax, which is a local tax. This is mitigated for some by the fact that it is deductible from federal taxes, but in terms of sheer dollars this is the biggest single tax for homeowners of modest means. That, along with other state fees and taxes, is where the real burden lies. Thus to be effective anti-tax efforts should focus on the most objectionable taxes most people actually pay, which are in fact local. The good news is that tax protest at this level is likely to be more effective.

12 April 2009


There is a certain kind of man that this country still produces, despite all the prominence given to defective “celebrities.” He is not the sort to seek the limelight, never engages in shameless self-promotion, and abides by an ancient code of honor in all endeavors in life. Such a man is Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama, who was willing to sacrifice himself to save his crew, prior to his rescue by US Navy Seals, whom we can also be justly proud of, (and Pres. Obama deserves credit for authorizing the rescue). Such a man is Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, who successfully landed his commercial jet in the Hudson River, saving all the passengers. The heroic nature of such men may be masked by their quiet of day to day competence, but when the occasion arises they are there at the ready. They are men who seek nothing more than to live peaceful, normal lives, but who resolutely extend themselves in a burst of heroic grace when the situation calls for it. Although they are “old white men” they are the sort that ought to be held up as role models, instead of the egomaniacs who seek the public spotlight or, the Hollywood sort of posturing, i.e. feigning courage where none is required (the George Clooney Syndrome). These are the sort of men that the reflect the best of what we are, the best of what we have been, and hopefully the best we shall continue to be.


Execrable members of the congressional “black caucus” recently met with the Castro brothers in Cuba, and subsequently heaped praise upon them, while calling for an end to US restrictions on the Cuban dictatorship. Not a word about the countless thousands of victims of the regime, nor of the political prisoners held in miserable conditions for having the temerity to dissent. They didn’t whisper a word about those victims to Castro, as they were too busy discussing American “racism.” They didn’t even ask to see the dissidents languishing away as political prisoners. No, these communist sympathizers gushed over Castro, because of course the United States is responsible for all that is wrong.

04 April 2009


A Spanish magistrate recently began preparing "indictments" against former officials of the Bush administration for allegedly approving "torture" at Guantanamo Bay. Unfortunately this is more than a frivolous procedure on the part of the lunatic left. There are some countries where preposterous claims of "universal" jurisdiction hold sway. The same procedure was used by Spanish courts to tie up General Augusto Pinochet in the British legal system, notwithstanding the fact that he was from another country, Chile, not Spain. This pernicious doctrine essentially asserts that individuals from one country can be "indicted" by another country's legal system for "human rights" violations or "war crimes." That means that if this were to continue former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, advisers John Yoo, Douglas Feith and others could be arrested in a third country based upon a Spanish court indictment, threatening any travel or vacation they might take abroad. This is not a partisan issue, as it could be applied to officials of any administration on spurious grounds, or for that matter the American military. Nor is just an American issue; i.e. consider what would happen to Israelis under such political charges. Merely advising the President is certainly not a crime here,even if it is not good advice, and we cannot tolerate it being construed as such elsewhere.

It is bad enough that the Obama administration is considering joining the International Criminal Court, which engages in similar mischief. If this type of "indictment" is not forcefully resisted it represents a serious infringement of American sovereignty. While some cheerleaders on the far left welcome this kind of political persecution, the Obama administration has thus far wisely rejected it domestically. Activities of American officials in the United States can only be addressed in American courts and clearly this approach has no traction, which would otherwise lead to an endless round of retaliatory investigations between political parties.

Did we not do the same thing against Nazis in the Nuremberg trials? Apart from the outrageous notion of equivalency between the Nazis and Americans or Israelis, there are fundamental differences. We were victors in a war in control of territory without a functioning government, whose former officials had overthrown the laws of their own country. We do not currently recognize "international" jurisdiction over American citizens and this should not change, and certainly we cannot allow some pipsqueak prosecutor in a foreign country to issue "indictments" against American officials without severe consequences.

Our response must be strong and unequivocal. The administration must reject any such procedure as an infringement on American sovereignty. In the event that the Spanish government allows this to go forward we should withdraw our ambassador from Spain, make it clear we do not recognize their authority, and issue a strong warning that we will retaliate against any country that attempts to hold an American citizen under such bogus charges. Should this occur, we will respond militarily, just as we did against the Barbary pirates two centuries ago. The Spanish magistrates are morally no better and we should go after them in a reciprocal fashion for threatening Americans. This is, after all, a purely ideological abuse of power by foreign politicians, and ultimately it comes down to politics and power. In that respect we hold all the cards so there is no reason not to tell the European Socialists where to go.

Thus far the response of the Obama administration has been less than reassuring. This has been dismissed as "a matter for the Spanish courts," which in effect says it is none of our business. But it soon will be and the issue cannot be ducked indefinitely. In this light we must now be heard as forcefully possible. The American people will not knowingly surrender their sovereignty and we cannot allow it to disappear by stealth.

31 March 2009


I’ve just returned from several days out west, based in Las Vegas. It has been 35 to 40 years since I last visited, and needless to say things have changed radically. A few of the old establishments are still around, although updated, and the amount of new construction is just mindboggling. One thing that hasn’t changed is casinos filled with smoke and smokers. In the past this seemed normal as smoking was pervasive, but now it is something of an oddity, and truly awful for a non-, or ex-smoker to endure. Things have changed on the slots as well; they now use tickets instead of coins and currency, which kind of takes away the jingling sound that used to greet the occasional winner. I am one of the few visitors to Las Vegas who spent nothing gambling, having learned a hard lesson about that many years ago, and finding nothing appealing about the present setup.

There is now a monorail paralleling the strip but it is poorly conceived, running along the back end of hotels. To get to it you have to walk through casinos, then up and down stairs or broken escalators, so that you might as well have hiked to your next destination. The stops are all casinos from the north end of the strip to the south, and in the course of the ride you must endure some thoroughly inane commentary along the way. Then wherever you are, you have to walk through a casino to get back to the strip.

The biggest change from my standpoint is the way shows are presented. In the old days it was like a nightclub where you could sit with a drink and watch the show. Not any more. The shows are ridiculously overpriced and presented in theaters. In one instance where I had the misfortune to see the Bette Midler show, it was held in a theater with over 4,000 seats. It was sheer torture to sit through, between her occasionally singing loudly but not well, while otherwise engaging in a foul rant and badmouthing people like Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, which is kind of like giving the finger to more or less half the country. To add insult to injury they insisted on confiscating all cameras, while pointlessly ignoring cell phones, which can also take pictures, and were integrated into a kind of audience participation segment, with a sissy wave moving the lighted phones back and forth. In this and all other shows the loudspeakers blast at an intolerable level, and projection screens are seriously overused in what is supposed to be a live show.

Then there are the people. As far as I could tell I was the only one wearing a jacket, and the audience was dressed in a variety of ways, like the pedestrians on the strip and in the casinos, ranging from awful to horrible. Women were dressed in flip-flops and men also dressed as though they were at a Caribbean resort, when the temperature was actually quite chilly, often walking along the street with a drink in hand and a cigarette dangling from their lips. There is something totally incongruous when you have the pretense of an upscale, elegantly appointed hotel, like the Venetian or Bellagio, and a parade of slobs constantly passing through. And that is just the white trash. There was also a large number of minorities everywhere, which helps explain how this western state could have flipped Democratic. To paraphrase the queen, for the first time in my life I’m not proud of my country. If you don’t gamble, Las Vegas is no place for anyone with any intelligence or sophistication. I hate to say it but things were a lot better when the mob was in charge.

One night we decided to check out Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, which is famous for its light displays and overhead projection screens. However, the moment we got there all the lights were turned off for some idiotic “earth hour,” so we had to wait around in the darkness surrounded by a milling crowd of lowlifes. People in that part of the country would do well to worry more about water supply than CO2. When we visited Hoover Dam the water level was down more than 40 feet, and this is the source much of the southwest depends on for water. That also includes southern California, agriculture in particular, where about half of our produce comes from nationally. While spending all this stimulus money on ephemeral projects, it would be worthwhile to find a way to get water from the north where the Red River is overflowing, to the south where it is needed.

After days of visiting shows, hotels, and nearby attractions we headed on a couple of long range trips to national parks in Utah, including Zion, and Bryce where we stayed overnight, and where it was actually snowing. Then we headed in the opposite direction in both temperature and distance to Death Valley in California. For that sort of thing Las Vegas is an ideal jumping off point for side trips. But personally I prefer natural monuments to man’s monumental excess.

21 March 2009


The outrage over the AIG executive bonuses is really over the top, amounting to mere millions while the government is spending trillions of dollars haphazardly. It is not that these bonuses are defensible, but rather that far more in questionable bonuses have been paid at other firms, and the percolating opposition may spill over to all bonuses generally. This would be disastrous, insofar as employees from secretaries to CEOs depend on receiving them as part of their compensation. In financial firms bonuses are a given, and are designed to reward and encourage good performance. Certainly some companies have paid out excessive sums at the top, but that is a problem for the owners of the company, i.e.the stockholders, whose money is being spent in this fashion, not the government. This is also another ominous indication of what happens when government takes ownership of private institutions and begins to micromanage them. However posturing politicians in the congress and administration are in no position to pass judgement in this or any other similar situation because they share a complementary feature that pervades all forms of organization.

The primary truth of every organization is that the people in charge run it in their own interests. This is as true for corporations as it is for nonprofits, "community" groups, political parties, churches, schools, universities, socialist regimes, unions, government agencies, associations, and every other form of human organization. Once the cornerstone of bureaucracy is laid, structural differentiation begins to take place, as people assume functionally specific roles. This means that someone must be in charge and manage different layers and the overall direction of things. In the process human nature kicks in and those in charge make certain that the activities of the organization complement their own interests. This does not mean there is an inherent conflict here, and the consequences can be beneficial. Nevertheless there is a certainty that those in charge will be sure that their own needs, comfort, and prerogatives are met and born by the organization to the extent possible. Supervision, no matter what the structure, is at best tenuous, as no one outside can manage the day to day operations of a hierarchy. The perquisites of office are widely accepted as legitimate for the roles in question and from this a sense of entitlement often follows, and as a result personal interest becomes fused with organizational purpose. Thus, organization inevitably results in oligarchy as those in charge enjoy not only the greatest benefits, but have the ability to strongly influence, if not control, their distribution. The power to make such decisions and implement them comes with oligarchy. Consider virtually any organization and you will find the trappings of office accentuated at the top.

Under normal circumstances no one questions the legitimacy of these arrangements as long as things function more or less as expected. It is when systems break down that a crisis ensues, and that is essentially what we are facing now in the global financial industry. Prior to this time an executive could walk off with tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars with the expectation of little more than envy. Thus for example, a Michael EIsner could earn more money in one year than Walt Disney earned in his entire life while founding and establishing his corporation. Now that the disconnect between performance and reward is evident, more and more anger has been directed at financial organizations and other corporations. The reaction to AIG is simply the explosion of pent-up frustration. However, keep in mind that no matter what succeeds AIG, sooner or later the inevitability of oligarchy will establish itself.