Sunday, November 30, 2008

The long shadow of Tail-Gunner Joe....

... as painted on the ground by the folks who need it to remain there forever.

Being clear: I'm not a conservative, and I'm not a Republican, but I am a historian and I do like it when folks who presume to talk history actually stick somewhere close to the facts.

The meme du jour at Delawareliberal today is cassandra's fascination with Neil Gabler's LA Times op-ed attempting to make the case that modern conservatism doesn't go back to Buckley [whom he ignores completely] and Goldwater, but is the spawn of cynically generated fear-mongering politics that can be traced to the secret god of the Republican Party: Senator Joe McCarthy.

There is so much wrong, from a purely historical/factual point of view, with Gabler's take [I can't dignify it with the word thesis, because it isn't] that I'm not going to bother to deconstruct it all.

I'll just settle for one sentence:

Reagan's sunny disposition and his willingness to compromise masked the McCarthyite elements of his appeal, but Reaganism as an electoral device was unique to Reagan and essentially died with the end of his presidency.

Here, Gabler gets it half right [which is about par for his entire article]. Reaganism as an electoral device was in fact unique to Ronald Reagan, because it was one of the more successful cults of personality in 20th Century American politics, matched only by two Democrats: FDR and Bill Clinton. Nobody could do Reagan, and Reagan remained something of an outsider to his own party throughout his career.

But you've got to love the subtle knife [with apologies to Phillip Pullman] that Gabler attempts to stick in here.

Reagan masked the McCarthyite elements of his appeal.

Mr. Gabler gives us only that one sentence assertion, and slides blithely past, because--wait for it--he's full of shit.

Don't trust me. Ask Richard Reeves, whose President Reagan, the Triumph of Imagination, found many things but nothing vaguely McCarthyite about Ronald Reagan. Reeves, for the uninitiated, is probably the absolute best journalist/historian writing on JFK, Nixon, and Reagan. If you haven't read his books, you should. More to the point: Reeves is a professed liberal quite critical of many aspects of Reagan and his presidency--but he somehow missed that McCarthyism Mr. Gabler seems to sniff. [So did Lou Cannon in Governor Reagan or President Reagan, by the way.]

But, you see, Reagan's conservatism is to Mr Gabler's argument what historians call a counterfactual, this niggling little piece of contradictory information that won't go away ... so we'd just best not talk about it very much.

And therein lies the problem of those, like cassandra, who have constructed a personal narrative [I'd call it a meme, but I try not to give either Dennis Dennett or George Lakoff more influence on the public discourse than they deserve] that requires the following generalization:

Conservatives [by which they mean anybody who is not a liberal or a progressive, which is why this interests a Libertarian like me] can only win by creating fear, paranoia, and hate, from which it is only a short step to Conservatives are cowardly, paranoid hate-mongers.

Now I would be the first to admit there's been a lot of GOP fear-mongering during especially the past decade. But let's not go all pristine and virginal about liberal/progressive Democrats, who consistently reinvent themselves because they have to stay one step ahead of their own fear-mongering examples:

John F. Kennedy's cynical exploitation of a missile gap with the Soviet Union that he knew during the election of 1960 did not exist.

Lyndon Johnson's grotesque slander of Barry Goldwater in his little-girl-with-flowers-being-obliterated-in-a-nuclear-blast advertisement.

The dozens of Democrats in the Senate who consistently voted against civil rights legislation throughout the 1960s.

These are the old examples. For the 1990s version, read Nigel Hamilton's Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency and take an inside look at the chilling process by which a master political narrative was hatched in the first Clinton administration to demonize Republicans in order to cover up their own organizational and political failings.

[Oh, sorry. I keep forgetting: I'm actually suggesting that people read footnoted, well-researched, academically accepted books rather than op-ed columns off the internet. Shit, I've got to stop that.]

Every incoming administration and its partisans attempts to rewrite history. That, for better or for worse, is the American way of politics. Unfortunately, what's happened since 1992 is that between the Slick Willie-Dubya years the exercise has gotten so cynical and so craven on both sides that it has become completely divorced from any serious form of reality testing--or accepted canons of evidence for that matter.

Thus, the glop that Mr. Gabler writes [much like the glop that Jonah Goldberg pens on the other side] passes among the appropriate set of partisans as real history, real intellectual work.

Which is then passed further on down the food chain until it reaches the blogs and becomes a mantra for people on both sides who have been taught to see other American citizens with different political and social ideas as enemies to be vanquished and not partners in the ongoing narrative of the United States.

Demonization: it's obviously not just for Rush, Sean, and Ann any more.

he spits, walks away

No damn wonder I'll stick with the crazy Libertarians.

Delaware Libertarian exclusive: LNC hired parliamentarian to plan Keaton ejection

Submitted for your perusal... a leaked document indicating that the LNC retained a parliamentarian to assess their chances of tossing Angela Keaton off the LNC.

It would be especially interesting if the individuals behind this particular effort used your and my contributions to the Libertarian party to pay for this. The letter is addressed to Bill Redpath.

No money for proper ballot access in West Virginia or Oklahoma -- yet thousands of dollars to harrass George Phillies and (apparently) try to eject the most popularly elected member of the LNC.

And no, Keaton was not the source of this leak. That person shall remain anonymous -- and good on that person for stepping forward with this information.

The content of the file (a PDF) is at the link below. It's a snoozer of parliamentary gobbledygook, filled with some intriguing details regarding Redpath's request to figure out what leeway he has.

Parliamentarian's Letter To Bill Redpath Regarding Removal Of Angela Keaton

Because Socialist Paradise Takes Time...

Like any bully dictator, Hugo Chavez isn't much on term limits (at least for himself), much less a stable constitution for his country.

What a shock. Who would have ever thought socialism could breed self-perpetuating tyranny by a ruthless megalomaniacal thug?

Venezuela's Hugo Chávez again seeks indefinite re-election

Associated Press

President Hugo Chávez asked supporters to propose a constitutional reform that would allow him to seek indefinite re-election and govern through 2019, giving him more time to build a socialist economy in Venezuela.

''We are going to begin the national debate,'' the former paratroops commander told a crowd of red-clad government supporters at a rally in Caracas on Sunday.

Chávez, who was first elected in 1998, is barred from running again when his term as president expires in 2013.

Venezuelan voters last year rejected a sweeping package of constitutional changes that would have ended presidential term limits, with many of Chávez's opponents warning that he intends to be president for life.

Any new attempt at a reform, which must be approved in a nationwide referendum, would open a new front for tensions between government-backers and their political rivals.

Chávez also threatened Sunday to expel Colombia's top diplomat in Maracaibo, Venezuela's second largest city, after he privately welcomed opposition victories in five key races during last week's gubernatorial and municipal elections.

Obama Does the Neocons Proud

Jeremy Scahill compiles the chorus of neocon and "right wing" praise rolling in for the emerging administration of Barack Obama.

I am sure my (self-described) liberal friends will find it all just as comforting as I do.

Liberal David Sirota also aptly points out that no one should be surprised, given that "Obama's 'grass-roots' movement revolves around him, not progressive issues."

As Sirota writes : "For better or worse, that leaves us relying more than ever on our Dear Leader's impulses. Sure, we should be thankful when Dear Leader's whims serve the people -- but also unsurprised when they don't."

"[T]he new administration is off to a good start."
--Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell.

"[S]uperb...the best of the Washington insiders...this will be a valedictocracy-- rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes."
--David Brooks, conservative New York Times columnist

"[V]irtually perfect..."
--Senator Joe Lieberman, former Democrat and John McCain's top surrogate in the 2008 campaign.

--Karl Rove, "Bush's brain."

"I am gobsmacked by these appointments, most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain...this all but puts an end to the 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, the unconditional summits with dictators, and other foolishness that once emanated from the Obama campaign...[Hillary] Clinton and [James] Steinberg at State should be powerful voices for 'neo-liberalism' which is not so different in many respects from 'neo-conservativism.'"
--Max Boot, neoconservative activist, former McCain staffer.

"I see them as being sort of center-right of the Democratic party."
--James Baker, former Secretary of State and the man who led the theft of the 2000 election.

"[S]urprising continuity on foreign policy between President Bush's second term and the incoming administration....certainly nothing that represents a drastic change in how Washington does business. The expectation is that Obama is set to continue the course set by Bush..."
--Michael Goldfarb of the neoconservative Weekly Standard.

"I certainly applaud many of the appointments..."
--Senator John McCain

"So far, so good."
-- Senator Lamar Alexander, senior Republican Congressional leader.

Hillary Clinton will be "outstanding" as Secretary of State
--Henry Kissinger, war criminal.

Rahm Emanuel is "a wise choice" in the role of Chief of Staff
--Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, John McCain's best friend.

Obama's team shows "Our foreign policy is non-partisan."
--Ed Rollins, top Republican strategist and Mike Huckabee's 2008 campaign manager

"The country will be in good hands."
--Condoleezza Rice, George W Bush's Secretary of State

Really, I was going to introduce Brian Miller before he started posting here....

... but I have the best excuse in the world: six days of in-laws in my house for Thanksgiving.

I met Brian about six or seven months ago, in some communication between Delaware Libertarian and Outright Libertarians, and discussions just took off like they do when you meet somebody you'd swear you knew all your life, except that you just met him yesterday....

Brian is articulate, opinionated, well-informed, and far more of an insider to Libertarian politics than I am.

He's been knocking around here commenting and (whenever he considers it necessary) crossing swords with the rest of the house.

In short, Brian Miller is exactly the sort of Libertarian misfit I'm proud to have associated (even if the State linkage is pretty much limited to 14 miles of I-95) with Delaware Libertarian.

I give him, oh, two maybe three days before he truly pisses off somebody in the readership, which is all too the good.

Thinking Differently About The Libertarian National Committee

Much has been made of the pending railroading of Angela Keaton (and the likely ascent of M Carling and Alicia Mattson into LNC seats they couldn't win through the popular vote process).

Much has been made of the dodgy alleged LNC financial statements leaked through other web sites.

Yes, this Brigade of Buffoons targeting Keaton (a friend of mine) is a group of morons. Yes, they are incompetent. And yes, they couldn't find an electoral victory if you handcuffed it to their right arms.

Which is why I am going to ask each Libertarian to Think Differently (with apologies to Apple) for a moment.

In what areas is the LNC truly instrumental?

What things would cease to happen if the LNC was to shrivel up and die? (Besides all the negative and time-wasting stuff that's been its hallmark for years now).

I asked myself these questions and the answer came back as a stark "nothing."

Ballot access is easily achieved through well-funded PACs with the intention of nothing more than ballot access. George Phillies' Liberty Ballot Access PAC has been a great resource, and, absent the giant sucking sound of the LNC, would probably be able to get us on 49, perhaps 50 state ballots, rather than the paltry 45 we ended up with.

The Watergate Building would lose a tenant, but then again, with no elected representatives in DC, why does the LP need an expensive DC office?

And the job of public and media relations have been abandoned to the grass roots (who do a better job than the paid staff). Outright Libertarians, of which I am a board member, got mention of local, state and federal LP campaigns in a host of local LGBT news sources, the primary national LGBT news magazine, and radio and television talk shows including Sirius Radio and CBS. The LNC itself was absent on gay issues in the election.

Angela Keaton and her colleagues attracted huge amounts of media support and coverage on the war, while the LNC sat and did nothing.

Downsize DC and the Independent Institute targeted government waste, even as the LNC created bureaucratic waste of its own.

The Munger campaign generated tremendous coverage and awareness in North Carolina without a peep of support from the LNC.

In fact, the LNC had NO meaningful media strategy this year.

(Well, to be fair, the national office did get a YouTube video featuring the chair of our national party being interviewed by a guy in a bunny suit).

So by my count, the LNC has failed in every facet of its mission. In a true free market, it would go out of business and disappear. And that's the course of action I recommend.

The future of the Libertarian Party will be built in places like Dover, Wilmington, Newark, Philadelphia, West Chester, North Carolina.

The LNC can continue to cast out popularly supported members, and put its own inner circle of Starr-chamber sycophants (and "licensed parliamentarians") into office.

It's already irrelevant.

The sooner we acknowledge that fact and get on with the business of liberty in our own backyards, the sooner we can build something meaningful and long-lasting as a movement.

Some intriguing new possibilities are already on the horizon, and I will blog more about them as the LNC continues to self-immolate.

A Quick Introduction

A friendly hello to all DL readers!

I'm Brian Miller, a Libertarian just up the road in Philadelphia, and I've joined to blog infrequently about issues in our region and general Libertarian stuff.

While I don't live in Delaware, I am a frequent customer and traveler through the state -- enjoying its Libertarian benefits like tax-free shopping, and the friendliness of its people. I've long felt comfortable there and Delaware has always been a part of my political and personal life.

I hope to enjoy a vigorous dialogue here on DL and take home some great ideas to put into practice here in the City of Brotherly Love.

The News Journal finds its Libertarian groove...

Let's see, in today's edition they published Patricia Cavender's op-ed on privatizing or outsourcing DelDot:

We could probably deal with a neighboring state or a private firm for less than we're paying for a poor excuse for engineering.

That, of course, quails in contention with some actual investigative reporting that reveals the Delaware State Police are using their discretionary authority to break Federal law and abuse privacy rights with so-called Superchecks on gun-onwers.

That's unusual in and of itself, but what about this editorial from our usual uber-Statist friends?

The report on today's front page by investigative reporter Lee Williams about the Delaware State Police's use of so-called "superchecks" on gun possession is at least disturbing and possibly a violation of federal law. This is not the kind of information Delawareans want to read about their nationally recognized state law enforcement agency.

Simply because the state police can access mental health records from their portable computers isn't a reason to do it. But that's exactly what it looks like: They do it because they can.

As Drewry Fennell -- executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware -- said, mental health history of citizens is surrounded by "robust protections. There's a clear directive that they're [computer checks] not supposed to be used for general law enforcement purposes." Emphasis on the word not.

And it certainly doesn't speak well for the state police when our neighbors in Maryland and Pennsylvania say their police don't do any such thing like what Delaware does with the confidential mental health records.

The News Journal found that more than 10 percent of background checks denied by the state Firearms Transaction Approval Program were requested by state troopers, not by gun dealers for whom the program was created by the state Legislature. None of the people on whom the background checks were made had signed consent forms, also required by state law.

The state police seem to dismiss these violations of law and personal rights as something they must do for their job. It doesn't look that way to us.

Five will get you ten that we won't quickly find our liberal/progressive friends jumping through hoops to support this patently illegal activity with all the fervor they used to denounce the Bush administration for warrantless wiretaps.

No, I'm not holding my breath.

I love selective outrage....

... like the current donviti post at Delawareliberal that has discovered that retired General Barry McCaffrey has turned into a defense industry lobbyist.

Quoth the outraged dv:

Oh look a 4 star general pimp’d himself out. Why am I not surprised…but don’t read the article, it’s from the MSM and they hate america….

If dv bothered to read beyond the MSM story du jour, he'd have discovered:

1) McCaffrey has been laboring under a cloud since he was nearly cashiered for misconduct in the First Gulf War.

2) He then went on to be Clinton's drug czar, and get into another scandal by playing games with network advertising.

More to the point, if dv had been paying any attention whatsoever during the Presidential campaign, he'd have noticed that Barack Obama literally surrounded himself with former admirals and generals turned into defense industry lobbyists. He even cut a video of their endorsements. I published it all here, but what the hell, it's not important when our guy does it, except that....

McCaffrey was a Democratic appointee, and far from being the exception to the pattern, he's the rule.

Both wings of the Demopublican party humble themselves (you might say, go down on their kneepads) to the military-industrial complex, which is why the three highest Senatorial recipients of defense contributions were Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain.

So if Delaware's former hottest(air) blogger wants to tout himself as the outraged champion of the people being screwed over, he really ought to--I don't know--actually do a little research next time.

UPDATED: Gun control: another comforting illusion of security

Playing the usual card of citing a crime (the two people killed at Toys R Us), nemski at Delawareliberal has a predictable post supporting new gun control measures, except....

That several of his proposals are not new--they are already the law, and that research shows at least one of his proposals would actually increase crime.

Among his old proposals: holding adults culpable for furnishing guns used in crimes, for furnishing guns to minors, and enforcing existing laws (duh!).

Among a recurrent useless proposal: a permanent assault weapons ban, which is the same thing as saying we should stop selling all eight-cylinder cars with tail fins, while continuing to sell all others. There is no such animal as a semi-automatic assault weapon, and real assault rifles are already illegal.

Then there's the extension of the "cooling off" period--which has absolutely no research backing its effectiveness in states where it has been implemented (yes, nemski, it does exist in some places), or the elimination of concealed carry permits, which, ironically, have been universally shown by serious research to reduce crime wherever they exist, without causing so much as a bump in gun fatalities.

nemski is not looking to have a conversation with gun owners (he characterizes them as lunatics) or even to think rationally about policy. What he wants to do is use the new Democratic majority to legislate because they can:

Let's pass some tough gun control legislation and see what happens.

Yeah, in other words: let's enact our ideological beliefs no matter what constitutional law, policy research, or common sense says--just like all those gungho Republicans did from 2000-2006!

The primary difference between progressives/liberals and social conservatives is not that that one group wants to protect the Constitution and that the other would shred it, but that each of them has different parts of your civil liberties they would like to eliminate.

You can tell this with a simple fill in the blank question:

________________ are destroying America and need to be stopped.

For conservatives this would be queers wanting to get married, and for liberal/progressives this would be frothing at the mouth gun owners.

On a more serious note (two, actually):

1) None of nemski's proposals, even if enacted, will make a dent in the millions of guns already out there. So the logical conclusion is that either (a) gun control advocates are posturing; or (b) their ultimate aim is complete confiscation and registration (nemski regards a first step down that slippery slope as one he's willing to take).

2) This post provides the perfect liberal/progressive extremist counterpoint to the nutjob civil war post I criticized yesterday.

American citizens, I say to both of you, are not extremists.

UPDATE: A postscript: just in case you wondered whether or not you were dealing with a true confiscationist agenda, here's nemski's latest comment, in which he pretty much lays it all out--no guns would equal no crime:

This whole “law-abiding” meme is a crock of shit. Gun nuts use it all the time when someone goes killing with a gun, “Well, what do you expect, he’s a criminal.” But prior to the killings, he was a “law-abiding” citizen and yet gun nuts say it is not the gun, its the person. Why can’t you admit that the gun has something to do with the violence? And, maybe, just maybe, the death would not have occurred if there was no gun available.

A final little snark: beware anybody pretentious enough to throw in the phrase meme: it's a dead giveaway of somebody who has only encountered Dennis Dennett via George Lakoff (or his clones), but badly needs to fit in with the pseudo-intellectual Left.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Just another thing to blame Angela Keaton for: their own attorney disses the LNC

Everybody in Libertarian circles has been taking notice of the announcement in the Libertarian National Committee agenda for the upcoming San Diego meeting that the LNC intends to take 30 minutes for the discipline of Angela Keaton.

For those who don't remember (or never gave a rat's butt), Angela got in hot water for supposedly live-blogging about hush-hush discussions in an LNC Executive Session, and (oh yes!) for giving web-based expression to a few passing, whimsical--perhaps even satirical--sexual fantasies about the hired help.

This brings to mind two responses too rational for the libido-challenged, freedom-loving Bob Barr supporters of the LNC:

1) Nobody--not the Republicans, the Democrats, the Greens, the Socialists, or even Robert Milnes--really gives a damn about your secrets.

2) It's a lot more harmless fun reading Angela's musings about cougar conquests than it is thinking about what licensed parliamentarian M Carling and the Libertarian National Congressional Committee has done with its money instead of support candidates, or learning the incestuous dealings between the Barr campaign and various LP insiders.

So they hauled Angela into a star chamber (not a Starchild Chamber, which at least would have been interesting) and demanded that she apologize or be kicked off the LNC.

Oh, and I think they are also pissed that sometime later she chose to cover her shapely self in a Boston Tea Party Tea-shirt.

There's a lot of room for Dr Freud here, therefore, when the LNC meets again to discipline Angela Keaton. I'm thinking she should wear something in PVC or latex, and bring them the tawse they really want to use, but lack the reproductive hormones to admit it.

[Interesting aside: my spellchecker does not recognize "tawse," which means, I think, that the geeks at Microsoft have never read either The Story of O or A Man with a Maid, much less the soon-to-be-classic Disciplined Cougars of Liberty. I guess calling them wankers is not justified.]

Of course, they only get to discipline Angela ("No, over my knees, first!") if Wayne Allyn Root stops talking.

This is all rendered pretty moot in an Emperor Has No Clothes sort of manner by the November 18 letter [h/t LastFreeVoice] from LNC counsel Bill Hall, who is jacking up his price for representing this group of adrenally challenged clowns by nearly 25% at least partly because of

the rampant political nastiness on the LNC and in the LP, which makes my role as general counsel much less enjoyable than in the past.

Maybe if they let Bill do some of the disciplining personally, his work would be more enjoyable.

There's nothing like personally laying a stripe across that round, firm....

Ouch. Stop that. Libertarian erotica is so ... Boston Tea Party.

XStryker hits the nail on the head: this should be the year for same-sex marriage in Delaware

Simply go to Delawareliberal, read his post, and sign up.

There will not be a second American Civil War....

... no matter how some of our more reactionary friends would like to fantasize about it.

From (faux)Libertarian Republican:

But 56 million Americans voted against Obammunism and that’s who is retreating from the markets and stocking up on guns and ammo in record numbers. They are preparing to protect their earned property, by force if need be.

No, they're not. They're purchasing ammunition because we're sure to see an increase in the taxes on ammo. Why they buy it, they're planning to stockpile it for use in hunting, target shooting, and personal defense... exactly as they always have.

They're purchasing handguns and rifles because they're afraid of increased Federal regulations that will make it more difficulty if not impossible to acquire them. When they buy them, they're going to use them in hunting, target shooting, and personal defense... exactly as they always have.

Yes, the advocates of extremist gun control are closer to the halls of power than they have been for a few decades, but they are only going to have their ultimate wet-dream success if the rest of us just simply drop out of the political process and cater to their talking-points image of all gun-owners as potential homicidal murderers of liberal churchgoers.

To suggest that the election of Barack Obama is the tip-over point to civil war (Eric Dondero decided to title his post, "The blood of patriots & tyrants: Obama's election could bring about the next Civil War--Rural Red vs. the Big Blue Urban Areas") is not just a piece of breath-taking irresponsibility, but a complete underestimation of the resilience of the American people and the American system.

It is the naked suggestion that political disagreements in the United States sometimes need to be resolved by force.

Does the avowedly Statist agenda of the progressives and liberals in the White House and Congress threaten critical aspects of American Constitutional liberties? Yes, it does.

But the fact of the matter is that Barack Obama and the Democrats convinced more people to vote for "Bread and Circuses" and comforting illusion of security that only a bloated government could provide. They did so because the Republicans spent the previous eight years tattering the Constitution, muddying the line between Church and State, and bloating the rest of the government while passing out hand-outs to their buddies.

They won non-violently, playing the same system everybody else does. And that's how we have to defeat them, and their ideas, without ever losing sight of a critical fact: the people who voted for Barack Obama and the Democrats are American citizens who love this country just as much as JB Williams or Eric Dondero....

Might I suggest shovel and brown uniforms?

What does it take to make us all realize what it means to be an American?

Apparently, three months of compulsory service for all citizens 18-25.

There's a problem with the embed code that I can't debug, so visit EyeblastTV for the clip of Rahm Emmanuel discussing exactly how this wonderful piece of state-sponsored mandatory volunteerism is supposed to work

I can't wait to hear my liberal/progressive friends defend this proposal.

What kind of blog do you want to be when (if) you grow up?

Last week my friend Waldo discovered the Typealyzer, which does a quick, automated survey of any given blog, and then characterizes the writing style found therein.

Both Waldo and I came out as Thinkers, which is probably appropriate when applied to him, and wishful thinking for me.

This is what it says about Thinkers:

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.
and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

For curiosity's sake, I tried this with Delaware Watch [Dana, you should be flattered I thought of you first], and got the response that Dana is a Doer:

The active and play-ful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities. The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus.

They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

For the record, Dana, there is a line-drawing of a teenage girl basketball player beside this description. Not sure what's up with that, but hey...

Actually, I tried Dana first because I figured that this kind of automated Meyers-Briggs Test was probably more accurate when applied to blogs written primarily or entirely with one voice.

I figured that if you applied it to a blog with multiple, regular authors, like Delawareliberal, you might get a different response.

And I did; sort of. When I did this with DL about three days ago I got The Mechanics:

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

Okay, fine, I guess. I'm not real sure the program is correct with that often avoid inter-personal conflicts thing, but on the whole, not too bad.

The weird part is that I ran the thing again on DL today, and got The Doers like Dana. This suggests that the Typealyzer only checks the last few posts of a blog before characterizing it.

So, to check that, I re-ran my own blog, and discovered that while DL has evolved from Mechanics to Doers, I have likewise evolved from a Thinker to a Mechanic.

Since I suspect that jason, dv, and company haven't fundamentally changed over the past couple of days than I have, I guess that automated psycho-analysis has a way to go.

None of which is too surprising, but it does raise the issue of whether the kind of blog you try to produce is actually what your readers perceive. Granted that this is all a form of mental masturbation, fueled by the ego-centrism to believe that you consistently have something interesting and/or valuable to say about issues of the day, and that only a very, very few people ever make (or try to make) a dime out of blogging, it's still an interesting question.

How do you determine, as a reader, which blogs are worth reading?

I pretty much divide the blogs that I frequent into three categories:

1) Visit occasionally; comment never.

2) Visit regularly; comment occasionally.

3) Visit regularly; comment regularly.

Most of the blogs on my blogroll fall into category two--possibly as much from laziness as anything else--at least in part because of how useful or entertaining I find the conversations there.

Over the past month, I've commented mostly on Down With Absolutes, DelawareWatch, Boston Tea Party, kavips, and The Mourning Constitution. (I'd have been able to add Hube to this list, but his server keeps telling me it temporarily can't take comments right now, deleting whatever masterpiece I've just written and don't have the gumption to recreate later.)

My pattern has only changed at Delawareliberal, where I still visit and read, but feel absolutely no urge to comment.

I wondered why that happened, and I thought about it for awhile. I need to be careful here, because the last time I said anything even mildly critical about DL (once here and once on DTR in the same week in response to Mike's question), everybody over there got their panties fairly tightly wadded. So, stepping forward slowly, I realized that two features of DL had subtly changed over the past few months.

One is banning commenters, which happened to mike w and a bundy (who knows who else?) recently. Don't get me wrong, you've got the right to run your blog any way you please... but these were the same folks who gave Dana Garrett mounds of shit when he briefly turned on comment moderation. You can't have it both ways.

[Truth in advertising: I also gave Dana some shit then, but frankly, have changed my mind on that issue. His response to unwelcome posts was actually pretty well-considered, and he stopped as soon as the original problem went away.]

Number two is the slide toward the demonization/exterminationist language about anybody who is not completely onboard with the progressive/liberal agenda in general, and the incoming Obama administration in specific. I enjoy reading cassandra and pandora (and LG, but his posts have been less frequent of late) because they actually talk about policy and problems and solutions rather than simply characterizing the millions of Americans who might have different political views as ... well, let's just say unworthy to participate in the political process.

When you start attacking peoples' families or characterizing others as racists just because they have different outlooks (while feeling free to crack gay jokes), then while I may keep reading ... I'm not going to feel much like engaging.

I'm certain my particular lack of engagement is not seen as much of a loss over there.

As for Delaware Libertarian, I'm still not sure what this blog is right now, much less what it wants to be as an adult. I've been at this now for a year, and there have been ups and downs, things I did well and even more things I'm not that happy with. Most of the time there's a lot more Libertarian than there is Delaware, and there are a lot of posts that are ... neither. Some of which attract more attention than anything else (go figure).

Point of all this navel-gazing? Blogs are, I think, like too many other endeavors. They tend to get routine over time, and drift in ways you're not intending or expecting. Sometimes that's good, but usually it isn't.

Sometimes you need to go back and intentionally re-think why you started doing this in the first place, which is what I intend to do over the next few days.

Friday, November 28, 2008

This woman is not a criminal, she's a victim...

... of the bizarre legal system in this country that brands Wendy Whitaker of Macon GA as a Registered Sex Offender for the rest of her life...

... because when she was seventeen years old she got caught giving a blow job to a sixteen-year-old boy.

Read the entire bizarre story of how the government keeps raping Wendy Whitaker at Classically Liberal, and ask yourself, "Should I be able to find this poor woman's photo and detailed information on the Federal Department of inJustice website?" [Try it--it's easy. User friendly, you might say.]

I went to several of these Protect Your Children type websites that (for a modest fee) will tell you about sex offenders in your neighborhood. According to them, if I send in $12, I will get a list of the 35 registered sex offenders living in my zip code, right here in good old Pike Creek DE.

You have to wonder how many of them committed the egregious sin of a little groping, fondling, fingering, or fellating in the back seat with another teen a couple of months younger.

An UPDATE: For curiosity's sake I went through the Delaware Registry for my zip code. One guy, now in his forties, is listed as a Moderate Risk sex offender for having exposed his buttocks over ten years ago. More to the point of this post, there is a fifteen-year-old boy on the list who is now forever labeled as a sex offender because, he had some unspecified sexual contact with an eleven-year-old girl about five weeks after his thirteenth birth day. The offense, as written, is clearly a statutory rather than a predatory violation. So, just on one random check I pull up a guy who probably got drunk and mooned somebody, and an inquisitive young teen. I know I feel safer now that I'm sure these perverts have been marked for life.

I can only think of one really accurate description of what has happened to them, and to Wendy Whitaker: government-sponsored rape.

If you're sitting by your keyboard itching to tell me that if a sex offender registry saves just one child from molestation it's worth it to ruin the lives of literally tens if not hundreds of thousands of American citizens to give you the illusion of safety, then let me save us both the time it will take to answer your comment: you're a moron.

Wendy Whitaker's life is no less worth protecting than your darling child, who probably has bad manners, anyway.

If you're torn by the angst of balancing the public good against the individual's right to privacy, you've really already decided that, well, it's unfortunate and maybe some day we'll find a better balance between the State and the Individual... but you personally are not about to do anything in that direction.

You see, folks, what government gives you--either in homeland security, or registered sex offender laws, or even product safety testing--is the comforting illusion of security.

I suppose that's benign enough for some people, when the only cost is your tax dollars, but when it is the 747 out of 770 detainees at Gitmo who have never been charged with any crime [thanks, Waldo], the thousands of innocent people of sex offender registries, or even just the dogs that just happen to keep getting slaughtered by law enforcement officers looking for drugs in all the wrong places [appreciate it, JD]....

It's not benign any more. It's a f**king police state.

And, you know what? It didn't all come from Dubya.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Simply the best post I've read related to gay marriage, since ...

... I don't know, maybe ever.

From religion dispatches via Waldo, here's the core of it:

I no longer recognize marriage. It’s a new thing I’m trying.

Yesterday I called a woman’s spouse her boyfriend.

She says, correcting me, “He’s my husband,”
“Oh,” I say, “I no longer recognize marriage.”

The impact is obvious. I tried it on a man who has been in a relationship for years,

“How’s your longtime companion, Jill?”
“She’s my wife!”
“Yeah, well, my beliefs don’t recognize marriage.”

Fun. And instant, eyebrow-raising recognition. Suddenly the majority gets to feel what the minority feels. In a moment they feel what it’s like to have their relationship downgraded, and to have a much taken-for-granted right called into question because of another’s beliefs.

Just replace the words husband, wife, spouse, or fiancé with boyfriend, girlfriend, special friend, or longtime companion. There is a reason we needed stronger words for more serious relationships. We know it; now they can see it.

I have only one problem with this strategy: having been married myself for 17 years, I can't quite figure out how to go around telling people I no longer recognize marriage without risking a frying pan upside the head.

But I think it makes a tremendous point about the legitimacy being deprived certain American citizens.


With sincere apologies to Brian Shields, the thing I like best about Thanksgiving is the way my house smells all day. (I am allowed to use more spices, Brian, although I have to stay away from the ones that set off hyper-allergic reactions in my son.)

This is an interesting season, because so many Americans have been sold on the idea that we are standing on the brink of a catastrophe. I can get on the net and see lists of stores I should not buy gift certificates from, because they probably won't be in business next year to redeem them. I can watch the unemployment statistics rise, see Czar Paulson running around like a turkey with his head chopped off (and his neck stuffed up his ass with the giblets package), tossing out hundreds of billions of dollars to everybody except the taxpayers who generated it.

I can read kavips, who has decided that this is the last Thanksgiving before ... the Blackness.

I can open up the Snooze Journal, as I have for the past few days, to find yet another state government organization proclaiming that the world will end if spending has to be balanced against receipts. Yesterday it was the Department of Education and the Court System, today it's DelDot. Funny, I've never actually been sure what DelDot does with the money--certainly doesn't seem to be keeping roads in repair.

And I can watch President-elect Obama doing exactly what I would be doing in his place, at least in a rhetorical sense, which is making dire enough predictions about how bad it is all going to get before it gets better. Part of this is realism, but another huge chunk is your typical politician trying to ensure that if the economy still stinks 18 months into his administration you don't blame him.

[As much as I disagree with many of his policies, I will say it's nice to have somebody back in the White House who at least knows how to give a damn speech.]

Don't get me wrong: there are going to be some tough times ahead. As a culture we've been living beyond our means in a credit bubble for too long, and eventually, eventually, the Reaper had to show up at the door. [Obama should be happy that the skeleton appeared before he was elected. Whew. Dodged a bullet on that one.]

In those tough times, people are going to get hurt--economically, psychologically, and physically. But since that happens everyday around the world while we're not paying attention, maybe it's not necessarily a bad thing to be reminded that the USA is not immune.

I look at my children, however, and I think: this is a chance for them that I never had in my lifetime.

The Great Depression, followed by World War Two, gave us the Greatest Generation.

There's going to be plenty of economic hardship and--unfortunately--military conflict over the next 5-8 years. My twins are just about the age my Dad was when the Depression broke out. It made so many aspects of his character, he told me, far better than they otherwise would have been.

Those of us in our 50s, 60s, and up are not going to be the Greatest Generation of this story. That role has been reserved for our children and grandchildren. They are the ones who will redefine America, as America gets redefined anew every 3-4 generations. For my conservative friends who are afraid that somehow progressives and liberals will turn this country into France or Sweden while we're not looking, don't worry....

This country, like Russia, like India, and like China, is too big, too rambling, and too diverse to follow any model of society or economics that works for a State with only a fraction of our scale and population. Our children will turn this country into what America needs to be to thrive and grow in the 21st Century, and I am not worried about entrusting the future to them.

But this is a Thanksgiving post, and I should tell you what we are thankful for, here at hacienda Newton.

We're thankful that my wife is recovering from three-level spinal fusion, that the doctors are dealing with the residual referred nerve pain, and that she will be able to go back work in January.

We're thankful that my son is responding to the blood pressure medications meant to help him deal with Adolescent Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

We're thankful that my eldest daughter finally landed a full-time job with benefits, and that it is in a position that's not going to go away very quickly even if the economy continues to tank [and it doesn't hurt that the company she now works for is listed as one of the "Ten best companies in Pennsylvania to work for"].

We're thankful that my younger daughter is once again making good grades in Algebra. There was this rocky period of about two weeks when the teacher wanted her to drop back into an easier class, but she said, "No, Dad, if you'll help me I can do this." And she has. Some of the determination she learned this year as a 12 year-old fighting to become the starting goalie on a 14 year-old soccer team has translated into the rest of her life.

We're thankful that my grandson has a great kindergarten teacher, who has helped tease out the reading disabilities we knew he'd have (ain't genetics wonderful) and has gotten him into an early intervention program.

We're thankful that, when our income took a big hit with my wife's temporary disability, I was able to find a second job to supplement things, and that it is something I actually like doing.

We're especially thankful that, about six months before the nation's current financial rough ride started in earnest, we took stock, saw it coming, and made the tough decisions to get our own financial house in order. I realize now that it is a blessing to make tough choices on your own timetable rather than one imposed from the outside.

There is a future ahead of us, and it is as bright as our children are willing to build and sacrifice to make it.

Some of them will excel, and some of them will fall. As a country, and as individual families, we will tend our wounded, bury our dead, and just keep going.

That's what we do. Somewhere (I think it was in the 1990s, but it could have been earlier or later), that essential of the American character sort of slipped out of focus, and we concentrated more on the things that did not matter, the things we could buy instead of the things we could be.

That's ending, now. At least I hope so.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Health care and personal responsibility: a few semi-random considerations

I want to highlight two comments by Pandora in our ongoing discussion about health care. The first comes from her own post at Delawareliberal about health insurance [please read the entire post to insure this is not out of context]:

After “Am I going to die?”, and sometimes even before, “Is this procedure covered?” has to be one of the most asked question of Doctors. And, frankly, I resent it. I resent the fact that Insurance companies have forced their way into my Doctor/Patient relationship. I resent that they have the ultimate veto power over my health.

But, most importantly, I resent that I even have to think about Healthcare insurance.

[Truth in advertising: the major point Pandora is making is that insurance companies deny claims to boost the bottom line. I am not challenging that. I have a different focus at the moment.]

Then, in response to my original post about health care that advocated making people responsible for their own routine care, which would allow market prices to drive those costs down, Pandora responded,

The only concern I have is the number of people who would put off seeing a doctor on a regular basis because it wasn't paid for, thus allowing small illness to turn into big ones.

Okay, okay, I know that that's irresponsible, but people are irresponsible. And if they skipped the wellness visits could that raise the 20% mark? Couldn't this possibly lead to a "sicker" population?

Okay, there are two very important points here.

1. People don't want to worry about whether a procedure is covered, but somebody has to. Even in either a single-payer or government-run universal healthcare system based on the European model, there are not infinite resources available, either in terms of capital or capacity. Somebody, somewhere has to worry about what it all costs--especially if you don't. And when people think a service is free, they inevitably use more of it. There is also the problem of capacity. Capacity--especially capacity for technology-intensive treatments--has physical limits. There are only so many kidney dialysis machines in the country, and each can only service so many patients within a certain geographic radius. At some point, somewhere, somebody has got to make decisions about who receives treatment and who doesn't.

Think these dilemmas don't occur in Europe? Then you haven't been reading carefully.

2. There is the question of whether policy decisions about health care should be based on preventing the consequences of individual irresponsible behavior. Pandora worries that, if they have to pay for routine care, some people will avoid it until the problem becomes bigger, and that this will result in a "sicker" population. I have to first admit that I do not have a lot of sympathy for the idea that government should step in when people make dumb decisions about their own care [and here I am assuming she is not talking specifically about people too poor to afford any price), so I do have a bias.

However, there is another point to be made. When that routine care is free or subsidized below a reasonable market price, physicians become inundated with people who probably should not be there in the first place. Not every case of a cold, or influenza, or sprained ankle actually needs to be seen by a doctor. But in today's society (just ask a lot of general practitioners) our family physicians spend a lot of time weeding out what we used to call "ash and trash" complaints in the military. That time is not available to spend with patients who really need the care, or whose cases would profit from the extra five minutes of diagnostic time.

In either case--Pandora's or mine--there is an associated risk factor to public policy. My approach places the people who do not act responsibly at greater individual risk; her approach transfers that risk to people who have acted responsibly.

And this is the oft-unspoken nub of the problem. The devil resides in the details of the implementing philosophy of any health care system, free-market, government-run, or mixed.

Do we allow people to suffer the consequences of their own responsible or irresponsible actions, or do we argue that the greater societal costs of not forcing/subsidizing them to do what they ought to do for themselves in the first place is a good reason to have a system that forces them to act responsibly. And, in so doing, takes more freedom and resources away from those who would have acted responsibly on their own.

A forestaller for nemski: none of this conversation is (at least not yet) aimed toward the poor or the working poor. I am primarily (and I think Pandora is, too) talking right now about the middle-class folks who already have access to some form of health insurance. We'll get to poor people in a little while.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Media Coverage & Reports on the 'UFO Phenomenon' : On the Rise?

Has anyone else noticed an increasing amount of 'mainstream' stories and shows on UFO's and the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life visiting Terra Firma?

I have recently seen stories of varying length and detail on all major cable news networks on this subject. They are noticeably absent the typical past treatment, which was more akin to how they might report on something out of the National Enquirer (e.g. with plenty of mock).

Larry King has done at least 3 shows in the last year. It is notable that these shows were heavy on credible scientific or military guests sharing their knowledge or first-hand accounts.

The shows were not-so-heavy on the perpetually-dismissive professional skeptics
(the so-called 'debunkers', if you will), who in years past got away with hyperbole and ad hominen attacks on anyone daring come forward.

Here is a report this week from CNN's Miles O'Brien, focused around former Air Force fighter jet pilot Milton Torres. :

The difference from general media coverage in years past is that reports now focus on an increasing number of extremely credible people disclosing their first-hand knowledge of such unexplainable sightings or encounters, spanning the last 50 or so years.

In particular, numerous revelations are coming out from former military personnel who appear very serious and objective in their statements.
If you have ever known some of these 'old school' military men they are very straightforward, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is people.

They are not the types of people given to lying or embellishment when recounting their experiences, in fact quite the opposite. I have found many of them often to understate their recollections, whether of war or service.

The common thread running through almost every instance of these disclosures from aging military or government veterans is that they had been ordered, almost invariably by intelligence agents either within the military or working with military commanders, never to disclose what they saw or experienced.

Obviously these were men who took their oaths seriously and complied. Now many of them say (or it would seem) they are too old to care and feel they must unburden themselves and inform the public that the things they saw were real.

Many believe what they saw involved extraterrestrial intelligence or technology because the objects' physical feats were so incredible as to be utterly impossible with any known human technology anywhere on this planet as it now exists, or even in a distant science fantasy future.


I find this all very interesting. More than anything the constant cloak of enforced secrecy on the pretext of protecting the public from itself (the "people will panic" justification) is disturbing, given we are a purportedly free society.

This type of deceitful paternalism is bull shit. It has for decades been the stock-in-trade of some of the most
nefarious and secretive of sorts we have ever seen in our government.

The UFO issue is undeniably overlaid by the ubiquitous (and wholly phony in most instances) claims of "national security" used to justify levels of secrecy
paralleled in history only by totalitarian regimes.


For a number of years there has been a group underway (and I believe still ongoing) called the Disclosure Project. As it describes itself :

The Disclosure Project is a nonprofit research project working to fully disclose the facts about UFOs, extraterrestrial intelligence, and classified advanced energy and propulsion systems. We have over 400 government, military, and intelligence community witnesses testifying to their direct, personal, first hand experience with UFOs, ETs, ET technology, and the cover-up that keeps this information secret.

On Wednesday, May 9th, 2001, over twenty military, intelligence, government, corporate and scientific witnesses came forward at the National Press Club in Washington, DC to establish the reality of UFOs or extraterrestrial vehicles, extraterrestrial life forms, and resulting advanced energy and propulsion technologies. The weight of this first-hand testimony, along with supporting government documentation and other evidence, will establish without any doubt the reality of these phenomena.

The Disclosure Project's testimonials can't be dismissed as the insane ramblings of Ozark morons who saw little green men in their back yard, after downing a fifth of paint thinner.

Sure, in the past many UFO accounts or alien abduction stories and the like were often heard from people of questionable mental state or motives. The lack of credible witnesses was not because they didn't exist but because of the prevailing social and professional stigma associated with daring make any such disclosures.

Perhaps more than orders to stay quiet, this fear of being ostracized or written off as crazy, if one dared breathe a word of such experiences, kept many
otherwise credible people silent.

Any airline pilot will tell you what taboo it is to formally report any such unexplainable sightings in the course of duty, much less publicly. For this particular sector of professionals who spend their lives in the air, none is about to risk their career and livelihood to go public with accounts of bizarre UFO's they saw while flying the friendly skies.


What I think we are now seeing is a floodgate gradually opening, to such an extent and of such veracity that these revelations can no longer be dismissed or mocked as the work of deranged attention-seekers, etc.

The more credible first-hand witnesses that come forward, the more others may be emboldened to come forward without fear of negative repercussions. This is a good thing, if only to counter the secrecy mania from our government that surrounds this phenomenon.

Unfortunately, the government's secrecy is such that even if its denials were, in fact, true its credibility is so low as a result that many will never believe it.


One area that drew my particular attention to the Disclosure Project
was energy. The founder and other key figures believe, rightly, that if the United States Government is, in fact, in possession of technology as described by these many government witnesses the potential positive implications for humanity would be staggering.

The energy technology required to realize such technological feats as described by witnesses would be light years ahead of anything we know. Such technology would
solve the world's energy problems overnight.


Where this all leads? Well, who's to say? But I think anyone with an imagination would be intrigued to know. I certainly am.

For some very compelling and strange accounts from government witnesses, check out video testimony at the National Press Club news conference in 2001 (for one in particular go to 1:06:10 - Major General George Filer (USAF - Retired) :

In the "No shit, Sherlock" category....

... comes this little gem out of Czar Paulson [via MSNBC]:

The government, while looking to reduce fear in the credit markets, is eager to see lenders like credit card companies resume more normal levels of lending to help stimulate the economy. Since September, when credit markets first froze, financial institutions have been hesitant to hand over money for fear they won't be repaid.

George Santayana once defined a fanatic as "someone who redoubles his effort when he has forgotten his aim."

This entire mess is a gigantic credit bubble. So instead of facing the fact that bubbles have to deflate, we're just going to keep pumping gas into it, while government rescue teams crawl up the sides looking for six-foot-wide holes and carrying two-foot-wide patches?

To channel George Carlin [what I think he would have said]: "So now the government is going to pay banks to lend money to people who already can't make the payments on the money they already borrowed?"

I really hope the guy who lubricates the printing presses at the Treasury Department has a full can of oil.

[I also feel the first twinges of actual sympathy for Barack Obama--with these morons in charge there may not be an economy left for him to either fix or screw up next year.]

Monday, November 24, 2008

The drug war has so warped our thinking, that even scientists are saying really stupid things...

... perhaps out of fear they will lose their Federal funding.

As reported in Science Daily, new studies show that THC--the active ingredient in marijuana--may actually play an important roll in stopping the development of Alzheimer's.

But instead of suggesting that pot be used in moderation, researchers think we should take years to develop a legal alternative that can deliver the same result without anyone getting high.

Because, I guess, the euphoric effects of natural THC in marijuana are worse than slowly having your mind disintegrate to the point where you can no longer recognize your loved ones or take care of your own bodily functions?

Here are my two favorite snippets:

Ohio State University scientists are finding that specific elements of marijuana can be good for the aging brain by reducing inflammation there and possibly even stimulating the formation of new brain cells. Their research suggests that the development of a legal drug that contains certain properties similar to those in marijuana might help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Though the exact cause of Alzheimer’s remains unknown, chronic inflammation in the brain is believed to contribute to memory impairment. Any new drug’s properties would resemble those of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive substance in the cannabis plant, but would not share its high-producing effects. THC joins nicotine, alcohol and caffeine as agents that, in moderation, have shown some protection against inflammation in the brain that might translate to better memory late in life....

“Could people smoke marijuana to prevent Alzheimer’s disease if the disease is in their family? We’re not saying that, but it might actually work. What we are saying is it appears that a safe, legal substance that mimics those important properties of marijuana can work on receptors in the brain to prevent memory impairments in aging. So that’s really hopeful,” Wenk said.

So will all options be "on the table" with Brazil and Venezuela, just like North Korea and Iran?

Tricky thing that national self-determination.

Countries and their leaders keep doing what they think is in their best interests, no matter what the industrialized west thinks.

From Jason Poblete:

While it barely generates the media attention that Iran or North Koreahas during the past few years, there are leaders in Latin America, South America to be exact, who have hinted that nuclear weaponization programs are a “right” of developing countries. Despite public acts to the country such as signing on to key non-proliferation treaties or agreements, as well as making the perfunctory diplomatic statements on non-proliferation, it is not clear that Brazil and Venezuela have completely abandoned nuclear weapons research. In some cases, it is quite the opposite.

In an article published in the most recent edition of the U.S. Army War College publication, Parameters, Nader Elhefnawy writes about The Next Wave of Nuclear Proliferation. While I do not agree with all of his conclusions, it provides a good overview of the nuclear proliferation challenges for the very near future and some thoughtful recommendations on how to start tackling this challenge, including in places such as South America.

If you are a frequent reader of this site, you know that I have penned a few general items about Brazil’s muddy record on nuclear transparency. Latin America has already had a mini-nuclear technological race fueled by Brazil and Argentina. Argentina has generally come clean on this matter, yet crucial questions remain regarding Brazil’s commitment on weaponization. As I wrote in October, “[t]he U.S. and regional powers need to ensure that the South American nuclear genie stays in the bottle.”

As Elhefnawy reminds readers, “long-established research strongly indicates that the motivation to build nuclear weapons is more of a factor than simply achieving the technological capacity … [t]he relative ease with which the weapons might be built is proof of this; a program to develop a minimal capability from scratch could cost as little as $500 million, less than the price of a modern warship.”

An interventionist foreign policy can delay but not prevent nuclear proliferation.

In many cases, the threat of foreign intervention may spur the perceived need for a nuclear deterrent.

As the cases of India and Pakistan proved well before Iran and North Korea, Elhefnawy is right: any moderately developed nation can do the research and purchase the infrastructure to create nuclear weapons.

The current international paradigm among the great nuclear powers is the de-legitimization of any State that aspires to possess nuclear weapons.

This is a paradigm which--and this is a scary thought--the Dubya and Obama-to-be administrations seem to have in common.

The danger of demonizing your enemies...

... is that you become them.

Here's a snippet from Gold Plated Witch on Wheels that caught me short awhile back [entitled Wisdom from Children]:

At the dinner table one night, she [her daughter] looked at me and asked, "Is it true that Obama kills babies?"

I almost spit out my peas. My husband raised an eyebrow at me and I had to explain myself.

A few weeks back, my 10-year-old son asked me why we weren't voting for the "brown man." I'm sure, just like nk's daughter, my son had been told what a "historic" occasion it was that we could vote for a "brown man," leaving off, of course, that it was also historic because we could elect a woman as vice president. I stopped and thought about how to explain why I thought Barack Obama would be bad for our country. Tax policies are probably a little over the head of a boy who still dreams of flying. And I didn't think he'd be impressed with my judicial philosophy. So, I told him that Barack Obama thought it was ok for women to kill their babies and we didn't think that was a good idea.

Yes, yes. I know that's an overly simplistic way of discussing the abortion debate with a child who doesn't fully understand the birds and the bees yet. But it was the most direct (and accurate) way of describing Obama's abortion position. And I used far fewer words than Obama has to.

So, at the dinner table, my husband turned to our youngest child and said, "Obama doesn't want to kill them himself. He just thinks it's ok if their mothers want to."

Both children looked aghast. "Why would he do that?" she asked.

I pondered that question for a minute and then replied, "I don't understand why he would, honey." And that's the truth.

Now, here's one from today by kavips [from a post entitled Why are there "Republicans"?]:

Got to love little children… they see things so clearly…

After seeing this graph, my preschooler instantly “got it” and asked….”If Republicans are so bad for this country, why do people keep voting for them..”

Damn good question….

Here is my feeble attempt to explain their existence….. (grownups were standing around listening too…)

I said…..

Imagine if you had soooo much money you couldn’t spend it …. You could do what ever you want….

So you were sitting there one day and casually said to yourself……”Wow, if I didn’t have to pay so much in taxes….I could…”

To your right someone pipes up, stands excitedly, waving their hand, and says….”I’ll support that….Hey, give me lots of money and I’ll take that cause and run with it….. Just pay my bills and let me live comfortable on the margins, and hell, I’ll even support “NO taxes”.

So your sitting there, thinking “whoa, that was easy”, and decide to see if it works twice.. …. “Wow, if I didn’t have to pay my employees all this money for working for me, I could make even more money….. To your right…. someone pipes up, stands excitedly, waving their hand, exclaiming……” I’ll support that…. Hey, give me lot’s of money and I’ll take that cause and run with it….. Just pay my bills and let me live comfortable on the margins, and damn, I’ll support the erosion of ALL unions…. I’ll run them into the ground…..”

So you marvel at how just a few words can get policy changing… and you decide to push the envelope, just to see if there is even a boundary….. “Wow, if I didn’t just have to follow the stupid letter of the law, I could make so much more money….. ” To your right… someone pipes up, stands excitedly, waving their hand, exclaiming…..”I’ll support that…. Hey, give me money and I’ll take that cause and run with it…. Just pay my bills and let me live comfortable on the margins, and …. Hey, you know….I’ll even support your right to a kingdom….. No problem…. just pay my bills…..

So you see,…. as long as someone has too much money, “those people” will always be there….. No matter what their name may be, whether we call them Federalists…. Whigs….. Republicans…… or even some different name of the Democratic Party that will eventually will split off to cater to those needy people…. The wealthy will always have sycophants…..who will sell their country’s soul out from under us for a few extra dollars…..

Sound like someone you know?

Two common elements here:

1) Explaining the beliefs of people you don't agree with to children who trust you completely to hand out objective truth.

2) Not living up to that trust.

Let's Start Thinking about Healthcare...

... but let's not make the mistake of starting where we are.

By that I mean, let's not allow our idea of what healthcare should be to be defined with where we are now--either good or bad--as the foundation for where we think we should go.

[Warning: this is not a complete, exhaustive post, but the beginning of several. Pandora, I don't have the time right now to try this in big bites.]

Stop and think for a minute about the distinctive kinds of healthcare that we have to deal with.

As far as the larger society itself, there is public health, used here in the sense to cover general population preventative measures: inoculations against major communicable diseases, assurances about food and drinking water [yes, they actually fall under public health despite the fact that there are separate agencies]; that kind of thing....

In terms of individual healthcare, we can look at multiple categories:

Routine: physicals, well-baby check-ups

Acute: non-emergency medical problems with specific onset, limited duration, and a pretty routinized treatment regime [e.g., skin rashes, minor cuts and burns, colds, etc.]

Chronic: the ongoing regular care for continuing conditions that are, again, reasonably routine in their treatment regimens [e.g., controllable asthma, allergies, mild migraines]

Diagnostic: this is not so much treatment as the procedures necessary to assist a physician in determining what category something fits into.

Emergency/trauma: Extreme, acute injury or illness requiring immediate treatment in a hospital-equivalent setting.

In-patient, routine: The kinds of basic hospital services/operations that are no longer in the realm of specialties: [Appendectomies, hysterectomies]

Catastrophic: This is the cancer, heart failure, big-ticket, long-term, high-specialization area.

Long-term supportive: Major chronic conditions, like, say, kidney failure requiring dialysis.

Obstetrics and Geriatrics: two branches of specialized combinations of care that I am listing separately because they are so common (half the population or more) and blur many of the lines listed above.

This is neither an exhaustive nor a highly technical list. I didn't go find some source to break these down for me; I just wanted a set of categories to attack the problem in a slightly different manner.

I suspect that medical care falls under the Pareto Principle, sometimes called the 80-20 rule or the vital few and the trivial many. Viewed in terms of healthcare, it would have two significant suggestions:

1. That 20% of the patients generate 80% of the expense [this being why insurance companies try to build their risk pools out of healthy people, and to exclude pre-existing conditions].

2. That 20% of the procedures/types of healthcare also generate 80% of the expense, and that 20% consists of the Catastrophic, Long-term Supportive, and Geriatric categories listed above. [Again, which categories you, or any decent researcher selects, are less important than acknowledging the general rule.]

Given that this 80-20 rule application virtually guarantees statistically that 1-5 Americans will fall into the high-cost category at some point in life, this also means that it virtually guarantees that every American family will fall into this category somewhere along the line. [Sometimes, like my family, you get really lucky and get a twofer: my wife with back problems requiring major surgery and my son with Chronic Fatigue].

Moreover, even with health insurance [the really good kind] that can be financially devastating.

These are realities. They are going to happen. So let's talk about policy.

I start with two assumptions, either of which is open for debate, and both of which probably betray my Libertarian leanings.

Assumption number one: making reasonable--even rigorous--efforts to take care of as much of my family's healthcare through our own resources is primarily our responsibility. Which means, in my own case, several things:

1. Both my wife and I have selected careers and employers based as much on the quality of health insurance as any other form of compensation. Both of us arguably make less income than we otherwise could, because we made the choice to find employment where the healthcare benefits were the best. There have been multiple occasions for both of us where we stayed in positions we didn't particularly like, specifically in order to retain the healthcare. Otherwise, my assumption is that we'd have to have been allowing about 20% of our income to go toward healthcare expenses or savings. Observation: most Americans, even if they have the means, have reached the conclusion that they should not have to save or set aside money for healthcare. When it happens, they treat it the same way they treat it when the transmission unexpectedly falls out of their car: they use general savings or pay for it on credit, while saying, "Who'd have thought that could happen?"

2. Which means: most of us here in America who have the means are pretty damn irresponsible about realistic planning for healthcare. I discussed this with my HR benefits person about two years ago, when she was complaining about lack of attendance at a long-term care briefing. They'd brought in an attorney to tell people how, starting at about age 45, you should start shielding your assets against nursing homes, and two consumer advocates to talk about how to shop for long-term geriatric care policies. Out of nearly 400 employees, only three showed up. She told me that she was getting increasingly frustrated in trying to get people information about planning ahead for health-related issues, because nobody ever showed up. I have to ask myself: if making long-term plans about your own healthcare isn't a priority for you as an individual [until you come down with cancer or need a kidney transplant], then why should it be a priority for me as a taxpayer?

[Again: please note that I am excepting people who do not have the means at all from that last observation.

My point is that planning ahead for healthcare related issues--both in terms of treatment and costs--should begin as a personal responsibility.

Assumption Number Two: Health insurance shouldn't pay for everything. Most health insurance--even the really shitty kind--makes it way too easy and way too cheap to go see your Primary Care Physician for just about anything. I can remember, growing up, that my parents used to call the doctor's office when we got sick, and the doctor or his nurse would listen and make a decision about whether or not we should come into the office. At least half the time they told us to do X or Y, and call back in 24-48 hours. Sometimes they called meds into the pharmacy without having to have an office visit. But the combination of medical malpractice, licensing, and low office visit costs have combined to eliminate market pressures that might have created alternatives. What alternatives? Consider just a few:

1. So-called Wal-Mart docs: small offices run by Physician's Assistants or Nurse Practitioners in small offices in shopping centers or storefronts that can see and treat a limited number of minor ailments on a cash and carry basis.

2. Cyber consultation with a medical professional. I'm not talking about googling "find me a doc" or anything like that. I'm talking about two or three doctor's offices joining together and placing one or more of their professionals online 24/7 for cyber consults at a fixed fee. Of course, this would require changes in malpractice and liability laws, but imagine if for ten bucks from the comfort of home or office I could get a quick consult with a doctor/nurse--even get a script called in? Yes, for some people this would not be good, but I can take my kids' vitals and give detailed symptoms--why shouldn't I be able to avoid the travel costs, time off, and germs of the doctor's office?

Unfortunately, both options are, right now, actually illegal in most places in this country.

But they wouldn't be, if patients actually had to pay the real cost of office visits to the doctor.

I happen to agree with Dr. Michael Munger on this issue. I don't have automobile insurance to pay for oil changes or tune-ups. I budget for those things when I purchase the car. If we expected people to actually set aside their own money in advance to plan for routine, predictable medical expenses; and if we changes licensing and malpractice rules to allow for innovation in the treatment of minor acute and chronic conditions, then we can look at health insurance for catastrophic and other big-ticket issues [as well as how to pay for these services for the truly indigent) from a slightly different perspective....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday Silliness

Fun With Easily Mispronounced URL's :
(all comments come from the site) -"...we exist to make sure you get the exact pen you want, a pen that is as unique as you are." - the Italian power company, of course. - Now changed to - trying to find a gift for that special "someone"? Whoreprents is "a quick reference guide to & for representatives".... - this used to be an alternate URL for - they sell mp3's...hits. - Lumberman's Exchange, Now defunct - F.A. Gray - Paint & Wallpaper - Morrison & Foerster legal firm. - this ones obviously intentional from viewing the site. - Truckers Express: A specialized Heavy Haul industry leader. - Looks like they sell food products. I can't read the language and I'm pretty sure they can't read English. - Say it fast. - A software development company or... do they pee anywhere? - The American Artists Bluebook - However, depending on how you pronounce the domain name, it can sound like '' - Is your pen stuck or your penis? - A fomer Canadian Parliamentarian website. - Dick's Lumber hardware store - The annual Festival o' Farts is one of our largest local events!