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Showing posts from January, 2008

Michelle Obama at DSU: Eyewitness report

OK, first the good news: the auditorium was full to nearly bursting, the crowd was spirited, and Michelle Obama is, I must admit, one of the best pure speakers I have seen or heard in some time. You could tell she is exhausted (she would occasionally flip words from sheer fatigue), but she was passionate, pointed, and funny, and the Obama campaign has identified some clear issues for her to focus on. My son thought she reminded him of Martin Luther King, Jr. (that is, when he looked up occasionally from the laptop). His twin sister loved what she said about public education (and I admit I was thrilled to hear somebody talking about the elimination of No Child Left Behind). In many ways Michelle Obama strikes me (possibly because of the slight physical resemblance) as what the neo-cons hoped Condi Rice would become. The bad news: I really question the choice of venue at DSU for the campaign's purpose. The 1,200-strong crowd was dominated by DSU students, staff, and faculty

I'm from the Government, and I'm here to improve your salt shaker....

This from Nanny Knows Best , concerning a British town council that got concerned with the excessive salt intake of patrons eating fish and chips: As we know, Nanny hates salt. The fact that people can die of salt deprivation (eg if they are sweating profusely and don't increase their salt intake, or drink too much water) seems to have escaped Nanny. Nanny is determined to cut our salt intake. To this end her chums on Rochdale council have come up with a brilliant solution. They have reduced the number of holes in the traditional chip shop saltshaker from 17to 5. Brilliant! The theory being that the less holes, therefore the less salt will be shaken onto the food by the customer when he/she is applying the "salt and vinegar". Takeaways are being issued with catering-sized salt pots with just five holes in the lid, rather than the usual 17. Of course now they'll have to regulate how many times you shake the shaker.

Beck and the Worst Lawyer in Texas

The Girl in Short Shorts once again has the most interesting post of the day, regarding a murder case in Texas, which (surprise, surprise!) includes an incompetent judge, an ineffective defense lawyer, and a woman who finally decided to take justice into her own hands. Her worst crime, in my estimation, is that she attempted to clean up afterward. Besides, you should read this story just because Becky manages to work the word skank into the narrative in a satisfying way.

Some technology should be banned by Big Brother

This from Faith Central at TimesOnline , regarding a Bluetooth innovation that somebody is going to hell for: O no. The evangelists have got a new gadget, to be unveiled at the Heart of England Christian Resources Exhibition next month (21-23 Feb 08). It is the Gabriel Communicator. It takes up no space but uses Bluetooth to beam text messages to all mobile phones within a 100-metre radius. Txxtouch managing director Nicholas Maguire says 'This is a culturally relevant way to contact people regardless of their age.' Coming soon to a railway carriage near you. Be very afraid. R U SVD? Txt JXT fr SALV8TN The mind races with ideas: first responders being controlled almost effortlessly from a central hub ... viral advertising committed by winos who would otherwise be wearing sandwich signs you could ignore ... Some doors shouldn't be opened, should they?

Slippery Slopes: Not Just for Libertarian Paranoia any more

About two weeks ago I got into it with Jason on Delawareliberal over (of all things) opera . What's interesting is the comment Jason made in critiquing one of my argument: The logical fallacy that Libertarians like most, above all logical fallacies is that slippery slope argument. I pointed out in rebuttal: Not all slippery slope arguments are invalid–you guys use them all the time about Republicans when it suits your purposes, so get real. And Dana Garrett agreed with me: “Not all slippery slope arguments are invalid” Now there is a truth few know. Any chance you could teach it to Al Mascitti? If you tell him the predictable consequence of some action (that he likes, of course), his knee twitches and out comes the “You are committing the slippery slope fallacy.” Here’s the scoop on it folks: “If A happens, then by a gradual series of small steps through B, C,…, X, Y, eventually Z will happen, too. Z should not happen. Therefore, A should not happen, either.” The whole

European Central Bank: Excessive government taxation and spending harms economies. Who knew?

A brief piece from Thoughts on Freedom , the Libertarian blog hosted by our colleagues "down under": [Before you read, to get the context right, you have to remember that "liberal" in Australian politics is much more accurately equated with "conservative" in an American context] ‘Big government is bad for economic growth.’ No shit, Sherlock, i hear you cry. But this isn’t my view, nor one of a neo-liberal free market think tank. It’s from that respected inflation-fighting institution, the European Central Bank, which has come to this conclusion all by itself. No surprise to readers of this blog but papers like this will help spread the gospel of smaller government. The paper concludes that each additional 1% of government spending reduces growth by 0.13%. One interesting finding. The taxes that have the least harmful effects on growth are income taxes. Those that hinder growth the most are consumption taxes and government subsidies. Something to ch

Michael Moore loves Cuban health care, but apparently forgot to look at Cuban prisons

This from Human Rights First , regarding the case of Cuban journalist and political dissident Dr. José Luis García Paneque, currently serving a 24-year sentence in Fidel's prisons: Dr. García Paneque was arrested in March 2003 as part of a major crackdown on peaceful dissent in Cuba. He was charged under Law 88 and sentenced at a summary trial to 24 years in prison. Since 2005, he has been held in the “Las Mangas” prison in Bayamo, Cuba, where his health has been dangerously deteriorating. In addition to developing severe digestive problems from the poor prison food and lack of movement and sunlight, Dr. García Paneque has been harassed by the common criminals in the prison. Dr. García Paneque cannot digest lactose and gluten, and such dietary restrictions are not accommodated by the prison diet. His wife reports that he has lost nearly 50 percent of his body weight. In early June 2007, Dr. García Paneque informed his mother that the prison doctors had taken him to a hospi

The Transitive Property and Our Government: A Conundrum

Mid-Atlantic States Labo r reports that nationwide union membership rose last year from 12.0% of the American work force to (STOP THE PRESSES) 12.1%!!!! OK, seriously, the 311,000-worker gain is the largest gain since 1983, when unionized workers represented over 20% of American labor. Here's the part I found particularly interesting: A total of 7.5 percent of private-sector workers were in unions, and 35.9 percent of public-sector workers. What this seems to mean is that public-sector unions now form the bulk of the labor movement, which would include government unions, police, firefighters, and teachers. Now, for a second, let's bop over to Delaware Watch , where Dana has an article on Christine O'Donnell dropping her suit against her employer: Or does the sensible intuition lurk in the recesses of O’Donnell’s pretty head that since, for most people, our society is structured to require employment for survival and to thrive that no employer should have the right to

More Sarkozy watch: France leads EU peace-keeping force into Chad

French troops form the bulk of a newly deployed European Union peace-keeping force in Chad and the (completely misnamed) Central African Republic intended to protect relief workers and streamline delivery of humanitarian aid to the starving population in Darfur. Eventually, this force will reach 3,700 troops from 14 countries, now that Austria has also signed up. This is the largest peace-keeping force ever deployed by the European Union (and it's six months late due to internal bickering) as an entity that doesn't (A) revolve around a US cadre or (B) function as a subsidiary of the UN. There are two ways to look at this. One is to be pleased that the damn Europeans are finally getting off their butts and taking responsibility for some of the world's hot spots, so we don't have to.... Or you can recognize that France is carefully positioning itself in all kinds of ways to rival the US as a major geo-political player around the globe, competing under an entirely new

Who is Wayne Allyn Root and why he is bothering the Libertarian Party?

This is why people often don't take Libertarianism seriously. From Third Party Watch comes this statement from Libertarian Party Presidential hopeful Wayne Allyn Root upon his return from Great Britain: I learned many lessons on my trip to UK this past week. The most important one is that the solution to any problem is simple- less government, lower taxes, more personal responsibility, more rights for the individual, more choice, more free market competition (to solve the education and health care mess), and far more freedom. That’s the Libertarian message. That’s not the message you’ll hear from any Democrat or Republican Presidential candidate. I'm not really sure how Wayne learned this in the UK--I'm not even sure what a guy supposedly pursuing the US presidential nomination is doing in London in the first place. Here's the problem: pure ideologues of any stripe scare the hell out of me. Anybody who thinks "that the solution to any problem is simple"--f

As usual the Daily Kos gets it wrong: Libertarians oppose FISA

From the Daily Kos (I was forced to do it by a regular reader, ouch): Where Are All the Libertarians on FISA? For all the talk of "freedom" that the Paulbots claim to believe in, they sure as heck have been silent on the horrible FISA bill we're fighting to fix in the Senate right now. Same for Ron Paul. Why the silence? And the CATO people and the libertarian publications like Reason, where are they? Here we are engaged in a huge civil liberties issue, and progressives are being forced to fight this thing alone. It's easy to talk about "liberty". It's much more impressive to actually do something about it. Of course it's easier to take cheap shots than do your homework. From the Libertarian Party Website : Washington, D.C. - The Libertarian Party has sent letters to 22 Democratic Senators who voted for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act amendments in August of last year, urging them to reconsider against an upcoming Senate bill that

At last! A Wind Power post at Delaware Libertarian

This one from Eco-Worldly (not one of my usual stops, but I get around) discusses the end of cheap energy in Europe, and what the continent is seemingly unprepared to do: Many governments have been caught short as the decommissioning of old power stations, increasing demand for electricity and new EU targets for renewable energy have all coincided, causing many analysts to predict a demand / supply deficit of up to 20% over the coming years. For obvious reasons, cheap oil, coal and gas power plants are out of favour. Nuclear power is expensive and is still viewed with deep suspicion, meaning that additional capacity is unlikely to be available for some time. Many believe, therefore, that the time for renewable energy has finally arrived. But naturally there are problems, and the post details some of the specific challenges of wind farms, which is one of the reasons I thought it would have some legs in Delaware. Here is the bit that most stood out in my mind: To put the issue in

Markets and social change: a speculation

Free markets today are in somewhat ill repute, having been tarnished, I think, by eight years of mishandling by a Republican administration that essentially shit on the Libertarian wing of the party at every opportunity. This has allowed proponents of managed capitalism or welfare state capitalism to stage an intellectual comeback of sorts, arguing that all we've see from the market is a massive transfer of wealth upward: the rich get richer, the middle class gets worried, and the poor get poorer. I want to point out a different perspective on free markets, but I will warn you ahead of time that I'm not going to provide a bunch of easy URLs to check out the facts behind my reasoning, mostly because it comes from studies in those most antiquated of sources: books. There will be a bibliography at the end; do your own homework. Here's my thesis: it is sometimes the case that unfettered free markets lead rather than follow with respect to positive social change. Case

For the precious little privacy remaining in our society....

I just picked this up; I don't know if a corporate attorney really said this or not, but Libertarians and other American citizens could probably benefit from these common-sense ideas to protect their privacy, their money, and their credit history: A corporate attorney sent the following out to the employees in his company. 1. The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name put on them. If someone takes your checkbook, they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name, but your bank will know how you sign your checks. 2. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put "PHOTO ID RE QUIRED". 3 When you are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the "For" line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes thr

A solution to a social problem that couldn't be tried here

Mexico is now joining a number of other countries (Japan, Brazil, Egypt, and South Korea), reports World Changing , in offer "women-only" transit. Sexual harassment is a maddeningly ubiquitous problem for female transit users in Mexico City, where subways and buses carry an estimated 22 million passengers every day. Women on the city's overcrowded buses face lecherous comments, groping, and worse. Efforts to stop sexual harassment on public buses have been futile; women report having men put hands up their skirts, kissing them, and following them off the bus. Mexico City has long had "ladies cars" on subways during rush hour. This month, the city rolled out the first two of what will eventually be more than a dozen women-only buses; the buses are plainly marked with a pink (ugh) sign that says "WOMEN ONLY." While "separate but equal" public accommodations raise legitimate concerns (will women get the oldest and least reliable buses? will s

Fox: No Mormon wannabes to advertise during the Super Bowl

Here's one where you actually have to have worked in the media to get what is not being said. Fox gives two reasons for not allowing Presidential campaign ads during the Super Bowl . 1) Since the show is sold out and not everybody could get in if they found an open spot, it would not be an "equal opportunity." 2) They don't have to guarantee placement of political ads and have the right to exclude them from "unique, one-time only" events. If you believe this, I've got some property in Florida that they've just discovered land on. What's at stake here is Fox revenue. FCC and FEC rules require that networks and individual media outlets sell advertising time to political candidates at the lowest bulk rate they have sold any ads within the past six months. That's why TV and radio stations, as well as networks, carefully jack their rates in tandem with upcoming major elections. It's about the money, folks. Always follow the money.

The World and Barack Obama

In my continual quest to improve American understanding of the rest of the world, here's Alvaro Vargas Llosa with an essay about how Europe and Latin America view a potential Barack Obama presidency . What's truly interesting is his perception that Obama appeals more to European conservatives than liberals , and that neither Europe nor Latin America believes that an Obama win would substantively change American foreign policy: The European right appears more enthusiastic about the liberal Obama than the left. French political scientist Dominique Moisi seems to think the Democrat will give pro-American Europeans some arguments to “sell” the United States among anti-Americans. “Why is Obama so different,” he asks in a recent syndicated essay, “from the other presidential candidates? After all, in foreign policy matters, the next president’s room to maneuver will be very small. He (or she) will have to stay in Iraq, engage in the Israel-Palestine conflict on the side of Israel,

Because Monday sucks....

Because it's Sunday night, and Monday sucks, here's a series of motivational posters now making the rounds:

Becky provides the Gay and Lesbian voters' guide

Once again Becky, the Girl in Short Shorts , has the scoop. Not only does she take you through the nearly uniform anti-gay positions of the major presidential candidates, she also lays out the issues that are critical, especially to gay and lesbian couples. She ends up with the conclusion that gays have no other choice than to vote Libertarian. [No, sorry, Ron Paul doesn't come out very well.] [ Outright Libertarians has already endorsed Libertarian presidential hopeful George Phillies . I don't know much about Phillies as a candidate, but I do remember him as the original dominant American player of Avalon Hill's Stalingrad game back in the 1960s-70s.] Beyond the gay/lesbian issue, this situation raises a fundamental question about a two-party system, as opposed to a more open multi-party system. With only an either/or choice pragmatically available, we are virtually guaranteed to elect least common denominator candidates. No serious candidate for national off

Sunday Night SF at Delaware Libertarian: New story

This week starts an attempt at hard SF; a three-part story that takes place around Gliese 581c, famous earlier this year as the first extra-terrestrial planet discovered that has the spectral signature of water. Incident at Gliese 581c An original Science Fiction story by Steve Newton (c) 2008; all rights reserved They had finished cataloging two large and thirty-nine small moons circling 581D, completing the flyby, and were turning their attention to the inner planets when Raaj Penstock asked Centavi Mbolo to drift over to his workstation. “What is it?” “Look for yourself,” he insisted. “If I tell you, you’ll think I’m crazy.” The tall woman with the shaved head and the nu -clan tattoos leaned down to the eyepiece. The scope targeted Gliese 581C, 2.95 Earth masses, once briefly famous as the first exo-planet discovered capable of harboring liquid water. After thirty seconds, she lifted her face, turned to the keypad and typed in a series of inquiries. She studied

Subsidizing water? Another brilliant idea from California

This one is from our friends at The Eco-libertarian , a story about how many farmers in California now allow fields to lie fallow in order to sell the water they purchase as below-market agricultural rates to drought-struck cities. Wow. I got that all into one sentence, even if it does run on a bit. The longer post makes more sense, grammatically speaking, but the logic still defies me. Evolutionary biologists have saying, used whenever anyone starts to believe they've outwitted nature: "Remember, evolution is smarter than you are." The same thing, apparently, applies to market economics.

A good story from our Progressive friends (slightly rewritten)

Just because an item is catchy doesn't mean it's accurate. Here's one that I've seen before, picked up this time from Mid-Atlantic States Labor : Joe Smith started the day early having set his alarm clock (MADE IN JAPAN) for 6am. While his coffeepot (MADE IN CHINA) was perking, he shaved with his electric razor (MADE IN HONG KONG). He put on a dress shirt (MADE IN SRI LANKA), designer jeans (MADE IN SINGAPORE) and tennis shoes (MADE IN KOREA). After cooking his breakfast in his new electric skillet (MADE IN INDIA), he sat down with his calculator (MADE IN MEXICO ) to see how much he could spend today. After setting his watch (MADE IN TAIWAN) to the radio (MADE IN INDIA) he got in his car (MADE IN GERMANY) filled it with GAS from Saudi Arabia and continued his search for a good paying AMERICAN JOB. At the end of yet another discouraging and fruitless day checking his Computer (Made In Malaysia ), Joe decided to relax for a while. He put on his sandals (MADE IN BRAZI

Dana's Child

Lost somewhere over the past few days of intense policy debates between this blog, Delaware Watch , and First State Politics over items like the Prevailing Wage law is this heartfelt response by Dana Garrett: My special education son has to see his speech therapist in the public school he attends in his classroom w/ the other kids interfering with nothing but two bookshelves and a line of chairs separating him and the therapist from the intruding little kids. Why? Because there is no other place in the entire school for the sessions to occur. My son is part of a study conducted by the NIH and they say he needs the special education class 5 days a week. Guess what. The school district can only afford to run the program on 3-day and 2-day day schedules. When I read the entire 2015 report on school expenditures I noted that the the costs to transport charter school kids are so expensive compared to transporting public school kids that they lack economies of scale (p.73), contributing

Delaware State University in the Snooze Journal: Toxic

Today's Snooze J carries a front-page article on the Provost search at DSU , and the devastating report issued by the university's search firm about reactions of candidates asked to apply. The news isn't good. Yes, the "Steve Newton" quoted in the interview as President of the DSU Chapter of the AAUP is me. I don't normally do interviews about DSU, and you'll notice that I've never posted about it here. But the News Journal called me, at the behest of someone very senior in the university hierarchy whom I cannot name. I felt obligated to answer questions honestly. Let me be clear: DSU is a great institution with a great potential future. We are currently undergoing a period of uncertainty and transition. We'll come through it as we as a university community work through it. I'll continue to try to be a positive part of that process, but don't expect to see me in the newspaper like this again, and don't expect me to post on it

Having nothing to do with politics: A. E. van Vogt and why you should read him

Nothing in today's world is as out of date as a dead science fiction writer who stopped publishing in the late 1980s when Alzheimer's struck him. The technology in his stories is out of date, his futures have been superseded, and unless someone picks him up for a classic reprint, he's relegated to eBay and the second-hand bookstores. I mean, look at him--even the suit is cheesy. But I want to make the case that you should go out and find, and then read reverently, some of the best (and even some of the worst) of A. E. van Vogt's work. The beginning of modern science fiction is generally traced not to the appearance of the first story by Isaac Asimov or Robert Heinlein, but to the appearance of Van Vogt's Black Destroyer in John W. Campbell's Astounding during the summer of 1939. This story would later become a major inspiration for Ridley Scott's Alien movies. Within a few years Van Vogt would establish himself as one of the titans of science f