Creative Destruction

May 30, 2007

The Foundation of Conservatism

Filed under: Politics — Robert @ 10:52 pm

I’ve been wanting to write something that describes, at a foundational level, what the source of conservative values and political thought are. But it turns out I don’t need to.

May 29, 2007

Going Home

Filed under: Politics — Off Colfax @ 2:30 am

Cindy Sheehan is leaving the Democratic Party.

You have completely failed those who put you in power to change the direction our country is heading. We did not elect you to help sink our ship of state but to guide it to safe harbor.

Honestly, I feel nothing but an obscenely guilty pleasure at this pronouncement. Dear Mother Sheehan has been pushing this party even further away from the center than ever before, and even faster than Rush Limbaugh ever dragged the Republicans to the political right. (Yes, dear reader. There is an insult in there somewhere. Exactly who it is directed towards, however, is up for debate.) Her constant beating of the drum has, over time, become the same sound as the drumbeat emanating from the White House, only on an opposing wavelength. The only people that have ever truly taken her seriously were the ones that were already true believers and fellow travelers, while the rest of us in the Democratic Party sat there and rolled our collective eyes whenever Dear Mother opened her mouth.

And yet, I must thank her. Not for Camp Casey. Not for being against the enormity on the Euphrates. Not even for telling Speaker Pelosi to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. Instead, I must thank her for helping me to see what is happening with my party and how it is beginning to betray its bedrock principles.

And I just know that you are sitting there, scratching your heads, asking yourselves, “Dude, how the heck did you reach this? Which logical limb did you take a flying leap off of this time?”

Let me show you why it really is a guilty pleasure, beyond the definition of obscenity.

With this send-off letter, Cindy only shows that she does as much to continue the Republican viewpoint on Iraq as the White House Press Office, to wit, she kept on calling it a war. As I have been saying for almost 18 months now, this is not a war. She and the rest of the anti-armed-conflict Democrats keep helping the current Administration’s constant drumbeat by calling it such.

And, by doing so, this party continues to play the wrong cards. It is a constant talking point out of the Congressional Majority Leaders’ offices that the voters sent the Republicans a message that they were tired of the “War In Iraq” whenever they butt heads with the White House. That they wanted a change. That they weren’t satisfied with “hold the course” anymore. So why do they continue to use the White House talking point, the same one that Alberto Gonzales could not let stand while under oath in front of the Senate in 2006?

There was not a war declaration, either in connection with Al Qaida or in Iraq. It was an authorization to use military force.

I only want to clarify that, because there are implications. Obviously, when you talk about a war declaration, you’re possibly talking about affecting treaties, diplomatic relations. And so there is a distinction in law and in practice. And we’re not talking about a war declaration. This is an authorization only to use military force.

If my fellow Democrats are serious about ending the debacle on the Tigris, we need to stop helping the Administration sell the policies we claim to despise. We are not at war with Iraq. We have never been at war with Iraq. We have someone calling himself a “War President” without any silly technicalities such as an actual war. And we on the left side of the double-yellow-line keep helping him say that whenever we stand up against the “war” in Iraq.

And the reason my party has done this is simple. The Democratic Party, especially their most vocal supporters on the progressive left, does not want to break with politics as usual. Why? Because politics as usual is precisely what they are counting on to support their policies and personal agendas, especially now that the Democrats have taken control of both chambers of Congress. After all, you cannot use the boat if you rock it too much. It is in the Democrats vested interest to keep the vested interests in play. And they have done so.

Those who I call the “Honest Republicans”, such as bloggers John Cole and Robert Lee Ray as well as many prominent moderate Republican families, have either broken or are threatening to break from what the current ultra-hardcore neo-conservative movement that the modern Republican Party has become. Why? Because the GOP has broken away from their traditional position of a small and responsible government. Because the single-issue supporters within the GOP have all but subsumed the platform. Because the GOP believes more in the Conservative Cause than it does in the American Constitution.

And I regret that I am starting to see the same thought process within the Democratic Party. We were once the party for the people, not the special interests. We were once the party of hard questions, not easy escapes. We were once the party of grand visions, not short-sighted maneuvers. We were once the party of fixing what was broken, not throwing temporary patches over the holes.

The current Democratic Party is no longer the party of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, any more than the current Republican Party is the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. And both parties have traveled far afield from the principles of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, John Hancock… No longer are the principles of the Founding Fathers to be found.

And that frightens me. To be perfectly honest, it scares the [CENSORED] out of me. And I have to ask myself one question: Am I reading the writing on the wall, or am I the one writing on the wall?

Am I really the only one on this side of the political divide that is seeing this pattern? Am I the only one that points towards our bedrock principles, both as Democrats and Americans, and screams to the winds “Why are we so far away?” Am I the lone voice crying in the wilderness?

Because if I have to, I will. This is not solely the party of Duncan Black and Amanda Marcotte and Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, or of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Barack Obama.

This is my party too. And if I have to fight for my place in the Democratic Party, then perhaps it is true. The Democratic Party will no longer be the Democratic Party when it betrays its most basic foundation principle: a place where all voices have the right to be heard.

I will be heard.

I will not suffer in silence.

I will dissent.

Until the end of the world.

Truly, the reason why I feel guilty about this is because Cindy Sheehan no longer is willing to fight for the same thing. And the reason why I am afraid is that the party just does not care any more. That it no longer exists to represent our views, our politics, our opinions… But instead, it exists only for itself. And the day that this becomes true, than this will no longer be my party. And when that day comes, will I have the intestinal fortitude to leave it to die? Or will I pull the plug myself?

If that is not of the Platonic Form of obscene thought, I do not want know what is.

Carpe jugulum.

[Crossposted from Left Off Colfax]

Dissent Is Patriotic

Filed under: Current Events — Robert @ 1:10 am

Patriotism in action.

May 26, 2007

Coercion And Advocacy: One Billion Bulbs

Filed under: Blogosphere,Environment,Political Correctness — Robert @ 5:03 pm

I’d like to participate in this site that aggregates people’s purchases of compact flourescent bulbs, the way Instapundit does. (His readers have just about reached the 10,000 bulb mark.)

Unfortunately, the people running it are apparently virtue fascists of a sort a little too extreme for my  taste. Check out the first sentence of their self-description:

The goal of is to convince, coerce and cajole millions of people to replace standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs.

(My emphasis.) There are things worth coercing people over. Lightbulbs aren’t one of them. I doubt that Glenn knows of this attitude on their part, since he’s been consistently a voice for voluntary action, not bans.

I’ve tried the CFL bulbs and they work pretty well. There are sizing issues with some fixtures, and I don’t find the CFL light to be as warming as incandescent bulbs, but they’re fantastic for offices, porches, closets, rumpus rooms, etc. I doubt they’ll end up taking over the marketplace, but they should make a big dent in our use of electricity for residential lighting.

Let’s not get bossy about it, though.

May 25, 2007

Education Reform

Filed under: Education — Brutus @ 12:44 am

The Christian Science Monitor reports on a new paper by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce with some curious recommendations for educational reform. Even though the paper is informed by an impressive “bipartisan group of scholars and business leaders, school chancellors and education commissioners, and former cabinet secretaries and governors,” its recommendations are inevitably controversial:

• Offer universal pre-kindergarten programs and opportunities for continuing education for adults without high school diplomas.

• Create state board exams that students could pass at age 16 to move either on to community college or to a university-level high school curriculum.

• Improve school salaries in exchange for reducing secure pension benefits, and pay teachers more to work with at-risk kids, for longer hours, or for high performance.

• Create curriculums that emphasize creativity and abstract concepts over rote learning or mastery of facts.

Even modest educational reforms typically founder on two factors: funding and methodology. No matter what grand ideological scheme is promised to deliver better results than the current set of results (1970 is looking pretty good compared to 2007), implementation stinks when there’s not enough financial support or well-thought-out lesson plans in the hands of teachers who face students in classrooms. Let me comment briefly on two of the four recommendations above.

First, moving on to college at age 16 is a egregiously poor idea. Even if radical reforms in education were accomplished to make this possible for a majority of students, a 16-year-old is not yet an adult in the legal sense, and residential colleges and universities would be forced into the position of proxy parents, or in loco parentis as it is frequently called. At this stage in history, we simply aren’t equipped to hand over widespread parenting of minors to educational institutions (who really believes that most 16-year-olds are ready for adult responsibilities, even if that’s only attending college?). Boarding schools are the exception, not the rule.

Second, curricula that emphasize creativity and abstract concepts sounds like a liberal arts approach, which has been pretty soundly rejected by most people over time. They want professional training. This recommendation is rather ironic coming from a group with the phrase “Skills of the American Workforce” in its name. In point of fact, I’m a supporter of fostering creativity and abstract thinking rather than emphasizing workforce skills, but it’s a mistake to believe that the rote learning and factual mastery inhibit creativity and abstract thinking, as their juxtaposition in the recommendaton above suggests.

My final comment before the discussion begins relates to the ridiculous phrase that the paper “is calling for a certain revolution, but it hasn’t been put together by revolutionaries.” Are we supposed to turn off our brains because the speaker used different forms of revolution in the same sentence? He reversed his position even as he spoke it. If educational reform calls for a radical reorganization of the very institution, then I should hope for some revolutionary thinking, not rhetoric. There’s been plenty of that already.

May 24, 2007

What Jane Galt Said

Filed under: Content-lite — Off Colfax @ 9:07 pm

Megan McArdle: Speaker Of Culinary Truths

May 23, 2007

This Is Why They Pay Judges The Big Bucks

Filed under: Content-lite — Off Colfax @ 1:25 am

Honestly, If I had to sit there and try to figure out a paternity case involving a pair of paternal twins, I’d drink more.

A lot more.

[Turn Signal: Grandmaster Jeffy G’s trusty sidekick]

May 21, 2007

Too Tired for Leisure?

Filed under: Economics,Navel Gazing — Brutus @ 2:27 pm

Yahoo! has a brief article called Worker Burnout Threatens Vacations, which delivers these curious statistics:

Nearly half of the respondents (49%) said they feel “burned out” by their jobs, and many did not fully use vacation time as a remedy. Out of 1,800 professionals surveyed, 45% said they did not use all of their vacation days allotted in 2006, and 39% said they were too tired to take a “real” vacation during their days off.

The article doesn’t examine causes and effects in any depth at all. This further tidbit, though, caught my attention:

There is an expectation, sometimes unspoken, that people will come to work under all but the most extreme circumstances.

It’s unclear what may be driving trends toward worker burnout and failure/refusal to take vacation days as vacations, but I have a few suspicions. The article mentions taking vacation days as “mental health” days to cope with stress. Most of us are familiar with that approach. I suspect a complex mixture of factors keeps people tied to their jobs, which nets obvious diminished returns that are still apparently preferable to the alternative (giving and enforcing more time off).

Comparisons of benefits and productivity of different nations usually rank the U.S. pretty low in benefits (a quality of life measure) but high in productivity. Is the conventional wisdom that productivity = long hours on the job really true? And if productivity comes at the expense of leisure and health, is it really worth it?

No Facts Which Offend Me May Exist

Filed under: Debate,Human Rights — Robert @ 12:44 pm

A somewhat frustrating conversation with Mandolin over at Alas is shut down. Apparently, the existence of facts (laws forbidding classes of discrimination have costs) causes too much emotional distress to be borne.

The irritating part is that if the situation were reversed – if leftists were obliged to compromise their values in order to comply with the law – they’d be (justifiably) screaming bloody murder about the oppression. I guess harms to people’s freedom of conscience only count if the conscience tends liberal.

May 17, 2007


Filed under: Blogosphere — Robert @ 2:21 am

You have to love whoever did this.

May 16, 2007

Avast, Ye Swabs!

Filed under: Economics,Popular Culture — Off Colfax @ 11:26 pm

The music industry’s war against file-sharing has just developed a new front. (NASDAQ:AMZN) today announced it will launch a digital music store later this year offering millions of songs in the DRM-free MP3 format from more than 12,000 record labels. EMI Music’s digital catalog is the latest addition to the store. Every song and album in the digital music store will be available exclusively in the MP3 format without digital rights management (DRM) software. Amazon’s DRM-free MP3s will free customers to play their music on virtually any of their personal devices — including PCs, Macs(TM), iPods(TM), Zunes(TM), Zens(TM) — and to burn songs to CDs for personal use.

Indeed. Without any Digital Rights Management capabilities, EMI is placing into the hands of the public precisely the same file types as could be found on file-sharing systems all throughout this here little series of tubes. And as there are many of us out here who remember Sony BMG’s fateful (and ultimately unprofitable) decision to force the issue with malware hidden on every CD sold, EMI looks to take the popular front and break against the RIAA-allied pack.

And that alone might be enough to convince some people to buy their music online.

What goes unsaid, but not entirely unpondered, is what this means to the iTunes’ limited-DRM music collection and Napster’s full-DRM files. It has constantly been a watchphrase of the free-market economic theory to let the market decide. With this development, there will soon be the chance for the market to fully and completely engage in the decision process.

Good for Amazon and EMI Music, who are performing the economic equivalent of a boarding action on the high seas while the RIAA coalition is still piping “Sweepers, man your brooms.

[Turn Signal: Fiat Lux]

May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell, RIP.

Filed under: Blogosphere,Current Events — Robert @ 3:31 pm

Let the love begin to flow.

Copyright in Transition

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Current Events,Economics,Popular Culture — Brutus @ 12:09 am

The U.S. Copyright Office and the Recording Industry Associate of America (RIAA) are doing exactly what they exist to do: protect and police the intellectual property of their constituencies. This post by Off Colfax a few days ago about the Copyright Review Board’s decision to raise royalty rates precipitously for streaming copyrighted content over the web (usually by commercial and web radio services), as well as stories like this one, do nothing to enhance the perception of the RIAA as a common thug with the support of the Copyright Office. Indeed, it’s gotten so bad that the RIAA recently won a contest (in public perception only) for being the worst company in America.

Naturally, it’s unpopular to lend support to an institution known for threatening lawsuits against college students, 12-year-olds, and grandmothers, or one that seems hellbent on instituting punitive royalty rates. I goofed in my first comment on this subject, as I didn’t get that new royalty rates for streaming content will likely put an end to web radio. (I still don’t understand the motivation behind it.) But unlike a lot of consumers, I’m no novice at intellectual property issues (see here and here). So the usual tropes consumers offer up to rationalize their illegal, infringing behaviors get no quarter with me.

What interests me now is that the entire notion of copyright, with its hundreds of years of support in legal practice, appears to be simply beyond the power of most folks to adequately comprehend. That change of sea means that widespread infringement and grassroots movements to relax or invalidate copyright protections, ironically undertaken at the same time that the U.S. government is seeking to impose stronger IP protections on other governments, probably doom the recording industry to extinction. If the consuming public determines, justly or unjustly, that a particular body of law is invalid and won’t respect it, then that law usually gets changed (or flatly ignored, like speed limits). The precipitating factor, in my view, is the technological simplicity of copying — the very thing copyright prohibits.

Before the photocopy machine and digital media, copying and piracy were far more costly and time consuming. Now, the ease and ubiquity of infringing behaviors have become a sort of death by a thousand cuts, except that it’s millions and billions of cuts. The business model on which the recording industry has been based for about 100 years is now so entirely destabilized and transitional that its very survival is threatened. In that context, it’s perfectly reasonable (if unpopular) for the RIAA to seek recourse through legal means, which includes infringement lawsuits (real and threatened) and resetting royalty rates. But the public’s insistence that new distribution methods and business models must (must!) be developed because, like the newspapers, the industry is already dead but doesn’t yet realize it, will probably win the day eventually. If and when that happens, and the financial incentive for creative work disappears with it (since creative work won’t be protectible), I wonder whether it will be a classic case of getting what you want but then deserving what you eventually get: crap music and crap media.

May 14, 2007

400 Years of European Settlement

Filed under: History — Robert @ 3:52 pm

Today is the 400th anniversary of the founding of the English colony at Jamestown. Although earlier attempts at colonization/settlement were made by the Vikings centuries earlier, those came to naught. Jamestown, although itself not a successful colony, marked the real beginning of the conquest of the continent; North and South America began to slowly slide into the “European” column, where they remain to this day.

May 11, 2007

The Day The Music Died

Filed under: Popular Culture — Off Colfax @ 9:08 am

As of now, the day the music dies will be on July 15th, 2007.

I wish that was mere poetic license on my part. Regretfully, it is far too close to being a reality.

The Copyright Review Board, part of the United States Library of Congress, issued their final ruling (Large PDF warning.) on May 1 regarding the increase of royalty rates for music streamed over the internet. For the small internet-only audio streams, the verbose language can be summed up in three words:

You are screwed.

Per-listener per-song per-“channel” fees will be raised for the time beginning Jan 1, 2006, and late fees assessed for failure to pay on time, with a payment due date of Jul 15, 2007. There is no consideration for revenue generated by the stream.

You ask yourself, “So. What does this terse unhelpful legalese mean in the real world?” Glad you asked.

1.FM, one of the top-rated stations in the US, crunched their numbers for this comment. With an average of 32 thousand listeners per day, the retroactive bill comes out to approximately $8000 to $12000, including late fees.

Per day. Which sums up to approximately $3.6 million for 2006 alone.

But wait. There is more.

Using both the CRB numbers and Arbitron ratings for the largest listener-base on the web, which is unsurprisingly America OnLine, the Radio And Internet Newsletter crunched numbers a bit more. For November, 2006, alone, the royalty obligation runs at $1.65 million. Translated into a full year, that becomes upwards of $20 million.

But wait. There is more.

Live365 will have to pay $350,000 per month, not including the “per-channel” designation. The prototypical kid in his basement hammering away with tiny revenue streams and 100 listeners will now be paying $6,000 per month in royalty fees. Your favorite terrestrial over-the-air station that streams their broadcast through their website will be paying an additional $1000 per month on top of their contractually established royalty payments. Yes. Even National Public Radio stations. (It is unknown at this time whether MTV’s royalty-free video broadcast agreement will apply to their own multiple-stream stations. If it does not, the per-annum numbers will be on the close order of $100 million.)

And this is on top of the royalty fees already being paid by on-line radio stations across the country.

To gain attention to the cause, many streams went dark for a day last week in order to show to their listeners exactly what will happen when they are faced with ruinous royalty increases and are forced to declare bankruptcy. With this virtual Sword of Damocles hovering over the industry’s head, there is only one avenue of recourse: Congress itself.

Fortunately, they have responded with speed. In the House, Representatives Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Don Manzullo (R-IL) introduced H.R. 2060 (Small PDF warning), the Internet Radio Equality Act, setting internet broadcast royalty rates at 7.5% of revenue or $500, the same rates as paid by Sirius/XM satellite radio channels. In the upper chamber, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced companion legislation. (Bill number unassigned at the time of publication.)

Hopefully, Senator Graham will realize his penultimate error when he authored the Platform Equality and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music Act of 2006, for the PERFORM act has performed beyond all expectations for its beneficiaries and beyond the worst fears of the webcast community.

Please contact your Senators to voice your support and urge the immediate passage of the bill. Contact you Representative to urge them to join the bipartisan list of co-sponsors to H.R. 2060.

In closing, I fear that I must fall back on a previously published work of mine and quote Christian Slater.

Keep the air alive.

May 10, 2007

A Serving Of Thigh Meat

Filed under: Election 2008 — Off Colfax @ 9:16 pm

Ever wonder what it looks like when a political campaign shoves their collective feet into their mouths?

Last weekend Deb and Jerry VonSprecken of Olin received a call from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s campaign office asking them if they would be interested in holding a campaign rally on May 4, after she had donated to his campaign.

“We thought it would be an honor and agreed,” said Jerry.

On Tuesday Deb received a call from Giuliani’s Des Monies office and was asked to call New York.

“They wanted to know our assets,” she revealed, and added that she and Jerry have a modest 80 acre farm and raise cattle.

Later she received a call from Tony Delgado at the Des Monies location.

“Tony said, ‘I’m sorry, you aren’t worth a million dollars and he is campaigning on the Death Tax right now.’ then he said they weren’t going to be able to come,” Deb continued.

Yeah. Definitely some extra serving of legs and thighs going on at the Rudyville KFC, all in the name of the eternal quest for The Perfect Photo-Op(trademark pending).

Have we gotten so media-meditative that candidates can’t just go into a diner anymore and shake hands? Or sit down with real people in a real home and leave the real script in the car?

Show me a candidate willing to do that (Mike Gravel? Tom Tancredo? Forrest Gump? Me?), even on a part-time basis, particularly in this age of Total Media Control, and I’ll show you the candidate that gets my immediate support. Immediate.

[Turn Signal: TPM]

Because Sometimes Fighting Patriarchy Means…Denigrating Women And Their Choices?

Filed under: Blogosphere,Feminist Issues — Robert @ 1:03 am

We must fight for women’s rights to make the choices that we think they should make!

And if they don’t, we can always make fun of their looks, sexuality, clothing, and intelligence!

Though to their credit, a couple of commenters are decent enough to point out that mocking women != feminism. I wonder how long they’ll last.

May 6, 2007

Just A Hypothetical

Filed under: Politics and Elections — Off Colfax @ 9:16 pm

One thing that I have been noticing in recent Democratic political history is that, except for those areas where it is expedient to support a moderate, the party as a whole is running to the Left as fast as possible. So I have to ask myself…

How many of us Clinton Democrats will become Republicans in thirty years?

I wonder if the progressive wing of the party will learn anything from this lesson. Probably not, unfortunately. After all, history is doomed to repeat itself.

[Turn signal: TMV]

I Swear…

Filed under: Blogosphere — Robert @ 1:33 am

the next time I see someone write “tenants” instead of “tenets” (as in, “a belief in free markets is one of the tenants of laissez-faire capitalism”), I am going to completely. f***ing. snap.

There may not be blood. But there will be bodies.

Learn the words, damn you. Learn the words.

May 3, 2007

Problems of Social Organization

Filed under: Environment,Ethics,Philosophy — Brutus @ 10:54 pm

We’re a species tragically marred by our own success. This article by Jeremy Rifkin presents the depressing numbers. Similar disaster is predicted everywhere these days. Here’s just one other example. (You’ve got to be living under a rock not to be aware of other, similar reports.) Some are considering how to face coming catastrophe: see here and here and here. The picture is bleak, and it’s been looming over the horizon for no short time.

The overarching story is that humankind and human nature has run its course and that, like the virus that eventually destroys its host, we have unwittingly sealed our own sad fate and ruined the planet for human habitation (and most other habitation with it). Unfortunately, unlike a virus, we can’t simply leap to a new host. In short, our basic form of social organization in the modern world, capitalist industry, has wrought changes in the ecosystem so vast that they’re now unrecoverable, and we’re too committed to our current paradigm to change in time to avoid catastrophe. In addition, our sheer numbers have been gained through a base exploitation of everything at our disposal, as though no other living creature has any right to survive.

Lost somewhere in the detritus of my abandoned and unfinished blog posts is the notion of maximizing, minimizing, and optimizing. Whereas most of nature occupies a niche in relative balance with the rest of creation — or at leasts lacks the wit and tools to overcome the cycles of ebb and flow — mankind since the Industrial Revolution (and perhaps since the Enlightenment) has been hellbent on maximizing its ecological niche. (Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel demonstrates rather unequivocally that this has ever been our modus operandi. Human expansion in prehistory was always the trigger for local extinctions. Basically, we ate everything.) We’ve succeeded marvelously. Now, in this our latest stage of development, our impact is astonishing. Industry has provided us the means to wrest from the Earth everything we can, and no morality has effectively suggested that a more restrained approach to living, establishing, for example, an optimized or balanced harmony with the rest of nature, might ultimately be a better way of living.

I’ve been reading on the subject for over a year now and am still struggling to get my head around it. The extrapolation of current trends is almost too depressing to contemplate, and I can’t profess to having the hopefulness of many others who have similarly recognized our dilemma. However, the ethical response is to at least acknowledge what’s happening in the wider sweep of human history and hopefully alleviate some suffering down the line.

The best statements on this topics I’ve come across so far are two essays in Orion Magazine: “The Idols of Environmentalism” and “The Ecology of Work” by Curtis White. They are beautifully written and lack the sort of doom and gloom that is inescapable for me. They suggest the basic response that Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael and other books, has been recommending: that we walk away from civilizational culture.

Preemptive Pardon

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Current Events,Election 2008 — Brutus @ 9:58 pm

The Chicago Tribune reports that

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said President Bush has made massive policy blunders, but impeaching him or calling him a war criminal is a waste of time.

If I were to made such a statement, it would come across as a personal opinion. But when Obama says the same thing, it comes across — at least to me — as a preemptive pardon for what many consider Bush’s impeachable offenses. After all, Obama is a high-profile presidential candidate. So either he’s a savvy strategist, exhorting us to “turn the page” and move on to the next administration (presumably his) and a hoped-for change of sea in politics that is still nearly two years away if the next elections go as he intends and expects, or he’s taking the opportunity to be magnanimous and perhaps a bit presidential (before the fact) with respect to the current president, against whom he’s not really competing.

I’m not convinced that impeachment is the proper course of action, especially if we can’t impeach Bush and Cheney simultaneously to avoid a Cheney presidency (the horror!). Still, I’m fully willing to cast aspersions toward policies and decisions emanating from the White House, many of which appear to my regular citizen’s eye (meaning I lack legal training) to contravene the U.S. Constitution and focus on enriching and empowering a small portion of the population as the expense of the rest rather than seriously looking after the wider national interest.

What Do You Say To A Dead Athiest?

Filed under: Current Events — Off Colfax @ 9:53 pm

Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich needs to look at things in a different manner.

When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don’t believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more — that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don’t know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough.

Tell me this: If you don’t have anything to look forward to after you die, then what greater sacrifice is there than to give your life? It is everything an atheist is, was, and ever will be. There is nothing else. There are no comforting thoughts as the world fades to black. There will be no eternal reward, no friends and family who have passed or are yet to pass…

Zilch. Nada. Nothing.

What greater sacrifice is it for an atheist to die for a cause? To die simply trying to do what is right and good and proper in this world because it is right and good and proper?

There is no greater sacrifice. Tillman’s death deserves to be treated with honor and respect.

I support Representative Henry Waxman’s call for Lt. Colonel Kauzlarich be brought on charges of conduct unbecoming an officer, only because there is no such article regarding “Conduct Unbecoming A Human Being” in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Economically Unsupported Consumption

Filed under: Economics — Brutus @ 9:30 pm

The Burea of Economic Analysis released some figures regarding personal income and outlays at the end of last month. According to this graph, which shows the trend lines for labor compensation, personal consumption, and savings rate, the first two factors adjusted for inflation using the PCE deflator,

personal income graph

the savings rate has dived into the negative at the same time that rates of earnings growth and personal consumption have stayed roughly flat. Unless I’m misunderstanding, doesn’t this pretty much show that on average we’re spending our savings and going into greater debt to support our lifestyles? In short, aren’t we consuming in excess of the general economic health that would support such behavior?

Perhaps you economists could interpret this data better for me.

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