You are currently browsing the daily archive for 28 August 2010.

I continue to be gobsmacked by the MainStream Media, or MSM. A couple of samples:

Glenn Beck Leads Religious Rally at Lincoln Memorial – NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of people rallied at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, summoned by Glenn Beck, a conservative broadcaster who called for a religious rebirth in America at the site where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech 47 years ago to the day.

Glenn Beck Rally Attracts Estimated 87,000 (Alex Sundby / CBS News)

An estimated 87,000 people attended a rally organized by talk-radio host and Fox News commentator Glenn Beck Saturday in Washington, according to a crowd estimate commissioned by CBS News.

The life blood of the media, news or otherwise, is eyeballs — viewers, readers, subscribers, Internet link-followers, and other categories; people who go to them and look at their output, and (vitally) the advertisements whose buyers pay for their livelihood. No eyeballs, no ads, as most bloggers will tell you.

The news divisions of the media claim to be purveying information, data the “eyeballs” can use to help order their lives. When viewers or readers turn to “the news” for information, they also see the ads and become more likely to buy the product, and the advertisers pay for that. The more eyeballs the higher the ad rate.

Around half a million people went home on 8/28/2010, turned on the teevee or checked the web site of one of the news organizations, and got lied to. They know that. They were there. The folks who attended Rev. Sharpton’s “Reclaim the Dream” rally are delighted, because inflating their numbers makes it more likely that others will join; attendees at Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” are irritated, because minimizing their numbers minimizes their influence. Peeved or pleased, though, both of them know it’s a lie.

Half a million people now know from personal experience that the supposed information they get from media news is not reliable. How likely are those half-million to turn on the teevee next time they want information about something? If they know it’s not reliable, what’s the point of sitting through the ads? Time is a cost; why expend it on pure waste that isn’t even enjoyable? How many people did they teach not to seek them out for information today? And how many did those people tell?

Wikipedia:

Asphyxiophilia or erotic asphyxiation is the intentional restriction of oxygen to the brain for sexual arousal. It is also called autoerotic asphyxia, hypoxyphilia, or breath control play.

They must be getting off, or high,  on cutting off the lifeblood of their organizations. It’s the only thing I can think of. At least it’s a comprehensible motive!

Rachel Carson should be quite alive and living locked in a New York City apartment with a very bad infestation of bedbugs, and a big-ass pesticide sprayer of DDT.

I wonder, expressed in minutes, how long her ecological purity would last.
(Comment by Mr. W on 8/28 @ 5:52 pm at Protein Wisdom)

My father never lost affection for sulfonamide antibiotics despite personal familiarity with the disaster of 1937 that gave us the modern FDA, but he declared flatly that DDT was the pinnacle of achievement of all mankind. In conversation that allowed joking, he would say the full name: di-CHLOR-o-di-PHEE-nyl-tri-CHLOR-o-eh-THANE (that’s dactylic tetrameter (modified),  in case you were wondering, and he could swing it).

Of course, Dad spent most of WWII in jungle clearings on one or another Pacific Island. (He wasn’t a combat troop. His job was keeping geeks in line in a communications company.) He and his men didn’t worry about bedbugs. They would have loved bedbugs, and made pets of them and sung them songs. The pests they had to worry about ate bedbugs — and snakes, and soldiers, and the Bakelite® cases of radios. One of his few war reminiscences was of the day on New Britain Island when they got a skid of 25-pound bags of DDT powder. The brigade commander wanted them to go to a USO show (or something like that, I was never clear), and they all refused, instead setting to work spreading magic powder around their encampment. That night, for the first time since they’d waded ashore, they were actually able to sleep.

News of bedbugs in New York and Washington, D.C. makes me chuckle. Banning DDT, which has nil or less biological interaction with warm-blooded creatures (R. Carson was a liar), meant that it had to be replaced with pyrethrins. At the time, pyrethrins were patented and profitable where DDT had long since lapsed into the public domain. If you like irony, the spectacle of people damning DDT and at the same time raging against “corporatist profiteers” can’t be beat, because pyrethrins made Dow Chemical a LOT of scratch. (I wonder if they slipped St. Rachel a few blocks of stock on the side. Good for business, y’know.)

Pyrethrins also do have significant effects on higher-order creatures, especially amphibians and reptiles; most insecticides come with bloody-minded warnings about getting the stuff in water because it’s death on fish and crustaceans. That’s also why you have to carefully read the label on hardware-store insecticides and triple the dose if you want dead bugs instead of just filling the house with stink. They don’t want you to have an effective insecticide, because it’s pyrethrin-based and nasty if it gets away.

So: bedbugs. Take all the bedding and clothing out of the house and spread it in the sun; leave it there all day. Meanwhile judiciously apply DDT in a water/soap/diesel-fuel emulsion on the walls and floor of the house, paying close attention to baseboards and cracks. Wash all the clothing and loose bedding in hot water with soap (not detergent); heavy bedding (mattresses, etc.) gets thoroughly beaten and an application of DDT powder, or (if you can afford it) goes back to the gin to have the padding removed and run through the mill while the “tick” gets laundered. Presto! No bedbugs — nor ticks, fleas, or cockroaches, either. We called it “spring cleaning”, and in the Fifties South it was a regular ritual every year when the Sun got hot.

The same DDT emulsion got atomized by truck-mounted sprayers and blown out as a fog by fans on still summer nights, doing the mosquitos no good, which was the point, of course. Now that was a bad idea. It made it a lot easier to sleep, because the humming whine of the bloodsuckers was kept down, but it also killed butterflies, beetles, and any number of other beneficial insects. General spraying, not a chance. But when it becomes obvious that complex modern insecticides aren’t going to give New Yorkers a night’s rest, and the only realistic alternative becomes clear, I’ll be chuckling happily, dancing in the dark with the ghosts of ten million African babies who died of malaria, singing

di-CHLOR-o-di-PHEE-nyl-tri-CHLOR-o-eh-THANE!
di-CHLOR-o-di-PHEE-nyl-tri-CHLOR-o-eh-THANE!
di-CHLOR-o-di-PHEE-nyl-tri-CHLOR-o-eh-THANE!

Catchy tune, ain’t it?

Today’s “Restoring Honor” rally arranged by Glenn Beck has been covered adequately elsewhere. Smitty at The other McCain has a roundup.

Some people have found it off-putting. Taylor Marsh at the Huffington Post says

It offers a surreal reality that makes people feel like they’re in the political twilight zone.

Goldstein at Protein Wisdom says

There are countless non-believers or agnostics who understand and accept the idea of natural rights — but who don’t believe in organized religion, and fear it precisely because of it’s (potentially haughty) moralism. I regret that they will feel put off by this kind of public revival meeting.

One of the Kos Kidz, having no thoughts of his own as usual, is content to quote Bob Herbert of the NYT, who wrote before the event even started:

America is better than Glenn Beck. For all of his celebrity, Mr. Beck is an ignorant, divisive, pathetic figure. On the anniversary of the great 1963 March on Washington he will stand in the shadows of giants — Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Who do you think is more representative of this nation?

In general, it appears that, of those expressing dissatisfaction or displeasure at the event, the common threads are (1) Glenn Beck is a bad guy, (2) we don’t need no damn religious instruction. On whether Beck wears a white hat or a black one I have no opinion. Religious instruction is another matter entirely. I wasn’t there; I’ve only seen accounts; but, from the accounts I have seen, I think Beck was up to something I approve of: restoring the original vision of egalitarianism.

Why was it that the Founders and Framers served their thoughts up laden with so many religious images, similes, and metaphors? Franklin was an atheist; Jefferson was an agnostic bordering on atheism; yet Franklin cited the “Lord of light” in his famous advice to the Convention, and Jefferson called on the Creator as the origin of rights in the Declaration. What’s that all about?

For one thing, they lived in a time when just about everybody was familiar with the Bible, and that was almost the only common thread in enough people’s education to use as a source of metaphor linking ideas of the current day. For another, the Church was then an arm of the State, and at least lip service to its theology was necessary for participation in the public sphere. Both of those factors meant that religion, or religious theory and practice, were a common part of the vernacular; but while that’s been cited as the whole reason, something else was going on there.

The Founders and Framers were egalitarians; the United States Constitution was and remains one of the most profound expressions of egalitarianism in existence. They had a problem, though.

Egalitarianism is clearly poppycock. Egalism — the word is a coinage of Jack Vance’s, as far as I know, and extends egalitarianism to interchangeability — is even less plausible. People aren’t equal in any real sense. I’m 5′7″; am I equal to an NBA forward? The notion is ludicrous. Some people are tall, some short; some weak, some strong; some are smart, others not so bright. Pick any two people at random, and it will not only be clear that they are not equal, they themselves will stoutly insist that they have unique qualities differing each from the other.

What the Founders and Framers meant by “egalitarianism” was equal in value, or, better, equally autonomous — self-willed and self-directed — not exactly equivalent or interchangeable. IMO they also wanted to express something they didn’t say, and which we can express more readily in modern terms: Statistics don’t apply to individuals. There is no population or group, however despised, that has not at one time or another produced an individual of real and lasting value, and there is none, however exalted, that has failed to throw up someone of stupendously negative value. Even had the then-contemporary notions of “nobility” and “the gentleman” had any value, it did not mean that some nobles weren’t too vile to suffer or that some peasants or slaves couldn’t become themselves exalted, if given the opportunity.

Given those conditions, they reached into the common vernacular and brought out what I call “the picnic analogy” — to the picnickers, all ants are equal. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, it says so right there on the label. Compared to that, the worth of an individual human being approaches zero; and, since all zeroes are equal to all others, it follows that “all Men are equal in the sight of God.”

Since then, thinkers have attempted to remove God from that equation while preserving egalitarianism, and always, right down to this day, been frustrated by by the plain fact that it is manifestly not so. Voltaire is not equal to Socrates, Einstein is not equal to Copernicus, and (may God help us) Hegel is not equal to Spengler. They may have produced things of equal value (positive or negative) in their own context, but to call them “equal” is to mangle the language beyond repair.

One of the main thrusts in the effort to find a basis for egalitarianism is to find another standard. The Law is one such — all are equal before the Law. Law has the deficiency that it is finite and material (though not concrete); that proposal then amounts to exalting The Law to the level of God or a God-equivalent. That’s absurd upon its face; moreover, it means that people with a different philosophy may try to so exalt their basic principle. Socialists do this with egalitarianism itself — EQVALITY is elevated to Godhead, and all actions flow from that. It does have the advantage of being self-contained, self-referential, and thus immune to perturbations.

Another line of thought is to take one or another material, finite concept as the standard. That approach always boils down to lawn mowing: That poppy is too tall! Cut that sucker down! By any finite standard, human beings are not equal. Some are tall, some are short, some are smart, some are stupid, and any finite yardstick will reveal those differences. And, since the only number equal to all numbers like it is zero, this philosophy leads inexorably to cutting down all the poppies. We are all equal in death. This is not a particularly useful basis for proceeding.

In part, the reason for the disquiet is ubiquity of information transfer. Before cell phone cameras, iPods, and the Internet, meetings like Beck’s were a matter of interest only to their attendees, where now they must be noted, and remarked upon, by everybody and his dog. Beck uses religious tropes as his vehicle because he is best before an audience which employs those tropes, and those who find the tropes off-putting aren’t really his target audience — though it’s clear he’d prefer that they join it. In an earlier day they would simply have not responded to the call to join the meeting.

The Founders had no shortage of 700 club equivalents and Huckabee clones; the fundamentalist revival meeting has been a feature of American society since the first settlement of the Continent by Europeans. It should be telling that they chose to cite God as authority anyway. Glenn Beck is telling you that he supports the egalitarianism of the Founders and wants to see it become once again the bedrock assumption of American society. I fail to see how that isn’t a good thing.

Again from the Good Professor, we are linked to a Reason piece by Damon Root reviewing The Right to Earn A Living: Economic Freedom and the Law by Timothy Sandefur (recommended, by the way). About the matter, Glenn says, in part,

…there’s considerable reason to believe that [economic freedom is] an important constitutional right…

Rubbish, sir. Economic freedom is nowhere addressed in the Constitution. The closest it comes is Amendment V:

No person shall […] be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…

It’s said that Jefferson originally cited “life, liberty, and property” as among the Rights of Man, but was dissuaded by his own (correct) conviction that “property” is a social construct rather than a right. The Declaration of Independence cites “the pursuit of happiness” instead.

The reason the Constitution doesn’t address property or economic liberty is that it never entered the heads of the Framers that either would be questioned in good faith. Karl Marx’s birth was two decades in the future; Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a decade in the worm farm, and good riddance to bad rubbish; the Fabian Society would not be founded for another century. It was a time when a perfectly acceptable way to make money was to get yourself a battleship and a Letter of Marque and Reprisal, and go rob the merchant shipping of political and economic opponents.

Certainly the Framers were concerned with the issue, and the Reason article linked above quotes several expositions of that concern; the book has more. But they considered it in the context of greedy Kings and Princes trying to aggrandize themselves with a view to profit, and imagined that the people would resist such intrusions. They never dreamed that the envy, jealousy, and greed of the populace could be harnessed by demagogues so as to make denial of economic liberty not just possible, but a high social good.

Perhaps we, the People of a later generation, need to incorporate the concepts of economic liberty in the Constitution, but don’t claim that it’s there already. The Framers didn’t see the need.

Professor Reynolds alerts us to a breaking story: mountain lions have been seen in the vicinity of Wheat Ridge and Lyons, Colorado. It’s a minor piece, presumably interesting for the concatenation of names (“lion in Lyons”, get it?) and as an illustration of the Progg mindset. Here is a picture of the one in Lyons, which is said to be wearing a radio collar, presumably attached by the Colorado Department of Wildlife (DOW) or one of the many other animal-studies and animal-management groups active in the area:

A mountain lion, seen after eating a goat

The fence in the background belongs to Gary Gorman, whose goat the lion has just killed (according to the Lyons Recorder).

For those who don’t know, Wheat Ridge is a community or suburb within the Denver metropolitan area, and Lyons is an outlying village in the People’s Republic of Boulder, just north and west of the big city.

The Denver Post quotes police as “…advising residents to keep small children and pets inside and keep trash bins tightly shut.” The Lyons Reporter tells residents

The main prey of mountain lions are deer and elk, but like most predators, they are opportunistic, and with the increase of people keeping llamas, goats, chickens, etc., the DOW says it is not unusual for lions to be seen at the wilderness/urban interface, as humans continue to encroach into the animal’s habitat. They advise adults to keep small children close when out for a walk or hike, and to keep pets indoors at night. If a lion is spotted, the DOW guidelines suggest you pick up small children, make yourself appear to be as large as possible, back away from the animal slowly (never run, it may trigger the “attack” response), and if possible, throw rocks or sticks to frighten the cat.

Note the total absence in both accounts of the first thought likely to enter a rural resident’s head: Shoot the %#@@$! Instead, locals are advised that kitty is just doin’ what comes naturally (“they are opportunistic”) in the face of oppression (“humans continue to encroach into the animal’s habitat”), and the proper response is to retire (slowly) and let it have its way, while taking precautions (“keep small children and pets inside”) and, in extremis, use the nuclear arm of Progressivism, a protest (“make a lot of noise […] and appear as large as possible”). Whether or not signs and papier-maché puppets will make the Ultimate Weapon more effective is not addressed.

There is a technique in verbal conflict called the stone bucket. It consists of collecting the opponents’ statements and actions on a subject (the stones) and assembling them in a repository (the bucket), ready for use when the other guy overreaches and his own history can be flung con brio. In a day and age of cut-and-paste and near-free data storage, I wonder why it isn’t used more. In this case, the soothing advice to yield and appease could be very useful when kittycat overgeneralizes the concept of “prey” so as to include five-year-olds playing in the street.

The Obama Administration urges the Supreme Court to vacate greenhouse gas “nuisance” ruling, and people around the country, whether delighted or enraged, are mystified. Why would they do such a thing?

There’s no mystery if you keep in mind two things that are becoming more apparent with each passing day:

–There is no, absolutely no, evidence for significant anthropogenic global warming that isn’t either diddled, blatantly manipulated, or manufactured from scratch; and,

–Job #1 for Obama and company is to eliminate American production. Not hobble it, not minimize it, and definitely not allow it under restrictions; they want it gone, and the sooner the better.

The Administration plans to put regulations in place via the EPA that will make it impossible for Americans to have a job, drive a car, eat, or stay warm in winter unless they pledge fealty to His Imperial O-ness and pay tribute to His Messengers on Earth, the public-sector unions. They have made a strategic error in putting that together, and are moving to minimize the damage and regain the solid ground needed to maneuver.

Judicial decisions and bureaucratic regulations differ in that the first is based on evidence, however flawed, where the second is based on whim. Unfortunately, when the Administration fired the opening salvoes of their EPA push, they justified it as being based on scientific evidence. That was a mistake, as it turns out, because the scientific evidence is somewhere between “flawed” and “nonexistent”. That, in turn, makes it highly probable that the petitioners in the “nuisance gas” lawsuit will lose, and if they do it discredits the “scientific evidence” they’ve been touting, making it harder to drum up support for the new regulations and even opening up the possibility of lawsuits against them for malpractice and lying, not to mention mopery, dopery, and general skulduggery.

Therefore they move to quash the case, because they cannot afford for the evidence to be heard. It’s as simple as that.

There is one seeming mystery: why are the watermelon greens getting their panties in a twist? Their goals are the same as the Administration’s, so why aren’t they delighted by this move?

Again, no mystery. Greens, being a subset of Progressives, don’t see evidence because they not only don’t look for it, they consider it at best irrelevant, at worst a conspiracy against them. Correlation == causation if it advances their cause; both are without merit when they do not promote the Green/Progg agenda. To them, the case against the Capitalist Overlords and their lackeys the Vile Polluters is made open and shut by the mere application of those denunciations, and they cannot see why anyone would think differently; therefore they howl.

The only thing ominous about it all is that it indicates that somewhere in the bowels of the Obama Administration there is someone who can think, and if that person gains influence we’re worse in the soup than we already were.

“Let’s swap” vs. “gimme or I’ll hit you.”

The first choice is a market. The second is everything else. That’s all there is.

What you do, or want to do, with the stuff after you get it is irrelevant.

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