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Iranian light ekranoplanes[1], via Theo Spark, Ace, and several others. The best view is at LiveLeak, though watch out — like most LL videos it starts immediately.

The utility of the machines as weapons in a restricted waterway should be apparent. Several people, including the inventors, have suggested that they need only to be fitted with sea-skimmer missiles to be a threat to shipping, including military vessels, but really that isn’t necessary and might not be practical. Missiles powerful enough to be a threat tend to be rather larger and heavier than something like what is shown could carry. The real threat would be fitting them with warheads and having the pilots kamikaze them in, or sending unmanned ones in via remote control.

But that’s all by the way, although it’s something that should be considered. The real impact is that I can hardly think of a single redneck who could see that clip and not think, “Dayum, I gotta get me one of them things!” If the Iranians could dump the mullahs and Ahmadinejad, they have a ready-made product that could earn foreign exchange in the “luxury extreme sports” market that moves two-liter motorcycles and 1000+ HP powerboats. There is always hope for the future, though it is sometimes not visible through the pessimistic fog.

[1] Also known as “Wing In Ground Effect”, WIG or WIGE. Some views of others, along with (occasionally misleading) discussion of the technology, can be found at Dark Roasted Blend here and here.

Prof. Reynolds points us at an essay by Thomas H. Benton[*] in the Chronicle of Higher Education lamenting the poor image of the professoriat in the eyes of the unwashed. As usual, much of the value of the piece is in the comments, where “educator” after educator congratulates the system for its value and its participants for their dedication and selflessness.

Sorry, guys, but the next time you decide to write this sort of thing and put it before the public, take a little advice from an inhabitant of the “lowbrow anti-intellectual community” and do some analysis first. (You do, after all, have the critical analysis skills necessary, by your own admission.) If, as in Benton’s essay, the screed can be reduced to “…because we ah smaht and they resent theah inferioritah”, you should discard it unpublished.

The operative word is not “hate”, it is “despise”. There is an unsubtle difference between the two, and “contempt” might actually be better.

To understand why “we” despise “professors”, you need look no farther than the emblematic recent case: Duke University vs. the lacrosse players. Here we have a case of Academia presenting a vocal united front against every ideal Americans have held and attempted, however badly, to implement: eliminate the tired old concept of “equal protection”, toss out “presumption of innocence” with sneering contempt, dump every concept the Founders might have held dear in the dustbin of history, and focus like a laser on “social justice” — those *holes are jocks, their parents are rich, and they’re white to boot; it follows as the day the night that they are racist oppressors and rapists regardless of what they actually did, and must be punished severely on that basis. It is contemptible, and earns the contempt it deserves.

Add to that the toplofty declarations of “teaching critical thinking”. What we actually observe in your graduates is the product of an overly-complex madrassah, able to look at any situation and find an applicable passage in the Holy Writ, starting with Marx and expanding to a mile wide and an inch deep. The value of broad and inclusive reading is unquestionable, but when it is restricted entirely to a narrow range of themes concentrating on finding nothing but unmitigated evil in the social structure that yields your living it is of considerably less utility.

On the other hand, you could persist in congratulating yourselves on your dedication to the advancement of Pure Knowledge. The contempt you clearly feel for those you consider inferior will continue to be reflected back at you, and the result is likely to be destruction of the system that keeps you fed, clothed, and housed. That would be a disaster; the value of a real, humanities-based education is extremely high, which is why the system got established in the first place.

[*](Thomas H. Benton is the pen name of William Pannapacker, an associate professor of English at Hope College.)

At Slate, Timothy Noah continues the leftoids’ growing chorus about income and wealth inequality:

…in 1915, when the richest 1 percent accounted for about 18 percent of the nation’s income, the prospect of class warfare was imminent. Today, the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation’s income, yet the prospect of class warfare is utterly remote … Why aren’t the bottom 99 percent marching in the streets?

One possible answer is sheer ignorance.

Noah then goes on to bewail the fact that “crowdsourcing” (the name leftoids give to “markets” because they can’t admit that such a thing exists) doesn’t reveal the true inequalities involved, in order to bolster his assertion that “one possible answer is sheer ignorance.”

It doesn’t seem to occur to Noah, Yglesias, or Fallowes that two (at least) things might cause Americans not to concern themselves with “inequality”: first, the base has risen enormously. A “poor” person in the United States of today is vastly better off than a poor person in 1915, as I can personally testify. Many of the people I know have incomes below the official poverty level, and mine is close to it — yet all of us own cars and have places to live, and unlike our predecessors at the turn of the last century we rarely miss meals. Might it be that, since our needs are more or less met, there’s no particular need for us to insist on impoverishing “teh Rich”? Or even to worry real hard about identifying who Teh Rich are?

More likely, though, at least for those of us who do pay attention, the problem for Mr. Noah is the missing clause in his sentence:

Today, after a century of Progressive class warfare that claims to level the inequalities, the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation’s income.

I reckon there’s at least the possibility that, after watching Noah and his predecessors pounding away at the issue and generating all kinds of Governmental and other interventions for a hundred years, and seeing the problem get worse, people might not be anxious to give the Proggs more swings at that particular strawman.

Consider a man alone. What may he do?

Wrong question, of course. He is alone; there are no others to restrain him. His privileges precisely match Jefferson’s assertion. He has life, he has liberty — that is, he may do anything he can do — and he can direct his activities in any way that might please him. He can speak as he wishes, although that doesn’t have much utility in his situation; he can worship whatever god(s) he may recognize as extant. He is totally at liberty; his activities and behavior are restricted only by his own abilities and the resources available to him.

Can the man alone eat? Certainly he may — or, rather, the question of permission is irrelevant. If his abilities suffice to acquire food, there is no-one to prevent him from eating. On the other hand, there is no force or circumstance that will deliver food to him absent his own effort. Certainly it requires effort on his part (however trivial) to speak, but this is effort expended to perform the action; equally, effort is required for him to bite, chew, and swallow. In order to eat, he must perform the precursor effort of acquiring food. He has the natural right to speak, but not the natural right to eat — although he does have the natural right to perform the precursor effort of seeking food.

Can the man alone own? Well, certainly he can possess in the same sense he can eat. If he picks up a stone — that is, makes the precursor effort of acquiring — it is his so long as he maintains control over it.  He has the natural right to acquire, but possession requires that precursor effort.

The example is oversimplified, in the same way the examples found in a first course in physics are oversimplified. Physics 101, sometimes called “statics and mechanics”, makes much use of idealized concepts — objects with mass but zero dimensions, surfaces entirely lacking friction, strings of infinite strength and flexibility but having no size other than length, and the like. Such idealizations are not found in the real world, but they serve to introduce the student to fundamental concepts. In the same way, the idealization of the “man alone” serves to illuminate the basics, but Universe applies myriad complexities that must be accounted for before applying those fundamentals to real life.

If the man alone puts the stone he possesses down and walks away, it is no longer in his possession; he no longer controls it. The forces and animals surrounding the man alone, here considered impersonal and lacking will, may affect the stone in myriad ways when the man no longer has it in his possession.

This exposes an important distinction: ownership is maintaining existential control over something when the owner is no longer present, and that requires introducing another force of will, that is, another person. The stone might still be affected by impersonal forces, swallowed up by an earthquake or shat upon by a bear; but if the second person recognizes the first’s ownership of the stone, she will not pick it up and put it to use because it is owned by the first.

In general, the natural rights of the man alone may or may not be expressible in action when he is no longer alone, but they remain as natural rights in the same way torque, mass, rigidity, and other fundamentals of introductory physics remain when real-world complexities are added.

When the person is no longer alone, but embedded in a society with other persons, the question of natural right may be illuminated by  prevention, deterrence, and the distinction between the two. The basic or Jeffersonian natural rights can be neither prevented nor deterred. The person has life, and continues to have that natural right until the right is violated by killing him. Other natural rights can be deterred, but not prevented — speech, for instance, can be deterred by promising punishment a posteriori, but no a priori force can prevent it. On the other hand, possession can be both deterred (by promising punishment a posteriori) and prevented (by a priori deterring the precursor action of acquisition).

The natural rights of life and speech can be violated by taking or punishment, but their expression cannot be prevented. Contrived rights such as possession can be prevented. Subtleties and nuances abound, and may obscure the issue in any given case, but resolution is possible by applying the simplifying assumption of the man alone and making the distinction between deterrence and prevention when he is no longer alone.

Some may consider that I am attempting to justify the Left’s assumption that ownership is evil and must be eliminated. Quite the contrary; it is my assertion, supported I believe by both theory and practice, that ownership and the concept of “property” are vital to a complex society’s success. However, arguing that property is a natural right is a non-starter, and discredits the very concept of natural right — and the Left takes full advantage. If the Right’s arguments are to carry the day, the distinction must be acknowledged.

One powerful insight: Property is a “positive” right.[1]

“Positive” rights are better described as third party rights. In order to exercise a “positive” right against opposition, the exerciser needs a third party to intervene. A hungry person whose “right” to good nutrition is frustrated by the farmer’s refusal to provide food needs somebody else to go take the food from the farmer and satisfy their “right”.

A person who has something of value is likely to be faced by attempts by others to take it away. The greater the value of the possession, the more prospective takers will be attracted; and, sooner or later, the possessor’s ability to defend his possession will be overcome. The person who has something of value needs help from the remainder of society — a third party — in order to defend his “right” of possession.

Libertarians and others who assert that property is a natural right are totally in the wrong, and thus end up losing the debate. This does not mean that the Left is correct in the results they get from reasoning from this proposition, or that the Right is wrong. It does mean that the reasoning never gets really started, because the Left is starting from a correct proposition and the Right is not.

Responding to an earlier post, commenter TFT says, inter alia:

…the basic conceptual foundation on which our arguments operate … is the individual and his liberty; we start from that and go from there. Even when I was young I noticed that the left always skips right over that part. I used to assume that it must already have been addressed in their logic chain at some point — that it was implicit, just taken for granted and thus unspoken.

I eventually realized that, no — it’s not that they’re merely failing to mention it; it’s that it was never even part of the argument.

No, it never was part of the argument, because the Right sacrifices it from the beginning by presenting an argument, the two portions of which directly contradict one another.

When you assert that property is a natural right equivalent to speech, the contradiction demands either that neither right is natural or that both are — and since property is not a natural right, the conclusion must be that speech is a third-party right also. The Leftist is thus free to ignore the entire question of fundamental rights, and proceed directly to prescriptions based on deciding which rights are best supported by the third party and which are not, a debate which is and must be based on cost-benefit analysis as regarding costs and benefits to society vs. costs and benefits of the individual. That debate must always reflect “the greatest good for the greatest number”, and thus come down on the side of Society prevailing over the individual.

You don’t get to talk about fundamental points if you yield them from the outset of the debate.

[1] The designation of “natural” rights as “negative” and derivative rights as “positive” is a triumph of PR. Who wants to support something that’s “negative”? I prefer my formulation.

Intelligence tests like “IQ” don’t measure absolute intelligence, because it’s too complicated. What they do is assume that there’s a certain amount of information out there, and the smarter the person is the more of it they’ll pick up as they go through life. A person who hasn’t absorbed the convention that red means “stop” and green means “go” by, say, age 12 probably isn’t going to learn much about anything else, either.

Dave at Classical Values quotes Matt Yglesias:

It’s true that covering Emily will mean slightly higher costs for everyone whose kids don’t get sick. But this is how insurance is supposed to work.

In his reply, Dave says, in part:

Insurance is a contract designed to calculate the risk and cost of an event and allow one to pay the expected cost x expected risk over a period of time to avoid incurring a large cost at one time should the event occur, not a means to spread costs among a group of people for events that have already occurred.

In a thread about the Gulf drilling moratorium at Joy McCann’s place, “Darrell” puts up a moderately-long comment that has good points in it but frankly is a little less coherent than a person might wish, and leftoid commenter “ponce” summarizes:

Rather than address each of your paranoid concerns individually, allow me to offer you this:

Try to not be so afraid.

John Kerry gets testy about uninformed voters:

We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening…

The Boston Herald puts up a poll about Kerry’s assertion, and readers respond:

And Dave in Texas at Ace of Spades adds:

Let’s stipulate the message is full of awesomeness.

Perhaps you’re just too stupid to sell it?

Going back through in reverse order, it’s pretty clear that Dave in Texas is right. Remember, we judge intelligence by how much of the information that’s available the subject manages to pick up and use. The reasons for objecting to Democratic policies and proposals like Obamacare are information that’s available, and whether or not they’re valid is irrelevant to this point: somebody who’s smart would have picked up on those reasons and know what they were, and demonstrate that by addressing them. John Kerry doesn’t do that, so it would appear that he doesn’t know what those reasons are, and Herald readers conclude, entirely justifiably, that he and other Democrats don’t have the brain power to apprehend the reasons.

That’s a demonstration of long-term intelligence (or lack thereof, perhaps). “ponce” makes no attempt to even address “Darrell’s” points, and since several of those points address things that would be genuine causes of apprehension (at least) if true, the only thing we can possibly conclude is that “ponce” didn’t understand the points themselves. “ponce” can’t read for information, only for emotional content, and that’s all the reply covers.

Matt Yglesias is a spinmeister and skilled generator of “talking points”, but his worst enemy wouldn’t accuse him of lying, at least not Type I lying (direct contradiction of fact). It seems a little odd that he would make a false-to-fact statement like “this is how insurance is supposed to work”, because Dave is absolutely correct: in that context, it’s not how insurance works. But note that Dave’s explication of how insurance does work is a little complicated. The sentence is long and has several independent and independent clauses, and understanding it requires knowledge of some basic concepts (“contract”, “cost”, “risk”) that Dave doesn’t spell out. That’s because “insurance” is inherently a good deal more complex than “it pays for stuff” — but that information, the way insurance works, isn’t new; it’s out there in society and has been for a long time. Anybody who hasn’t absorbed it can be assumed not to have the brainpower to pick it up.

Here we have three examples that lead us to believe that leftoids are stupid — Yglesias has lived to his mid-thirties without absorbing a common basic concept; “ponce” can’t read a fairly short exposition and direct a reply to the points it makes; and John Kerry can’t pick up on things that are ubiquitous. They’re thick as bricks, dumb as posts. If you wander ’round the blogosphere you can get voluminous confirmation of that. Go to any leftoid site, and what you will find (especially in the comments, but often enough in the main articles) endless repeats of bumper-sticker slogans short enough for dumb people to memorize, without any accompanying expansion or analysis, and often enough not even apposite to the main subject. In the usual case, you’ll also find ignorance of the fine points of the English language that would shame an immigrant.

This is what’s so infuriating about leftoid claims that they’re smaaht and should be put in chaaahge of everything in the World. It’s demonstrably not true. If President Obama were really as bright as he’s claimed to be, he would absorb the objections and counter-arguments of his opponents and modify his own rhetoric to match. This is not to say that he would change his policies or his intent, only that he would adapt his language to the environment he’s operating in. He hasn’t done that despite having plenty of time; the only possible conclusion is that he can’t — that he, like the rest of the leftoids, is stupid.

Concepts like “insurance”, “investment”, and “capital” are inherently complex, but we depend on them to keep our industrial society running, just like we depend on understanding of equally complex concepts like “gravity” and “entropy” to build and maintain machines. Turning society over to the direction of people who can’t understand or internalize current conditions or basic concepts is a sure way to incept a disaster.

Good thing for the United States, or bad?

At the end of the day, it’s a combination of “Shining City on the Hill” with Bush & Co’s insight on Iraq.

First off, though: What do you reckon the trade balance is between, say, New York and Idaho? Texas vs. California? Nevada vs. New Jersey? Is anybody in the vast, near-absolute free trade area that is the United States genuinely and deeply disadvantaged by it, in the long run? If they are, haven’t we made a Hell of a big mistake two centuries and a quarter ago?

The existence of total free trade between Louisiana and Massachusetts, without either of them being made poorer by it, constitutes evidence if not proof that the same thing is possible between the US and China, or India, or Madagascar for that matter. It’s just a bigger field, that’s all.

The truly unique thing about the United States, something near-forgotten in the latest stupid developments, is our discovery that any number can play, and everybody can have fun. If your neighbor gets richer, it doesn’t mean you get poorer except in relative terms. It’s not a zero-sum game, except in short term effects — which can, in fact, be painful, but the more we learn about real economics (rather than idealized theories) the more we find out that it’s kind of like ripping adhesive tape off a sensitive spot: best to get it over with and get on with the program.

And — most, if not all, of our present troubles are down, at the end, to jealousy and covetousness. People who don’t have what we’ve got, what we take for granted, are understandably envious of it, and that’s a fertile ground for demagoguery. Consider a Brazilian favelista, walking barefoot through raw sewage to get to the communal water tap. He is, in point of actual fact, no worse off than a poor Roman two millenia ago, but that Roman didn’t have an American “poor person” to compare himself to. How hard is it going to be to convince Senhor Mathao that the Yanquis stole all the good stuff? More importantly, how hard is it to get Hassan Abd-ul-Jabbar of that? This is the real, deep reason Bush “went to Iraq”. No, we can’t turn Iraq into Fifties America, but if we could, or even could get partway in that direction, would we be safer or in greater danger? The question answers itself.

The transitions get mismanaged, to be sure, and as we get to know more we may be able to reduce the trauma; and there needs to be some redress in cases like massive subsidy, as with Airbus and the steel industry. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that if, for instance, Mexico stood in the same relation to the United States as Alabama does to Pennsylvania, both Mexicans and Americans would be better off.

Does that mean I’m a one-worlder? Sure. I just don’t think anybody ought to be in charge of the one world.

I wonder how often this is happening under the radar?

This morning’s Pajamas Media email asks if the Reagan Coalition of fiscal and social conservatives is still viable. Certainly Teh Media, in their aspect as Democratic Party propaganda machine, are doing all they can to drive wedges between the two, as they have been doing since, well, since the coalition was visibly formed. What Ms. Sanchez is telling us is that Democrats have the same problem in much worse degree.

Democrats have been pursuing a program of fragmentation for years now. According to that policy, there are no American blacks who matter, only African-Americans; no Americans of Hispanic descent, only Hispanic-Americans; no Americans with non-mainstream sexual preferences, only LGBT-Americans. Their support is divided into subgroups by some visible characteristics by their own declarations and policies, and the boundaries of the subgroups are rigidly policed under the subhead of “authenticity”. The only consistent commonality among the subgroups is that they want something from the Government, generally (though not quite always) on the ground that they are being victimized by the society as a whole and need relief, and Democrats are happy to agitate for Government handouts in return for the subgroups’ political support. What may not be evident, because it gets little publicity, is that there’s a downside to this policy: it not only means the subgroups have little in common, that lack of commonality is enforced.

The Reagan Coalition (and now the tea parties) are united by a desire for less Government interference in their lives, but fiscal conservatives see that in terms of business and markets and may actually support some issues social conservatives see as anathema (abortion, e.g.), whereas social conservatives often consider the “social safety net” a duty of social responsibility and may have as dim a view of “rich Corporations” as any Progressive. This is a fault line in the coalition which opponents are eager to exploit; but, because of the lack of publicity, it often isn’t evident that the Democratic coalition has many such fault lines. There are few demographically isolatable groups in the United States that have a less favorable view of homosexuality, especially male homosexuality, than blacks, for instance.

It’s difficult for Republicans and tea partiers to exploit the fault lines between victim groups because Teh Press minimizes or dismisses them. The Republican establishment has been slow and incompetent at exploiting new media to get around that roadblock, but it would appear that volunteers are popping up to do that for them. Exposing Ms. Sanchez’s remarks, with translation as necessary, is an example of using the downside of victim-group organization as a wedge to divide Democrats along lines just as bright as the one that makes the Reagan Coalition fragile.

Something curious as I wander ’round the Internet, looking at polls and comments.

One of the consistently impassable barriers to any real change in Government has been the ironic version of “all politics is local”. “Yes, it’s horrible,” voters say. “Those other guys need to be booted out. But my guy’s not too bad. He brings home the bacon for us.”

Now we have a couple of polls that appear to say that the pendulum has begun to swing back. Voters in general, they say, like Democrats as well as Republicans, and in some ways think them better. Yet, at the same time, more detailed sampling shows more and more individual races favoring Republicans, or favoring Democrats less than expected.

It would appear that a large minority, at least, of Americans are saying, “Yes, the Democrats are good fellows, but my guy’s a @$$#@%&^%$%. He needs to be booted out.”

The opprobrium being piled upon Christine O’Donnell of Delaware is remarkable. She seems to be handling it with relative aplomb and a bit of wit, but the Conventional Wisdom from the Usual Suspects is that it will be effective. Some disagree.

One of the charges being hurled is that Ms. O’Donnell believes, or once believed, in witchcraft. Lexington Green at Chicago Boyz thinks this is a matter of class warfare:

The people in the media … don’t know anything about millions of their fellow citizens except their own class-based bigotries.

It isn’t just the media, of course. The political establishment is weighing in on the subject with gusto, mostly adopting the attitude that the charges will, in fact, damage Ms. O’Donnell.

If you have not done so already, go and read a short story by Cyril M. Kornbluth, published in 1951 and titled The Marching Morons. There is a summary on Wikipedia that isn’t entirely off the point, if you don’t want to take the time to search out the original. Go ahead; I’ll wait.

* * *

The Tinny-Peetes of the political establishment appear to be insisting that the background of any candidate must be squeaky-clean in order to make that candidate electable. Evidence that this attitude is not universal, and that it applies only (or much more stringently) to one group of political aspirants rather than others, abounds but isn’t relevant here. What is more important is the attitude that gives rise to the definition of “squeaky clean” in this context.

The impenetrably bigoted stereotype of the “bitter clinging hicks” it is the annoying duty of the Tinny-Peete class to manage disallows such a background, and their assumption is that that attitude informs voting patterns. Any candidate whose life history includes witchcraft, drug use, or (as seen elsewhere) homosexuality, “furrin” influence, or lack of religious orientation will, under that rubric, cause the candidate to be irredeemably flawed in the eyes of the ignorant morons, and the morons will either stay home or flock to the alternative, whatever that alternative may be — the candidate is not electable.

It is, at root, an assumption that what one might call the “68 movement” has utterly failed. To the extent that the stereotype was ever valid, it was a picture of the “uptight” Fifties culture, which the “hippies” sought to challenge by introducing civil rights and tolerance of alternate lifestyles. If that effort succeeded, the general population will discount such a history as mere eccentricity, and concentrate on the presently displayed character and proposed policies of the candidate. Assuming that they will not, that the voting public will respond to those categories of past behavior by rejecting the candidate out of hand, is assuming total failure of the entire liberal program of and since the Sixties.

Has that failure occurred? We will have to wait and see.

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September 2010