DYSPEPSIA GENERATION

We have seen the future, and it sucks.

Archive for October, 2010

A Pension in Every Pot

31st October 2010

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The Working Families Party, representing just 40,878 registered voters in a state of 19 million residents, is becoming the most influential power broker in New York politics. Its mission is to drive the Democratic Party further to the left, strengthen the grip that public-sector unions have on local elected officials, and institutionalize the power of taxpayer-subsidized special interests in the Empire State. The expansion of the party—founded in 1998, in an attempt to replace the Clinton-era Democratic Party’s centrism with an agenda that the WFP’s executive director, Dan Cantor, forthrightly calls “Social Democracy 101”—has potentially national implications.

Securing the WFP nomination comes with important perks. Perhaps chief among them is a formidable ground game, courtesy of the party’s political-consulting arm, Data and Field Services (DFS), created in 2007. DFS works only for candidates whom the WFP endorses. The two entities are supposed to be legally separate to comply with election and campaign-finance laws, but they share office space on the third floor of the building at 2-4 Nevins Street in Brooklyn. (The building also served as Acorn’s headquarters before that organization was rebranded, amid national scandal, as “New York Communities for Change.”) This cozy arrangement has come without the apparent obligation to pay rent consistently over the last decade, as investigative reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere, who has done authoritative work on the WFP for City Hall, has uncovered.

The fact that three of the five New York City borough district attorneys ran on the Working Families Party line creates a political hurdle for further investigations. Staten Island’s Dan Donovan—who, along with Manhattan’s Cyrus Vance, Jr., is free of the WFP association—is now locked in a general-election battle for state attorney general with Democratic nominee Eric Schneiderman, a longtime labor-ally assemblyman running on the WFP line. As for New York City’s next mayoral election in 2013, the three most likely Democratic candidates—Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, and Congressman Anthony Weiner—have all campaigned under the WFP banner, promising a potentially expensive new era of labor influence in post-Bloomberg city hall.

Truly a sordid tale, and a situation that bears watching. But the aspect that I find most interesting is the name.

‘Working Families’ is a trope commonly found in the mouths of politicians and other public bloviators; I doubt that anyone has given it much serious thought, since it’s one of those things that sounds as if it ought to mean something–although most people would be hard-pressed to say exactly what.

But most of us understand what it says. It’s a code phrase for ‘working-class families’, because we’re not allowed (in American politics) to acknowledge the plain reality that there are, indeed, social and economic classes in God’s Country. Nobody seriously believes that Bill Gates’ family isn’t a ‘working family’, since I doubt that any United Auto Worker doing a double shift put in as much time and sweat as Bill did during his heyday at Microsoft.

No, it refers to the families of those we traditionally categorize as ‘working class’–blue collar and semi-professional workers, people who punch a time clock and get paid by the hour, people whose AGI can be summed up by totaling their W-2s every April 15th.

The existence of such people as a separate ‘class’ owes a lot to the residuum of Marxist thought in our politics, where ‘workers’ are distinct from ‘peasants’ and ‘bourgeoisie’ and ‘capitalists’ and the ‘intelligentsia’. It’s all horseshit, of course, but such mythologies persist long after the reality is drained out of them, rather like abandoned railway crossings after the trains have all disappeared.

The left in this country seems to specialize in forming organizations with names that suggest the precise opposite of what they’re actually about. (If it generates a clever acronym, all the better.) For example, there’s a group called ‘Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting’ (FAIR) that is actually devoted to the suppression of Rush Limbaugh and anybody who ever agreed with him since high school. Ralph Nader’s minions call themselves ‘Public Interest Research Groups’ (PIRG), although they do little research and have no interest whatsoever in anything a rational person might perceive as the public interest. The so-called Southern Poverty Law Center fights southern poverty mainly by attempting to scare the bejesus out of rich liberals (and compensate themselves very well in the course of doing so); their connection with law appears to be seeing how close to the line they can skate with respect to libelling groups that they dislike without quite actually crossing it. And the Daily Kos crowd, ‘MoveOn.org’, specializes in not budging an inch from positions and issues that were old when Clinton left the White House. You get the picture.

This ‘Working Families Party’ is another such. It seems to be devoted to exploiting political power to make sure that their side (chiefly unions and bureaucrats–to the extent that those terms aren’t quite yet redundant) get as much ‘public’ money as possible, and to hell with real working-class families, who will have to be the ones paying for all this with their taxes in a fragile economy teetering under an Empire State Building of public debt.

Ah, well. We have seen the future, and it sucks.

Posted in Dystopia Watch | 2 Comments »

US to build £8bn super base on Pacific island of Guam

31st October 2010

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A great idea, if you’ve got a bulletproof ABM system. Otherwise, it’s just the Mother of All Juicy Targets that you have conveniently placed with in easy spitting range of the Chinese mainland.

However, Guam residents fear the build-up could hurt their ecosystem and tourism-dependent economy.

Get over it. There are people who want to kill us.

Posted in News You Can Use. | 1 Comment »

Serving Two Masters: Shariah Law and the Secular State

31st October 2010

Stanley Fish illustrates the fundamental blindness of the Crust with respect to the danger that Islam represents to what we call Western Civilization.

Prompted by Williams’s lecture and the responses it provoked, law professors Rex Ahdar and Nicholas Aroney have now put together a volume, to be published in 2011, under the title “Shari’a in the West,” a collection of learned and thoughtful essays by some of the world’s leading scholars of religion and the law. The volume’s central question is stated concisely by Erich Kolig, an anthropologist from New Zealand: “How far can liberal democracy go, both in accommodating minority groups in public policy, and, more profoundly, in granting official legal recognition to their beliefs, customs, practices and worldviews, especially when minority religious conduct and values are not congenial to the majority,” that is, to liberal democracy itself?

Well, to begin with, these fashionably liberal people persist in thinking of Islam as Just Another Wacky Religion. It isn’t. It is, as I never tire of pointing out, an oppressive totalitarian ideology; one that has as a core principle the obligation to extinguish all religions except Islam and every body politic other than the Muslim Umma–by force if that’s what it takes. In this respect it resemble Marxist-Leninist Communism: It cannot tolerate any incompatible social system, the occasional strictly practical abstention from attempting to take over the world to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Crust is focused on accommodating Islam as a religion; Islam is focused on subjugating the Crust’s very civilization, an objective which the Crust just refuses to see. ‘There are none so blind as they who will not see.’ That’s the long and the short of it.

Posted in Dystopia Watch | Comments Off

X-Ray Scanner Vans Not Just Being Sold To Law Enforcement

31st October 2010

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Posted in Think about it. | Comments Off

Plato in China

31st October 2010

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Whenever I speak with professors of philosophy, I am often surprised by how many of them embrace a Platonic rationalism in their thinking, particularly in moral philosophy. What I mean by that is that they assume that all of morality must rest on an intuition of a cosmic order of goodness or badness, right or wrong, so that moral thinking is like mathematical thinking in being concerned with grasping some eternal patterns of universal and eternal truth.

For many philosophers, this Platonic conception of morality is so strong that they cannot even comprehend how morality could be understood as rooted in the empirical reality of human nature, because for them moral philosophy is not an empirical study at all, but rather a purely normative study, and the standards of normativity transcend any empirical reality of human experience. One can see this in their method of thinking, which relies heavily on thought experiments based on purely imaginary scenarios beyond anything we could know by ordinary experience or historical study. John Rawls’ conception of the “original position” is one example of this.

As a political scientist who studies the history of political philosophy and the application of Darwinian science to political philosophy, I tend to think of moral and political order as arising from human history, and I use Darwinian science to illuminate that history as part of human evolutionary history. This sets me against those moral philosophers who assume that moral order–the normative order–must transcend human history as being “merely empirical.” I find this scorn for the empirical reality of human history and the striving for a transcendent world of utopian normativity to be strange.

So work your brain a little. I will do you no harm.

Posted in Think about it. | Comments Off

Elastic joints help ostriches run fast

31st October 2010

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I’ll bet you didn’t know that.

Posted in News You Can Use. | Comments Off

America & Europe with Daniel Hannan

31st October 2010

Watch it.

Nothing is so useful in appreciating how exceptional the United States and its unique culture are than an evaluation by a perceptive outsider. Daniel Hannan delineates in a few pithy phrases just exactly how lucky we are, and just how few of us understand that.

This is one of five interview segments, each of which is well worth viewing — and remembering.

Posted in Is this a great country, or what? | Comments Off

The ley lines of globalization

31st October 2010

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These new figures come from my new favorite toy, Maersk’s online shipping rates calculator. The Danish superfirm A.P. Møller – Mærsk Gruppen is the largest shipping group in the world, with offices in 135 countries, 120,000 employees, and roughly 600 container ships, capable of carrying more than 2 million 20? containers at any given time. They’ve also got a thoroughly badass IT system, which they’ve now made accessible to the general public.

Okay, it’s not exactly Amazon.com, or even Fedex. To use Maersk’s calculator, you need to register with the site, download a client browser certificate and accept three server certificates from Maersk before you can access their secure site. But once you do, it’s just a few short clicks before you can calculate the cost of shipping a 20? container of “umbrellas, sun umbrellas, walking-sticks, seat-sticks, whips, riding-crops and parts thereof” (yes, that’s one of the available categories, along with “bone and meal”, “ores, slag and ash” and “straw, esparto, other plaiting materials and articles of straw, esparto, other plaiting materials) from Auckland to Dubai: $2451.02.

Posted in News You Can Use. | Comments Off

India’s ‘untouchables’ to build temple to ‘Goddess of the English language’

31st October 2010

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Leaders of India’s low-caste Dalits are to celebrate the opening of a temple shaped like a desktop computer to inspire “untouchable” children to improve their prospects in life by learning English.

They believe learning English will open up new opportunities for India’s 160 million Dalits in higher education and high-status government careers.

Good luck to ‘em.

Posted in You can't make this stuff up. | Comments Off

Justice Department to Send Election Observers to Arizona as Concern Rises About Illegal Voters

31st October 2010

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That’s if they can spare time from suing the people who are trying to do the same thing, of course. Gotta have priorities.

Posted in Dystopia Watch | Comments Off

Niger: Muslim groups urge boycott of vote on constitution that would separate powers of Islam and state

30th October 2010

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Sharia is a comprehensive set of laws designed to address every facet of human existence.

Now, if you say that with a smile and stop there, you’re well on your way to a fruitful career in lobbying or the mainstream media. Not so much if you continue with the observation that Sharia’s existence as a package deal that does not lend itself to compartmentalization is a profound liability, because of the many provisions in the law that are regressive, unjust, discriminatory, and unreasonable. Those include the areas of women’s rights (see below, last paragraph), the subjugation of non-Muslims and restrictions on the open practice of their religion, the death penalty for apostasy, cruel and unusual punishments like amputation and lashes, and the doctrine of jihad to advance the cause of Islam.

But the acceptance of Sharia in principle sets the stage for the assertion of more severe implementation of the law, as well as for perpetual and possibly bloody conflict over “how much” Sharia is “enough,” when purportedly divinely-issued laws do not lend themselves to an a la carte treatment, and the purpose of jihad itself is to impose Islamic law.

Posted in Living with Islam. | Comments Off

Your Fingers Know When You Make a Typo

30th October 2010

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The brain uses two different checks to guard against sloppy copy, a new study finds. By using a doctored word processor to sneak errors into typed words and surreptitiously fix typists’ real errors, researchers teased apart the various ways people catch their own mistakes. The study, published in the Oct. 29 Science, highlights the complexity of performance monitoring.

Posted in News You Can Use. | Comments Off

How 3-D Printing Is Transforming the Toy Industry

30th October 2010

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DesignWorks creates prototypes and finished pieces in a variety of media (OK, a variety of plastics) for inventors, manufacturers and toy makers. LiDesignWorks used to create all of its models the old-fashioned way — by hand, in clay. And they still do; what’s changed since the invention of 3D scanners and stereolithography — now known by the more inclusive term 3D printing — is that they now have the ability to directly translate real world objects into miniature versions of themselves.

Posted in News You Can Use. | Comments Off

Ideas, Execution, and Technical Achievement

30th October 2010

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Having the core of an idea is one thing. Developing it to the point that it becomes a platform that changes the world in which it lives is another. Turns out, that matters, too.

Indeed it does.

Posted in Think about it. | 2 Comments »

The Evolutionary Origin Of Laughter

30th October 2010

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One of the more complex aspects of human behaviour is our universal ability to laugh. Laughter has puzzled behavioural biologists for many years because it is hard to imagine how this strange behaviour has evolved.

Why would laughing individuals be fitter in reproductive terms? And why is this ability is built-in, like sneezing, rather than something we learn, like hunting?

Posted in Think about it. | 1 Comment »

Points of control = Rents

30th October 2010

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Some excellent economic analysis of the computer industry.

Economists use the term “rent” to mean “a return in excess of the resource owner’s opportunity cost.” That basically means the amount you pay people in excess of what you really have to to get them to do something. In a way, the history of computing has been a history of the evolution of rent-taking within the industry. The fact that we are now talking about “Points of Control” is at least partially because the sources of rent aren’t what they used to be, and in our guts that seems bad.

Open source is a really interesting twist in the midst of all this. Software businesses with profit margins greater than the current Treasury yield hate open source because it mostly eliminates rents. Forkability is a rent vaccine, so open source “products” tend to be sold or serviced at just about their producer’s opportunity cost. In the case of community based software, it is by definition at opportunity cost, but that cost is as likely to be paid in reputation as in dollars — making this a conversation on sociology and psychology rather than economics.

Another way of thinking about it is this: for every technology company whose stock we are proud to tell our friends we own, there are significant economic rents being extracted on the other side — otherwise the money would be equally well invested in treasury bonds. No one brags to their friends about that.

On a related note, last night my Dad said to me: “I can’t stand Microsoft and avoid it as much as I can. I’ve switched to Ubuntu because I got tired of paying Bill Gates a tax so he could run a charity.” I thought that was funny.

Posted in Think about it. | Comments Off

Obama exempts Sudan, Yemen from Child Soldiers Prevention Act

30th October 2010

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Why? We report, you decide.

Posted in Dystopia Watch | Comments Off

Grade Inflation at American Colleges and Universities

30th October 2010

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One reason why your convenience-store-clerk job requires a college degree.

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Brazil’s Libra oil field one of biggest finds

30th October 2010

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The ultra-deepwater oil deposit is the latest in a string of finds that have in the past three years catapulted Brazil into a position of global prominence as its reserves rapidly increase.

Don’t they know that peak oil is upon us, and soon all the oil will run out? Silly Brazilians.

Posted in News You Can Use. | Comments Off

Nigeria: Shipper Confirms Weapons Came From Iran

30th October 2010

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The confirmation by CMA CGM, an international cargo shipper based in France, comes after Israeli officials accused Iran of trying to sneak the shipment into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. By unloading the weapons in Nigeria, it suggests Iran sought to perhaps truck the weapons through Africa to slide around an embargo now in place in Gaza.

My, what a surprise. Aren’t you surprised? I’m sure surprised.

Posted in Living with Islam. | Comments Off

Parents of Aid Worker Killed in Failed Rescue Attempt in Afghanistan Praises U.S. Military

30th October 2010

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The aid worker’s father praised the U.S. military’s readiness to admit their possible role in the tragic mistake and refused to criticize the Americans.

“It would appear the rescue attempt was so close to being a total success, and at the end, there appears to have been a human error. We do think that it’s very creditable of the Americans to own up that there’s been a mistake when they could so easily have covered the whole thing up. We do think they deserve credit for that,” he said. Linda Norgrove and three Afghan nationals were kidnapped Sept. 26 in the Kunar province of northeastern Afghanistan.

Something you don’t see every day.

Posted in News You Can Use. | 1 Comment »

Man rescued from pumpkin machine

29th October 2010

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British news is always more … interesting than American news.

Posted in You can't make this stuff up. | Comments Off

Re: The ‘Liberal Gene’

29th October 2010

Jim Manzi is not impressed.

As you may remember, I wrote a long piece for the magazine in 2008 that described why we should be very skeptical of assertions of causality that are derived from the kind of study that you reference. The basic reason is that, while these kinds of studies have remarkable rhetorical force because their purported subject is biology, if you look under the skin at the bones of the analysis, the core method is traditional social science. The article you cite is an almost perfect illustration of this.

Posted in Think about it. | Comments Off

Marxism v. Pragmatism

29th October 2010

Jonah Goldberg ‘splains it all to you.

Ultimately,  much of  philosophical (capital “P”) Pragmatism — at least on the left — was an attempt to make socialist or Marxist ideas — or attempts to move toward those ideas — seem practical and empirical rather than ideological. Much of the anti-ideological language of the left today is a byproduct of that project. “Ideology” (by which the left means conservative ideology) is bad because it stands in the way of “pragmatic” improvements. But those “improvements”  aren’t pragmatic at all, they’re deeply ideological. Some of the most blinkered ideologues in American life, going back to FDR, have championed the idea that they “don’t believe in ideology” or “don’t believe in labels” when in fact what they really believe is that they don’t think ideologies they disagree with should be allowed to stand between them and implementing their agenda.  I mean does anyone believe that Cornell West is simply a non-ideological pragmatist? For that matter, does anyone think that of Barack Obama?

Posted in Think about it. | Comments Off

Why isn’t Julian Assange dead?

29th October 2010

Jonah Goldberg asks the obvious question.

Even Assange agrees. He told the New Yorker earlier this year that he fully understands innocent people might die as a result of the “collateral damage” of his work and that WikiLeaks may have “blood on our hands.” WikiLeaks is easily among the most significant and well-publicized breaches of American national security since the Rosenbergs gave the Soviets the bomb.

So again, I ask: Why wasn’t Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?

A very good question indeed. My secret fantasy is to have a CIA that’s even half as skilled and competent as what we see in the movies. Unfortunately, the Lowest Bidder Problem seems to be what actually happens.

Of course, that’s just Hollywood. But if you read left-wing accounts of the intelligence community, two versions dominate. The CIA and similar outfits are either evil and incompetent, or evil and super-competent. Sometimes the folks at The Nation will mock the CIA for trying to blow up Castro with an exploding cigar. Other times some Oliver Stone type will insist that the military, or the CIA, or the NSA, or rogue elements from those quarters, managed to assassinate JFK and pin it on a Marxist dupe named Lee Harvey Oswald.

Under either scenario, you’d think Assange, super-whistle-blower of the international Left, would be a greasy stain on the autobahn already.

All hat and no cattle, that’s our government.

Posted in Dystopia Watch | Comments Off

New Zealand passes ‘Hobbit’ employment laws despite protests

29th October 2010

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The government’s decision to rush through amended labour laws, part of the deal made with Warner Bros. Pictures to keep director Peter Jackson’s lucrative project in his native New Zealand, has divided public opinion.

Some union officials reportedly received death threats in the wake of a short-lived international boycott over working conditions.

My heart breaks for them.

Posted in News You Can Use. | Comments Off

Credit Checks Give Rise to Claims of Discrimination

29th October 2010

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Well, duh–that’s the point: To discriminate against dishonest and stupid people.

The practice of checking the credit histories of job applicants is coming under fire, with critics contending the practice discriminates against blacks and Latinos who tend to have lower credit scores.

The reason they tend to have lower credit scores is because they tend to be less, shall we say, conscientious about paying their debts. But since a credit check targets individual behavior rather than a class, there ought not to be any legal problem with it. (Stop laughing.)

Posted in Whose turn is it to be the victim? | Comments Off

Early Voting Fraud

29th October 2010

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I’m shocked, I tell you, shocked.

Posted in Dystopia Watch | Comments Off

Venezuela business leaders attacked at gunpoint

29th October 2010

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The former president of the organisation, Albis Munoz, suffered three gunshot wounds in the attack and doctors say she is in stable condition in the hospital.

Gunmen intercepted the vehicle carrying the members of Fedecamaras shortly before midnight near the chamber’s office in Caracas. The assailants forced Munoz, Fedecamaras President Noel Alvarez, and members Luis Villegas and Noel Villasmil into another car, beat them and held them for around two hours before releasing them.

Hey, live in a dictatorship, that’s what happens. This is God giving you a hint that it’s time to leave.

Mr Chavez argues his administration is doing everything it can to reduce violent crime.

And if you believe that one, he’ll tell you another one.

Posted in Dystopia Watch | 1 Comment »

Australia: Director of Islamic school found guilty of massive fraud with government grants

29th October 2010

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It’s all jizya, isn’t it? What’s the problem?

Posted in Living with Islam. | Comments Off

Hells Angels slap London dressmakers with trademark suit

29th October 2010

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The California-based motorcycle club, whose fearsome reputation includes the sudden and brutal application of trademark lawyers, believes the dressmakers, and its retailers, have overstepped the mark with a series of clothes and accessories featuring a skull and wings death head design.

Trademark? I guess they don’t make gangs like they used to.

Posted in Dystopia Watch | Comments Off

9 Policemen Killed in Ambush in Western Mexico

29th October 2010

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They’re just dropping like flies, aren’t they?

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Clueless in Washington

29th October 2010

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FBI agents who ensnared a suburban father in a terrorism sting involving a fictional subway bomb plot have turned their attention to figuring out what made the Pakistani-born U.S. citizen turn against his adopted country, officials said.

Well, perhaps he read the Koran and took it seriously.

Really, I can’t believe that we’re actually paying these people….

Posted in You can't make this stuff up. | Comments Off

Jerry Pournelle looks at Scientific American

29th October 2010

Read it.

Apparently we aren’t the only ones who have noticed the decline in quality.

Posted in Axis of Drivel. | Comments Off

Baby killed after interrupting his mother’s Facebook time

28th October 2010

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Going by her picture, I’d say that she gives ‘white trash’ a bad name.

But I suppose Farmville will do that to you.

Posted in Dystopia Watch | 1 Comment »

Why We Should Eliminate the Corporate Income Tax

28th October 2010

Megan McArdle lays it all out.

Wisdom. Attend.

Posted in Think about it. | Comments Off

UK: More parishes reject Church of England bishops who ordain women priests

28th October 2010

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Like watching a snowman melt in the sun.

Posted in Dystopia Watch | Comments Off

Northrop Grumman’s CaMEL ‘bot features one .50 caliber gun, loads of class

28th October 2010

Read it.

Me want.

Posted in Is this a great country, or what? | Comments Off

Left wing liberals are born not bred

28th October 2010

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So punching a leftist is probably against the A.D.A.

Somehow I suspected as much.

Posted in Dystopia Watch | 2 Comments »

Is There Any Morality In Sitting On Your Couch And Playing Virtual Soldier?

28th October 2010

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Next to zombies, Nazis are the easiest, most guilt-free targets you can ask for.

Posted in Think about it. | Comments Off

The Ultimate Case Study

28th October 2010

Scott Adams pulls it all together.

Don’t make decisions while drunk. The story doesn’t say alcohol was involved. But did I mention that one guy tattooed a giant penis on the other guy’s back?

Capitalism never sleeps. If someone offers you a free service, you should be suspicious of what he expects to get in return.  It might involve, for example, your friend laughing himself into a near coma.

A lot of good advice here.

Posted in Think about it. | Comments Off

‘Let’s Rethink Masculinity’

28th October 2010

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Another in a long line of feminist attempts to feminize men, parallel to the standard strategy of attempting to masculinize women.

A key agenda for modern feminism is to work with men to decrease the penalties encountered by those who flout the expectations that stem from conventional masculinity. When ideal-worker norms police men into breadwinner roles, this hurts not only women. It also hurts many men who cannot live up to the breadwinner ideal. Since most American families cannot live comfortably on one income, many working-class men, as well as many middle-class men, find themselves in the painfully demoralizing position of being unable to “support their families.”

In short, ‘We need more wussy men! Let’s make it happen!’

Posted in Axis of Drivel. | 2 Comments »

Baby elephant attacked by crocodile

28th October 2010

Just so.

Posted in Whose turn is it to be the victim? | 1 Comment »

Crayon Manufacturing: Then & Now

28th October 2010

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Don’t ever say we don’t have useful stuff here.

Posted in News You Can Use. | Comments Off

Public-Employee Unions Funnel Public Money to Dems

28th October 2010

Michael Barone draws back the curtain.

The real answer is the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The union’s president, Gerald McEntee, reports proudly that AFSCME will be contributing $87,500,000 in this cycle, entirely or almost entirely to Democrats. “We’re spending big,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “And we’re damn happy it’s big.”

AFSCME’s number-one status is emblematic of a change in the union movement over the years. Before public-employee unions won the right to represent employees in New York City in 1958 and federal employees in 1962, almost all union members worked in the private sector.

But unions today represent only 7 percent of private-sector workers, and in 2009, for the first time in history, most union members were public employees.

Public employees’ union dues and contributions to union PACs come directly from taxpayers. So if you live in a state or city with strong public-employee unions, you are paying a tax that goes to elect Democratic candidates (plus, perhaps, a few malleable Republicans).

Posted in Your tax dollars at work - and play. | Comments Off

UK: Mohammed, the nation’s (secret) favourite name

28th October 2010

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Welcome to Londonistan.

Posted in Living with Islam. | Comments Off

New York Times Knowledge Network

28th October 2010

Read it.

And stop laughing. This is serious.

Posted in You can't make this stuff up. | Comments Off

British student invents a solar-powered refrigerator

28th October 2010

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This device is really slick.

The solar-powered refrigerator works with two cylinders, one inside the other. The inner cylinder is metal while the outer one is wood or plastic. In between these two cylinders is either sand or soil, which can be soaked with water. The sun’s rays heat the wet material, and as the water evaporates, the heat is removed from the inner cylinder. This keeps the fridge at a cool six degrees Celsius.

This is pretty cool (excuse the obvious refrigerator pun) considering that Emily Cummins is still in her early twenties. She has won awards for some of her other inventions including a toothpaste squeezer for arthritis sufferers and a water carrying device, also for use in the Third World.

Posted in News You Can Use. | Comments Off

Our So-Called Experts

28th October 2010

Jim Manzi does some gun-and-camera work among the Crust.

Among those things that I think create significant structural advantages for the non-elites in the US versus the UK, two stand out: open primaries, and lack of membership in a supra-national organization like the E.U. Party elites have vastly greater say in picking who gets on the ballot in the first place in the UK (as a thought exercise, imagine the Tea Party movement without the ability to challenge incumbents and establishment-backed candidates in Republican primaries). Further, many of the most important decisions relevant to the issue are taken by an E.U. apparatus that is, even seen in its most democratic light, democracy on a very long leash. The elites therefore have an easier time suppressing a popular uprising on the topic before it can get off the ground.

One of the key structural differences is the ‘proportional representation’ system used by almost all (I’d say ‘every but U.K.’ but I don’t know for sure and I’m too lazy to look it up) European governments, under which voters vote for a particular political party and the party leadership determines who gets to sit in the legislature based on their share of the vote. This makes the parties all-powerful and the individual of no account except within the party. This, in turn, is why you get so many piss-ant little parties in European legislatures: It’s impossible to be a ‘maverick’ without a party behind you. This, in turn, is why you get so many unstable governments: The only way to get a majority on any particular piece of legislation is to cobble together a coalition of competing interests to serve as a temporary majority, which means that you either dissolve into a crowd scene that would make the ancient Polish Parliament with its liberum veto look like the Steelers, or you wind up in the hands of a cross-spectrum Crustian establishment where the questions are not one of political philosophy but rather of whose turn is it to wet their beaks.

Megan McArdle has some good points to make, as well.

Elites are often missing crucial knowledge, and unaware of it.  In some ways, that effect is more pronounced than it used to be, with more and more of the elites drawn from a narrow class of extremely well-educated people from a handful of metropolitan areas, few of whom have ever, say, been responsible for a profit and loss statement, or tried to bring a gas station into compliance with local and federal EPA regulations.  In a world where your primary output is words, it is easy to imagine a smoothly operating process based on really smart rule-making.  And there’s a certain impatience with the grimy, self interested folks who complain about the regulations imposed for the good of society–a certain forgetting that in aggregate, those whiners are society.  In essence, elites are always missing one vital piece of information:  what it is like to be someone who is not in the elite.

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The Unted States of Film

28th October 2010

An Informative Chart.

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