Friday, April 28, 2006
Yes, I had an Office Space moment, where I took a day off with a week and a half's notice, only to have it more or less revoked at 4 pm the day before.
But on the bright side, we need foundation work and a new roof.
Anyway, I'll be in Michigan at the medieval conference through the first week of May, so, marginal political analysis and crude "oooh, cool" science news will be yours in another ten days.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
In other words, the Republicans have, to the dismay of a portion of their base, realigned themselves as Kennedy Democrats, neither faux-pacifist like the Progressives, nor Goldwaterian small-government. In other words, Bush, Lott, Frist, et. al., have said to the conservatives and small-l libertarians, "we own you. Where you gonna go?" As my new byline states, the response is likely to be "out to dinner, chump."
In other words, the Reagan Coalition is dead. Not at the constituent level of the voters, but clearly so in terms of the actual Party. I haven't heard squat to suggest that Sessions, my guy in Texas 32, has exactly covered himself in glory, either.
The Democrats, on the other hand, have two problems. As summed up in the American Prospect, it's not a bad idea to say that they dither between mobilize and inoculate. The "inoculate" solution, where the Democrats actually push small-gov solutions, and, --gasp!-- listen to voters, sounds pretty good. But the analysis at the Prospect fails pretty badly, because while it notes the damage that has happened to the Democratic Party since Clinton, it hasn't noted smething significant: Clinton pushed NAFTA and got on with welfare reform, but also pushed singificantly greater government intervention in several areas: socialized medicine, drastic restrictions on gun ownership, etcetera. Had Clinton played to what is described in the "inoculation" handbook, "stealing issues" from the Repubs, chances are that the 1994 Republican takeover wouldn't have stood a chance. As it was, outright alarm at having Hillary push a medical-reform bill that would send doctors to jail resulted in something very different.
Notice that the "inoculate" provision can be seen as another version of the "small-l" libertarian program, aka the "leave us alone" program. (The actual LP remaining safe in ideologically pure irrelevance based on their foreign-policy failures.)
This suggests that there's some hot air lifting up my theory that the Democrats are essentially going to try to steal the small-l libertarian votes. With 39% of the electorate saying that earmarks and wasteful spending are their most serious concern, and Reid outperforming the Elephants on the issue...
we're not quite to "game on" yet. But Realignment is coming on fast.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
"Cities beat suburbs. Manhattanites use less energy than most people in North America. Sprawl eats land and snarls traffic. Building homes close together is a more efficient use of space and infrastructure. It also encourages walking, promotes public transit, and fosters community."Currently, cities do NOT beat suburbs. If they did, everybody in exurbia would be pining for downtowns, rather than fleeing the idea like extras in a B movie. Manhattanites may use less energy, but quite a bit of that is because other people are using energy to bring things to Manhattanites.
1. What is sprawl, except houses out in the country, built closely together?
2. Encouraging walking is fine in theory... to which purpose?
3. Is public transit an end good in and of itself?
4. Fosters community? How? Every city I've lived in was characterized by people generally ignoring each other, the only exceptions being those areas which are effectively suburbs-built-small.
In contrast, in my sixth-acre stereotypical suburban lot, I can:
1. Shoot arrows in my back yard.
2. Create a rose garden in my front yard.
3. Grow fruit and nut trees which I can then use to make brandy and tasty breads.
4. See the stars at night (not a lot of them, but a hell of a lot more than in the city).
5. Sleep without the constant noise of city buses and drunks.
6. Forget to lock my doors, car or otherwise, without expecting to be robbed on the spot.
7. Create a sense of community that has nothing to do with a top-down urban planner's vision.
And #7 is really the rub, isn't it? Over at worldchanging.com, they've got guys talking about planning communities "that actually work..." when the history of the 20th century tells me everything I need to know about people who assume that me and mine are dysfunctional and in need of change brought about from the outside.
Annuities? Dividends? So, tell me again how the imputed value of this vision, which is "tantamount to wealth" (whatever that means -- it clearly doesn't mean "equal to wealth" in any economic sense you can actually falsify) adds quality to my life, rather than simply satisfying a tiny minority's ideology? Of course "few" can imagine it -- for starters, those "closed loop cities" aren't going to get anywhere, in an urban landscape which scorns industry and shuns agriculture, and increasingly prices out all but the fashionable rich few. Manhattanites may use less energy than most North Americans... (why not, let's assume that's true) but so do most Nigerians, and I don't exactly see a massive line at the consulate for would-be emigrants to Lagos. Currently Manhattan is a playground for the wealthy, where it is economically irrational for anybody in the middle class to try to raise a family and retire. Who do these people think are going to do the real work, while Cindy Freaking Lauper, downtrodden working-class janitor that she is, is in court fighting to keep her apartment at a ridiculously-low rent-controlled price? (real-life example from last year) What precisely do these people think "closed-loop" urbanites are going to eat?
Redesigning civilization along these lines would bring a quality of life few of us can imagine. That's because a fully functioning ecology is tantamount to tangible wealth. Clean air and water, a diversity of animal and plant species, soil and mineral resources, and predictable weather are annuities that will pay dividends for as long as the human race survives - and may even extend our stay on Earth.
It may seem impossibly far away, but on days when the smog blows off, you can already see it: a society built on radically green design, sustainable energy, and closed-loop cities; a civilization afloat on a cloud of efficient, nontoxic, recyclable technology. That's a future we can live with.
It's not that "few can imagine it..." but rather that "few" are so utterly-disconnected from reality that they could take it seriously. Clearly only the clueless leaded-gasoline-huffing mouth-breathers can comprehend economics 101? Once again, we see the classic ideological overreach and handy condescension of those who envision themselves running the system and calling the shots, rather than having to squeeze their lives into the petty boxes of somebody else's utopian vision.
Redesigning civilization? Holy cow, and here I thought I was arrogant...
Monday, April 24, 2006
2. Some buttheads in Dallas tortured a sweetheart of a pit bull to death this weak. I know some of you have tender stomachs, so no link. I have no way of finding out who these people are. Good thing, too, because I doubt the ten grand award would cover my legal bills after introducing the perps to a few of the better ideas by the Dukes of Chin.
3. Some political hack leaks classified info. I have one question: why ain't she in jail?
Oh well. Gotta go kick people in the head...
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
We're in special session again to find some other way of funding the public schools besides property taxes. I hope they come up with something, because currently they're using property taxes, and rather than having to actually pass tax increases and suffer the political consequences, they just have their appraisors decide that your house is more valuable. And they can get away with mandating extra value for your house, because they do it all the way across the area.
Five years ago when I moved back into the country, you could get a house in my area and comparable to mine for somewhere in the 90s. Probably high 90s as mine has a finished room in back that slightly pops the square footage, but still nineties. Now my house is worth 142.
This is the Dallas suburbs, not Boston or Fairfax county. The region has had mild house-price increases... but I can tell you right here and now, it's only partially because of demand. There's no way the market here, however healthy it is, justifies the average house in my area appreciating in value by roughly a third in less than five years. From high-90s at the turn of the millenium, you now can't get into a house around here for less than 110-115, and we're not talking comparable properties, but instead houses that need an awful lot of work, like the house down the street we used to call the "crab shack."
It's a mess.
Monday, April 17, 2006
"There's something fundamentally wrong when more young Americans believe in the existence of UFOs than believe that their Social Security benefits will be there for them when they retire"
And then turn around and heavily endorse Santorum for his involvement with the medicare drug entitlement, yet another fiscal-nightmare nail in the coffin of the Social Security Ponzi scheme.
And the sad part is, I don't think he even gets the irony.
All this is taken off his Volpac.org site. But the blog apparently has the comments disabled except for folks who've stood up to be grassroots volunteers.
Well, that's blogging for you. At least, for the Republican majority leader.
Got another one of those lovely Bank of America emails, to all of their associates, blathering on and on about what they're doing to make this place a great place in which to work.
But, as an admin, I'm not actually an associate...
- I am when it's convenient, such as taking various forms of compliance training, and conforming to six different kinds of makework bullshit.
- I'm not when it's inconvenient... when that would involve performance reviews, cost of living adjustments, that sort of thing. And they're definitely not associates when they try to get training or engage in career-dev-education. My manager stabbed me in the back on that one, and so far as I can tell, every other admin I've spoken to who's tried has ended up the same way.
It's not that the work environment is all that terrible, so long as you don't mind having your nose constantly rubbed in the fact that you're a second-class employee. Basically like working in a law firm, where the human race divides into lawyers and menials. Of course, that's why I don't work at a law firm.
However, this is not merely grousing: I have a plan... to start adjuncting at the community college level this fall, and get enough hours under my belt that I can apply full-time. That's right, college, not junior high. Turns out that there is far too much supply for historians in the local public school market compared to the demand (since many positions are still dual-taught by coaches). But the community college level apparently isn't attracting a lot of interest, perhaps because of the degree requirements and greater responsibility.
That means three-to-four months of twiddling thumbs while starting the adjuncting process, and a longer time before I'm finally able to boost out, which can basically be summed up as "wouldn't it be nice if they laid me off so I could work both local districts as an adjunct time." But, it's a plan, and a solid one, that will continue to support both wife and scholarship in the mean time.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Had to stay home last night piled up with blankets and the like. It must have been tied to sinuses somehow, because I lay on the couch intensely aware of the spaces beneath my cheekbones.
Wish I could remember the jokes that the orange plastic teapot and the rest of the tea set were telling. Although I have a sinking suspicion that it was composed of nothing except the nonverbal equivalent of "wheeeeeee!"
Not that I'd recommend it to just anybody, but that was WAY more fun than anybody's ever told me drugs were...
Thursday, April 13, 2006
Certain of you who think I'm a cold-blooded bastard will probably shudder to see an array of heartless facts martialed in favor of pre-emptive nuclear war... but as a debate, if you're up on the issue (and you should be), it's well worth your time, even if you tend towards the squishy and squeamish.
He's an interesting guy, that's for certain. Here's an old op-ed, in addition to the stuff hitting Drudge.
In terms of the referendum process, that's a two-edged sword... it can be a self-defense mechanism for the little guys to defend themselves from the political class, or else an oligarch's best friend and demogogue's shield.
Suddenly, politics on the Democratic side of the aisle has just gotten interesting.
UPDATE: I've been peeking at his site, and you know, when it comes to the bio or parts of the basic ideas... there's stuff I don't like, but I've seen much, much worse, especially from Democratic candidates. I suspect that this guy is basically a left-libertarian... his idea would basically be a means of using an alternate legislative attempt to give the people back something resembling the old jury nullification, but on a massive scale. The critical issue would be in whether it was explicitly democratic or republican in nature -- if the former, it would potentially allow the hive cities to run roughshod over the countryside, with the latter having effectively no remedy. But if the former, a multiplicity of factions would do its own work. Like I said, I've seen much, much worse.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
The world is fundamentally different than the 18th century. Isolationism makes no sense when it is feasible to pay a hundred men to effect an operation that will put a dozen or two on the sharp end of a spear capable of infliciting megadeath. Ahmadinejad has threatened Israel's existence, not that I give a rat's ass about Israel right now, since they're still betraying us and selling our secrets to the PLA), and openly funds the people who talk, in public, about invading the west from within in order to force sharia (spit) upon the world.
We won the Cold War. We made messes in the process. It's time to clean up the messes -- now. Much as I'd rather focus on cleaning up domestic trouble, there are mad dogs in the street: we do not have the luxury of allowing enough time to pass for Iran and any other descendents of AQ Khan to gain plausible deniability for an attack.
UPDATE: and now it gets curiouser. Comments over on WoC (link in sidebar) suggest that Natanz may not already possess that many centrifuges, but will need to build them. In which case... once again, only the players know the score, and the rest of us are wondering whether it's all-clear and the Iranians are playing their traditional two-step, or whether we're already on the express-elevator.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Libertarians are politically inept and fundamentally insane. We resent being associated with conservatives, especially when they claim to own libertarian ideals while talking smack about libertarian amorality... because the Reagan coalition welding libertarians and conservatives together was so successful that it could concentrate sufficient political firepower to win the Cold War. We resent being tied at the hip to liberals, because it gets us associated with civil rights groups who often overshoot the mark, yet have occasionally risen far above politics to cry foul at abuses in the system we'd never even have heard about on our own. We're nuts.
For starters, what do you call people who run a third party in a representative republic with a winner-take-all system whose raw mathematics guarantees that only two parties will ever be able to vie for power? You call them insane, that's what you call them. And if you're crazy enough to be a Libertarian, you probably believe the following crazy things, too:
- We can bring about global freedom and prosperity by announcing to the world that "we're all going home now to found Fortress America, and we hope all you totalitarian maniacs will play nice and maintain a healthy mechanism to keep the international shipping upon which all our advanced economies depend safe and happy."
- We can convince the electorate to plunge directly into the icy-cold bracing water of personal freedom and responsibility, because running campaigns with a more moderate platform that would let people "dip their toes in the water"would be selling out.
- We can prescribe policy based on ideology, rather than proceeding from principles pragmatically in the hope of accumulating steady small victories like those completely unelectable conservatives and liberals.
- We can win elections if we allow people to speak for us who really think that medical marijuana is a pressing issue of justice which deserves to be considered as soon as, if not before, KELO and McCain-Feingold.
- We can win votes by educating people on the 'net, not simply spending bazillions on marketing like everybody else, because everything except politics tends to obey economic laws...
- We don't see any problem with letting a bunch of batshit-crazy anarchists pose as libertarians and scare people away from the philosophy entirely, because that really helps us win hearts and minds.
We're nuts. We're absolutely, completely bonkers, if we think that these are practices that will gain any traction whatsoever amongst scared "security voters" worried about another 9/11, and folks whose idea of trusting the private markets with money is hopelessly tied up with Enron. Oh, don't get me wrong: in the years since they were put to paper, many of the economic arguments stemming from, say, Hayek and Laffer, for example, have been proven beyond all reasonable doubt -- ask any Irishman what he thinks about the positive economic effects of tax reform. But we expect that people will become libertarians by nodding their heads at the obvious superiority of our arguments and going "uh huh, yup yup, I guess the market really would do a better job than government in almost every case." Because that really makes sense, being based on how people really make life-altering political choices, isn't it?
And we think the Barking Moonbats on the left, and the Myrmidons on the right don't get it?
And I'm one of these guys, no question. Sign me up for my rubber room.
If the Reagan Coalition cracks up and lets the leftists across the aisle take over Congress, that's bad. But would gridlock necessarily be so? I don't know -- with legislation repeatedly crossing party lines, and Kennedy involved in the process, one can make the argument that there wouldn't be an appreciable difference. If Feingold wants to move to impeach: let him. We need the Dems to go away until they can discover an actual set of principles anyway.
Frankly, if the Libertarian Party can lose some of its shrill rhetoric, with the explosion of domestic spending under this administration, there's never been such a good time to paint themselves as an alternative to the Republicrats. With only the tiniest of exceptions, it certainly hasn't been Congressmen leading the anti-earmark charges. But the LP isn't going to do that because of the war, and because right now you can't be an LP candidate if you're a libertarian hawk like yours truly (not neocon, not isolationist, but "speak softly while hefting a pile of sledgehammers").
It's going to be interesting: much of the crackup has happened because the voters hold power in their hands that has never been held before. This isn't merely blogosphere triumphalism -- when's the last time any Congresscritter was so frustrated with the public casting a magnifying glass over pork that they'd lash out the way Trent Lott did last week? If the social conservatives stay on board b/c of the new Supremes, and the fiscal conservatives are willing to jump ship...then the Coalition is dead. What'll replace it?
Thursday, April 06, 2006
It sure isn't any sort of argumentative consistency. Having embraced the critiques involved in The Vision of the Anointed, conservatives have gone on to embracing all the same rhetorical tricks, this time arrogating to itself the role of Defender of Morals, whether or not that involves:
- Opposing gay adoption on the grounds that having two loving parents of the same sex (while admittedly suboptimal), is so much worse than being stuck in an orphanage with no parents at all.
- Constantly bashing libertarians for their supposed amorality, when Lord only knows that you can't be interested in Family Values if you're not also interested in having those values run through a filter dictated by whoever's fine, morally-upstanding lobbyists happen to best schmooze and booze their way through Congress (that veritable playground of the angels) this week.
- Fighting the War on Drugs to protect society: because we have to let kiddie-rapists and violent criminals walk the street in order to make room for the pot-smoking hippies who are a true threat to our kids' safety.
- Pushing laws like the "Three-Strikes Amendment," because we all know that it's really evil to snatch a purse out of a car, then get caught with speed, and then try to lift a watch from a department store, but just kinda bad to beat a woman until she's unrecognizable while raping her.
- Constantly stroking oneself in the Warrior's Mirror, because we all know that there's not a liberal or libertarian interested in a strong national defense or willing to serve his country in war. (Contemporary cringing leftists aside, how 'bout that Sergeant York... yeah... what a pussy.)
- Castigating liberals for radically increasing the size and intrusiveness of government, thus adding to the tax burdens of hard-working, honest families (while radically increasing the size and intrusiveness of government, thus adding to the tax burdens of hard-working, honest families).
- Standing Up for Our Freedoms, including our perennial Congressional favorite, the Freedom to Go to Jail for Burning a Flag.
No, what I really despise about liberalism, and the liberals I run into, is that now that the basic egalitarian issues have been examined -- successfully, I might add-- all that's left of liberal arguments is the abject cowardice, and the way that so many of their arguments are effectively nothing but trumped up excuses for same... like the girl who's irritated with herself for giving money to bums at the local burger joint, and vocally laments that she's too nice, rather than calling a spade a spade, and saying that the bum intimidated her -- in reality, she wasn't too nice, she was too goddamned scared to stick up for herself.
- We have to have universal health care, because having insurance and using it wisely is too scary (for the little people).
- We have to run a foreign policy that never uses force in our interests except when it's so late in the game that we've no other choice, because if we kicked the bad guy in the balls back at Step Two, then we might, gasp, become unpopular.
- We have to have rent control, because otherwise rich people on the West Side might actually have to pay market rents, which would involve uncertain costs (don't even get me started on how the Beautiful People use rent control to keep working-class schlubs at arm's reach).
- We have to have regulations at the anal-probe level, because otherwise, millions of people will be running around doing their thing with no controls on how they run their businesses and lives. Chaos! Madness!
- We have to gut-shoot our economy, because fossil fuels are destroying the earth, and our best alternative, nuclear power, is a Godzilla-like radioactive monster that will destroy us all.
- We have to create the "perverse incentives" of a halfway-welfare state, because if people are allowed to control their own pensions and the like, some of them might make bad choices.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
We're still in flux regarding minor formatting and that sort of thing, but we're back in business. So if you like marginal humor, vague and vaguely irresponsible commentary, and long delays between posts, we're your kinda blog.
Also, if you're an LLP guy, make sure you check out A Texas Libertarian. It's young, but off to a good start.
Oh, you mean you've never heard of the TTC?
Well, here's where all you folks who think Texans are a bunch of posers when we talk about the value of BIG get to stand slack-jawed with awe. The Trans-Texas Corridor is:
- separate lanes for passenger vehicles and large trucks
- freight railways
- high-speed commuter railways
- infrastructure for utilities including water lines, oil and gas pipelines, and transmission lines for electricity, broadband and other telecommunications services
It'll take fifty years to finish it, that's how big it is. And it's looking out fifty years into the future that you can get a sense of why it's needed. Check out this handy map. Now, compared to the coastal Hive Cities(tm), Texas' population is still fairly-well dispersed. After all, we have space to build, so that we can have a big city like Dallas or Houston, and still have the lifestyle benefits of living in an incredibly-large medium-sized city. But that's going to change, and change dramatically, if the international traffic coming into the country from Central America and Mexico (go free trade!!) all have to run smack-dab through Austin and DFW in order to get elsewhere. It'll be a nightmare. Check out 2060 for my neck of the woods... easily 10 million folks in Tarrant, Dallas, and Collin counties, and the only way Denton's going to escape being just as wide is if a miracle happens and the Lewisville Bridge collapses during the bitterly-opposed but inevitable widening process. I'm also pretty sure that area around Houston/Harris county is being counted very conservatively.
TTC rocks. It's even got the runs in for high-speed rail, to keep the environmental pansies happy.
(Gratuitous chauvinism follows.)
Now, don't you wish your puny state (or you NY-Cali wusses... you're punching WAY below your weight class lately) could come up with something like this so that you don't have to play tag with road-trippers and interstate freight during rush hour?
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Let's recap this month or so in international relations, US-Russia.
1. Russia moves to occupy South Ossetia for good.
2. Russia sells the Iranians the Sqvall. (Word to Iran -- suckers.)
3. Russia blocks any pretense to serious action/sanctions in the UNSC regarding Iran.
4. Russia gets the paperwork ready on its Soviet Union, Mark Two. (Notable for its language giving inherent majority votes to Russia...unneccesary if it were meant to simply be an EU clone)
Russia's xenophobic foreign policy is at it again, and I think the game is now sufficiently transparent to call a spade a spade. Putin and his
So, the game is being played by taping new paragraphs into the old playbook...
Monday, April 03, 2006
Here's the article that Gateway has up.
Now, let's note something. This is Al-Quaeda, the organization of death-loving, twelve-foot-tall desert warriors... and what Zarqawi earns for his numerous failures is demotion to military duty?
This tells you one of two things:
1. Either the crux of the matter is that Al-Quaeda has just announced that it's yet another poseur-Jihadi organization like Arafat's Algerians were, sending off other peoples' young to die while they collected fat checks (and in some cases we already know this to be the case)...
2. Or else, Zarqawi was demoted specifically because of "Al Quaeda in Iraq," and therefore the operative issue is that various AQ heads don't care for the current decentralized "franchise model,"and want to re-centralize the organization.
2.5 Because of Zarqawi's incredible failures, AQ has decided that the decentralized model was too politically naive, and thus ineffective, and political actions (like crossing borders to bomb third parties) are going to be more tightly-controlled from here on out... since any honest assessment of Iraq is that AQ has lost so badly that it can't even maintain a meaningful presence in the field.
Still, small phrases can sometimes speak paragraphs.
UPDATE: apparently it's a missile, after all? I start to wonder what the big deal is... can anybody sell me a vowel here?
Sunday, April 02, 2006
But then again, how stupid are we? The Republicans suck, but the only third-party that could happen would exist solely to peel away the "hold your nose continent" (and that's me, folks) in order to allow Clinton to squeak into office.
I don't think it stands a chance in hell. Not because independent voters aren't smart enough to see the threat... but because, having been out of political power since Reagan, we have something that neither major party possesses: patience. A lasting political realignment will involve waiting long enough for the Democrats to tear themselves apart on the altar of socialism and government school unions... and for the Republicans to finally have their electoral showdown between the Theocrats, the Country Club, and the Reaganites.
Then, we shall see what we shall see. Anything prior to that is an electoral trap, and a transparent one.