Friday, September 30, 2005
  Inspiration by Zell

Zell Miller talks of life, death, war, freedom and hurricanes, here.
 
Thursday, September 29, 2005
  Victory, sort of

The House has just passed Rep. Pombo's revised version of the Endangered Species Act. After 30 years of tyranny, Western property owners may finally see an improvement!

Two important changes: restricts the criteria for taking land, and requires the Interior Dept to pay for the land it steals. The bill now falls into the House of Imbeciles and Traitors, formerly known as the Senate, where it will vanish into the infinite gravitation of endless yakkety-yak. But at least the House did something right. Since this happens about twice per lifetime, the House deserves tremendous congratulations!
 
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
  Fathers, sons, Georges, Mitts.....

Since it's become obvious with the Bush family that -- despite all hopes and prayers -- the son echoes the father, I decided to examine Mitt Romney's 'pedigree'.

It appears that the blogosphere has looked in some detail at George Romney's rather brief political career, but he had a longer and more interesting career before that.

Let's start back -- way back -- in Michigan in 1880. Charles W. Nash was orphaned at the age of 12. The county handed him to a farmer as a bond-servant. Nash didn't like involuntary servitude, so he escaped and made his way to Detroit, where he got a job stuffing buggy seats for Billy Durant's carriage works. He moved up quickly into management, and in 1908 when Durant pulled together several budding automobile companies to form General Motors, Nash came with him.

Durant, like most of those early auto founders, was a high roller. Easy come, easy go. Buy companies, lose your shirt, start over. Nash wasn't comfortable with the wildcatter's ethic, and decided to try something different. So in 1914 he left GM, bought the Jeffery company, and applied his own name to its cars.

Through the '20s and '30s, Nash became known for a belt-and-suspenders approach to both cars and business. His cars were superbly engineered, with extra main bearings and two spark plugs per cylinder. His company was superbly managed, with 'just-in-time' production methods and absolutely no borrowing. While other small auto makers, relying on debts and banks, foundered and failed in the Depression, Nash sailed through in fine form.

Nash in 1934:



In the late '30s Nash handed over power to George Mason, who continued the same way of thinking. Stay in the black; keep customers and employees loyal; find a niche too small for GM but large enough for profit. Mason decided to focus on low-priced cars, with special emphasis on gas economy. In 1941 Nash introduced the '600', the first high-volume American car to use unit body-frame construction. The model number was not arbitrary: it signified 600 miles on a tank of gas. Though not quite accurate, still a clear appeal to frugality by a frugal company. It sold well, but was halted almost immediately when WW2 stopped all car production.

After the war Mason knew his health was beginning to decline, so he looked around for a successor. George Romney had worked for a couple of auto companies, and was heading up the Auto Manufacturers' Assn at that time. When Mason showed Romney his big postwar idea, Romney fell in love with it, and was thus hired as the heir apparent.




The Nash Rambler became an icon of smallness and non-conformity, until the VW swept everything else aside. What's not so well remembered is that the Rambler was by no means the only American small car of that era. Willys, Hudson, and Kaiser made cars of similar size. Why was Rambler the only success? Why did it survive until 1987 in various forms? Mason's secret, carried on by Romney, was to separate smallness from cheapness, economy from austerity. The Rambler was not the cheapest car available in 1950 by a long shot. It came fully equipped with radio, heater, and fancy trim at a time when most low-priced cars had a deceptive 'base price'.

When Mason died in 1954, just after buying out Hudson to form American Motors, George Romney took over full control. He wasn't as visionary as Mason, but had a talent for doing the right thing at the right time. In 1957, when Ford was blowing its wad on the Edsel, Romney understood that middle-priced cars were not the Next Big Thing. He yanked the full-sized Nash and Hudson off the market and concentrated purely on Rambler. Result: in 1960, Rambler took over the #3 sales spot from Plymouth.

How did Romney manage? More like Reagan than Bush. He found the most talented people and kept them happy. A story from 1960 or so:

American Motors styling director Ed Anderson strode along the hallway at AMC headquarters in Detroit with his head down in thought. He was upset because he believed others in the organization were torpedoing important styling features of his latest design. Lost in concentration, Anderson suddenly heard a voice. Looking up, he found himself face to face with AMC's legendary chairman and president, George Romney.

"How's the new American coming along?" asked Romney.

Anderson hesitated, then blurted out that things weren't going as well as he'd hoped. Although the program was just a re-skin of the existing Rambler platform, Anderson was trying to give the car a completely new look. He wanted to give the American a flatter, more modern roofline, but to do so he needed to reshape the windshield frame as well. Engineering vetoed that, decreeing it not worth the expense. Anderson declared, "They've got me over a barrel, George."

Romney paused a moment then said, "Tell you what, Ed. You take care of the design and I'll take care of the barrel."


[Anecdote is from the latest issue of Collectible Automobile magazine.]

If Mitt is anything like George, he could turn out to be the right thing at the right time. We could use a leader who knows how to distinguish austerity from economy, a leader with a talent for selling and explaining.
 
Monday, September 26, 2005
  Mr. Dillon and Mr. Bush

Still thinking about Mr. Dillon ... he provides a good model for leadership.

In bumper sticker form: Respect, Expect, Protect. He told his kids they could do a good job; he expected them to do a good job; and he protected them against snide wiseasses like Pete and me. Big caveat: This measurement doesn't apply to the direction or goal of a leader, but only to his interactions with his people.

Does Bush measure up to the Dillon model? No.

He never respects our intelligence by telling us what he's doing or why, except when he uses strange sets of concepts designed to appeal only to people (like the UN) who will never, ever, ever follow him in a trillion years. Even though the solid evidence and strategy of the Iraq war have been explained clearly by people like Hitchens, Hayes, and George Friedman, we never hear any of that clarity from Bush.

Does he expect anything from us? No. He doesn't expect us to pay more taxes or buy war bonds, and he refuses to describe the enemy accurately, leaving us to be 'vigilant' against 'odd behavior' and 'undefined color-codes'. This is an unfulfillable expectation, and was obviously intended as such.

Does he protect us? Possibly, since there hasn't been another 9/11 scale attack. But after seeing FEMA's total misfeasance against Katrina, we are left to wonder if this is just luck. Post hoc doesn't always mean propter hoc.

Does Jesse Jackson measure up to Mr. Dillon? Unfortunately, yes, though with an evil purpose. Jesse constantly tells his remedials that they are worthwhile. He expects them to protest or riot on his command. He shows up with a phalanx of lawyers to protect them against any hint of impartial justice or open competition. Under Jesse's leadership, which was locked in place by LBJ, the remedials have zoomed backwards toward cynicism, fatalism, criminality, sullen laziness and whining, as we witnessed beautifully in New Orleans.
 
Sunday, September 25, 2005
  Hmph.

Fox reports that the military is asking the President to develop a national response plan for disasters or terrorist attacks.

Why would that be necessary? I don't understand.

We already have instant and massive responses to stop or prevent the following disasters and emergencies:

1. A child of the wrong race attends a public school.
2. A state doesn't waste enough money on public schools.
3. A weird Christian cult exists.
4. A weird Christian family dares to own a gun.
5. A state judge dares to decorate his courtroom with an ugly stone monument.
6. A Los Angeles policeman enforces the law.
7. A prison guard embarrasses the enemy in time of war.
8. A volunteer tries to help with a disaster.

So why in the world do we need a plan for little trivialities like attacks?
 
Thursday, September 22, 2005
  Hiatus, sort of



I'm working on a potentially money-making graphics project, so for the time being my energy and interest are elsewhere.

Not formally declaring a hiatus, because Polistra will undoubtedly have something that needs to be said....
 
Sunday, September 18, 2005
  Czars



What a great commonsensical idea! When a mechanism, such as CIA or FEMA, is obviously broken, you fix it by adding a new mechanism on top of the old one, and call the new mechanism a Czar!

Now we're really driving, huh? Vroom! Vroom! Vroom!
 
Saturday, September 17, 2005
  Old events, new understanding (INTROSPECTION ALERT!)

Didn't sleep much last night; sort of ill and worried. Fell into a stew of guilt and resentment over old misdeeds, which didn't help a bit with the ill and the worried. Finally focused on a couple of events that happened -- sheesh -- 43 years ago, in 7th grade, and reached a new understanding.

Both events can be described simply: A teacher chewed me up one side and down the other for being a smartass. I always felt one teacher was justified and the other wasn't, but I didn't really understand why until just now.

---

Event 1:

Every Friday in fall, the school football game started in the middle of last period. Most teachers walked their entire class to the stadium, about six blocks away. School wasn't dismissed, though; some teachers kept their classes in, and every student needed parental permission to attend the game. (Maybe there was a good reason for this confused arrangement, but more likely it was just typical woodenheaded school administration. Some things don't change!) On this particular Friday, Pete and I were the only students in Mr. Schoening's history class who didn't have permission slips. So Mr. Schoening sent us down the hall to spend the hour in Mr. Dillon's remedial math class, which was among the few classes remaining in session.

After a while, with nothing better to do, Pete and I started working the math problems along with the class. Two-digit multiplication, as I recall, normally mastered in 5th grade. Pete and I reached the answer in a few seconds, and compared notes audibly: Boy, this one was really easy, wasn't it? Yeah, I don't know why it takes so long for these guys. Chortle, chortle.

Mr. Dillon instantly caught on. He threw his chalk to the floor, stormed to the back of the room, yanked both of us out of our seats, and shook us by the shoulders: You miserable smartalecks! What do you think you're doing, making fun of my students?

By the time he tossed us back down, we were nicely deflated.

The new perspective: Back then, everyone knew which kids were dumb and which were smart. Still true now, but we know how to eliminate the difference by using Sensitivity and Self-Esteem to make everyone dumb. Poor benighted Mr. Dillon, working before those two concepts were invented, saw his job in a different light. He knew that these remedial kids would only have a chance to achieve something in life if they mastered as much math as they could. And he knew that the only way to get there was by working. What a laughably primitive idea! But those kids, equally unaware of later developments, did in fact work their hearts out for Mr. Dillon.

And Mr. Dillon also knew that their enthusiasm would not survive a head-on collision with fatalism or cynicism. Those remedials couldn't afford to think "Hey, this stuff is easy for Pete and Dave, why isn't it easy for me?" Nor could they afford "Why bother? Why not just hang around the streets and steal stuff?"

So when Mr. Dillon shook the smugness out of our smartass skulls, he wasn't just teaching us that mockery is bad. We knew that anyway, though the reminder was certainly useful. He was mainly trying to save his kids from infection by the mindset of criminality.

---

Event 2:

Toward the end of that year, the English teachers got together to run a spelling bee. Miss Johnston would run a first level bee in each of her hours, then take those winners to an after-school session to find the best of her students. Each teacher did the same, and then the representatives from each teacher were matched.

Well, I was the best speller in school that year, and Miss Johnston knew it. So she wanted me to reach the finals. I had different ideas, though. Spelling was as easy as breathing. I wanted to move out of the comfort zone and try my hand at a task that required a little challenge. (Who knows, maybe I had learned something from
the remedials.) So I skipped the last session of the spelling bee, and attended a meeting for students who wanted to run for Student Council. The next day in class, Miss Johnston ripped me a new one. She didn't use Mr. Dillon's style of physical force, but she used a whole lot more words.

With this fresh understanding, was Miss Johnston right or wrong?

Still wrong. Unlike Mr. Dillon, she was not pushing her students toward maximum work and achievement. Her anger was selfish: I had failed to win for her team. Possibly she assumed team spirit was sort of automatic, a decent enough assumption in the highly conformist semi-Sovietized America of 1962. But she didn't understand how nerds feel about teams after many years of being the last one selected, and she didn't appreciate my drive to explore new areas, which is the only good part of adolescence!

Labels:

 
Friday, September 16, 2005
  Putin's wisdom
Listening to the 'George and Vladimir Show'. George seems to be back in good form, showing evidence of original thought, which is reassuring.

Vladimir just said something which deserves a good long think.

Roughly: In the Soviet Union, we spent many decades focusing solely on future generations. Because we were not paying any attention to the current population, we destroyed the country.

Excellent advice for those Americans who worry so much about debts, deficits and waste that they can't get anything done in the present. Of course, most of those who 'worry' about such matters, emphatically including the treasonous saboteur who asked the question, are only pretending to worry. What they really want is chaos, revolution, and a Soviet regime in America. No wonder Vladimir understands them so well.
 
  LBJ ?= GWB ?= FDR

Bush's speech last night has been compared to FDR and LBJ in its expansion of government.

Yes, but which? The difference is important.

Here is a description of what LBJ was doing. A quote from Fred Siegel, perhaps the only modern thinker who accurately describes the purpose of welfare:

[Before the welfare explosion of 1965] New York City had a black male unemployment rate of 4 percent. We were in the midst of the greatest economic boom in U.S. history. The city was thriving. Five years later, there were 600,000 more people on welfare. Now, this was a tragedy in many ways, especially for the city's African-Americans. They were on the up escalator of jobs and participation in the economy, but they were pulled off the up escalator and shunted off into welfare. The effect on the city was twofold: Fiscal calamity and family breakdown. It's fascinating that this policy was specifically chosen. People sometimes argue that this welfare explosion was the price of good intentions. Nonsense. The theorists behind this movement are two people named [Frances Fox] Piven and [Richard] Cloward, who are still alive. It's difficult to imagine how they get through the day knowing what they did, but they seem to do it. One's at Columbia University, and the other is at City University of New York. Their logic is that, if you expanded the welfare role sufficiently, you would bankrupt the city, force a political crisis, and set people at each other's throats. The idea was that New York was at a median point, so if New York exploded like this, then the rest of the country would have to respond. Well, they succeeded in part. People were at each other's throats, and the city did go bankrupt.

This was the logic that LBJ adopted as the basic principle of welfare.

A permanent underclass with a carefully developed sense of entitlement, ready to riot at the drop of a diss. (You can hear this class loud and clear in this morning's news!)

---

Now here's FDR's approach, as given in 1933, Fireside Chat 2.

First, we are giving opportunity of employment to one-quarter of a million of the unemployed, especially the young men who have dependents, to go into the forestry and flood prevention work. This is a big task because it means feeding, clothing and caring for nearly twice as many men as we have in the regular army itself. In creating this Civilian Conservation Corps we are killing two birds with one stone. We are clearly enhancing the value of our natural resources and second, we are relieving an appreciable amount of actual distress. ...
Second, I have requested the Congress and have secured action upon a proposal to put the great properties owned by our Government at Muscle Shoals [Alabama] to work after long years of wasteful inaction, and with this a broad plan for the improvement of a vast area in the Tennessee Valley. It will add to the comfort and happiness of hundreds of thousands of people and the incident benefits will reach the entire nation.


Note the emphasis on work and improvement, for the men who will be earning money and for the land. Note also: for FDR, improving the land meant flood control and parks, to be used and enjoyed by people. Not returning the land to its prehistoric malarial condition and bringing in wolves and bears.

So which way did Bush go? Both. Too much of the rhetoric in his speech belongs to the Loony Left:

Our third commitment is this: When communities are rebuilt, they must be even better and stronger than before the storm. Within the Gulf region are some of the most beautiful and historic places in America. As all of us saw on television, there's also some deep, persistent poverty in this region, as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality.

But the programs he announced are much more New-Dealish, with a focus on home ownership and jobs rather than entitlement.

When the streets are rebuilt, there should be many new businesses, including minority-owned businesses, along those streets. When the houses are rebuilt, more residents should own, not rent, those houses. When the regional economy revives, local people should be prepared for the jobs being created.

The real question, then, is whether he will crack the whip to hold Permanent Washington in line. The bureaucrats are pure LBJ, and if allowed to run free, will generate 100% class war and 0% work.
 
Thursday, September 15, 2005
  Local random

Interesting discussion in one of the online graphics forums yesterday. Somebody asked "how long do you typically spend at the computer between breaks?" The answers were varied, but almost everyone distinguished between "inside the zone" versus "outside the zone". When inside, time disappears, and we often spend 8 or 10 hours without noticing it. Outside, maybe half an hour between pauses for coffee and stretching.

I suppose the "zone" has always been understood by creative people, but it wasn't a topic of conversation nor even a commonly understood concept when I was young. Marks a positive change. 50 years ago, only a small number of Americans had jobs that allowed them to reach the zone.

-----

Immediately after Kaiser Karlton of the 9th Reich announced his edict of forced atheism yesterday, a spokeswoman for the Spokane public schools made her way to each of the local TV stations, and declared in firm language that Spokane kids will continue giving the Pledge in its complete form. She clearly wasn't happy doing this, but the school system clearly understands its taxpayers.

This is the first case I've ever seen of a local government unit rebelling against Fed authority in the CORRECT direction! When I get jaded about the virtues of democracy, I need to remember this.

-----

Truly strange dream this morning. I was working for my old engineer boss at Penn State. Instead of developing acoustical pollution control systems, we were collaborating with G. Gordon Liddy to develop new and nasty weapons for special-ops commandos. I was working on an improved ear-chopper, for use in cultures where losing an ear is a mark of shame.

Where in the hell did that come from???? I never [consciously] think about the details of commando fighting, except to be deeply thankful that we have men who are willing and able to do it. When younger, my Walter Mitty fantasies were about inventing, not fighting.
 
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
  Random
Good news on the southern border:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff signed an environmental waiver that expedites the Border Patrol's plans to fill in canyons and erect additional fencing along the final 3 1/2 miles of the border before it meets the Pacific Ocean.

Good work, Chertoff! Finally, after 4 years of this war, the Bushies may be starting to understand that defending HUMANS matters more than defending tweety-birds and preserving miasmal swamps.

-----

The Roberts hearing is unusual in several ways. Senators of the Party of Treason are, of course, opposing civilization as usual. But they're doing it without throwing any of their usual Leninist tantrums. No pubic hairs, no marijuana. Just questions about law and judicial practice, which is exactly what such hearings should cover. And the Republicans have been remarkably tough and clear. Brownback and Coburn's questions will stand for a long time as fine little pieces of pro-Constitution rhetoric, even though Judge Mannequin never answered any of them. Makes me proud of my old home states.

I'm still not convinced that Mannequin is not another Souter. I really wanted to believe that Bush Junior was different from Bush Senior. Really hoped that would be the case....

Mannequin made one good point in response to Brownback's questions, though. Many of these bad court decisions can easily be undone by Congress, if it really wanted to solve problems. And though he didn't say this, Congress can prevent future bad decisions by including a clause in every new law, removing this law from the jurisdiction of federal courts. They have in fact included the clause in a few laws recently, so it's not an alien idea; just needs to be applied universally.

-----

Update: After hearing Rush's soundbytes of Roberts answering Town Drunk Teddy, I no longer have any twinges. In those answers, Roberts left no doubt that he understands the Constitution accurately. I don't have enough spare blood pressure to spend actual time listening to Kennedy, so it's good that somebody like Rush is willing to wade through the shit and find the pony.
 
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
  Run, Steve, Run

Rep. Steve King (of Iowa) just finished a splendid speech, broadcast on C-Span. He's been my favorite Congresscritter for a long time. It's too bad he doesn't seem to have the 'fire in the belly' for seeking the Presidency. He'd be the nearest thing to a new FDR, if he had the desire.....

[Edit: by new FDR, I don't mean a socialist; I'm thinking more of FDR's facility for communicating, explaining, and experimenting, with focus on results.]

The speech started with a blue-pencil analysis of the emergency request that was passed quickly by Congress. King voted against that request, because the numbers didn't make sense.

Example: 5 billion to buy 300K house trailers for relocated families; only about 10k of those trailers are actually available. The rest would be back-ordered, most likely finished a year from now. Well, where will all those people be a year from now? They will either be back home or scattered widely, so the huge trailer communities would sit empty.

He then told a long story about his trip to New Orleans, with emphasis on river engineering. What came through clearly, though he didn't explicitly say it, was that the important work down there is being done by the military and by private and church organizations. He never mentioned a FEMA operation.

At the end he recommended that Congress should consider these three points toward rebuilding New Orleans:

1. Gates at the inlet of Lake Pontchartrain.

2. Raise the pump stations and storm-proof them.

3. Floodgates at inlets of the canals.

Semi-quote from the end of speech:

New Orleans is a shipping city, with a pivotal location. With or without federal help, it will be rebuilt. Then, if 25% of the refugees decide to make their future where they are relocated, we shouldn't insist on rebuilding the residential parts of the city in the shortest time possible, just repeating the mistakes from before. That would be throwing good money after bad. The low ground should be put to some other use, possibly a park.

Exactly (ahem) right.
 
  Cheaper Floodwalls

Via NRO, this interesting article about how the floodwalls appear to have broken. It raises the question of sabotage, since the walls broke after the hurricane itself passed through. Did barges hit all of these spots? Or were they moved by something less accidental?

Our own environmentalists have been thinking about ways to break dams and levees for a long time. Google "Monkey Wrench Gang" to see a panorama of sabotage plans. Since the monkey-wrenchers and the Mohammedans want the same century, and since Adam Pearlman-Gadahn has linked the two groups in a more formal way, it's worth pondering.

If the breaks resulted from overtopping, there is a neat new technology called "Invisible Floodwalls", which avoids overtopping without completely rebuilding the entire levee system, and without permanently raising the visual blockage of a floodwall. It's already being used in Grand Forks, ND. Note: the Corps approved this method, so they will undoubtedly be considering it among many other possibilities. I'm just sort of placing it on the blogworld table here (i.e. Technorati) ... so when a porky politician says it's impossible to improve the walls without total rebuilding, this answer will be a bit more available for public debate.
 
Monday, September 12, 2005
  Politicizing

Each party loves to accuse the other of 'politicizing' the war, the hurricane, the Supreme Court, etc, etc, etc.

If 'politicizing' means scoring false points, then I'll agree that it's bad.

If -- and let me boldface, italicize, and underline* that IF -- politicizing means taking advantage of the event to show that you can do a better job than your opponent, then politicizing is the heart and soul of a representative government. Old-style politicians like Huey Long, Alfalfa Bill Murray, and Richard Daley the Elder understood this point deeply. (Here is an interesting essay on how Huey Long might have handled Katrina. The essay slides off into strange paranoia, but the basic point is valid.)

We don't see nearly as much of this old-style politicizing nowadays, because the legacy of campaign reform and Good Government makes it much harder for a poor man to run for office, and harder for any pol to exchange favors for votes among the poor.

Thanks to McCain, politicians now deal exclusively with the rich.

One shining exception: Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Perry politicized Katrina in the right way by showing how quickly and effectively Texas could help the refugees.

Oops: I should add Gov. Barbour of Miss to the shining exceptions. Because Barbour was doing what a governor should do, while Perry was doing the unexpected, I focused on Perry. But that doesn't make Barbour's achievement any less! Perception, saliency, and all that...

---
* A little Dan Rather lingo there. Ironic, isn't it? Rather, who constantly used typefaces as metaphor, was brought down by typefaces.
 
  Specific, non-specific

Adam Gadahn, identified as an environmentalist and Mohammedan (redundant, I know) says the following:

Yesterday London and Madrid, tomorrow Los Angeles and Melbourne, Allah willing. And this time don't count on us demonstrating restraint or compassion.

We are Muslims, we love peace, but peace on our terms. We love peace, but when the enemy violates that peace or prevents us from achieving it, then we love nothing better than the heat of battle, the echo of explosions and slitting the throats of the infidels.


The mayor of Los Angeles says:

We have no specific credible threats.

Wrong, mayor. Dead wrong. See, lemme splain you something, by comparing with Christians.

When a Christian says "Love thy neighbor", it's not a threat; he's just stating the basic purpose and conversion method of Christianity.

But when a Christian says "Hey, wanna come to church with me this Sunday?" that's a specific threat. It means he's going to keep throwing friendliness and Bible verses at you until you submit and come to church. Unless you say No convincingly enough.

Okay, now here's the Mohammed side of the comparison.

When a Mohammedan says "I will bomb and slit the throats of all Crusaders and infidels", it's not a threat; he's just stating the basic purpose and conversion method of Mohammedanism.

But when a Mohammedan says "Yesterday London and Madrid; tomorrow Los Angeles and Melbourne", that's a specific threat against Los Angeles. See, he actually mentioned your city. It means he's going to bomb you and slit your throats until you're all dead. The only way to say No is to round up all the Mohammedans in town RIGHT NOW and grill them, by whatever means necessary, until you get specific information about the threat. Then you keep them rounded up. Hint: you might start with Gadahn's father, since you know where he is.

-----

Update: Power outage, cause still undetermined. Betcha $100 that the employee who 'accidentally' cut the wire will have a name beginning with Mo or Al.

And just plunking this down for the record: Last night (Sun) about 10 PM, there was a very brief outage here in Spokane. It struck me as slightly odd at the time, because it didn't behave like the usual outage caused by a car hitting a pole or a squirrel committing suicide.... Those outages tend to affect only one part of town, and have a sort of three-blink rhythm. This one was a single blink, and it shut down the TV stations as well, which are at the opposite corner of town from my house. Testing, maybe? However, there is a major solar flare this week, which could account for any or all outages.
 
Sunday, September 11, 2005
  Crescents


There's a lot of aesthetic discussion about the use of crescents to commemorate 9/11. Well, I don't know anything about modern art, but I know what I like, and this would be the prettiest crescent of all.

----- ----- ----- -----

There's something deeply wrong with modern artists, especially the ones who get subsidized and supported by governments. They seem to view themselves as Coyote the Trickster, whose duty is to play nasty and expensive pranks on the dumb yokels.

I'm reminded of a fellow named Dale Eldred, who died some years ago.

Eldred was based in Kansas City. His cruelest joke was played on the downtown development council of Kansas City, Kansas. For those unfamiliar with the area, KCK is a drab industrial city, which feels more like Cleveland or Toledo than anything you'd expect to find in Kansas. Eldred was commissioned to redesign several blocks of the dying downtown. He drew, and the poor deluded city proceeded to build, a horrible parody of KCK's sharp hills. It was like one of those "Magic Gravity Mountain" tourist traps, with each block rising and falling unpredictably. My VW could scarcely negotiate it; a normal-sized car scraped its bumpers at each corner. After a month or two, the remaining stores left, and the whole thing was finally demolished.

Later, KU paid Eldred to build this thing, sort of like a railroad trestle on stilts,



in a residential area. Though Lawrence is a decidedly artsy town, even the Laurentians couldn't stand this monstrous rabbit trap, which felt -- and probably was -- deadly. Citizens repeatedly 'petitioned for redress' as shown here, and after several repaints, KU finally moved the atrocity to an obscure location on campus.

When will we learn? Artists never commemorate anything, they just laugh at us, and we pay them to do it.
 
Friday, September 09, 2005
  Oh really?

The Republican team keeps excusing Bush's failure by saying that a President can't federalize the Guard. That may be the law, but it didn't stop Eisenhower. When Ike sent in the Guard to force school integration in Arkansas, he didn't negotiate with Orval Faubus first. When Kennedy did the same in Alabama, he didn't negotiate with George Wallace first. And those two acts had nothing to do with saving thousands of lives or quelling riots; they were only about forcing people to associate with each other.

-----

Also: Brit Hume mentioned the organization that sponsored the Blanco & Mr. Bill commercial seen below. "America's Wetlands" sued the Corps to stop rebuilding of levees. I no longer feel even the tiniest pang of guilt for using that picture!

I googled the subject, and found a tangled swamp of lawsuits from all sides coming at the Corps. Envirotyrants suing to prevent dams, mining companies suing to prevent wetland preservation..... It's no wonder the Corps is paralyzed.

This would be easy to cure. As it now stands, the federal gov't actually pays the legal fees of Commie organizations. We must stop this, institute Loser Pays for all federal civil suits, and raise the threshold for "standing" to sue in the first place. This wouldn't automatically make all bureaucracies competent, but it would allow the competent ones (like the Engineers) to make rational decisions, and it would force organizations on all sides to work through the legislature, not the court.
 
Thursday, September 08, 2005
  Common sense exam



Some years ago I inherited an elderly cat named Emily from relatives. Emily was not highly intelligent as cats go; she was prissy and precise and wanted every day to be predictable. She was thus happier in my prissy and predictable little house than she had been in the fast-moving and multi-pet household of the relatives.

Emily had good common sense, though. After pooping she didn't even pause to do the symbolic covering-with-dirt routine; she sprang away from the shit and skidded through the house at top speed.




Now let's check another precise lady's common sense.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said she had not signed off on the decision [to force evacuation].

"The mayor certainly has ordered that but the governor, and that would be me, would have to enforce it or implement it. We are trying to determine whether there is an absolute justification for that," she told FOX News.

"I think the most important thing driving that decision would be the possibility of disease. If indeed the disease problem is evident, is inevitable, we'll have to move to the next stage," she said.


Emily wins.

-----

Sidebar:

I felt a twinge of guilt for using this particular picture of Blanco. She was taking part in a silly little morality play aimed at raising children's awareness of wetlands, and supposedly the lack of wetlands was part of the New Orleans problem.

But then I realized this is an excellent illustration of our larger mess. Two contributing factors:

(1) Too many of our leaders have female minds, whether they were born genetically female or not. These cross-thinkers believe that endless jabber is the way to "address an issue." Male minds believe that action is the way to "solve a problem." A male-minded governor who realized the potential for disaster would have used available resources to fix the physical problem, instead of raising consciousness about a theoretical cause of the problem.

(2) Cross-thinkers are especially susceptible to religion. And our established religion is environmentalism. Contrary to popular opinion, American leaders are not short-term thinkers in this realm. A short-term thinker would have developed a solid evacuation plan, and wouldn't need days to ponder the consequences of using it. But we are long-termers. Given a choice between an action that saves human lives NOW versus a way to decrease theoretical risks by .00001%, we will reliably pick the latter. This is the basic sin of the environmental religion. The most obvious examples are shutting down nuclear power and using small cars. A couple of local examples come to mind as well: Spokane no longer uses oil-based paint (which lasts about six years) to mark lanes on streets, because oil-based paint supposedly leaches into the aquifer and does some kind of harm. Instead, we use water-based paint, which wears off in six months. So we have to use far more paint, resulting in far more leaching, and the street markings are hard to see most of the time. Poor visibility causes actual accidents. Similarly, we had to stop using sand for winter de-icing because the sand gets into the air. Instead, the street department uses a liquid de-icer which is more expensive and far less effective. Result: Actual lives lost in accidents.

 
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
  1700 years of idiocy

Watched a Senate hearing on gas prices last night. Too often the senators are 'bipartisan', i.e. uniformly leftist, but this hearing showed the genuine ideological difference between the parties in sharp colors.

The R's were using the experts as foils, asking questions like "If we were to draw a line on this map for you, could you then allow more drilling for natural gas?" Each question was basically "What can we as Congress, and you as regulators, do to improve supply and distribution?"

The D's were, as usual, proposing price controls. Ron Wyden of Oregon was the worst and stupidest of all.

Why can't people get this through their heads? It isn't some kind of avant-garde macroeconomic theory. It's been known since 300 fucking AD, for heaven's sake. The Roman emperor Diocletian was the spiritual ancestor of today's leftists.

A nice clear account:

When he ran out of funds Diocletian resorted to the use of forced labor for his projects. But Diocletian had issued vast amounts of copper coins. This led to price increases. When prices rose Diocletian attributed the inflation to the greed of merchants. In 301 AD Diocletian issued an edict declaring fixed prices; i.e., price controls. His edict provided for the death penalty for anyone selling above the control prices. There were also penalties (less severe) for anyone paying more than the control price. Irate consumers sometimes destroyed the businesses of those who sold higher than the control prices.

In the short-run these draconian measures may have curbed inflation but in the long-run the results were disaster. Merchants stopped selling goods, which led to penalties against hoarding. People went out of business but Diocletian countered with laws saying that every man had to pursue the occupation of his father.


Once you start down that road, you have to take it all the way to complete slavery.

PRICE CONTROLS NEVER WORK.

PRICE CONTROLS NEVER WORK.

PRICE CONTROLS NEVER WORK.
 
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
  Biru cans

Tired of Japanese automakers taking all the prizes for originality and quality? Nostalgic for the old days when Jap cars were cheap knockoffs of British and American models? Well, nostalge no more! The old days are back with Mitsuoka Motors.

A knockoff for every palate and pocketbook, all described in fruent Engrish!

---

Want a knockoff Jaguar Saroon with no talent?



Or a knockoff MG Magnette?



Or an illogical Stutzu Bearucato?



Or a 1962 Worserey Mini? (Why would anyone? Never mind.)



No, it's not a parody, but it's not quite what it seems either. Mitsuoka have been building replicars for 20 years, and now they are trying to push into the mainstream. They even have an American dealer, which doesn't look terribly active.

I suspect the American dealer will have the most success with Mitsuoka's microcar series, especially the one that stokes you like the Santa Claus.




Seriously, though, I'm tempted by the MC-1 electlic moder, priced at $3600. Pure kawaii, and would get me around town more flexibly than the bus. It comes with side curtains for winter weather.

Even more seriously, this is actually the best evidence of Japan's superiority. Can you imagine a small American company starting fresh in the '80s, and producing a wide range of interesting cars? Not on your broody rife. Our automakers are going bankrupt. We have more lawyers than engineers. Japan has more engineers than lawyers.
 
Monday, September 05, 2005
  Carless poor

Since I'm carless poor (more or less by choice) and faced the possibility of evacuation in an ice-storm here several years ago, I have a distinct interest in this discussion of poor folks, cars, and busses.

Here's some condensed info from the US Census housing survey for New Orleans, 1995. The data separates the metro area into Jefferson, Orleans, and St. Tammany parishes.




All numbers in thousands or percents.

Note that Orleans, which ended up being the wettest, is also the poorest. About 50,000 of its households are listed as carless. Each household has 2.1 occupants on average, so this gives us about 110k carless people. Adding the other areas, we get about 130k carless in New Orleans.

Tonight's headlines indicate 500k refugees. We don't know how many of those got out by car, but I'd guess that most who drove their own cars have found their own housing with relatives or friends, and are not part of the government burden. So we can conclude that a significant part of the total refugee burden did own cars but chose not to leave.

-----

Tues. morning: Rush is reading the NO evacuation plan, which estimated 134k carless. They must have been using the same Census data!

Rush is, as usual, playing exclusively for the team, but his point is valid. The poor folks in NO were accustomed to letting their liberal gov't take care of everything. Then, when the chips were down, the mayor said "Take care of yourselves!"

That's good advice if it's given consistently, guiding people toward discipline and preparation. But when the local authorities have spent decades encouraging the welfare and criminal mentality, "Every man for himself" at the last minute is deadly.
 
  Polistra's new fashion statement.



-----

It's been clear for a while that Bush Junior shares his father's character flaw: maintaining personal relationships is more important than getting the job done. This is an essentially female cast of mind. It drives them to keep inadequate people in subordinate positions, and to believe that other nations and leaders will return favors. Bad enough when running a war, but even worse when managing a disaster. For both purposes we need a leader who is willing to discard friends and "allies" if they don't perform. In short, we need a man.

After decades of thought-policing and vocabulary enforcement, we have very few men in top positions. I suspect Gen. Honore is too goddamn smart to want the bullshit of the Presidency. So who's the most likely available Man?

Hillary.

 
Saturday, September 03, 2005
  Rehnquist

Rehnquist, after selfishly and irresponsibly pretending to serve for several months, has finally died.

If the Republicans in the Senate were competent adults, they would now do something like the following:

1. Ask whoever is in charge of the executive branch -- Barney, the White House janitor, a potted plant, I don't know -- to submit the name of Janice Rogers Brown for nomination.

2. Abolish the filibuster.

3. Appoint Roberts.

4. Move Scalia to Chief.

5. Appoint Brown.

This is all perfectly legal and perfectly possible for a party with a 54% majority.

This could be done in about one hour by competent politicians. Any high-school Student Council could do a similar job without breaking a sweat.

Since we know the Republicans in the Senate are not competent, we know this will not happen.

Instead, this will happen:

The Party of Treason (which does include some competent politicians, no matter how wrong and disloyal) will tie up the Senate until Mr. Bush is either impeached, resigns, or abdicates. Since this is likely to happen before the next Supreme Court term begins, the Party of Treason will then be able to appoint Phyllis Hamilton and Laurence Tribe to the empty seats. They will do this in about one hour.

-----

Hmm. Bit pessmistic last night, weren't we? Tell you what, I'll come back here and eat crow if the Senate shows any signs of competence. Or if Stephen Hawking leaps out of his wheelchair and becomes a pro wrestler. The crows are safe, I think.
 
  Smart Chao

U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao today announced a National Emergency Grant of up to $62.1 million, with an initial release of $20.7 million, to provide approximately 10,000 temporary jobs for dislocated workers to help in recovery and clean-up efforts underway in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

First really smart move by the admin in responding to Katrina. Getting ahead of the curve for the first time. Sort of like WPA/CCC redux... Let's hope it doesn't get blocked or ruined by idiot bureaucrats or judges. Especially the latter.
 
Friday, September 02, 2005
  For the Corps

I'm sure the Army Corps of Engineers is going to receive a lot of spankings in the coming months, for failing to anticipate.

I have no connection with the Corps, but I've watched them at close range over the years, and think they deserve a bit of defending.

During the years I lived in Manhattan ('56-'66) the Corps was building Tuttle Creek Dam just north of town. This was a totally justified project, since the Big Blue had destroyed parts of Manhattan in 1903 and 1951. Nevertheless, the first signs of environmental opposition were already showing in '56, with billboards saying "Big Dam Foolishness."

Later, in the '60s and '70s, the Corps got carried away, building many dams just for recreation. For instance, Milford Lake near Fort Riley, and Kaw Lake near Ponca City. Both are on streams that never caused significant flooding, and Kaw Lake hasn't even become an important recreation area.

Partly because of this extravagance, but mainly because of eco-pressure, Congress has reined in the Corps in the last 20 years. So even the most basic task -- keeping the Miss flowing in its unnaturally high delta -- has been underfunded.

Look at the Industrial Canal project page for an indication of how the Corps is forced to operate these days. The project was first authorized in 1956 (hmm), but Congress didn't get around to funding it until 1998. Work didn't actually begin until 2002, which means that the Bush Administration has been pushing harder than previous admins. What slowed the work for 50 years? Controversy about wetlands and neighborhood impact.

Look especially at this part of the project, which is pure Jesse Jackson-style pandering to Democrat constituencies. A significant part of the Industrial Canal funding went toward job training, community outreach, historically-black colleges, playgrounds, etc, etc, to the tune of $33 million. (What was the estimate for strengthening the main levees? $40 million?) So New Orleans got what it wanted: subsidies for historically-black colleges before improved levees. If this project had been completed when first planned, the levees in that area would have been improved already.
 
Thursday, September 01, 2005
  Environmentalist's paradise



Hey there eco-freaks!
Hey there Luddites and leftists!
Hey there Mohammedans!

You wanted the 11th Century? You got it!

No evil electricity!
No evil cars!
No evil dams or levees! All breached, just the way you like it!
No evil oil refineries or drilling rigs! All out of commission.
No racist pig cops!
No evil corporate-owned media!
No evil corporations or businesses!
Not even a rich Republican anywhere in sight!

Isn't it romantic?
 

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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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