Monday, March 30, 2009
  Dullest dream ever



This morning I awoke from the dullest dream I've ever had.... or at least the dullest remembered dream.

In the dream I was shaving, and my beard was somewhat longer than usual. That's all.

Wow! Such bizarre originality! Such complex plot and deep characters!

When the old brain gets dull and scratchy like this, I know the problem: Music deficiency. Accordingly, I took a dose of Vitamin M supplement in the form of a Mozart piano concerto. Now the brain is just a bit more lively.

= = = = =

The dullness is notable because most of my remembered dreams these days are fairly creative. For instance, the Great Polistrini item was written down exactly from an actual dream. I wish there was a way to harness that imaginative power in waking hours!
 
Sunday, March 29, 2009
  Good decision from Texas schoolbook board

The Texas curriculum board, which has national influence, has reached a good compromise on various questions. Good for true science, that is ... not good for the pure advocates of "Darwinism" (which has very little to do with Darwin) and not good for the pure advocates of creationism.

The board voted to remove a longstanding requirement that students analyze the "strengths and weaknesses" of the theory. Mainstream scientists resoundingly reject that language, saying there are no weak links in the theory of evolution, which has been corroborated by discoveries in fields ranging from genetics to geology.


Well, there are genuine weaknesses in the theory, arguable on scientific grounds, and it appears that the board recognizes this:

The curriculum will require that students "in all fields of science, analyze, evaluate and critique scientific explanations ... including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those scientific explanations, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student."


"Texas has sent a clear message that evolution should be taught as a scientific theory open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned," said Dr. John West, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle think tank that argues an intelligent designer created life.


Good enough.
 
  Self-explanatory sentence

Via Dreher:

During her recent visit to Mexico, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an unexpected stop at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe ...

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted by Mary on the tilma, or cloak, of St. Juan Diego in 1531. The image has numerous unexplainable phenomena, such as the appearance on Mary's eyes of those present in the room when the tilma was opened and the image's lack of decay.

Mrs. Clinton was received on Thursday at 8:15 a.m. by the rector of the Basilica, Msgr. Diego Monroy.

Msgr. Monroy took Mrs. Clinton to the famous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which had been previously lowered from its usual altar for the occasion.

After observing it for a while, Mrs. Clinton asked "who painted it?" to which Msgr. Monroy responded "God!"


Been a while since I've run across a good self-explanatory sentence. This one is absolutely perfect.

"Who painted it?"

A life spent in the secular elite bubble, summed up in three words.
 
Saturday, March 28, 2009
  It's Earth Hour again!!!!



Polistra and the Author celebrate Earth Hour 2009!!!!




= = = = =

More seriously, darkness is the perfect symbol for the Gaia anti-science crusade.

Galileo, Newton, Bruno and their contemporaries led us out of the Dark Ages and into the Enlightenment. They led us away from a time when reality was determined by the Church's theory, and into a time when reality was observed directly, using common sense, measuring instruments and plain logic.

Maurice Strong, Al Gore, James Hansen and their contemporaries are leading us back into the Dark Ages. They are leading us away from observed fact, back to the Ptolemaic era when all thinking must be based on the a-priori Theory of the Church, no matter how absurd.
 
Thursday, March 26, 2009
  Ideas vs Issues

Dreher pointed to an important article by Lee Siegel.

Siegel says: "What we never hear about in the popular media—where intellectual discussion once took place—is debate over fundamental meanings, or essential definitions, or connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena. Those are the elements of an idea, which is the challenge consciousness makes to concrete reality."

Siegel's main point is that we no longer traffic in ideas. Instead, we bash each other with "issues", which are easily divided into Talking Points of Side A versus Talking Points of Side B. Web forums nearly always operate on this basis, whether the subject is politics, religion, sex, or technology. As long as you are repeating the Points of one side, you get cheers from your side and respect from the other. If you dare to stray outside the chalk lines, if you suggest that both A and B are meaningless and superficial, you'll get beaten and strafed. Your only choice is to leave the forum.

New ideas are fragile and can't survive amid the meaningless football scrimmage of an "issues debate". To incubate ideas you need both civility and stability. Polistra has already discussed the role of civility here. Stability means that you can count on a source of money and structure for a good long time. You need a laboratory (figurative or literal) to explore ideas, suggest new variations, test the consequences.

There are two ways to create a stable lab setting: private wealth and public funding. Private wealth has always worked best .... the ancient Chinese, Hebrew and Greek philosopher/scientists were either wealthy or depended on wealthy patrons. Private wealth continues today as the funding base for think tanks and foundations.

Public funding began with monasteries, which evolved into universities, which served as outstanding idea factories for a few centuries. More recently, universities have been trivialized by several different trends: the tenure process tends to remove outside-the-lines thinkers; pursuit of grants leads to a focus on "issues" favored by the grantor; and fear of litigation stops many good ideas before they can be formed into experiments.

An excellent example of quasi-public funding is Bell Labs. From 1900 to 1980, Bell was a private company with governmental powers, and it had plenty of spare money and plenty of stability. It could afford to maintain the Labs as a place for open-ended experimentation, and the Labs gave us many of our best ideas and technologies in return. After the breakup of Bell in 1982, the Labs lost independence and stability, and devolved into an ordinary R&D department for a French company called Alcatel.

RCA has a similar history on a smaller scale. The Radio Corporation of America was founded as a semi-governmental utility, and for decades had enough profit and stability to support open-ended research in radio and TV.

Privatization and deregulation have ruined stability. Can we put this evil genie back in the bottle? I don't know. Korean and Japanese companies copied the Bell and RCA business style, and still run as partial monopolies. Maybe we could copy the model back from them!

= = = = =

One point that Siegel missed: the idea-makers have soiled their own nest. Public and private support for the arts would be much larger if artists hadn't spent the entire 20th century mocking the people and committing cruel practical jokes against normal tastes. Public and private support for science would be much larger if scientists hadn't spent the last 40 years insulting Christianity and ripping Western civilization, or the last 20 years whoring after transparently false and wildly destructive pseudoscientific "theories" like Economics, the Big Bang and Global Warming.

Another point: In current political discussion we don't even have "issues", we only have numbers. Though the underlying plans and bills include a tiny handful of new ideas (eg electronic records in medical care, or, uh, electronic records in medical care, or...) the only thing we hear is numbers, numbers, numbers. Billions, trillions, taxes, spending, deficits, debts. The motive is hardly mysterious: when the only questions are "how much" questions, you never have to answer any real questions like "Where is this money going and how in the hell is it going to help the goddamn PEOPLE of THIS goddamn COUNTRY?"
 
  What's wrong with these people?

This morning the Cong Republicans gave a press conference, supposedly to announce an alternative to Obama's budget. The alternative has no chance of being passed, so I can understand the lack of urgency in putting a plan together. But an opposition party is not just about this week's legislation; it's supposed to provide a long-term pull in a different direction. And the current brand-R leadership fails utterly at both tasks.

Look, this is basic Public Speaking 101. You shape your message toward the known audience. You don't waste time repeating things the audience already knows. You get to the point, giving reasons for each proposal.

These dummies form a parade of different speakers, each saying the exact same thing: "Wow, the Obama budget is really big! Really, really, big! No, I mean it! Really, really, really big!!! Do you know how much a trillion is? A trillion dollars, placed end to end, would stretch to the moon and back 4,765.332 times!!! That's really, really, really, really big!!!!!"

Who's the audience for this conference? It's political junkies. News media, other politicians, C-Span watchers. All of these people already know that the federal government is really, really big. You don't need to tell them, and you don't need a parade of different faces. You just need one speaker who has the basic skill set of a teacher, salesman or lawyer. Surely among 200 brand-R members of Congress you could find one competent speaker? Guess not.

Net result: this conference is nothing more than self-indulgence.

This is unfortunate because we need a serious opposition party to provide a mature 'ground path' for impulses that will otherwise turn toward violence. It's also unfortunate because the actual plan, as outlined by NRO, finally mentions lawsuit reform, the one new idea that could genuinely improve our lives without any cost. If the opposition party had spent 15 minutes thoroughly discussing and advertising tort reform, they could have done some good.

= = = = =

Update 4/1: The supposed alternative plan has finally been published. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't contain even one word about litigation reform, and surprisingly it doesn't mention nuclear power. So the two things that would make the greatest difference at the least cost are still unthinkable for these zero-brained noisemakers. Their "inspiring" proposal does contain one new and worthwhile item: a Medicare reform that sounds like it might help.
 
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
  Фуфлёшка

Obama continues to give excellent advice: we need to save more, borrow less, produce more, speculate less. Wonderful to hear this advice from a president at last, especially a president who has the talent and charisma to get the message across.

But at the same time, the Obama team is working in the exact opposite direction, working to re-inflate all the false junk that got us into this mess. Bugsy Bernanke, questioned in Congress about the need to regulate credit default swaps, instead proposed a new CREDIT DEFAULT SWAP DEFAULT SWAP, which will supposedly insure the value of the existing credit default swaps which suppposedly insure the value of bonds. This is way beyond parody, but Polistra will try to illustrate the point with the help of Orlov's brilliant idea:



 
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
  Orlov says it all.


Read him.
 
  China's gold standard

China wants to set up a central currency for the world, cutting loose from the dollar. As described here, it seems like an excellent idea. It would remove both the burdens and the threats from our economy. We would have to borrow and lend on an equal footing, which would force us to behave more frugally in general. We'd be less vulnerable to manipulation by oil-producing countries and currency speculators, and less able to manipulate other countries.

In other words, our officials would have to pay more attention to the welfare of the American people, and less to the maintenance of empire.

From my engineerish viewpoint, it's always better to decouple an important variable, to remove it from outside access. It's good to have firewalls in a building, and it's good to have firewalls on a computer. Gives less power to arsonists and hackers, which means the arsonists and hackers have to look elsewhere.

The present crisis has all the hallmarks of an attack by some form of economic hacker. If so, decoupling wouldn't help us in the present crisis, because we apparently have to continue throwing trillions of dollars at the hacker to prevent the alternative.

Still, a central currency would make future attacks far more difficult.
 
Monday, March 23, 2009
  Blogday 4!



Author: Happy Blogday!


Polistra: Oh! This is, what, our 4th year?

Author: Yep. A few days late. We started March 15, 2005. I'd been writing for a few months in a different place, but 3/15/05 is when we started on Blogspot.

Polistra: I remember my first appearance here:



Author: You were still dressed in your store-bought outfit at that point. Most of that first month was devoted to the Terry Schiavo case.

Polistra: Still think that was a tragedy and a disaster. And as usual the forces of death won, by the old Orwellian gambit of making the good people look crazy.


Author: Even though the facts of the case were not quite as simple as I thought at the time, the point still stands.

Polistra: You know, one thing changed rather suddenly in the middle of these four years. At first we were going along with the war effort; in fact we were unhappy that the war wasn't being pushed harder.

Author: It was the lack of push that finally opened my eyes, caused me to look at the basics. Where did the attackers come from? Arabia. Who helped them? Lots of countries, including Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Germany. Where was Sheikh Osama? Probably Pakistan. Given that pattern, why were we working half-heartedly toward the futile goal of setting up democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, while treating Arabia, Pakistan and Germany as allies? It simply made no sense. The friends and foes were wrong, the goal was pointless, and we were scrupulously avoiding the most obvious responses to an attack.

Polistra: A cautious war is one thing; could be attributed to Bush's old-rich Episcopalian heritage. Wouldn't be prudent and all that. But a completely misdirected war goes beyond weakness.

Author: Lots of other things happened in these years. Another turning point, I think, was Hurricane Katrina.

Polistra: That was more or less the last straw. After that, I couldn't fool myself into thinking that our government was only sloppy or incompetent. Around the end of '07 I tried to time-travel, but it didn't work. I disappeared for a bit, came back dressed in 1939 style, but I still don't know what happened. Apparently I had to get totally heartbroken before the ... gate or whatever it is would open. And that happened in June of '08.


Author: When you came back from your '39 vacation, you observed that McCain was the direct equivalent of Hoover, and Obama seemed to be parallel to FDR, in that he had the same teaching ability, the same morale-boosting ability.

Polistra: Yes, but he clearly doesn't have the same willingness to use the power of his office. I've said it a lot, but it bears repeating. Roosevelt closed down the banks on his SECOND DAY IN OFFICE, and a week later the banks were sorted out. Insolvent ones were closed, solid ones back in business. Now we're in Obama's SECOND MONTH and he's just today SUGGESTED a program for dealing with the bad banks.

Author: And the Wall Street Mafia cheered, which tells us that the program is a gift to the syndicate, not a punishment or abolition of the syndicate.

Polistra: We'll never know what's really going on. No newspaper will ever do the equivalent of a "Pentagon Papers" to expose the underlying blackmail or whatever it is.

Author: And the papers wonder why people stopped reading them.

Polistra: But some information does come through. While all that noise is holding our attention, Robert Reich has actually REPORTED a few actual FACTS that we aren't hearing from either brand. He points out that all of Obama's efforts to get more revenue are blocked by the Wall Street Mafia, and the administration is unwilling to overrule the Mafia.

Author: The Mafia's cute little pet "government" occasionally whines when the Mafia pulls the choke-chain too hard, but it always obeys.

Polistra: Okay, back to the question: we still have full-strength Hoovers, clinging desperately to their obscenely wealthy masters, screaming NO NO NO NO NO DON'T TAX ME MOMMY WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! like spoiled two-year-olds. And we have Obama behaving like an adult but without any force. He's a weak diluted shadow of Roosevelt. But we don't have Father Coughlin, and we don't have a Bonus Army or violent laborites. FDR was forceful and effective because he knew that Coughlin and the Bundists, and various Red factions, were active and growing. He knew that the country would fall in one direction or the other, red or brown, if he didn't get it right.

Author: Hmm. Yes, you'd think the situation would be even more ripe for a Coughlin type now. In 1933 the elites were mainly Episcopal Wasps like Mellon and Morgan. Now the people who caused this mess are mainly Jewish, and the people who are SUPPOSEDLY fixing the mess like Paulson, Bernanke and Geithner, are mainly Jewish. But they aren't solving anything, just handing over the entire economy to their Jewish friends. So, why don't we have those factions yet?

Polistra: For one thing, we haven't really lost much wealth yet. This recession is still patchy; some regions and occupations are hopeless, while others are untouched. Mostly, we've been through 50 years of Communist control of culture and information. In 1933 most people were in touch with common sense and observed the world directly. They were better able to smell a lie or a scam. They got fooled, of course ... people can always be fooled ... but they didn't stay bamboozled as long as we do now. In 2009, most of us have been through at least 12 years of the public indoctrination system, and the elites have been through graduate super-indoctrination, all designed to confuse and stupefy the normal processes of logic.

Author: The elites believe in global warming and free trade.

Polistra: Says it all. And we get our information mostly through TV, which is carefully filtered. Facts that would expose the Wall Street Mafia do occasionally pop up, as with Reich ... or just this morning, Eliot Spitzer, but they are quickly swamped by the Mafia's own disinformation.

Author: I feel bad that I didn't spot what they were doing to Spitzer. The old honey-trap, catching him with a prostitute to ruin his reputation. I certainly know how that works, but I didn't think about it when they did it to Spitzer. I fell for it.

Polistra: Well, we can't always catch everything. You did go to college, after all ... and no matter how hard you try to resist, the confusers are always around us, always trying to overwhelm common sense.

Author: It's depressing. Orlov has it right: We're in the same condition as post-Soviet Russia. Nominal democracy, actual Mafiocracy.

Polistra: See the pattern?

Author: Huh?

Polistra: We expect the government to be somewhat competent. We expect it to respond to a military attack by punishing the attackers, and we expect it to respond to an economic attack by punishing the attackers.

Author: Oh. Yes, I see. In both cases the response is misdirected and puny. In both cases it looks initially like incompetence, then as more facts become available it looks like something worse than incompetence.

Polistra: Yep, that's the pattern.

Author: Well anyway, we've made it through 4 years here; we've been trying to observe the world as accurately as we can, trying to see facts and use logic. Nobody's stopped us yet.

Polistra: Yet.
 
Friday, March 20, 2009
  So that's it

I've lived in this house for nearly 18 years, and I just now figured out something that happens every morning!

There's a school one block away. Every morning when school is on, the school sends out crossing guards. At 8:30 the crossing guards shout something; then at 8:59 they shout something else. Most of them turn the shouts into a sort of harmonious song, with the same melody as old street vendor songs like "Extry! Extry! Read all about it!" or "Old clothes for sale!"

I've always enjoyed the low-tech quaintness of it ... clearly an old tradition that doesn't make sense in the age of Twitter, but still carries on.

From the beginning I understood the 8:59 song, which is always "Last crossing! Last crossing! Last crossing!" But for 18 years I've never been able to interpret the 8:30 song. Different guards seem to say different words.

This morning I caught it at last. "Now serving breakfast! Now serving breakfast!" [Later: No, that was wrong. It's "Last crossing for breakfast."]

(The school provides a hot breakfast at 8:30 for kids who don't eat at home.)

= = = = =

Sidenote: Come to think of it, the tradition was already obsolete by 1970, because by then most people kept their windows and doors closed. An audible announcement made sense in the era of front porches, before central heat and air conditioning. In modern times, the only people who can hear the song are the parents and kids who are already walking toward the school; and by definition they don't need a 'time signal'. Still, I hope the tradition continues. It's an important reminder of neighborhood and locality.


= = = = =

More and better here.
 
Thursday, March 19, 2009
  Just stop this crap.

Today the brand-R talking point heads are full of delusional nonsense about how punishing AIG would violate the "constitutional" prohibitions against ex-post-facto laws and bills of attainder; and nonsense about breaking contracts.

This jabber only shows their own total ignorance. Tax law has been packed with retroactive provisions for decades, and tax law has been packed with provisions aimed specifically at one company or individual for decades. There's a whole cottage industry of lawyers who know how to draft a paragraph so it sounds general and universal but can only apply to one company.** Your precious Sultan Bush passed a retroactive deduction just a couple of years ago. But that was OK because it was your dear Sultan. And the Feds are never afraid to break a contract when they decide retroactively that it violates some idiotic discrimination provision, or just because they don't like it.

I'm goddamn tired of this shit.

1. The constitution hasn't been binding since 1803 and has been turned upside down since 1953, so there's no point in complaining that X is unconstitutional, no matter what X is. You might as well complain that X violates the Code of Hammurabi.

2. If you want to be seen as a leader or a thinker, you have to distinguish between actions and individuals. You can't say that a retroactive tax is angelic when My Dear Sultan does it but satanic when That Awful Socialist does it. Either it's good or it's bad, regardless of who does it.

This particular brand of delusion may make the dwindling Brand-R Cheerleaders happy, but it's purely disgusting to the growing crowd of Americans who don't adhere to either team. It only makes Obama look good, despite his increasingly apparent weakness, his unwillingness to take strong and necessary actions.

= = = = =

If the Republicans were really serious about restoring the rule of law, they would stop chanting Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes and instead join up with Senator Cornyn of Texas. Cornyn held a conference this week, shown on C-Span, dealing with lawsuit reform. Cornyn brought in witnesses to illustrate (1) how the Texas tort reform has restored access to medical care in that state (2) how much we lose directly from lawsuits each year (3) how much we lose culturally and indirectly. The direct losses are on the same scale as the Bush and Obama stimulus programs; the indirect losses are incalculable.

This would be an ideal crusade for a party that claims to be pro-American, and in practical terms ideal for Republicans because the trial lawyers exclusively support Dem campaigns. Controlling lawsuits would dramatically improve our economy and our culture. It would dramatically increase freedom for businesses, parents, teachers, Christians and plain old humans. It would save lives by making medical care more affordable. It would remove power from Communists. And it would do all this without ANY new spending or taxes.

So what's the downside? Damned if I know. I can only surmise that Republicans and conservatives are absolutely utterly insane and brain-damaged. Like an unfortunate stroke patient, they are stuck on one single meaningless phrase.

Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes Zero Zip Nada Taxes


= = = = =

** Case in point: The Philly Inquirer did a series about the many "bills of attainder" in Reagan's 1986 tax reform act.

"...the 1986 act, proclaimed as a model of fairness by congressional tax writers, actually contained the largest number of tax giveaways in the 75-year history of the federal income tax. The special deals exempted select individuals and businesses from certain provisions in the new act that all other taxpayers were compelled to comply with - an act that raised taxes for millions of middle-class individuals and
families."
 
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
  Language bulletin



A week ago Rod Dreher discussed a news article about domestic violence in a lesbian couple in Massachusetts. What made the article deeply weird was the constant use of the phrase "her wife".

Professor Polistra wondered why this combination seemed so absolutely discordant on a grammatical level, leaving aside all cultural questions. After all, English doesn't have grammatical agreement based on gender, so it's not wrong in the same way as "el esposa" in Spanish or "der Frau" in German.

The answer seems to lie in connectivity requirements. A husband can possess one or more wives; a wife can possess one or more husbands. But you just can't connect one wife with another.

The newspaper article could have avoided the problem by using spouse, which doesn't have such restrictions.

Labels:

 
  Unthinkable



Polistra's old Law of the Unthinkable: When the elites agree uniformly that X is unthinkable, then X is true and necessary.

The elites all agree that letting AIG fail is unthinkable.

Doesn't wash, even on the face of it. As Ben Stein and others have pointed out, the "honest" part of AIG is not really an insurance company but a holding company for several insurance companies. Spin off those companies, then close and confiscate the rest. If that causes a loss to hedge funds, too fucking bad. Hedge funds are gamblers by definition and they supposedly expect to lose on occasion. Well, this is a great occasion to let them lose billions or trillions or quadrillions or whatever the imaginary number is.

Obviously that's not the real reason why we need to continue these monstrous thefts. Sooner or later we'll get the real reason.

= = = = =

Refreshing exception to the Unthinkable chorus: Rep Minnick of Idaho. In this morning's hearing on bonuses, Minnick said simply and flatly that we should allow AIG to go bankrupt and appoint a receiver to distribute the assets and debts. Bravo, Walt!

= = = = =

Obama's short 'front lawn' speech is exactly on point ... "We need to move away from a business model that generates paper wealth, and move toward generating real wealth." Trouble is, he's not doing anything to make this happen. He's not closing down and jailing the paper-wealth operators, and his proposals for carbon cap scams are just a new paper-wealth bubble. Good words, bad actions.
 
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
  Bonuses

Well, Grassley has it right. At least in terms of wishful implication.

Syllogism:

If any members of the Wall Street Mafia were not hardened and habitual criminals, we would have already seen a number of suicides, we would have seen some actual TAKING of responsibility. Since we have not seen any suicides, and we have only heard TALKING of responsibility, we know for a fact that the Wall Street Mafia consists solely and exclusively of hardened and habitual criminals.

QED.

However, the focus on bonuses is a clever red herring led by Obama, a distraction from the real problem. Americans are aiming their outrage at those unnamed AIG executives, when they should be outraged at the regulators and legislators who knew about the crimes and looked the other way.

Chris Cox at SEC should be a prime target of shame. Cox should be encouraged to jump. All of the Congs and Senators who voted for the first TARP should at least resign so they can be replaced with more honest and ethical people, such as randomly chosen murderers and thieves.

None of this will happen. Obama, after showing an ever-so-brief promise of following FDR, turns out to be Bush III. No action, no change, no control, no punishment for criminals. Just the same old idiotic optimism and and the same old blackmail payments to our enemies.

"The fundamentals of our economy are sound."

Translation:

"The Swiss bank account of Sheikh Osama is overflowing, praise Allah."
 
Sunday, March 15, 2009
  Kashkari Konquers Kucinich

Listening to a C-Span replay of the Congressional hearing on Wed, where Shotgun Paulson's strange little Mini-me faced questions that sounded tough. Unfortunately the questions were not genuinely tough, and the Congresscritters missed a great opportunity to push Kashkari.

Specifically: Kucinich asked Kashkari why we allowed Bank of America to use TARP funds to purchase a Chinese construction company. Good question, and Kucinich framed it in a good nationalist way. Congress intended TARP to help America, not to help China.

Shotgun's Mini-me responded that money is fungible, that you can't trace where each dollar goes; also that he didn't know and didn't care where the money went.

Kucinich showed appropriate outrage, but failed to make the one argument that would have spiked Mini-me. I didn't hear it from the other Congs either.

Here's the irrefutable argument:

"Yes, I understand that money is fungible. But every single Federal subsidy to businesses, schools or individuals places limits on their actions. He who pays the piper calls the tune, which is entirely reasonable. If a school takes Fed money, it must implement special-ed programs. If a university takes Fed research money, it must follow affirmative action requirements and research ethics rules. If a defense contractor takes Fed money, it must favor minority subcontractors. If an individual takes unemployment insurance, he has to look for work. Every single subsidy has similar requirements, and if you don't want to follow those rules, you have to get your money elsewhere. Why then should TARP be the single exception to this standard procedure? It doesn't matter which dollar goes where; if you're taking a subsidy, you have to follow certain rules."

= = = = =

Sidenote: In watching these hearings and other Cong action on Shotgun's Great Nation Robbery, I've come to like and respect Elijah Cummings of Maryland. Cummings has a way of getting straight to the heart of a question, speaking for the common man in common language. Refreshing amid the cautious lawyer-written crap from most other politicians.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009
  Unspeakable idiocy

Listening to the "G20 summit" on C-Span. Most of these leaders are repeating the same mantra over and over:

"We have an unprecedented situation in which all developed countries have gone into recession together. Therefore we need to avoid all tendencies toward protectionism."

Think about this for just a second. Put it in a different context.

"We have an unprecedented situation in which all the town-houses on this block burned down because they were connected. The fire passed through open doors between the units. Therefore we need to rebuild them exactly the same way with open doors between the units. We need to avoid all tendencies toward brick firewalls. This will prevent them from burning down again."

Sounds stupid, eh?

When a system is closely coupled, a problem in one part quickly spreads to other parts. You don't fix this by linking the parts more intimately together. You solve it by "modularity", by decoupling the parts as far as possible. This is normal practice in construction, engineering and programming, but it's UNTHINKABLE UNTHINKABLE UNTHINKABLE UNTHINKABLE among economists.

Conclusion: Economists are genocidally stupid.
 
Friday, March 13, 2009
  Silver bullets

The Obama team is fond of saying that there are no silver bullets to solve our energy and economic problems. Generally good advice, but in fact there is a silver bullet for energy, and it even looks like a silver bullet!



The Lone Polistranger is showing an actual-size core section of a Hyperion mini-reactor. These are fully self-contained nuclear power capsules, developed at Los Alamos and already commercially available. Each reactor gives enough electricity for 20,000 average households. This means that Spokane could be fully powered with a field of 15 Hyperions. The reactor never needs to be opened; when its fuel is used up (perhaps 5 years) the whole module is pulled out and replaced with a new one.

Present cost is about $25 million per unit, which will presumably drop when larger-scale production is possible.
 
  Road closed, detour open

An interesting movement to repeal the Electoral College is flying under the radar in many state legislatures. The 'National Popular Vote Interstate Compact' aims to amend the constitution through an agreement between states.

Of course this isn't how the original written constitution wants an amendment to be passed; the original procedure has two options, both of which must run through Congress. But the states clearly understand that Congress now represents China, so anything that helps America must detour around Congress.


So a number of states have decided to pass an amendment requiring popular vote, and to pass it WITHOUT the help of Congress. The amendment doesn't precisely create a new form of election, and it doesn't change the Constitution's text. [Which wouldn't matter anyway since the text is unused and abandoned.]

Here's how it works:

States joining the compact will continue to award their electoral votes in their current manner until the compact has been joined by enough states to represent a controlling majority of the Electoral College (currently 270 electoral votes). After that point, all of the electoral votes of the member states would be cast for the winner of the national popular vote in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


In other words, the states in the compact will still cast electoral votes, but they will do it on the basis of the total popular vote, not on the basis of their own state vote. Non-participating states will still use the old method, but their votes won't matter. As the participants increase, and the consequences of non-participation become clear, other states will fall in line formally or informally.

I hadn't heard of this movement until I noticed a brief news item today about the Oregon state house passing its version of the amendment. Turns out that the Wash state senate passed its version recently as well. So far, 4 states (including Ill) have fully enacted the law, 4 (including Calif) have passed the legislature but not the governor, and 8 (including Wash and Ore) have passed one house of the legislature. The bill has been at least introduced in all but three states.

= = = = =

Sidenote:

The last substantive amendment was the 21st in 1934, which repealed the 18th. Since then, with one minor exception, all actual changes in the Constitution have been made by Communist saboteurs wearing black robes, and nobody has challenged the authority of the saboteurs. The minor exception is in the area of "terms and conditions of employment", such as presidential succession and Congressional pay. We've had a few formal amendments in those areas since 1934, because for some reason the black-robed saboteurs are not interested in changing those bits of the text, and for some reason the government decided to obey those bits of the text while brazenly disobeying everything else in the document. I suspect the saboteurs leave those bits alone because they understand that those bits are contributing to our collapse; why change something that is already serving your evil ends? The saboteurs didn't need to erase those bits anyway. Bush and Cheney erased one piece: P and VP aren't supposed to be from the same state. Obama has carved out another piece, because his natural-born citizenship was genuinely in doubt and was not officially checked by anyone.
 
Thursday, March 12, 2009
  Justice for Bernie

This article on the sentencing of Bernie Madoff is enlightening.

In most cases the Federal white-collar prisons are easy time, decent accommodations for people who deserve an indecent life. Normally I wish they could spend time in a serious prison, mingle with serious criminals, receive a daily beating and reaming. But for Bernie, who worked his scam at country clubs, the country club prison will be exactly what he deserves. Why? Because he won't meet any rich Jews in a serious prison, but he'll meet plenty in a country club prison.

"Madoff isn't going to be real popular," said Larry Levine, who served 10 years in federal prisons for securities fraud and narcotics trafficking and now advises convicts on surviving time behind bars. "All the guys there will have wives or parents who are losing their homes or their jobs or who can't send money to them anymore. Everybody's going to be blaming Bernie."



Deeeeee-licious.
 
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
  Pork and Localism


Polistra loves pork projects and has said so often.

Why? Three reasons:

1. These little projects are a concrete service that a representative can perform for his own district. If you break this closed circle of votes for service, the only thing that remains is big symbolic agendas that mean nothing in the long run. Projects are peculiarly local, with strictly local benefits. Without visible local benefit as one side of the transaction, you have to evaluate a representative on his verbal adherence to your chosen side of abstract credos like abortion, torture or civil rights; or just plain party loyalty. It's easy to see why the talking-point-heads want it this way.

2. When the voter's disgust is focused on a little $250,000 project to evaluate pig smell or cow farts, his contempt is distracted from the monstrous $3 trillion robbery committed by Shotgun Paulson and continued by Bugsy Geithner. It's easy to see why Shotgun and Bugsy want it this way.

3. Currently most important: Government jobs are jobs, for heaven's sake. Even the short-term jobs provided to the scientist and research assistant evaluating cow farts, or to the carpenters building the Elvis Museum, are JOBS. These jobs add security to the family, friends and neighbors of the scientist, research assistant, and carpenters. And less concretely, they bolster loyalty to the country and the government. If you want a stable country, you want to keep the residents, especially the young men, solidly employed. And ideally you want their employment to be tied to their neighborhood and their country, so they feel invested in this land. You don't want them unemployed, especially when they know that their jobs flew off to China. It's not so easy to see why Party leaders want an unstable country, unless they are strictly and totally loyal to China.
 
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
  Obama on education

Today Obama came out in support of charter schools, merit pay for teachers, and longer school days. Excellent.

Remains to be seen whether he will carry through with action, but all of these moves will actually improve education.

Bush's education agenda was Teddy Kennedy's education agenda. Admittedly, putting a Republican name on Emperor Teddy's program made it unpopular among the teacher unions; nevertheless, the predictable result was bad for education. No surprise. Everything Emperor Teddy did was evil, whether the program was "rebranded" or not.

This crossover phenomenon is also no surprise. If you want to see the Dem agenda implemented, elect a Republican, and vice versa. Most Americans understood this before the idiotic talking-point-heads hijacked our political dialogue. I remember my father discussing it in the early '60s, referring to JFK and Nixon.
 
  Cheerful Czechs

Cheerful Czechs driving and singing just before WW2:

1

2

3

Doesn't make a lick of sense, but it's fun.
 
Saturday, March 07, 2009
  Classic distortion

The cable "news" channels are pulling a classic bit of propagandistic distortion on the stem-cell controversy.

First, the Bush order did not prohibit all embryonic stem-cell research; it only prohibited federal funding for some lines of ESC. In other words, it was a purely symbolic ploy, giving cynical lip service to evangelical and Catholic voting blocs.

The "news" channels are universally and uniformly describing the Bush order as "prohibiting all stem-cell research."

Second, the best argument against ESC is that it's unnecessary. Because ESC research was not prohibited, it has proceeded under private funding and in other countries. And despite all this research, ESC remains only a potential life-saver; the other types of stem-cell therapy (from cord blood or from the patient's own cells) are yielding actual cures.

The "news" channels never mention this fact, not even once. Their sole description of the anti-ESC argument is as follows, verbatim: "Those Neanderthal conservative critics somehow believe, for some weird and incomprehensible reason, that killing embryos is somehow the same thing as killing a human being. Of course we smart people know better, don't we? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha."

When scientists are mainly concerned with doing science, they put most of their resources into pursuing the best and quickest paths to the desired result, as common sense would dictate. In this case the best and quickest path, regardless of moral questions, is cord blood and adult cells. The fact that American "scientists" are fiercely uninterested in non-embryonic methods tells us all we need to know. American "scientists" are standing on the giant shoulders of their noble forebear and mentor, Dr. Josef Mengele.
 
Friday, March 06, 2009
  Read this!

Read this!
 
  Signs of insanity

Spokane's city government is always incompetent, but now they have gone totally loony. The council is determined to pass an anti-sign ordinance forbidding those LCD flashing signs that give time, temperature, information, and advertising. As far as I can tell, no actual citizens wanted this ordinance. Hundreds of businesses and citizens have protested against the ordinance. Nevertheless, the council is still moving forward.

At the same time, they have decided to stretch the interpretation of an old ordinance to prohibit ads on bus stop benches. The transit authority gets a significant part of its operating budget from those ads; the benches don't cost any tax money at all; without the support of advertising, the transit authority has to remove the benches.

Yessir, just the right pair of moves while recession deepens. Make it harder to do business, take money and comfort away from public transit, while saving nothing for the taxpayers.

Yes, by all means, let's commit civic suicide. Fun, fun, fun.
 
Thursday, March 05, 2009
  Kudos to ABC news.....

On tonight's ABC news, Chris Bury did an excellent feature on small-town banks, showing that they are still operating normally, still making loans at a normal rate, still earning good profits, neither wanting nor needing a bailout.

It's highly important to hold this fact in the foreground. The Wall Street Mafia and its pet "government" want us to believe that the entire banking sector is in trouble. Nope, only the criminals are in trouble, and they're not in nearly enough trouble. They should be in jail. They should be jumping from skyscrapers.
 
  Box-o-stox



Polistra has been hammering for quite a while on the destructive qualities of the stock market. Companies that participate in stock exchanges lose their bearings; they focus solely on pleasing the shareholders instead of pleasing the customers and employees. Cost-cutting is the only goal, which leads them to use cheap overseas labor and to abandon research and development.

We see the resulting wreckage all around us.

Closely-held companies work better. A business run by its founding family, or owned by a private equity fund, is better able to focus on satisfying its employees and customers.

Polistra wonders if we can somehow broaden or democratize the private-equity holding, restore the basic purpose of selling shares to bring in capital ... but without the insanity of the Wall Street Casino. Preferred stock comes close, but it still has a variable share price which invites speculation.

Putting it simply, how do you make a stock more like a savings account?

Her idea: A fixed-price share that can't be transferred. You can return it to the company for the original price but you can't sell it to anyone else. The only thing you expect from this share is possible dividends. Both the company and the shareholder would then focus solely on the dividend, because insufficient dividends would mean more refunds.

This idea has obvious problems, but it's still closer to sanity and productivity than the current Casino.

Labels:

 
  What killed localism?

Rod Dreher quotes a Patrick Deneen article which accuses the "new isolationists" of free-riding. Deneen says we are taking advantage of the system that made it possible for us to have the luxurious choice of opting out.

I wrote this comment on Dreher's blog, and want to preserve it here for my own reference if nothing else:

= = = = =

Deneen is, as always, deep and unique. But there's a timeline problem in his accusation of free-riding against the localists. He says we are taking advantage of all the goodies (mobility, communication, occupational choice) provided by modernity, while trying to escape from deracination. He has conflated two different "packages".

Occupational choice has been an American feature from the start. Mobility and communication came in 1860 with the telegraph and railroad. But local institutions and Tocqueville's "mediators" were still perfectly strong and vibrant in 1950. It wasn't mobility and communication that killed the lodge and the church. It was a Leninist Sabotage Weapon called "The Supreme Court" that killed the lodge and the church.

If we want to restore localism, we don't need to eliminate the telegraph, the railroad and the internet. We do need to eliminate the Leninist Sabotage Weapon, or more precisely we need to escape the clutches of its secret police.
(i.e. plaintiff lawyers, social workers, public schools.)

Since both political "parties" are solidly Leninist (as you [Rod] brilliantly pointed
out in your discussion of Rush's CPAC speech) the answer must be either a third party determined to repeal bad laws, or secession.
 
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
  Bucking the trend

Buck Knives, a well-known brand of sporting and utility knives, has been based in Post Falls near Spokane for several years. Until recently Buck ran its manufacturing in Taiwan. The owner (great-grandson of the founder) has decided to bring the work back home, partly for moral reasons and partly for business reasons.

Bravo, Mr Buck!

Story and video here.
 
  Sir Edward




Poor Polistra made the mistake of listening to Commissar Gordon Brown's speech this morning.
 
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
  Oh come now.

Listening to some asshole from the SEC interviewed on C-Span. Asshole just said "The investment industry is the most highly regulated in the US, second only to the nuclear power industry."

Pure reagent-quality ratshit.

The American nuclear power industry has shown what happens with strong and competent regulation. When the worst-case accident happened at Three Mile Island, no radioactivity escaped, nobody was killed.

You can't prevent every accident, but NRC regs guaranteed that the containment structure was strong enough to avoid deaths when the accident came.

The SEC operates more like Soviet nuclear power regulators. Bribes and loyalty matter more than rules and engineering. When the worst-case accident happened at Chernobyl, there was nothing to contain it. Tens of thousands died.

If investment banking were really regulated to NRC standards, Bernie Madoff would have been detected and stopped when his first customer reported something suspicious. The (figurative) containment structure would have prevented further losses. And the galactic-scale crimes and robberies committed by AIG would not have been allowed to start. Anyone with the tiniest grasp of arithmetic and common sense could tell that a "credit default swap" was a monstrous fraud. It was called a "swap" to escape state insurance regulations. What more do you need to know, for Christ's sweet sake?????????

If Obama were serious about fixing this mess, he would fire the entire SEC and start over. Replace the staff with randomly chosen unemployed blue-collar workers. Cooks, beauticians, janitors. They won't be fooled by a con-man like Madoff.
 
Monday, March 02, 2009
  Even New Yorkers can learn!

Rich Lowry at NRO writes:

Obama's debut is quite different from FDR's. FDR took office in the midst of a total meltdown of the banking system and acted boldly to arrest it. In March 1933, the Dow was at 52. It climbed 75 percent in the first 100 days. By December 1, 1933 it was 99. Obama is temporizing with his financial crisis in favor of moving quickly on his big spending plans, and watching the Dow trip steadily downward by the day. It's as if FDR skipped the bank holiday and focused first on passing the CCC.


Back in September (before the election) Polistra wrote:

The brand-R talking point heads continually define FDR as a socialist who tried to nationalize everything and blew up the Constitution. The same brand-R talking point heads also describe Sultan Bush as a "conservative".

How did FDR handle the banking crisis in 1933? He closed all banks to stop the run, sent out inspectors to check solvency, and immediately re-opened the good banks with a federal guarantee behind them. The guarantee turned into FDIC.

Was this constitutional? Yes. The Federal gov't is given power "To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof..." Since the banking crisis was destroying the Value of Money, the gov't clearly had the authority to intervene.

How does Sultan Bush handle this banking crisis? He nationalizes the insolvent companies.

Now tell me again, who's the socialist?


Polistra is pleased to see that even New York Metrosexuals are capable of understanding reality, given a little extra time.

A normal and sane ruler -- like FDR -- knows that you need to catch criminals and take them out of circulation before you can start to restore the trust and confidence of the victims. And FDR did catch and remove the bad operators before he started to add new programs. Bush and Obama are rewarding the criminals, not catching them. This is totally insane unless the criminals have you trapped in a blackmail threat.
 
Sunday, March 01, 2009
  Mark Steyn and Judy's father

Mark Steyn's column about lo-brow vs hi-brow conservatism has raised hackles. He certainly has a point, and it's similar to Polistra's main theme. But Steyn doesn't hit the whole target.

It's not just within conservatism, and it's not just the forehead altitude of commentary.

The basic problem covers all realms of art, science and politics. Why don't we have hi-brow commentary? Because there is no hi-brow subject matter available to discuss.

I realized this, oddly enough, while listening to a 1946 episode of A Date with Judy. In this episode Judy wants to attend an evening lecture by an intellectual, and she wants her father to take her. Father gets pompous, saying: "It is true, Judy, that I try to keep abreast of the times; literature, art, politics..." Since this is a comedy, we know that Father's pomposity will be duly punished later, and we're not disappointed.

Consider: Keeping abreast of the times in literature, art, music and politics was a hi-brow pursuit, because there were hi-brow developments in literature, art, music and politics.

What do we have now? Sure, we have literature, art, music and politics, but the only parts available for Father to discuss are lo-brow. The formal or serious segments of the arts have destroyed themselves by total devotion to incestuous avant-garde ugliness, advancing the Soviet cause. If Judy's father wanted to learn something about these monstrosities, he couldn't penetrate the nonsensical jargon of the inner priesthood.

Science has split in a different way: plenty of important work is still proceeding, but the public face of science is nothing more than primitive, vicious and anti-logical bigotry against religion and Western civilization. If Judy's father wanted to read about the new developments, he would have to wade through a minefield of abuse and hatred against everything he holds dear.

Most importantly, politics has gone down the same road, though without the help of the academics. There is some rational thought, but it doesn't reach any medium that Judy's father could watch or hear. Dozens of important questions beg to be discussed, but the only thing we hear on TV and radio is mindless repetition of today's talking points.

Asshole General Holder and his minions at CNN endlessly repeat "We need more discussion of race." (By which Holder really means "C'mon you motherfucking ofay punks, make my Leninist day!")

And Rush leads the opposite charge with a wider variety of subjects, such as (1) Zero zip nada taxes for me and my fellow millionaires! (2) Zero zip nada taxes for me and my fellow millionaires! (3) Zero zip nada taxes for me and my fellow millionaires! (4) Zero zip nada taxes for me and my fellow millionaires!

Neither side ever asks whether we should restore American industry, though Obama tosses an occasional symbolic bone in that direction. Neither side ever asks whether school integration was good for black kids. Neither side ever wonders why it's no longer possible for an ordinary man to support a family with one income. Neither side ever proposes limiting lawsuits. Neither side can find the obvious answer to our health-care problem, though it's already available in France. Neither side can find the obvious answer to our energy problem, though it's already available in France.

If we were able to discuss these topics, we'd have more of a middle-brow political culture. But these topics are not allowed. Anyone who tries to discuss them is covered with Hazmat labels and surrounded with crime-scene tape.



 

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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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