Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Quote of the Day.

Well, from the 20th of January, but still good!
Twenty-Six Years Ago Today: Reagan Becomes President and Iran Blinks

Wonder what they'll do next year when Hillary's sworn in?
From Empire of Dirt. Even though he's a McCain supporter, it's a good quote.
If You Need ANOTHER Reason Not to Pull the Lever for McCain...

Read the transcript of Glenn Beck's radio show from yesterday, or listen to all sixteen minutes of his interview of Michelle Malkin.

(h/t: Curmudgeonly & Skeptical)
Almost Exactly Right.

Instapundit linked to this Weekly Standard piece on the Thompson campaign that reads like something I wanted very much to write before he dropped out.

Good quotes:
In his recent memoir, Alan Greenspan says he's been pushing a constitutional amendment of his own devising. It reads: "Anyone willing to do what is required to become president of the United States is thereby barred from taking that office."
I'm a fan of that one myself, only I think it ought to apply to any federal-level elective office, and all state governorships.
(Thompson) was asked about it at a town hall meeting in Burlington, Iowa, in late December.

"Nowadays, it's all about fire in the belly," he said, with a touch of sarcasm. "I'm not sure in the world we live in today it's a terribly good thing that a president has too much fire in his belly."


"I'm not consumed by this process. I'm not consumed with the notion of being president. I'm simply saying I'm willing to do what's necessary to achieve it, if I'm in synch with the people and if the people want me or somebody like me. . . . I'm only consumed by very, very few things and politics is not one of them."
Those are good quotes, but the one that sealed the deal for me was his response to a question from a small-town newspaper reporter in Iowa:
What will you do for the farmers of Bremer County?

I would continue to enjoy the fruits of their labor. I've been looking all over Iowa for a bad steak and I can't find it. Been trying my best. It's not a matter of what I would do for the farmers. Farmers are not looking for a president to hand them something. Farmers want fair treatment and a chance to prosper in a free economy and that's what I would help ensure. There’s a lot of programs we've got out there, some of which are good programs, some of which are not. And I think that we need to work our way through that and make sure we're doing what's good for the country, not just the farmers, not just the people of Iowa, not just the people of Tennessee. But good for the country. A sound policy that makes sense. I think there's a lot more that we could do for the working farmer in terms of ecological programs and environmental programs - land conservation, soil conservation - that would be fair and it would be beneficial to the nation and to Iowa and to our country. We're going to have to phase out the corporate welfare system we've got, however. There are extremely rich people living in skyscrapers in Manhattan that are receiving subsidy payments. I think that's wrong. I'd put a stop to that if it was within my power. That still continues in this latest Farm Bill and it's not right. There ought to be a cutoff at some level and it's not right to have millionaires receiving farm subsidies.
That's the opposite of pandering, and it's a damned brave thing to say on a campaign trail.

Because it's truth - something politicians usually have very little experience with.
Asked about education reform, he said: "It would be easy enough for someone running for president to say: I have a several-point plan to fix our education problem. It's not going to happen. And it shouldn't happen from the Oval Office."
How often do you find honesty in a presidential campaign?

I recommend you read the whole piece. The only nit I have to pick is the repeating of the negative "silly hat" story that wasn't, but the gist of the whole piece is that Fred Thompson was the best man for the job because he's the only one qualified who ran and didn't really want it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Lesser of Evils.

As I've noted before, I sometimes listen to Hugh Hewitt on the way home from work. Today, of course, the show was all about the Florida election and about the two-man race for the Republican nomination. There's been a lot of talk about how much of a RINO (see below) John McCain is, but Hugh said that if McCain wins the nomination he will urge everyone to vote for McCain for six reasons:

John Paul Stevens, 87
Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 74
Antonin Scalia, 72
Anthony Kennedy, 72
David Souter, 69
Stephen Breyer, 69.

I'm almost convinced. But John McCain is the guy who said on Don Imus's show,
I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government.
John McCain swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. In that single sentence he proved that he lied when he took that oath. He's willing to do whatever he feels necessary to achieve what he believes is needed - and he is not willing to be constrained by the Constitution - the founding legal document of our government, and one expressly crafted to restrain that government.

So why should I believe that he'll nominate strict constructionists judges that will be likely to overturn any unconstitutional laws John McCain wants passed? Remember FDR and his threat to "pack the court" with judges that would rule his way?

Sorry. That reason doesn't fly with me, and it's the only reason that might have.
Another Awakening.

Check this story out (via Instapundit)
Anonymous Hackers Track Saboteur, Find and Punish the Wrong Guy

Anti-Scientology agitators have repeatedly harassed and threatened violence against a 59-year-old PG&E worker and his wife, who were mistakenly flagged as pro-Scientology hackers.

John Lawson, who lives in Stockton, California with his wife Julia, began receiving threatening phone calls around 2 a.m. Saturday morning. He didn't know why until THREAT LEVEL explained that a hacking group calling itself the g00ns (goons spelled with zeros, not goons with the letter o) posted his home address, phone number and cell numbers, as well as Julia's Social Security number, online. The obscene and threatening calls have continued through Tuesday, according to Lawson.

The calls are just one small offshoot of an ongoing, larger attack on the Church of Scientology by a ragtag group of internet troublemakers who call themselves Anonymous. The group says it is targeting Scientology in part for its use of litigation to suppress unflattering documents on the internet.

Over the weekend, the g00ns thought they had caught a hacker who had busted into a server being used to help coordinate the online attacks and real world protests against Scientology. But Lawson says the callers have the wrong guy.

"I don't even really know how to use a computer," Lawson said.

His phone just keeps ringing, Lawson said, and when he answers, callers spout vulgarities and threats and then hang up. On Monday, he got a call that seemed to originate from the Virgin Islands. The caller threatened to kill him.

"They have got the wife really scared because they have my address," Lawson said. "I think I am going to buy me a gun today just in case."
Think he'll be surprised about the 10-day waiting period and the difficulty near-impossibility of getting a concealed-carry permit?
Flowers for Algernon?.

If you're unaware, that's the title of a 1959 Science Fiction novella (one included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1) by Daniel Keyes that was made into the 1968 film Charly. In the story, surgeons alter the brain of a mentally retarded man, and he becomes brilliant - but only for a while.

I was reminded of that story by this:
Deep Brain Stimulation May Improve Recall

It brought back vivid, 30-year-old memories for patient, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Deep brain stimulation (DBS) may help improve memory, suggests a Canadian study that found that DBS of the brain's hypothalamus unexpectedly prompted detailed memories in a patient.

DBS -- which involves electrical stimulation of targeted brain areas -- is used to treat Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders, and is being studied as a potential treatment for a number of other conditions, including cluster headaches and aggressive behavior.

The team at Toronto Western Hospital was testing DBS as a potential appetite suppressant in a morbidly obese 50-year-old man. While the researchers were stimulating implanted electrode contacts in order to identify potential appetite suppressant sites in the hypothalamus, the patient reported a vivid memory of being in a park with friends when he was about 20 years old.

As the researchers increased the electrical stimulation, the memory became more vivid.

The heightened memory occurred again when the researchers repeated the test in a double-blinded setting. The electrode contacts that proved most effective at provoking memories were located close to the fornix, a bundle of fibers that carries signals within the limbic system, which is involved in memory and emotions.

In addition, electrical stimulation boosted activity in the temporal lobe and hippocampus, important components of the brain's memory circuit.

The researchers also found that three weeks of continuous stimulation of the hypothalamus led to significant improvements in the patient's results on two learning tests. He was also better able to remember unrelated paired objects during stimulation.

The study authors concluded that "just as DBS can influence motor and limbic circuits, it may be possible to apply electrical stimulation to modulate memory function and, in doing so, gain a better understanding of the neural substrates of memory."
Every day, Science Fiction becomes science fact.

Too bad more people don't enjoy the genre.
OMG.and WTF, Over?

I'm amazed these dogs don't maul their owners in their sleep, and Rachel Lucas has nothing to fear from Sunny. Here's a sample of what how some people abuse their pets. Click on the photo for the whole sordid tale.

Something tells me that these people need a life.
One Million.

Sometime tomorrow morning TSM will have received its one millionth site visit (according to Sitemeter.) Not bad for a third-tier gun blog.

Thanks, y'all.

Chris Muir nails it:

Monday, January 28, 2008

I Guess the Rumors of a Disorganized Campaign Were Right.

I got a letter in the mail today from "Friends of Fred Thompson." Click on the image for the readable version:

Check the date. Sheesh!

Sunday, January 27, 2008


I'm doing some blog maintenance, and ran across a post from January of 2004 that seems relevant. Let me repost it:
Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore were in an airplane crash.

They're up in heaven, and God's sitting on the great white throne.

God addresses Al first.

"Al, what do you believe in?"

Al replies, "Well, I believe I won that election, but that it was your will that I did not serve. And I've come to understand that now."

God thinks for a second and says "Okay, very good. Come and sit at my left."

God then addresses Bill. "Bill, what do you believe in?"

Bill replies, "I believe in forgiveness. I've sinned, but I've never held a grudge against my fellow man, and I hope no grudges are held against me."

God thinks for a second and says "You are forgiven, my son. Come and sit at my right."

God then addresses Hillary. "Hillary, what do you believe in?"

"I believe you're in my chair," she says.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Quote of the Day.
I like Cthulhu's foreign policy of killing everyone and consuming everything, but I don't agree with his domestic policy of killing everyone and consuming everything. Still better than Hillary. - "Sean" in a comment at Screw It.
That's some mighty fine snark, there.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bush Lied! Made False Statements. People Died! Assumed Room Temperature.

Resident liberal Markadelphia asked in a comment to The Church of the MSM and the New Reformation below: id=945

How, then, does the "liberal" media tells this story? These are facts, Kevin, and if the media is relaying these facts of the study is that a liberal bias?
My response:
Mark, ask yourself how the Catholic Church reacted to allegations of priests abusing women and children. There's your answer.

These are facts, Kevin, and if the media is relaying these facts of the study is that a liberal bias?

Isn't this a story about the failure of the media to do its job? I expect it to vanish from the face of the earth quite rapidly.

It's not a question of the media's liberal bias. It's a matter of questioning the media's authority. That is NOT ALLOWED.

Oh, and the silence of the media on this topic will, doubtlessly, be blamed on said media's "right-wing bias." "See? See?!?"
I forgot the other tactic - plausible deniability. Take, for example, this piece from yesterday's CBS News:
Interrogator: Invasion Surprised Saddam

Saddam Hussein initially didn't think the U.S. would invade Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction, so he kept the fact that he had none a secret to prevent an Iranian invasion he believed could happen. The Iraqi dictator revealed this thinking to George Piro, the FBI agent assigned to interrogate him after his capture.
Why on earth would Saddam not believe the U.S. would invade Iraq? Could it have been, say, eight years of Bill Clinton? The fact that Bush the Elder didn't do it? Constant assurances from France, Russia and China that they'd never give a green light to a UN Security Council resolution?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Piro, in his first television interview, relays this and other revelations to 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley this Sunday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Piro spent almost seven months debriefing Saddam in a plan based on winning his confidence by convincing him that Piro was an important envoy who answered to President Bush. This and being Saddam's sole provider of items like writing materials and toiletries made the toppled Iraqi president open up to Piro, a Lebanese-American and one of the few FBI agents who spoke Arabic.

"He told me he initially miscalculated... President Bush’s intentions. He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998...a four-day aerial attack," says Piro. "He survived that one and he was willing to accept that type of attack." "He didn't believe the U.S. would invade?" asks Pelley, "No, not initially," answers Piro.
You remember 1998, right? Operation Desert Fox? Where Clinton lied made false statements like:
Other countries possess weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. With Saddam, there is one big difference: He has used them. Not once, but repeatedly. Unleashing chemical weapons against Iranian troops during a decade-long war. Not only against soldiers, but against civilians, firing Scud missiles at the citizens of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iran. And not only against a foreign enemy, but even against his own people, gassing Kurdish civilians in Northern Iraq.

The international community had little doubt then, and I have no doubt today, that left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again.
This situation presents a clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere. The international community gave Saddam one last chance to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors. Saddam has failed to seize the chance.

And so we had to act and act now.
First, without a strong inspection system, Iraq would be free to retain and begin to rebuild its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs in months, not years.

Second, if Saddam can crippled the weapons inspection system and get away with it, he would conclude that the international community -- led by the United States -- has simply lost its will. He will surmise that he has free rein to rebuild his arsenal of destruction, and someday -- make no mistake -- he will use it again as he has in the past.
Those lies false statements.

Continuing with the CBS piece:
Once the invasion was certain, says Piro, Saddam asked his generals if they could hold the invaders for two weeks. "And at that point, it would go into what he called the secret war," Piro tells Pelley. But Piro isn't convinced that the insurgency was Saddam's plan. "Well, he would like to take credit for the insurgency," says Piro.

Saddam still wouldn't admit he had no weapons of mass destruction, even when it was obvious there would be military action against him because of the perception he did. Because, says Piro, "For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that [faking having the weapons] would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq," he tells Pelley.

He also intended and had the wherewithal to restart the weapons program. "Saddam still had the engineers. The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there," says Piro. "He wanted to pursue all of WMD. . .to reconstitute his entire WMD program." This included chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, Piro says.

It took nine months to finally capture Saddam, and he bragged that he changed his routine and security to elude capture. "What he wanted to really illustrate is. . .how he was able to outsmart us," says Piro. "He told me he changed. . .the way he traveled. He got rid of his normal vehicles. He got rid of the protective detail that he traveled with, really just to change his signature."
Yup. Bush lied told falsehoods. He said words like "certain" and "know" when he ought to have said "possible" and "believe."

Fucking murderer.

We'd have been far better off just dropping the sanctions against Iraq that were killing the children, and ending the "no-fly zones," bringing our airmen home. We could trust that Saddam wouldn't do anything untoward. He didn't have any WMDs.

I question the timing of the CBS story whitewash.

And that Center for Public Integrity report? I find it fascinating that not one Democrat got painted with the same brush:

UPDATE: The original JSKit/Echo comment thread is available here, thanks to John Hardin.
Quote of the Day.
It just occurred to me that one of these jokers — Clinton, McCain, Obama or Romney — is going to be the next President. It’s almost enough to make one pine for the old days of Bush v Gore. - Vodkapundit
That's not the QotD, though. This is:
In my lifetime we've gone from JFK to Gore. In my lifetime we've gone from Ike to GW Bush.

If this is evolution, in few years we're going to be voting for PLANTS!
- Comedian Lewis Black just prior to the 2000 election.
The devolution proceeds apace.
I Had Not Considered That...

From the local morning AM Talk Radio show:
Jamie Lynn Spears has decided to give up her baby - you probably hadn't heard about this, but Brittney's little sister got pregnant at 16, and has decided to put the kid up. I'm a little old to be a new parent, but hey, I'll check eBay to see what she gets for it. - Jim Parisi

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Quote of the Day for Tomorrow.

(Since I already have a QotD for today.)
I'd like to think things are near some sort of conclusion...but I think we have quite a bit more horror to go through yet.
Comment by "jamie" at this Free Market Fairy Tales post.

Yup. The razor-blade ride ain't over yet, and the alcohol bath is still a long way down. And we're right behind you.
Plinking with 105's.

Some people have all the fun. Mostly Cajun relates a story from his career as a tank wrangler.
Screw It.

(For those who don't get the reference, click the image.)

Quote of the Day.

Tam, on the anniversary of the birth of John Moses Browning:
Were he alive today, he'd be 153. And we'd have frickin' death rays.
And possession of said death rays would be verboten to anyone but employees of Federal, State, or Local .gov.

Your local IRS agent could carry one, but you couldn't.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Aaaaaaand HaloScan is Down.

So no comments until they get that fixed.

Fair enough. No posting for a while from me, either.
An Older Quote.

One I've cited here before, by Rev. Donald Sensing from December of 2003:
I predict that the Bush administration will be seen by freedom-wishing Americans a generation or two hence as the hinge on the cell door locking up our freedom. When my children are my age, they will not be free in any recognizably traditional American meaning of the word. I’d tell them to emigrate, but there’s nowhere left to go. I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free.
I'm beginning to think the good Reverend is a prophet himself.

Quote of the Day.

By commenter Kresh, to the post immediately below:
It's rough to enjoy the fall of civilization when it hurts to run. Still, needing a walker means you always have a shooting bench with you!
A Statement from Fred Thompson
Posted on January 22nd, 2008
By Sean Hackbarth in Statements

Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people.
I've already early-voted for Fred in the Arizona primary, since I will be in Austin, Texas on Super Tuesday.

Here's the deal: I've about had it with the political process. While normally I would pull the lever for the nominee with (R) next to his name if for no other reason than Supreme Court nominees, I don't know that I can bring myself to do that this year. Instapundit comments about "teaching the Republicans a lesson" that they seem immune to learning. I'm not concerned about that now. I know they won't learn. I know that the people running for office who actually have a chance of winning shouldn't be given access to the levers of power.

I'm at the point where I know things can and probably will go as they have gone in the petri-dish of the UK, and I don't see any way to stop it. I'm at the point where I almost - almost - want to help pull it all down.

FV@K IT. I'll write-in Thompson on election day.

All hail President Clinton.

Edited to add:

For what we are about to receive, may we be truly thankful.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Quote of Immortal Quote.

(Hat tip to Irons in the Fire for this one)
Short of assassination there is little people can do when their political masters have forgotten the true meaning of the democracy of which they are forever prating, are determined to have their own way at all costs and hold public opinion in contempt. - The last testament of Flashman's creator: How Britain has destroyed itself, by George McDonald Frasier
Read the whole thing. And remember that Britain is a petri-dish of what the Left our political masters wish to "accomplish" here. (Edited because both the statist Left and statist Right want to accomplish the same thing, they just differ on who should be in charge.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Church of MSM and the New Reformation

"You know, I wanted to sit on a jury once and I was taken off the jury. And the judge said to me, 'Can, you know, can you tell the truth and be fair?' And I said, 'That's what journalists do.' And everybody in the courtroom laughed. It was the most hurtful moment I think I've ever had." – Diane Sawyer, Good Morning America, 7/12/07
For those who've been reading TSM for a while, you know I adhere to the belief that the media is most definitely biased - print, radio, and TV. I am not alone in that perception, as the majority of the population agrees with me. Interestingly, however, while most believe the bias is in favor of the political Left, many on the political Left believe the bias is toward the political Right.

While I'm inclined to shake my head in wonder at that worldview, something leads them to that conclusion.

At any rate, that there is a perception of bias is undeniable, and there is strong statistical evidence. Pew Research polls of journalists consistently find that a significant portion self-identify as liberal, far more than do conservative. A May, 2004 issue of Editor and Publisher contained this commentary:
Those convinced that liberals make up a disproportionate share of newsroom workers have long relied on Pew Research Center surveys to confirm this view, and they will not be disappointed by the results of Pew's latest study released today. . . .

At national organizations (which includes print, TV and radio), the numbers break down like this: 34% liberal, 7% conservative. At local outlets: 23% liberal, 12% conservative. At Web sites: 27% call themselves liberals, 13% conservatives.

This contrasts with the self-assessment of the general public: 20% liberal, 33% conservative. . . .

While it's important to remember that most journalists in this survey continue to call themselves moderate, the ranks of self-described liberals have grown in recent years, according to Pew. For example, since 1995, Pew found at national outlets that the liberal segment has climbed from 22% to 34% while conservatives have only inched up from 5% to 7%.
Note the language: "journalists... call themselves." We'll come back to this.

But this perception received its first widespread national attention with the publication of an op-ed by CBS journalist Bernard Goldberg, which eventually became his 2002 book Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, an unapologetic (and somewhat bitter) exposé. The original op-ed was prompted by a CBS Evening News segment done by reporter Eric Enberg on February 8, 1996. That piece was one of CBS's special "Reality Check" segments, and (1996 being an election year) Eric chose to cover millionaire candidate Steve Forbes and his "flat tax" plan.

From the first chapter of Bias:
Not exactly a sexy subject. So what's the big deal, I wondered. But as I watched the videotape, it became obvious that this was a hatchet job, an editorial masquerading as real news, a cheap shot designed to make fun of Forbes - a rich conservative white guy, the safest of all media targets - and ridicule his tax plan.

Still, blasting the flat tax wasn't in the same league as taking shots at people who are against affirmative action or abortion, two of the more popular targets of the liberal media elites. How worked up was I supposed to get...over the flat tax?

But the more I watched the more I saw that this story wasn't simply about a presidential candidate and a tax plan. It was about something much bigger, something too much of big-time TV journalism had become: a showcase for smart-ass reporters with attitudes, reporters who don't even pretend to hide their disdain for certain people and certain ideas that they and their sophisticated friends don't particularly like.
Goldberg then goes on to dissect the piece in detail. In conclusion, he says:
I don't believe for a second that Eric Enberg woke up that morning and said "I think I'll go on the air and make fun of Steve Forbes." The problem is that so many TV journalists simply don't know what to think about certain issues until the New York Times and the Washington Post tell them what to think. Those big, important newspapers set the agenda that network news people follow. In this case the message from Olympus was clear: We don't like the flat tax. So neither did Eric Enberg, and neither did anyone at CBS who put his story on the air. It's as simple as that.
This echoes a quotation from Robert Bartley, former editor emeritus of the Wall Street Journal from about the same time:
The opinion of the press corps tends toward consensus because of an astonishing uniformity of viewpoint. Certain types of people want to become journalists, and they carry certain political and cultural opinions. This self-selection is hardened by peer group pressure. No conspiracy is necessary; journalists quite spontaneously think alike. The problem comes because this group-think is by now divorced from the thoughts and attitudes of readers.
It's only gotten worse. One recent poll (take it as you wish) reported:
(J)ust 19.6% of those surveyed could say they believe all or most news media reporting. This is down from 27.4% in 2003. Just under one-quarter, 23.9%, in 2007 said they believe little or none of reporting while 55.3% suggested they believe some media news reporting.
I'd call that "being divorced from the thoughts and attitudes" of the audience.

Goldberg writes:
Jerry Kelly from Enterprise, Alabama, spotted the bias in the Enberg report. Jerry Kelly spotted the wise guy and the one-sidedness. And Jerry Kelly is a general building contractor, not a newsman.

Who didn't find anything wrong with Enberg's piece?

First off, Enberg didn't.

His producer in Washington didn't.

The Evening News senior producer in Washington didn't.

Jeff Fager, the executive producer of the CBS Evening News in New York didn't.

His team of senior producers in New York didn't.

Andrew Heyward, the CBS News president and Harvard Phi Beta Kappa, didn't.

And finally, Dan Rather, the anchorman and managing editor of the CBS Evening News didn't.

Not one of them spotted anything wrong with a story that no one should have let on the air in the first place.
Bernard Goldberg, a guy who didn't know Steve Forbes, who didn't care much about his flat tax plan, a guy who had never voted for a Republican presidential candidate in his life, a journalist who had been complaining to his coworkers and bosses about just this sort of abuse of the power of journalism for years - without result - got angry. He got angry enough that he took his complaint outside CBS. He wrote an op-ed, clearly stated as such, that was published in the Wall Street Journal using the Enberg piece as an example of what he saw as an unconscious but systematic and pervasive bias in media that was a disservice to the public that the media is supposed to inform. And he signed his name to it.

He was promptly scourged.
A few hours after I faxed the op-ed to the Wall Street Journal, I got a call back from an editor named David Asman (now with the Fox News Channel.) He told me he liked the piece and that "We're going to run it next Tuesday."

"Be prepared," I sighed, "to run my obituary next Wednesday."
He wasn't far from wrong, but it was his career that ended up on life-support.

Also published in 2002 was iconoclastic journalist John Stossel's book, Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media Stossel's book is much less bitter, and focuses less on bias, but he does have some interesting things to say. From Chapter 1:
I was once a heroic consumer reporter; now I'm a threat to journalism.

As a consumer reporter, I exposed con men and thieves, confronting them with hidden camera footage that unmasked their lies, put some out of business, and helped send the worst of them to jail. The Dallas Morning News called me the "bravest and best of television's consumer reporters." Marvin Kitman of Newsday said I was "the man who makes 'em squirm," whose "investigations of the unjust and wicked... are models." Jonathan Mandell of the New York Daily News quoted a WCBS official who "proudly" said, "No one's offended more people than John Stossel."

Ah, "proudly." Those were the days. My colleagues liked it when I offended people. They called my reporting "hard-hitting," "a public service." I won 18 Emmys, and lots of other journalism awards. One year I got so many Emmys, another winner thanked me in his acceptance speech "for not having an entry in this category."

Then I did a terrible thing. Instead of just applying my skepticism to business, I applied it to government and "public interest" groups. This apparently violated a religious tenet of journalism. Suddenly I was no longer "objective."

Ralph Nader said I "used to be on the cutting edge," but had become "lazy and dishonest." According to Brill's Content, "Nader was a fan during Stossel's consumer advocate days," but "now talks about him as if he'd been afflicted with a mysterious disease."

These days I rarely get awards from my peers. Some of my ABC colleagues look away when they see me in the halls. Web sites call my reporting "hurtful, biased, absurd." "What happened to Stossel?" they ask. CNN invited me to be a guest on a journalism show; when I arrived at the studio, I discovered they'd titled it "Objectivity and Journalism - Does John Stossel Practice Either?" People now e-mail me, calling me "a corporate whore" and a "sellout."
Keep in mind the part I emphasized in bold.

I recently finished reading a very interesting book, by coincidence also published in 2002, The National Rifle Association and the Media: The Motivating Force of Negative Coverage by Professor Brian Anse Patrick, whom I've written about here before. The initial topic of the book was a study of how the NRA manages not only to survive, but thrive in an environment in which it is given nearly universally negative coverage in the media. Of course, to make a study of this topic, it is first necessary to prove that such bias exists. Bear in mind, this is a research dissertation, it is not light summer beach reading. Professor Patrick performed a rigorous statistical study, and details it with data and thorough footnotes. The basis of the research is the study of what he terms the "elite press," differentiated from the "mainstream media" and the "local media," and defined as follows:
(T)he serious papers and/or magazines of political-social reporting and analysis that enjoy national (or at least regional) and sometimes international status, reputations, and circulations.
These are identified as New York Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report. The coverage of five special interest groups was studied in detail: The National Rifle Association (NRA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), and Handgun Control (HCI - before it was absorbed into the Brady Campaign).

The study examined multiple variables: the amount and proportion of quotations from group officials printed; amount of coverage of events staged primarily for media consumption; the use of photographs in articles; the use of proper titles of officials of the organizations; "personalization" - in which subjects are treated sympathetically or unsympathetically as opposed to straight factual reportage; use of derisive headlines; use of satire or mockery; verbs of attribution (e,g.: "said" vs. "alleged"); "democracy themes" in which stories concentrate on how special interest groups circumvent or work within the democratic process; "group intensity" themes (self-explanatory); "growth-dwindle" themes - stories that comment on the membership changes in the target group; editorial tone and semantics: labeling ("lobby" versus "special interest group or the like); and "science-progress" themes, in which some attention is paid to whether the group in question is working with or against the latest in research or recognized social progress.

That's a pretty broad spectrum.

The results were quite fascinating.

First, the results were quite uniform. There was a definite hierarchy in coverage from most-negative through neutral (you know, "objective") to most-positive. The rankings were as follows, from most negative to most positive:
The NAACP ended up neutral primarily because of the mix of positive coverage of its activities and negative coverage of its scandals. The AARP received some negative coverage due to its lobbying activities on behalf of its membership - a negative on the "democracy theme" scale, but overall it scored positively. The ACLU - acknowledged by most as a bastion of liberalism, scored noticeably negative throughout the spectrum of parameters, however. But if there is a pervasive liberal bias in the media, how can this be explained?

Professor Patrick concludes that a bias quite evidently exists, and it is pervasive, but it is not defined as being politically liberal. From Chapter 7:
I suggest that a larger concept lies behind all of these measures of interest group coverage. Certainly the measures all indicate, each in its own way, media bias in some discreet aspect of coverage. Bias does not stand alone, for bias in small, seemingly discreet things exists as a manifestation of something larger. Or put another way, bias exists for or against some particular thing, person, group, idea, or constellation of ideas but this bias must arise from within a frame of reference. Thus, mainstream physicians tend to despise homeopathic and "natural" medical treatments, not because physicians harbor some innate dislike of herbs or treatment through visualization, but because physicians have been trained and thoroughly enculturated in a scientific clinical positivism. Their bias is a manifestation of this deeply inculcated way of seeing (which they call examination) and interpreting the world.

So (what) do the rankings reveal about whatever may be inculcated in the interpretive heart of journalism? For one thing, it leads to the dismissal of some common explanations of elite media bias. Certainly, it is by now evident from the content analysis results alone that elite journalists who wrote the articles considered in this study do not on the whole care for the NRA or guns: there is too much evidence in the form of their own words, works, and statistical significance tests to ignore. Many would therefore ascribe these reportorial tendencies to that venerable bugaboo, liberal bias or to simple anti-gun bias, as NRA officials and many political conservatives often in fact do. Why, then, should ACLU, a "leading liberal champion" according to some of the content-analyzed articles, also find itself so often shaded by negative coverage? ACLU remains and has been since its origin, very much a left-leaning organization, with "ultra-liberal" often a term applied to it. While on the matter of guns, despite ACLU being denounced at times as constitutional rights absolutists, ACLU explicitly does not support the individual right to bear arms interpretation of the Second Amendment; they are anti-gun by proclamation. If the predominant bias of the elite press were liberal or simply anti-gun, ACLU would be highly revered. So the liberal and anti-gun bias concepts illuminate nothing here.

It is not that liberal-conservative bias does not affect coverage at times. Or that other forms of bias do not exist. One would have to be naïve to the point of addle-headedness to believe otherwise. Elite journalists tend to identify themselves with politically liberal causes, and personal idealism cannot possibly be segregated from the interpretation of events. Doubtless, too, old fashioned economic concerns have killed many a news story. Many discern in the national media, some on the basis of good evidence a conservative bias supporting economic imperialism and mindless consumerism.

Additionally, the powerful forces of personal psychological projection interact with the amorphous nature of external events that media professionals must daily interpret, in ways that allow just about everyone to see what they need or want to see in the media. The Left sees bias for the Right; Right sees Left; schizophrenics and the devoutly religious see the Hand of God, devils, or aliens at work; we could also list racism, sexism, internationalism, and the exploitation of women and girls, men, animals, and classes. There are bugs and bugaboos in the media appropriate to nearly every orientation or fixation. So bias is often not just about what affects coverage, but also what affects perceptions of coverage.
(Hmm... is Professor Patrick intimating that the devoutly religious are mentally ill?) OK, all of that leads up to this:
That elite media may be biased for or against a particular issue or topic is interesting, and this knowledge may help an interest group rally indignation or manage its public relations; however it tells little about the overall functioning of media in society. This latter concern is the broader and more important idea, with larger implications. The overall ranking results provide such an explanation.

The larger concept that lies behind the consistent ranking is a broad cultural level phenomenon that I will label an administrative control bias. It has profound implications. Administrative control in this usage means rational, scientific, objective social management by elite, symbol-manipulating classes, and subclasses, i.e., professionalized administrators or bureaucratic functionaries. The thing administered is often democracy itself, or a version of it at least. Here and throughout this chapter terms such as "rational," "objective," "professional," and "scientific" should be read in the sense of the belief systems that they represent, i.e. rationalism, objectivism, professionalism, and scientism. Scientism is not the same as being scientific; the first is a matter of faith and ritualistic observance, the other is difficult creative work. William James made a similar distinction between institutional religion and being religious, the first being a smug and thoughtless undertaking on the part of most people, the second, a difficult undertaking affecting every aspect of a life. The term scientistic administration would pertain here. Note that we move here well beyond the notion of mere gun control and into the realm of general social control, management and regulation.
Does any of this sound familiar? "Central planning," anyone?

The Editor & Publisher quote above, which notes that the Pew Research poll is based on journalist's self assessment was plucked from an Instapundit post. A comment Glenn found worthy left at that post:
One point that can't be overstressed is that the Pew findings are based on self-assessment. I worked in the newsroom at three large newspapers for 22 years, and many of the journalists who rate themselves as politically moderate are well to the left of center, especially on social issues. They are moderate by newsroom standards, not by the general public's standards.

Perhaps the most pervasive way in which journalists are different from normal people is that journalists live in a world dominated by government, and they reflexively see government action as the default way to approach any problem.
Professor Patrick continues:
This administrative control bias is the manifestation of a hermeneutic that could be termed "the administrative gaze," honoring the style of Michael Foucault. This interpretive view organizes, manages, objectifies, implements, and looks downward in such a way as to beg administration or clinical-style intervention. Too, it is a basic power relationship, or an attempt at one, for such is the nature of all management....


In illustration of how the administrative control bias plays out in the national news coverage of interest groups and social action, imagine a valence scale with a neutral midpoint, anchored at one end by a pro-administrative control position, and at the other by an anti-administrative control position. The interest groups figuring in this study can be situated along this scale in exactly the same order as they embody or align with the idea of administrative control; and this ranking precisely matches the ranking of their respective average scores on the content analysis measures.

Of the five groups, NRA necessarily anchors the negative end. The very existence of the potential for uncoordinated violence represented by guns is a threat to an administrative control hermeneutic. Guns simply invite administration.


Next up the administrative control scale is ACLU, which because of its mission must often position itself "athwart the road" chosen by administrative ambition. While not flaunting the administrative control hermeneutic to the same extent as NRA with its inherently dangerous firearms, ACLU often confounds administrative attempts to implement efficiently rational, scientific policies in educational settings, workplaces, law enforcement interactions, prison environments, and other social institutions. Accordingly, the underlying theme of much of its coverage is ACLU frustrating rational democratic administration by its pursuit of abolutist visions of constitutional rights of individuals and groups. That ACLU is also a well-known champion of the First Amendment - which embodies a principle that is in the self-interest of journalists to endorse and understand - is doubtlessly helpful in ACLU receiving more favorable treatment than NRA.


At the top of the scale, HCI represents the essence of the administrative hermeneutic. It stands for scientific management or rational control and regulation of a problem quite often framed as a general public health concern.


Although this study deals with five interest groups, this result generalizes to elite news coverage of other interest groups. In the form of a proposition, then: an interest group will in the long term receive negative, neutral, or positive coverage in elite media in accord with how well the group aligns with the administrative control hermeneutic.

This proposition could be put to a larger test, but it applies to any number of interest groups or interest group-generated issues common to elite news.
He then mentions a few: environmental groups, anti-smoking, anti-drug, and anti-drunk driving (and alcohol) groups.

If Professor Patrick is correct in his assessment (and I believe he is), journalists see themselves as the clergy in the Church of State:
Previous to objective journalism, baldly partisan news media were the norm; under objectivity news became a scientific tool of social progress and management. The elite press continues also to serve this function, connecting administrators and managers not only ot the world they seek to administrate but also to other managers with whom they must coordinate their efforts. So in this sense social movement-based critiques have been correct in identifying a sort of pseudo-pluralism operating in the public forum, a pluralism that is in reality no more than an exclusive conversation between elite class subcomponents - but this over-class is administrative in outlook and purpose.

We should not think of this way of thinking and interpreting reality as an entirely deliberate process. We are dealing here with the diffusion of a hermeneutic that accompanies an organizational and cultural style, a scientific management method of proven effectiveness, with wonderful social benefits and also terrible side effects. Journalists, like everyone else, steep in this hermeneutic throughout their education and upbringing; moreover they work in and serve organizations that arose in response to administrative needs. High-level journalists especially have survived a rigorous selection process that favors those who are most suitable and effective for this environment. Journalists are probably no more conscious of the hermeneutic that fish are conscious of the water around them.
And here I will disagree with the good professor.

It is often said that "the exception proves the rule." One exceptional exception, the aforementioned John Stossel, credits his journalistic iconoclasm thusly:
In retrospect, I see that it probably helped me that I had taken no journalism courses.
Thus preventing him from being steeped in the journalist mindset that Robert Bartley (you remember Robert? Quoted near the beginning of this essay?) spoke of.

But unaware of it? Not exactly. They're aware of the bias, absolutely. Of the reason for it, possibly, even probably not. From Bias, after warning CBS News president Andrew Heyward of the upcoming Wall Street Journal op-ed and its contents:
When Heward called me in it was obvious that steam was coming out of his ears. What I had done, he told me, was "an act of disloyalty" and "a betrayal of trust."

"I understand how you feel," I told him, trying to diffuse a bad situation. "But I didn't say anything in the piece about how even you, Andrew, have agreed with me about the liberal bias."

Instead of calming things down, my comment made him go ballistic. "That would have been like raping my wife and kidnapping my kids!" he screamed at me.


This is how self-centered the media elites can be. These are people who routinely stick their noses into everybody else's business. These are people who are always telling us about the media's constitutional right to investigate and scrutinize and a lot of times even embarrass anyone who winds up in our crosshairs. These are the people who love to take on politicians and businessmen and lawyers and Christians and the military and athletes and all sorts of other Americans, yet when one of their own writes an opinion piece about American Journalism, then you've crossed the line . . . because taking on the media is like raping their wives and kidnapping their kids!
Or nailing up 95 Theses to the door of the New York Times.

Heward's response isn't isolated either. Here's what Professor Patrick had to say about attempting to interview journalists for his book:
Although I had accurately anticipated the reluctance of NRA officials in releasing information about the activities of their organization, I did not anticipate a general reluctance and the outright refusal of some journalists to explain their activities. Most of the journalists would not return calls when they were contacted and asked to participate in the study. Callbacks did not help. Neither did assurances of anonymity help to reverse the refusals. The non-response rate, thus defined, is almost 95 percent.


The journalists contacted had no tolerance whatsoever with a survey research-style questionnaire, however short and to the point. Based on their reactions, my impressions are, first that the subject of the survey - journalists and interest group coverage - is a sensitive area for journalists, as well it should be considering the inevitable tension that must exist between journalistic professional standards (and pretensions) and the journalistic dependence for material on interest group pseudo-events and news sources. To use an old but apt idiom, in this case asking specific questions concerning their attitudes on the groups they covered seemed to hit them where they lived; they became very cagey very quickly. At this point almost all withdrew their consent, though they had to this point seemed comfortable with the general idea of the survey.

Second, they seemed hypersensitive to what ends the survey might be directed, and did not like the fact that they were not being told everything up front. In the words of one journalist, "Where are you going with all of this? I need to know before I can continue."
After all, they might find out they were appearing on a TV show asking if they practiced either objectivity or journalism. In fact, they feared that Professor Patrick might be (metaphorically) planning on raping their wives and kidnapping their children.

Back to Journalists as clergy:
Journalists acquire importance in the mass democratic system precisely because they gather, convey, and interpret the data that inform individual choices. Mere raw, inaccessible data transforms to political information that is piped to where it will do the most good. Objective, balanced coverage becomes essential, at least in pretense, lest this vital flow of information to be thought compromised, thus affecting not only the quality of rational individual decision-making, but also the legitimacy of the system.

Working from within the perspective of the mass democracy model for social action it is difficult to specify an ideal role model of journalistic coverage other than a "scientific objectivism" at work. An event (i.e., reality) causes coverage, or so the objective journalist would and often does say. Virtually all of the journalists that I have ever talked with regard coverage as mirroring reality.
"Mirroring" being an particularly apt description, as author Michael Crichton describes much of journalism as being made up of "wet streets cause rain" stories.
They truly seem to believe this, that they have access to information to which philosophers and scientists have been denied. I spoke once to a journalist who worried out loud about "compromising" her objectivity when covering a story.
You mean like this?
The claim being advanced here, by assumption, is that journalists can truly convey or interpret the nature of reality as opposed to the various organizational versions of events in which journalists must daily traffic. The claim is incredible and amounts to a Gnostic pretension of being "in the know" about the nature or reality, or at least the reality that matters most politically.

An ecclesiastical model most appropriately describes this elite journalistic function under mass democracy. Information is the vital substance that makes the good democracy possible. It allows, as it were, for the existence of the good society, a democratic state of grace. Information is in this sense analogous to the concept of divine grace under the pre-Reformation Roman Catholic Church. Divine grace was essential for the good spiritual life, the life that mattered. The clergy dispensed divine grace to the masses in the form of sacraments. They were its intermediaries, who established over time a monopoly, becoming the exclusive legitimate channel of divine grace.
No wonder Diane Sawyer felt hurt when she was laughed at by an entire courtroom.
Recollect that the interposition of intermediaries, the clergy, along a vital spiritual-psychological supply route was the rub of the Reformation. The clergy cloaked themselves in the mantle of spiritual authority rather than acting as its facilitators. Many elite newspapers have apparently done much the same thing, speaking and interpreting authoritatively for democracy, warranting these actions on the basis of social responsibility. Of course, then and now, many people do not take the intermediaries seriously.
Sorry, Diane.
It is not accident, then, that the pluralistic model of social action largely discounts journalists as an important class. In the same way the decentralized religious pluralism generically known as Protestantism discounts the role of clergy. This should be expected. Pluralism and Protestantism share common historical origins. American pluralism particularly is deeply rooted in the Reformation's reaction to interpretive monopoly.

Journalists, particularly elite journalists, occupy under mass democracy this ecclesiastical social role, a functional near-monopoly whose duty becomes disseminating and interpreting the administrative word and its symbols unto the public. Democratic communication in this sense is sacramental, drawing its participants together into one body. We should not overlook the common root of the words communication, community, and communion.
Not to mention communism.
What might be termed as the process of democommunication has aspects of transubstantiation an interpretive process by which journalists use their arts to change the bread and wine of raw data into democratically sustaining information. Democracy is a kind of communion. Objectivity and social responsibility become social necessities, legitimating doctrines much like the concept of papal infallibility, which had to emerge to lend weight to interpretive pronouncements.

In this light, even the laudable professional value of objectivity can appear as a nearly incredible claim. Both claims, objectivity and infallibility, function to lend credence, authority, and an impeachment-resistant moral/scientific base to organizational or professional products. Both are absolute in nature. Both also serve the quite necessary social function of ultimately absolving from personal responsibility or accountability the reporter, whether ecclesiastical or secular, who is, after all, merely duty-bound to report on the facts. As it is in heaven, so it will be on Earth; and as it is on Earth, so shall it appear in The New York Times.
So it isn't just gun control. And, as with gun control, it isn't about guns, it's about control. When Bernard Goldberg nailed up his version of the 95 Theses, he was ostracized. When John Stossel started questioning the efficacy of administrative control, he absolutely "violated a religious tenet of journalism."

The New Reformation is coming about because the populace is sick and tired of op-eds written as straight news. We're tired of being fed bullshit and being told it's steak. More and more of us are aware we're being lied to - and you know what? The Left is being lied to, too. I'd venture to guess that the nature of their objections is more along the lines of things not happening fast enough, but their most recent objections were to the media's complicity in the ramp-up to the Iraq war - and they were right to object. The media wasn't being "objective" - they were advancing the administrative control hermeneutic.

Viewed from that perspective, it all makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

ORIGINAL JSKit/Echo COMMENT THREAD  Thank you, John Hardin!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Neo-Neocon Alert!.

If you have not read Neo-Neocon's ongoing series A Mind is a Difficult Thing to Change, I strongly recommend you do so. There are fourteen posts so far. She's recently picked it up again, and expects there will be at least eight more posts before it's complete. I strongly recommend it. Start here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another Long Essay Coming.

I worked on it most of the evening, but it isn't finished. It needs some extensive rework. Hopefully it will be up tomorrow. If not, don't expect to see it until Sunday.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Silly Mike. She'd Never Hold the Gun Herself.

(Click for full size)

That's why IRS agents are armed!

And why she supports gun control.

(Mike Ramirez, Investors Business Daily)

UPDATE: I looked for this associated image before posting the above, but a kind reader gave me the link (Image courtesy of the incomparable Oleg Volk.)

(Click for full size)

The Hell with a $9.50 Minimum Wage!

This is REAL vote-buying! (Courtesy of Unix-Jedi via email.)
Barack Obama Advisers Unveil Economic Stimulus Plan

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama unveiled an economic stimulus plan sunday that he said would provide tax relief for middle income families and help jump start an economy he said was showing signs of slowing.The plan, which would immediately inject $75 billion into the economy and retain $45 billion in reserve to be used over the next three months if necessary, was presented Sunday by Obama advisers Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, former Clinton Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, and economic adviser Austan Goolsbee.
Only in Washington D.C. can a person simply wish $120 billion into existence, and (with a straight face) say that they're holding "$45 billion in reserve" because they're not handing it out right away. It's the vote-buying equivalent of saying that a 5% spending increase is really a 4% budget cut because the original request was for a 9% increase.

What chutzpah! And they say Obama has no experience!
The plan, they said, is one Obama would not only enact if elected, but one he is asking Congress and the president to pass now.
So that Bush can veto it. Or not. (See update below.)
Obama's plan would provide immediate tax relief and help offset a coming economic slowdown being signaled, he believes, by the recent .3 percent jump in unemployment rates, advisers to the campaign said Sunday.
A 0.3% increase on a current unemployment rate that is about 5% - a rate that prior to the Bush administration translated as "full employment."
Obama supporter Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia said the plan addresses both long-term growth and immediate concerns, and shows Obama understands the importance of education, technology, and a thriving small business sector.
Wait... How does giving out $75 billion in tax refunds (with another $45 billion in reserve) equal understanding "the importance of education, technology, and a thriving small business sector"? The recipients are going to study up on which big-screen TV they're going to buy from the local Big-Box store?
The main difference between Obama's plan and that being offered by his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton, is that Clinton's plan would not be able to kick in immediately.
What, she's not offering more bucks per vote?
Obama's stimulus plan has four components to prevent recession:

1. Cut $250 checks for some 150 million low and middle income workers and send them out. If needed, send out an additional $250 per worker, totaling $500 for these workers

2. Likewise, send $250 to seniors earning under $50,000 as a Social Security supplement, and and prepared to send out a second $250 payment
"Need" being determined by how well Obama is doing in the primaries?
3. Establish a $10 billion fund to help “responsible” families avoid foreclosure. The money would be given to homeowners who did not lie about their incomes and were “mindful of personal responsibility.”
As determined by some harried Federal contract employee? Who is responsible for all of this? Do we get another billion-dollar bureaucracy to administer this program?
4. Provides money to state and local governments hardest hit by housing crisis to prevent them from slashing infrastructure and other important state spending.

5. Expand unemployment insurance.
What, Obama's not going along with Edwards' $9.50/hr minimum wage initiative?
Asked how Obama would pay for the package, Goolsbee said the point was to get the money immediately into the economy, and that while it could increase the deficit in the immediate term, macro macro economic experts agreed it would prevent a costly recession in the long-term.
Then why not send out $1,000 checks? $10,000 checks? After all, we must avoid a costly recession!
The advisers said the $45 billion reserve could be used to offset the possible effects high oil prices could have on the proposed breaks.
"Economic stimulus."


Pull my other leg.

UPDATE: (*sigh*) $250? Hell, let's go for $800! And Bush (last I checked) isn't even on the ballot!

Now I'm with Milton Friedman when it comes to tax cuts (never oppose them, ever), but tax "rebates" is another topic. Hey, if Congress wants to give me $800 of my money back, I'm fine with that, I still need to buy a scope for my long-range rifle. But apparently tax cuts aren't immediate enough. It's not acknowledgment that the .gov took too much of our money last year and now needs to give some of it back, it's just a "temporary correction" they'll tax as income next year.

But why do I think that the legislation is going to carry a name like "The Obama-Clinton-Edwards Economic Stimulus Package"?
I Want to Show This to Everybody I Know.

Random Nuclear Strikes has found a cartoon you couldn't find a single studio willing to make today. Strongly recommended. (It's full of "jingoism," Markadelphia.)
I Don't Want Large Cities Electing Our President.

The Geekwitha.45 details how the opposition is attempting a legal end-run around the Electoral College system, and why it benefits no one but the political Left. It is a descent into direct democracy.

It's a must-read if you don't live in a major metropolitan area.

(If you do live in a major metropolitan area, have someone read it to you and explain it while you look at the pretty pictures.)
Quote of the Day.
or: I Can Believe That
“(T)hey could cut Hillary open from head to toe and I wouldn’t get sick or faint”. - Bill Clinton
Taken deliberately out of context from here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Amusing Meme.

(Via Tam. Rules here.) My version:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Including "Happiness" on the National Spreadsheet.

Tight on the heels of my piece Freedom and Equality comes this bit of news out of France (via Eternity Road):
French President Wants to Include Happiness in Measures of Nation's Economic Growth
Which means Sarkozy A) has no grasp of economics, or B) wants to deflect bad news by sleight-of-hand. You have three guesses, and one of them can be "all of the above."
PARIS (AP) -- What price happiness? French President Nicolas Sarkozy is seeking an answer to the eternal question -- so that happiness can be included in measurements of French economic growth.

He's turned to two Nobel economists to help him, hoping that if happiness is added to the count, the persistently sluggish French economy may seem more rosy.
"Seem" being the operative word here. And if two Nobel-winning economists are involved in it, they ought to have their medals revoked.
"It reflects a general feeling in Europe that says, 'OK, the U.S. has been more successful in the last 20, 25 years in raising material welfare, but does this mean they are happier?'" said Paul de Grauwe, economics professor at Leuven University in Belgium.
Meaning "we envy the Americans their cars, their homes, their plasma TVs, their..."
"The answer is no, because there are other elements to happiness," said Grauwe, once a candidate for the European Central Bank governing council.
And now you know why he didn't get the job.
In terms of gross domestic product, the internationally recognized way of measuring the size of an economy, French growth lagged behind the U.S. throughout most of the 1980s and '90s and in every year since 2001.
What?? In that socialist worker's paradise which has the best universal health care system in the world??

How can that be?!?!?
Although recent turmoil in financial markets may hit the U.S. economy harder, the loss of speed in the world economy's biggest player will also drag down growth in France. Economists say growth may fall short of the government targets this year.
Read that: "Growth may fall short of the already lackluster targets this year."
Sarkozy's move raised questions about whether he wants to ward off disappointing growth numbers as a rise in oil and food prices combined with a slowdown in the U.S. clouds the effect of his economic reforms.
He's got nothing else up his sleeve.
Since his election in May he has sought to boost growth, notably by encouraging people to work longer than the much maligned 35-hour week.
A move I'm certain that has gone over about as well as changing the law to allow employers to fire slackers did.
Sarkozy has often appeared impatient with the French economy's lackluster performance, once declaring: "I will not wait for growth, I will go out and find it."
"And failing that, I will fake it!"
Frustrated with the what he termed Tuesday "the growing gap between statistics that show continuing progress and the increasing difficulties (French people) are having in their daily lives,"
...otherwise known as reality...
Sarkozy said new thought should be given to the way GDP is calculated to take into account quality of life.

At a news conference Tuesday, Sarkozy said he asked U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel economics prize and a critic of free market economists,
...and free market economics...
and Armatya Sen of India, who won the 1998 Nobel prize for work on developing countries, to lead the analysis in France.
Which is now relegated to the status of a "developing country."
Sen helped create the United Nations' Human Development Index, a yearly welfare indicator designed to gear international policy decisions to take account of health and living standards.
Would that include measures like ones that rank countries higher if their health care systems are paid for by the State, regardless of how well they perform?
Once the preserve of philosophers, measuring happiness has now become a hot topic in economics.
Where it absolutely doesn't belong.

Heinlein again:
Expertise in one field does not carry over into other fields. But experts often think so. The narrower their field of knowledge the more likely they are to think so.
Obviously that never stopped anyone.
A recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development considers taking into account leisure time and income distribution when calculating a nation's well-being.
Right. So if all the money is equally distributed and nobody works, that's the best possible score?
And the European Commission is working on a new indicator that moves "beyond GDP" to account for factors such as environmental progress.
Words. Fail. Me.
Richard Layard, a professor at the London School of Economics and author of the 2005 book "Happiness: Lessons from a New Science," said Sarkozy may be seeking recognition for policies, popular in Europe, that promote well-being but don't show up in the GDP statistics.

Governments are rated on economic performance, and this influences policy in favor of boosting GDP, the value of goods and services produced over a calendar year, he said.

"But people don't want to think they live in a world of ruthless competition where everyone is against everyone," Layard said. "Valuable things are being lost, such as community values, solidarity."
They "don't want to think" it, eh? Sounds familiar. Over here they call themselves the "reality-based community."
His book shows that depression, alcoholism and crime have risen in the last 50 years, even as average incomes more than doubled.
And taxes have done... what, exactly?
Jean-Philippe Cotis, the former OECD chief economist who took over as head of France's statistics office Insee two months ago, said Wednesday that a measure of happiness would complement GDP by taking into account factors such as leisure time -- something France has a lot of.
Which explains why their growth is so slow.

And I'm not even an economist!
France's unemployment rate is stubbornly high, and when French people do work they spend less time on the job -- 35.9 hours per week compared with the EU average of 37.4.
And the American average of...? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Cotis said he looked forward to a "passionate" debate beyond the traditional realms of his science.

"Statisticians are also interested in happiness," he said.
Especially since they are totally unable to quantify it.
And so, it would seem, are presidents.
Basking in the happy glow of new love with model-turned-singer Carla Bruni, Sarkozy showed on Tuesday that his concern for happiness is universal.

A president, he said, "doesn't have more right to happiness than anyone else, but not less than anyone, either."
I've seen pictures of his babe. YOWSA! You can bet HE'S happy.

But just remember one thing, Sarko. No matter how beautiful she is, someone somewhere is tired of her shit. (I kid! I kid!)

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Via Dave Hardy. The Justice Department has filed a brief in the Heller case. The Justice Department is asking the Court to overturn the Appeals Court decision and allow D.C. to keep its gun ban. The grounds? The Appeals Court used a "strict scrutiny" level of review.

Apparently the Bush Justice Department is in agreement with the ACLU's Nadine Strossen on this one:
(T)he fact that something is mentioned in the Constitution doesn't necessarily mean that it is a fundamental civil liberty.
Now I know why my name is on a list.
Well, Hell, John. Why Not Make it $20? Or $50?

I just heard John Edwards on CNN tell Wolf Blitzer that the Federal minimum wage should be raised to $9.50/hr.

And this guy's running for President.

Hey!.I'm On a List!

I'm in California. The company I work for has its head office here, and they flew in all of the satellite office people for the 2007 "Holiday" party. I just left the party.

But I learned something interesting. I'm on a TSA list. I couldn't get my boarding pass electronically yesterday. I had to check in at the counter. Apparently someone at the TSA thinks I require additional scrutiny, or so I was told by the airline counter worker. If I want to do anything about it, I need to contact

That settles it. When I get home, I'm going to buy one of these.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Freedom and Equality

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need - Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Program - 1875
Sounds nice, doesn't it? It sounds fair. It sounds equal.

I was reminded of this by a comment (again) by our lone Leftist, Markadelphia. Specifically, this partial line:
My point was that if you want to have true equality in this country...
Interesting point.

Interesting because I don't want "true equality".

That may shock some of you. Let me explain.

The Declaration of Independence states:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
All men are created equal. We are all born equal. It's a fundamental founding principle of this nation and one I expounded on a bit in That Sumbitch Ain't Been BORN! a while back. It's the belief that no man, no matter how much he's worth or how far back he can trace his ancestors is better than anyone else because of it. But this concept has been distorted by the philosophy of egalitarianism, coming out of revolutionary France and, at a guess, the writings of Rousseau. For far too many people, "egalitarianism" means equal in all things. That's the meaning Mark has.

In a comment before the first one referenced he said this:
I would have no problem if the rich paid the same amount of taxes next year that they did this year. In fact, how about if they pay less? No problem....only it has to be a law that every taxpayer...and I mean EVERY FUCKING TAXPAYER...regardless of how much money they make gets the exact same level of legal and financial advice that the top 5 percent get.

So, Joe Smith, annual salary of 20k a year gets the same legal team and financial team that Warren Buffet gets as a buffer between anyone or any institution trying to take their money. Now, I know that you are thinking that I am thinking that the government should be pay for it...but no sir, not at all. All of the white collar criminals (lawyers, accountants etc) serving time in our prisons will be put to work, for time off their sentence, to help these people for free. It's a win-win. And here's the best part...

Joe Smith will be able to rip off the government, sneak around laws, fuck people over and end up with all the same perks that rich folk get. Well, what do you think?
Well, what I think is that's a raw and blatant example of the politics of envy. It's also an example of someone with absolutely no grasp of economics (as other commenters proceeded to point out.)

But it's apparent that Mark thinks the unequal distribution of wealth in this country is unfair, dammit!

In short, Mark is convinced that rich people are rich only because they "sneak around laws" and "fuck people over." I hate to say it, but this is typical of my experience with people on the Left, especially ones who believe that they've chosen a career that's meaningful and important (and woefully undercompensated because of RICH FUCKING REPUBLICANS!). Typically these people are journalists, teachers, Federal Park employees, etc. They believe they fulfill a crucial role in public life - in those examples, informing the electorate, educating the electorate, and defending the environment - that is underappreciated. It's a sacrifice they're willing to make for the betterment of society, but that doesn't stop them from wondering why they can't afford a 52" plasma TV, or why the NEA can't negotiate a better health care plan.

We're all supposed to be equal, right?

Well, no.

You see, nobody seems to pay much attention to the last part of Thomas Jefferson's immortal line.

We have, Jefferson says, inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That's a modification of the inalienable rights list that philosopher John Locke wrote of in his Two Treatises on Government. Locke listed them as "Life, liberty, and property," but I think Jefferson's genius won out. In Dinesh D'Souza's What's So Great About America he writes:
In America your destiny is not prescribed; it is constructed. Your life is like a blank sheet of paper and you are the artist. This notion of being the architect of your own destiny is the incredibly powerful idea that is behind the worldwide appeal of America. Young people especially find the prospect of authoring their own lives irresistible. The immigrant discovers that America permits him to break free of the constraints that have held him captive, so that the future becomes a landscape of his own choosing.

If there is a single phrase that captures this, it is "the pursuit of happiness." As writer V. S. Naipaul notes, "much is contained" in that simple phrase: “the idea of the individual, responsibility, choice, the life of the intellect, the idea of vocation, perfectibility, and achievement. It is an immense human idea. It cannot be reduced to a fixed system. It cannot generate fanaticism. But it is known [around the world] to exist; and because of that, other more rigid systems in the end blow away."
More of that "jingoism," eh, Mark?

An inalienable right to "pursue happiness" means freedom. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" means control. No one can tell you what will make you happy. You may, in fact, never find it. Your life may serve only as an example to others of what failure looks like, but you are free to pursue whatever you think might bring you happiness.

That freedom, that immense human idea, is what has made America what it is. It is responsible for the vast wealth we have made here. It has drawn the best minds from every culture around the world, fired their imaginations, and it has made people rich.

Instead of admiring this, instead of pursuing it themselves, the Left hates it, because everyone is not equal. Milton Friedman had something to say on the topic:
A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.
Guaranteeing equality requires management. Someone must be in charge of determining inequality and righting it. It is, as I mentioned to Markadelphia, an old and well recognized problem. It is the Procrustean bed, and someone must take the role of Procrustes. Human nature being what it is, well, "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely." But freedom? It merely requires people to get the hell out of the way.

There's still a role for government. Enforcing contracts, settling disputes, establishing reasonable limits. Friedman had something to say about that as well:
The existence of a free market does not of course eliminate the need for government. On the contrary, government is essential both as a forum for determining the "rule of the game" and as an umpire to interpret and enforce the rules decided on.
But that government should be strictly limited:
Political freedom means the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men. The fundamental threat to freedom is power to coerce, be it in the hands of a monarch, a dictator, an oligarchy, or a momentary majority. The preservation of freedom requires the elimination of such concentration of power to the fullest possible extent and the dispersal and distribution of whatever power cannot be eliminated — a system of checks and balances.
And we forget this at our peril:
Because we live in a largely free society, we tend to forget how limited is the span of time and the part of the globe for which there has ever been anything like political freedom: the typical state of mankind is tyranny, servitude, and misery. The nineteenth century and early twentieth century in the Western world stand out as striking exceptions to the general trend of historical development. Political freedom in this instance clearly came along with the free market and the development of capitalist institutions. So also did political freedom in the golden age of Greece and in the early days of the Roman era.

History suggests only that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition.
I don't want "equality," but I'm not for going back to the days of serfdom, either. I want freedom, because with it can come a level of equality you can't get any other way.

All people are born equal - squalling babies unable to care for themselves - but they don't stay that way. America was founded as the nation where everyone gets to pursue happiness, to avoid having your life prescribed for you. It may not lead to "true equality," but there is literally no such thing. There can't be. "True equality" requires someone to decide what each person's abilities are (put the peg in the designated slot, whether the peg wants to go there or not) and what each person's needs are.

But who gets to be the "equal" of the person or people who make those decisions? Orwell understood that problem well. Some are, under that system, inevitably "more equal" than others.

UPDATE: Markadelphia responds. I reply.