You might have noticed a bit of slacking off here at The Happy Carpenter lately. That's because I feel exactly like my ol' blog buddy Porph does:
This is one of the things that has contributed to my lack of blogging recently. By no means the only reason I haven't blogged, but a significant one. Repeatedly having to rebut "BUSH LIED"! and all the other bogus distractions that act as a substitute for intelligent civic discourse is not my idea of the best use of time. I know it has to be done, and I can link to all the things, be they on WMD, intelligence, ties to terrorism (see below) and the like which refutes the litany, have done it before and likely will do it again, but this Sisyphean task grows wearisome.
Indeed. Plus, it's August. Go with it. Even though, down here in Florida, the kinder are back in school, it's still the summer doldrums. It's 93 degrees and 93% humidity, and the damn boat is sinking, so I've got to go.
Steyn is all over the place in this interview at RightWingNews. With a little rewriting to make it duller, this ought to become the Republican Platform for '08. A few nuggets (but you owe it to yourself to read the whole thing):
On the Israeli wall:
But the fact is what Israel is doing is the only thing that will force the Palestinians to get up off their allegedly occupied butts and run a state: the Israelis are walling off what they feel they need, or what they can get away with, and it will be up to the gangsters of Arafatistan to see if they now feel like dropping the jihad and getting on with less glamorous activities like running highway departments and schools.
On Old Europe
Well I'd say the Cold War in the end caused many of the irreconcilable differences. By guaranteeing the Continent's security, the US liberated most of Western Europe from the core responsibilities of nationhood. And if you treat grown-ups like children they’ll behave like children. It's essentially the American taxpayer, for example, who pays for European government health care, by assuming the defence costs for Germany, Belgium and so forth. The utopian welfarism of Europe has so corroded the basic impulses necessary for societal survival - ie, breeding - that I doubt anything can be done. But if the US seriously wanted to help it would accelerate the closure of all Continental bases.
[Nato] should be written off. It’s simply not worth the amount of diplomatic effort and negotiation required to crowbar military contributions to, say, Afghanistan that are smaller than those of the New Hampshire National Guard. For example, if you look at last year’s supposed triumph of multilateral cooperation, after the Secretary-General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, put the squeeze on Nato’s 26 members, they reluctantly ponied up an extra 600 troops and three helicopters for Afghanistan. That averages out at 23.08 troops per country plus almost a ninth of a helicopter apiece. And the helicopters went back after six months. What’s the point?
And to those who say that Nato is a harmless talking shop, no talking shop involving French officials is ever harmless. That's one battlefield those fellows know their way around.
Lot's more things I wanted to cut & paste, but it's getting late, so if you like Steyn, but especially if you don't know who he is, go read it yourself.
This guy, one of my heroes, makes so much sense with so few words it's scary. Sad that his words are not listened to more closely in Washington, and elsewhere.
Q: If the federal government does move to private accounts, does the $3 trillion that President Bush says he would have to borrow to get that moving cause a greater stress on the American economy?
A: No, because we already have that obligation. What we are talking about is replacing an unfunded debt with funded debt. We already have an obligation to all the people like myself who are currently on Social Security. The difference is it is not written out as funded debt. So when you talk about borrowing, they are not really changing the total government debt, they are only changing how much they recognize, and what is open and above board and how much of it is hidden in other funding. ...
Q: Since most of the immigrants to the United States are Mexican, what kind of effect is that having on the Mexican economy?
A: At the moment the Mexican economy is benefiting from the salaries that the Mexican immigrants are sending back home. The Mexican economy is, of course, losing its labor force, but the Mexican economy has not done a good job at creating jobs or job opportunities that these people would be suitable for. The real problem in Mexico is its policy as reflected in the whole economy. There is too much monopoly, too much regulation, too much restriction. All of that needs to be changed to get the Mexican economy growing at a rapid pace....
Q: Should the U.S. federal government look toward moving away from an income tax-based system to a consumption-based tax system?
A: That would be a very good idea. The disadvantage to taxing income is that it establishes a disincentive for savings, because income that is saved is going to be taxed twice. It is taxed initially when you earn it and save it, and again when (that savings) earns income, because that income is taxed again. With a consumption tax, you would tax it only once, when it is spent, not when it is saved.
Q: Do you believe like some people argue that that would put an unnecessary burden on the poor?
A: Who benefits from the saving? What's really helped the poor over the long period is having a productive economy with a larger amount of capital producing goods and services. The consumption tax, in so far as the people who receive an income don't spend it, in so far as they devote it to investment and savings, they are not eliminating what the poor have. On the contrary, they are building a platform that creates income for everybody....
Q: Do you think that as the U.S. moves to a service-based economy from a manufacturing based-economy that the country will continue to create the same type of high-paying jobs that the manufacturing sector did?
A: Absolutely. They have. Just look at the salaries that are being paid in Silicon Valley.
Let's go back to the basics. What is the real problem so far as the poor is concerned? In my opinion it is the lousy school systems we have, a school system in which something like a third drop out before they finish high school. And why do we have such a poor educational system? Because it is a government monopoly that, with the exception of some private schools, is run by the government, and like everything run by the government, it produces a product that is expensive and of a low quality. So if you want to do something about the poor, the most respective thing you could do would be to privatize the school system and allow parents to have a choice as to where their children would go to school.
Q: Nearly 50 years ago you were the first proponent of school vouchers. Why do you feel vouchers would help?,
A: Where in the country can you find a great advancement that has been produced by a government monopoly? All the great advancements we've had in automobiles, in telephones, the radio, you name it, all of those advancements have come about through private enterprise. Through competition in an attempt to make money from a better and cheaper product. But that has not been allowed to operate in the case of schooling. The government has monopolized the production of schooling. It's through parental choice that you will provide more competition. Then you will produce the kind of increase in quality that only private enterprise and competition is capable of doing.
Well worth reading the rest of the interview here.
Damn - I think this is my third time constructively quoting David Brooks from the Liberal Death Star. What the hell is wrong with me?
Before we get lost in the policy details, let's be clear about what this Social Security reform debate is really about. It's about the market. People who instinctively trust the markets support the Bush reform ideas, and people who are suspicious oppose them.
Fair enough. That is a large part of the difference. at least, that's the good, substantive part. The other part is the new Democrat determination to oppose absolutely anything President Bush wants to do about anything. I thought that might fade after the election, but it hasn't. Brooks continues:
The people setting the tone for the opposition to the Bush Social Security effort depict the financial markets as huge, organized scams where the rich prey upon the weak. Their phrases are already familiar: a risky scheme, Enron accounting, a gift to the securities industry, greedy speculators preying upon Grandma's pension.
Gone is the day when President Clinton could propose another plan diverting 15 percent of Social Security reserves into the stock market. Now the Democratic Party's tone is much more populist and even antibusiness. Harry Reid has begun his tenure as Senate minority leader by doing his best imitation of Huey Long: "They are trying to destroy Social Security by giving this money to the fat cats on Wall Street, and I think it's wrong!"
"Fat cats"? What kind of moron talks about "fat cats"? I mean, honestly! Does he really talk like that? I wasn't the only one who thought so -- Brooks:
What you hear these days is not liberalism. It's conspiracyism. It's the belief that the Bushite corporate cabal is going to do to domestic programs what the Bushite neocon cabal did in the realm of foreign affairs. It's the belief in malevolent and shadowy forces that will grab everything for their own greedy ends. This is Michael Moore-ism applied to domestic affairs, and it will leave the Democrats only deeper in the hole.
A strange aspect to the Democrat opposition to privatising social security is their hatred of the idea that any stock broker or investment banker might make money from it. Never mind that the tax paying retiree will be better off; they are opposed to anyone (other than themselves, and winos, I guess) making any money. What the heck is wrong with people making money if it's through free transactions where every body benefits? Feh. Brooks:
Hamilton and Roosevelt championed markets because they arouse energies, channel information, allocate resources and create enormous wealth. Plans to create private Social Security accounts aren't sops to the securities industry. They use the power of the market to solve an otherwise intractable problem.
Why has the Democrat party simply abandoned straight thinking? Brooks:
The outline of the problem is clear. When the Social Security program was created, there were 42 workers for each retiree. Now there are about three workers per retiree, and in 2030 there will be two. ...
I may be a complete idiot, but I actually believe that Democrats and Republicans can reach a grand bargain that includes personal Social Security accounts while addressing Democratic objections.
You already see some Democrats growing concerned over the perception that their party is trying to build a bridge to the 1930's. On Thursday, the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, struck a very different tone than her Senate colleague. She is willing to enter into discussions about Social Security reform with no preconditions. Meanwhile, a Democratic underground is forming, made up of members of Congress willing to consider a grand compromise with Bush to make the system solvent.
But then, as usual, Brooks goes off the tracks into Democrat-think. Just like with the war in Iraq,
Even the White House folks seem to know they can't do this without Democratic support.
Wrong. Actually, the Republicans can do pretty much anything without Democrat support. It's called "having a majority in the House, the Senate, and the White House."
Both my husband and I have found that when we explain to our students in college and high school how the Social Security system actually works today and how it would work with private investment accounts, they are overwhelmingly in favor of allowing individuals the right to invest some of their Social Security in the markets. This is not only the right thing to do - it's a winner politically if it can be made clear to people so that they can evaluate the demagoguery that the AARP will throw at the idea. (emphasis added)
And this is why we can now talk about reforming social security, when we couldn't 15 years ago -- New Media is here. The cartel of Old Media/MainStream Media has been broken.
New York - Boston's ALCS victory celebration proved short-lived last night, as a hastily-assembled New York State Supreme Court ruled 9-0 to overturn the Red Sox historic come-from-behind win over the Yankees.
The dramatic ruling, issued at 4:52 AM, noted that while losing the series 4 games to 3 the Yankees had actually outscored Boston 45 - 41, and that a Red Sox berth in the World Series would constitute "widespread disenfranchisement of the higher scoring, and clearly more popular, team."
The ruling also overturned a game six interference call against Yankee Alex Rodriguez, which it termed "an arbitrary and capricious ruling against a player who was perhaps, not coincidentally, of Hispanic origin." It ordered American League officials to manually recount the runs in series games 4, 5 and 6, as supervised by Michele Catalano.
The Yankees' 46-member legal team erupted into a wild celebration on the ruling, spraying the vinyl-draped court room with champagne. They were joined by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and the New York Supreme Court, wearing their traditional pinstripe robes.
It was another stunning victory for New York's famed "Murderers Row" of attorneys, who continued their dominance over the Red Sox legal department, compiling 48 consecutive court victories in the last 10 years while amassing a record 3.7 million billable hours. After the Yankees lost on the field 10-3 last night, they filed for an emergency injunction with the State Court, who were attending the game in Steinbrenner's private Yankee Stadium skybox.
Boston's attorneys vowed to appeal the ruling to the US Supreme Court, and to sue for several champagne-related slipping injuries. However, many longtime court watchers believe they will have a difficult time convincing the court to review the case.
"There are no constitutional issues at stake here, and with the World Series scheduled to begin Sunday there's no way a verdict can be rendered in time," noted Stuart Taylor of Lawsuits Illustrated. "Plus, the Yankees have solid case law on their side, such as Bambino and the landmark paternity suit Who v. Daddy."
A number of bloggers, including InstaPundit who furnished the link to the article/post at Tech Central Station which I am about to quote, have observed how strange it is to see in newspapers' political cartoons, letters to the editor, and editorials discussion of the Kerry Christmas in Cambodia story when the papers have not covered the story in their content. The papers are assuming, probably correctly, that their readers have learned about the story elsewhere and are now ready to kick it around. [UPDATE: Yahoo News, August 20: One poll found that more than half the voters questioned had seen or heard of an ad by Swift Boat Veterans For Truth that accuses Kerry of lying about events that earned him five medals in Vietnam a generation ago. The University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey also found that 44 percent of self-described independent voters found the ad very or somewhat believable. ]
This may not be a death rattle, but it is certainly a rattling cough. Mr. Frederick Turner’s arguments below are right on, but I have a few nits to pick. Keep them in mind while you read.
First, I think he misses the monopoly nature of the Mainstream Media, and the fact that monopolies always serve their customers poorly. In most markets outside of New York City, newspapers are actual monopolies. For instance, where I live in Pinellas County, Florida, the St. Petersburg Times has a monopoly. The Tampa Tribune has a tiny market share they cover with a tiny local insert, but the St. Pete Time’s monopoly is a fact. As to TV, it used to appear that there was competition between the networks, but since they were all singing from the same page, it was a weird kind of product monopoly with the competitive element reduced to packaging, i.e., who had the hottest info-babe and snappiest graphics. Then along came Rush Limbaugh and Fox News and the lid came off. Mr. Turner covers that well below.
My second nit to pick is I think Mr. Turner missed the point that there will always be, at least in this culture, a demand for the Truth. When it became obvious to independent thinkers that the Mainstream Media wasn’t providing the Truth, entrepreneurs stepped in and made a lot of money by providing it. Then bloggers jumped in and started providing it for free. The money here and the audience share have come at the expense of the Mainstream Media.
OK, done with nit-picking. On to Tech Central Station.
The "mainstream press" may be in the process of squandering a precious resource that its leaders no longer have the institutional memory to recognize as the source of its legitimacy and its living. In the last few years -- essentially since 9/11 plunged us into a new world, a new agenda, that the press did not understand -- the major organs of civilized journalism, once trusted by the billion most effective people on the planet, have given away their credibility upon a trifle.
Everybody now recognizes that such voices as CNN, the New York Times, the BBC, the Washington Post, the major TV networks, the New Yorker, the Guardian, etcetera, are now the express and all-but-explicit advocates of a very special point of view, one with specific political goals. Those goals are certainly different from those of al-Jazeera or the socialist press, but they are in their own way as coherent, exclusive, and unquestioned.
So, I'm at my Mom's house (dial-up internet connection, ye Gods! Akkkkkgggph! And a broke-in-half Microsoft keyboard to rub salt in the wound) and her isp is MSN. The lead story on the MSN page is a NewsWeek/MSN/MSNBC story about female infidelity. I've no doubt the authorettes and editorettes of the piece consider it fair and balanced, but it isn't. Here's a typical sentence:
The good news is that the wounds inflicted on a family by a woman's infidelity are not always critical.
No, not always, although elsewhere in the article it says that more than half of marriages in which the wife cheats end in divorce. Why, getting caught at cheating can be a great opportunity:
Therapists say couples often can—and do—get past it. Sometimes the husband sees it as a wake-up call and renews his efforts to be attentive. Sometimes, especially if neither party is too angry, too defensive or too far out the door, the couple can use it as an opportunity to air grievances and soothe old hurts.
Yeah, nothing like learning your wife is cheating on you soothes old hurts in quite the same way.
And under the heading "Protecting Kids", the gist is don't tell them unless they're old enough to know. And if they are old enough, like 15, then by all means tell them, and don't be a supporter of your partner's behavior, but don't put the kid in the middle of the fight, either. Right. No mention of this idea:
Everybody involved with that story should have a set of Dr.-Laura-Forever headphones surgically attached to their heads for as long as it takes for them to sincerely renew their marriage vows.
Hummingbird Finally, my first hummingbirds. Saw them on a fire bush in Crystal Beach, FL. My rental's neighbor's yard is all xeriscaped, which is ugly to me but just fine with the little hummers. At first, I thought they were the biggest hornets I'd ever seen.
Flamingo! One of these dudes flew right over my house. I couldn't believe it. And please don't tell me it was a roseated spoonbill because it was a frickin' flamingo, dude! Huge and pink and right there above me. I was like so freaking out, you know?
Falcon! Don't see these guys too often. Wish we did. Bet the morning doves don't.
Black Skimmer These beauties are getting scarce, but one flew by yesterday at low tide on the hunt for minnows.
Dead sea turtle cool, but smelly
Reddish Egret These have been hanging out around the pool quite a bit lately. Must be a new group of adolesent birds -- the youngsters like to hunt where the water is clear, and it takes them a day to figure out there are not now and never will be fish in the swimming pool no matter how clear the water.
Brown Pelican I saw a flock of about 200 of these at Disappearing Island yesterday, just south of Anclote Island on the west coast of FL. Good to see such a large flock.
Wood Pecker They've developed a sudden interest in the orange tree, which just went into bloom.