Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Cross-posted from Gus Van Horn.

Perfect Send-up of Hillary!

Cox and Forkum must have read my mind when I heard about Hillary Clinton's ridiculous comparison of the House of Representatives to a plantation.

Blogroll Addition

Via Secular Foxhole, I have learned of yet another rather promising Objectivist blog of the political/social commentary variety, this one by a retiree in Detroit, who calls his blog Mike's Eyes. In this post, Mike's eyes close and he has a dream about division of labor.
I would like to tell you how I see news reporters in general. See, to me news reporters are akin to pizza delivery guys. When a pizza delivery guy is on my porch, I give him the money and he gives me the pizza and he leaves. He does not stand on my porch and give me an in-depth analysis of the nature of pepperoni and how it should be digested. That's not what I'm paying him for. It's also not what his boss is paying him for. Now if I call his boss and ask if it's ok for the guy to give me such an analysis, I'm sure he would agree, for a fee of course.
I enjoy looking at the world through Mike's eyes, whether they are open or shut. And now I'm blog-rolling Mike's Eyes. (I can hear the groaning already. Couldn't resist the silly pun.)

More on McCain-Feingold

I recently posted some thoughts related to the left's ongoing campaign to stifle freedom of speech, and two other bloggers in my neighborhood made further points that I think are worth mentioning. First of all, the Resident Egoist makes the following excellent point.
I'd like to note that this continuing loss of freedom in the intellectual realm is nothing but a consequence of the now almost-complete process of interpreting away the concept and principle of the sanctity of property rights from the Constitution. Without property rights, no rights can be practiced in reality at all ....
In addition to freedom of speech being attacked via property rights, it is worth noting, as Myrhaf does, the danger of the incremental nature of the attack.
Incrementalism is a very real threat to American freedom. Ben Franklin said "It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one tenth part." When the income tax started it was something like 1%. The politicians who suggested putting a cap of 10% in the law were laughed at; no one seriously thought the income tax would grow to such an outrageous burden as 10%! Today the top rate is, I believe, 39.6%. What would have sparked a revolution in the 18th century is accepted today.

That's why it matters to oppose laws such as McCain-Feingold. Once we learn to live with them, then the statists push for the next incremental intrusion on our rights. And then the next and the next....
And so we have a perfect storm brewing: Already-accepted violations of property rights are about to be used as an excuse to erode away our freedom of speech before we are any wiser.

And if none of this makes any sense to you, read the article at City Journal already!

And our corporations aren't being very helpful, either.

And on the subject of incremental attacks on freedom of speech coming from our government, some of the very beneficiaries of the confluence of Reagan's deregulation of electronic media and the computer revolution are busily undercutting freedom by aiding and abetting dictatorship. An article at The International Herald Tribune discusses which companies and how their flirtations with foreign despots will come back to haunt us here.
Some Westerners will shrug their shoulders, filing Internet censorship in their mental index of Chinese human rights violations. Despite its rapid economic expansion, they presume, China is at best a second-world country when it comes to sophisticated technology.

But Beijing has the very best help. Some of the world's most famous Internet companies have lined up to show China how to cripple the Web.

A partial list includes Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Cisco, Sun Microsystems and Skype. Each has its expertise. Google removes from its Chinese site whatever the Chinese deem politically sensitive. According to Reporters without Frontiers, "Cisco Systems has sold several thousand routers to enable the regime to build an online spying system and the firm's engineers have helped set it to spot 'subversive' key-words in messages."

In 2002, Yahoo signed a document called a "Public Pledge on Self-discipline for the Chinese Internet Industry." That agreement led to disaster for Shi Tao. Shi, 37, worked for a business daily. On April 30, last year, he was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for revealing a top state secret, to foreign Web sites. The secret was an official warning to the news media on the threat to China posed by dissidents returning to mark the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen killings. Yahoo and Cisco furnished the technology that permitted the security services to identify Shi.


Americans who think that in any event China is far away may be jolted by this suggestion from Rebecca MacKinnon, a former foreign correspondent in China now specializing in Internet censorship: "If these American technology companies have so few moral qualms about giving in to Chinese government demands to hand over Chinese user data or censor Chinese people's content, can we be sure they won't do the same thing in response to potentially illegal demands by an over-zealous government agency in our own country? Or will we all sit there like frogs in water being brought very slowly to a boil?"
This last paragraph is particularly alarming in light of the left's campaign finance jihad against freedom of speech.

The Ratchet of Statism

Only one thing can surpass both (1) the protracted effort some are willing to take to increase the power of the government, and (2) how quickly that power can expand, and that would be the epochal time scale needed to repeal such power once it is codified into law. Reader Hannes Hacker sent me the following story:
One of the charges [on a phone bill] is a 3 percent fee on every cell phone bill in America. The origin of the tax predates the invention of the cellular phone by nearly a century.

Annie Brinkman and her friend, Stacey Lemle, don't know it, but every time they use their cell phones, they are supporting the war effort -- the Spanish-American War.

The 1898 war involved Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders.

The fee began as a luxury tax on phones at the turn of the 19th Century. And we're all still paying for it today.
I'll take his word for it.

If you've ever wanted to go spelunking in the Moonbat Caves of Kos, but didn't want to deal with the guano, Myrhaf has a virtual tour for you. Hilarious.

Tech Notes

One of my new year's resolutions is to find ways to blog more efficiently. Thanks to this comment by the Resident Egoist, I am now able to save an enormous amount of time and headache in the matter of keeping up with the numerous blogs and news sources I like to follow. I am now using the web-based news aggregator Netvibes to keep up with most of the news sources I track all on one page.

This is so convenient in and of itself that it would be worth the effort for that alone, but it also can be set up to do numerous other useful tasks. For example, I have a the three-day forecast in one corner of the screen, a web search tool (preconfigured with my choice of Google, Yahoo!, Icerocket, or Wikipedia), and a to-do list. I just set this up yesterday and haven't even looked at all the other things Netvibes can do. (You could just about run your life with it already and lots of other features are in the works.) The interface is obscenely easy and unobtrusive. My main complaint is that its updating process occasionally will slow my browser to a crawl for a few seconds from time to time, but that is a small price to pay for the amount of time I don't have to spend clicking on blog links. A feature I wish it had, multiple pages, is on the way.

Today, I finally installed Firefox 1.5. I wasn't unhappy with my older version of Mozilla, but I was curious to see what the fuss was about. Big step up. By a happy coincidence, Curtis Weeks over at Phatic Communion happened to post about his experiences with a Firefox blogging plug-in called "Performancing". I have long been unhappy with the editing tool in Blogger, but not quite unhappy enough to migrate away. I came up with one plan to solve that problem, but it may be awhile before it will pay off. This might be a good stopgap (or even permanent) way to edit blog posts without all the hassles of Blogger.

I'd hoped to report on a test drive here, but I am still awaiting my email registration confirmation. Hmmmm.

Cinema Notes

Over at Literatrix, Jennifer Snow gives a very thought-provoking review of King Kong, which I have yet to see. I recall seeing the thing get uniformly (almost suspiciously so) glowing reviews before its release and then do the familiar huge first night followed by a sharp decline in revenues, typical of an over-hyped movie. And then this review by Scott Holleran sealed the deal for me. I decided I'd just skip it.

But now Jennifer's intriguing take has me wanting to at least rent it on DVD.
What is the theme of King Kong? Masculinity.

There is only one female character in the movie, Ann Darrow, and the plot revolves around her completely, but her only purpose is to provide a contrast so that you can understand the workings of masculinity in its proper context. Without anything to compare it against, namely, femininity, the idea of masculinity is meaningless. Femininity is not explored, but simply presented as a generalization in the person of Naomi Watts' character.

Each of the different male characters embodies some aspect of masculinity; all failed or succeeded to the extent that they approached the ideal. Jack Black's character Carl Denham was the perfect archetype of drive and ambition, ...
Very interesting, especially what she says about Kong. Read it all.

She also has posted a spot-on discussion of body "art".

Dalton's Law

I enjoyed this post by Andrew Dalton about how leftists use language.
Then I realized that there is a whole array of words and phrases like this: not only root cause, but also diversity, sustainability, and proportional response. All of these terms have broad meanings in everyday English. But when used by a leftist, they are actually Trojan horses for a specific worldview.
In the comments the question of what the various modified forms of "justice" (e.g., "social justice") came up. Dalton replied, "I was thinking of 'social justice,' too, but that's more conceptually complicated (i.e., the semantic trickery is more subtle) than the buzzwords that I mentioned."

Or perhaps, coming from the mouth of a liberal, all adjectives that modify abstract terms simply mean "not"....

Dropping Moral Context

Recently, but for the life of me I can't remember where, I read someone say of the Abramoff scandal that the focus on that lobbyist is causing people to forget about all the people who accepted the bribes.

Eric Scheie makes a similar observation in the realm of aesthetics.
O'Reilly's guest, one Clarence Jones, maintained that the [cultural] "cesspool" consisted of the usual gangster rap style music which degraded women. If he'd stopped there I'd certainly have seen his point, and I have absolutely no problem with people who dislike the cultural tastes of others condemning either them or their tastes. But this guy was not acknowledging that the rap music fans' taste was their own. Instead, he maintained that "industry executives" were responsible. [link dropped]
Isn't it interesting that the self-appointed elites both deride the taste of the unwashed masses and absolve said masses of responsibility for tastes?

How to Annoy a Libertarian

Nick Provenzo's answer is simple: "Have standards." He writes about reaction to a recent post of his about primitivist American Indians, and the context reminded me of an episode from my own life about a decade ago.

I was married to someone else at the time and her father was a Libertarian, and not one of the better kind at that. He had a marked tendency to proseletyze, especially to me even though I always made it clear I was not a Libertarian and was not interested. He would frequently, just to show that he lived up to his idea of "down-to-earth", I suppose, use epithets to describe Ayn Rand.

This often made familly gatherings quite annoying, but it yielded high entertainment value the last time I ever saw him. On this visit, he had decided to use my fractional Amerind heritage as a hook to get me interested in some Libertarian Indian activist. (Dan Means, if I recall the name correctly.) During his "Dan Means trip", I kept pointing out how the various stands this guy took contradicted individual rights. Finally, in frustration, he thundered, "This is not about individual rights."

Then he realized what he had said. His expression was priceless, not to mention the blessed silence that followed.

There was no need for me to say anything else. That conversation ranks as the most pleasant I have ever had with that sort of Libertarian.

-- CAV