Category ►►► Malicious Mutterings & Miscellany
May 15, 2013
Does it seem that the current Power Line line reduces to, "Another terrible scandal in the Obama administration? Good Lord, Republicans are doomed!"
Friend Lee says, "Barack Obama is the most Nixonian president since Franklin Roosevelt."
Yeah. Think about it.
September 26, 2012
Greasing My Spindle Number [increment(previous whatever)]
This running series of random thoughts was inspired thirty or forty years ago by John Hinderaker's similarly titled series on Power Line. It's where I put all the news that unfit to print.
Today's installment comprises an argumentative analogy and an illuminating analogy.
First, the snarky one: The Left does not want the people to rule; it wants to rule in the name of the people. For their own good. Because it knows best.
That is, the Left is an abusive husband: No wonder so many women won't leave it, no matter how many times the Left assaults, neglects, belittles, and subjugates them.
We need an intervention! (Or a cop.)
Second, the analogy that makes you go "hm": The admitted point of "quantitative easing" (QE) -- wherein the Federal Reserve "buys" debt by creating fiat money and using it to purchase Treasury bills, thus "monetizing" the debt -- is to trade debt for inflation; that is, the Fed conjures magical money, fairy gold, out of thin air to pay off the nation's debts; play money taints and devalues real money (more dollar bills chasing the same amount of wealth), so the net effect is that money isn't worth as much as it used to be. Thus, inflation.
Let's think about this. Suppose you have a couple of credit cards, a gold card and a diamond card. Your monthly payment is $500 for each card.
In month one, you take a $700 cash advance from the gold card and use that to pay $600 on the diamond, keeping $100 for yourself; that same day, you take a $700 cash advance from the diamond card and use that to pay $600 on the gold, keeping $100.
In month two, you do the same... except you take a little more than $700 from the gold card, because the minimum payment is now slightly higher. (You added $100 to your card last month, taking a $700 cash advance and paying only $600; and the card issuer also added some more to your balance via interest.) Once again, for your cash advance, you take the minimum payment add $200; you keep $100 and pay the rest to the diamond card. On the same day, you do just the same with the other card, taking the minimum payment plus $200 as your cash advance from the diamond card, and paying $100 less than that to the gold, keeping your customary $100 per transaction.
Continue ad infinitum. Since you always pay more than the minimum balance, you never get in trouble. But of course, as these monkeyshines continue, your balance mounts higher and higher.
In real life, you eventually hit your credit limit; the game is then over, and you must come up with a whopping huge payoff.
But it appears I forgot to mention one crucial point: By an amazingly fortuitous twist of fate, you yourself are the official in charge of setting credit limits on both gold and diamond cards.
Therefore, whenever it seems necessary, you raise your own credit limit to keep from hitting the wall. Abra cadabra! Thus you never have to pay your balance, you can keep drawing money out of the kitty in perpetuity, and the card issuer gets more than the minimum payment every month -- everybody's happy!
Well, except for the stockholders in the bank that issued your credit card. Which, in the real world, as opposed to our analogy, are the ordinary schlubs whose incredibly shrinking money is not accompanied by incredibly rising wages; so the actual purchasing power of the ordinary person plummets, dragging quality of life in its wake.
In the endgame, money becomes as worthless as fallen leaves, and we have "hyperinflation," where the inflation rate can rise as high as 3.5 million % per month (as in the Weimar Republic in Germany at its worst, where prices doubled every other day). Everybody's a millionaire while starving to death.
I know I must be missing something somewhere; because if my analogy is accurate, then all these QEs would be nothing but Ponzi schemes that mathematically must eventually collapse (because there is a finite amount of real money on the planet) -- and the Federal Reserve Board would be nothing but a gang of counterfeiters.
And surely such a preposterous conclusion triggers a reductio ad absurdum.
October 28, 2011
More Kwick Kicks...
This is the kind of title I use for little blogic squibs, too short to compose an entire blogpost but too long for Twitter. (That is, even if I used Twitter, which I don't, so I ain't.)
Here's a quiz. Assume you are in the bottom quintile of income; which of the follow two scenarios would you prefer?
- The income of the top earners in the country drops markedly, while your own income remains steady, thus dramatically shrinking the "income gap."
- The income of the top earners doubles, while your own income only increases by 25%, thus increasing the income gap between you and the fat cats.
If you answer (a), then I think we've discovered why you're in the bottom quintile in the first place!
Conservatives generally don't believe atheists who say God doesn't exist. So why do so many conservatives turn around and believe those selfsame atheists when they say that accepting evolution requires you to believe God doesn't exist?
Isn't that akin to PETA's argument that, if you reject the idea that animals have souls, then you must immediately begin torturing animals?
Speaking of lightswitch thinking, either we drop everything and yank all troops out of Iraq immediately, regardless of consequences -- or we remain in Iraq unto the end of days as imperial occupiers!
Good golly, Miss Folly; I can't even imagine a single alternative policy... can you?
December 10, 2008
I found an article on improving brain function biochemically, instead of by, say, higher education, sexual abstinence, and ideological purity of essence -- three proven failures. "Smart pills," that is to say.
Some earthbound IQs on both left and right are wringing their hands at the very idea of boosting intelligence or concentration via psychopharmacology; but as an old student of Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson (I took multiple multi-day seminars from each over a number of years), it's old home week for me.
The ethical questions such intervention raises are interesting; but ultimately, I don't think the neophobes (a.k.a., Luddites) have an argument to stand on: There is nothing inherently unethical about making people smarter, though I agree that smartening up alone will not solve our most pressing problems.
It would certainly help, though; I consider intelligence increase to be a necessary but not sufficient component of evolving the human race into something more advanced. (For the killer arguments on this issue, I call your attention to Poul Anderson's early novel, Brain Wave, 1954.)
Here is the somewhat shallow and ham-fisted way the Associated Press "analyzed" the questions:
Healthy people should have the right to boost their brains with pills, like those prescribed for hyperactive kids or memory-impaired older folks, several scientists contend in a provocative commentary.
College students are already illegally taking prescription stimulants like Ritalin to help them study, and demand for such drugs is likely to grow elsewhere, they say.
"We should welcome new methods of improving our brain function," and doing it with pills is no more morally objectionable than eating right or getting a good night's sleep, these experts wrote in an opinion piece published online Sunday by the journal Nature.
Needless to say, in this dark age of science, the idea of better thinking through chemistry has stirred up a hornet storm:
Some health experts agreed that the issue deserves attention. But the commentary didn't impress Leigh Turner of the University of Minnesota Center for Bioethics.
"It's a nice puff piece for selling medications for people who don't have an illness of any kind," Turner said.
Note the implication: If you don't have what Ms. Turner would call an "illness," you have no business altering yourself chemically. How liberating!
I personally consider stupidity a disease caused by a malfunctioning brain, leading to a lack of intelligence that society would be well advised to eradicate, if it can. But the same holds true for sociopathy -- which I envision as a lack of empathy leading to amoral, criminal, or unethical behavior.
In reality, civilization would be immensely benefitted by increasing both intelligence (chemically or otherwise) and traditional morality, which must go hand in hand, or catastrophe ensues:
- Increasing intelligence without increasing morality leads to a world of Adolf Eichmanns and A.Q. Khans;
- But increasing morality without increasing intelligence leads to a world of Prince Charleses and PETA-people, well-intentioned dimwits who do just as much damage as the mad scientists; how? By successfully palming off their own follies and foibles onto the nation as a whole.
I say hurrah for increasing intelligence! Or to put it in a Learyesque context, hurrah for Space Migration, Intelligence Increase, and Life Extension (SMI²LE), by any means necessary. So long as we simultaneously work just as hard to increase traditional moral understanding -- also necessary but not sufficient, and upon which our entire civilization of freedom, liberty, Capitalism, and individualism is built.
December 7, 2008
Knicks & Knacks II
Today on Power Line, John Hinderaker once again takes up the sensuous man's burden in praise of beauty pageants. Anent the Miss World competition, now underway, he writes about one of the beauties, whose picture he emplaces below the paragraph...
Nevertheless, excitement is beginning to mount. With serious wagering now in progress, betting odds have taken shape. The original favorite, as reflected here, was Miss Ukraine. That's not too surprising, given the home stage advantage that we often see in beauty pageants. What is remarkable is that, notwithstanding the shift in locale, Miss Ukraine still rates second as a betting favorite (as always, click to enlarge).
Click to enlarge? You think you, uh, might rephrase some of those phrases? Hindrocket?
Going to war with the Army you wish you had
So President Barack Obama evidently chose his new Secretary of Veteran's Affairs primarily to poke a finger in Donald Rumsfeld's eye, at least according to AP:
Shinseki's tenure as Army chief of staff from 1999 to 2003 was marked by constant tensions with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which boiled over in 2003 when Shinseki testified to Congress that it might take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the invasion.
Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, belittled the estimate as "wildly off the mark" and the army general was forced out within months. But Shinseki's words proved prophetic after President George W. Bush in early 2007 announced a "surge" of additional troops to Iraq after miscalculating the numbers needed to stem sectarian violence.
Obama said he selected Shinseki for the VA post because he "was right" in predicting that the U.S. will need more troops in Iraq than Rumsfeld believed at the time.
How many misstatements, fabrications, and misunderstandings can an author squeeze into a single article? Here are four from a scant three paragraphs:
- George W. Bush did not "miscalculate" how many forces he needed; the president was presented with one strategy that needed a certain number of military personnel... and when that strategy wasn't working, he was presented with a different strategy that required a slightly larger number of military personnel. In both cases, Bush supplied the troops that his generals requested.
- Gen. Eric Shinseki was never "forced out" as Chief of Staff; he served his complete four-year term... as AP itself admits in the immediately preceding paragraph.
- Shinseki was indeed "wildly off the mark" about the number of troops we would need: He said we would need "several hundred thousand," which would mean at least 300,000 to 400,000. In fact, we had about 130,000, and we needed about 158,000. A "surge" of 28,000 men hardly constitutes "several hundred thousand."
- It is clear from context that Shinseki was not thinking about a counterinsurgency strategy (which he never mentioned) when he made his infamous claim... he was thinking about refighting the Gulf War, when Gen. Colin Powell sent more than half a million troops to Saudi Arabia to liberate Kuwait. Shinseki must have known this was utterly impossible, given the slashed military bequeathed to Bush by former President Bill Clinton; I believe Shinseki's only purpose was to dissuade us from going into Iraq at all... which, considering how well it's turned out and what a victory we achieved there, hardly counts as "prophetic"... even if we did end up needing 22% more than Rumsfeld expected in the counterinsurgency phase. In any event, it's not the number of troops that mattered; it was the change of strategy -- which Eric Shinseki never even addressed.
Bush is leaving, Rumsfeld is already long gone, but the vendetta of the elite news media abides.
December 5, 2008
Knicks & Knacks I
The Juice gets squeezed
So Orenthal Simpson gets sentenced to a minimum of 15 years, maximum of 33 years, and not eligible for parole until at least nine years have passed. Picture me doing the Snoopy dance all about the room.
Is there any part of Simpson, any slight shred of conscience left, that whispers in his ear that he deserves the sentence he got -- and maybe even more? I sincerely doubt it; I believe he sees himself entirely as the victim here, just as he saw himself as the victim when he murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and an innocent witness, Ron Goldman.
I wonder which of the following Simpson has convinced himself of:
- That he was completely justified, both in the robbery and in the killings;
- That he actually, for real, didn't kill either his former wife or Ron Goldman, and he didn't really rob anybody;
- Both (a) and (b) simultaneously.
Barney gets frank with us
Here's Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA, 95%) pimping for a bailout of
$25 billion -- whoops! now it's $34 billion -- for the risibly dubbed "Big Three" American auto makers (they're actually the Big One, the Weak Sister, and the Flyspeck):
The [House Financial Services] committee chairman, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., cited the jobs report showing the 11th consecutive month of losses as all the more reason for Congress to act to help Detroit.
"For us to do nothing, to allow bankruptcies and failures in one, two or three of these companies in the midst of the worst credit crisis and the worst unemployment situation that we've had in 70 years would be a disaster," Frank said.
Let us rephrase that with some Frank talk of our own:
It's a classic example of the "do something" syndrome: Don't stop, don't think, don't wait -- just do something! Of course, sometimes the very best thing to do is sit back patiently and let nature take its course. In this case, if GM and its mini-mes are forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, they might actually be able to break some of the onerous labor contracts they've entered into over the decades.
Incidentally, there are two significant differences between the already enacted rescue of Wall Street and the proposed bailout of Detroit; here is the first:
The automakers like to claim that the "American automobile industry" -- by which they mean the American-managed automobile factories in the United States employing American workers and headquartered in the United States, as opposed to the American-managed automobile factories in the United States employing American workers but headquartered in other countries -- "touches" 10% of the American economy.
But the international credit and banking market and the financial industry that controls it is vital to 100% of the American economy. If credit is frozen across the board -- as it was and to some extent still is -- then no company can function. It's a much more significant and national (even international) problem that whether GM goes "bankrupt" and is forced to sell its assets and plants and such to other car companies.
And the second:
In the rescue of the financial markets, we have done two things: At first we purchased "toxic assets," mortgage-backed securities that literally could not be valued, hence could not be traded or used as reserves; then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson decided to inject money more directly into the financials by buying woefully undervalued stock in major financial companies.
But once we sort out the actual components that make up the MBSes, down to the actual mortgages themselves, they will be found to have an intrinsic, nonzero value: They're based upon real property that has physical value. And once they can be valued, they will be worth more than they are right now. Similarly, as the credit crisis eases, bank stocks will rise.
All of which means that the $700 billion already authorized and any other money spent on this rescue is an investment, not a bailout: We will realize a positive return on our rescue money, especially if lawmakers can find the huevos to repeal or rewrite the laws that currently force financial institutions to offer oversized mortgages to borrowers who cannot possibly make the payments.
By contrast, unless the auto companies can dramatically change their business practices to the point that they can actually compete with Toyote, Honda, BMW, Mercedes, and other "foreign" manufacturers (all made in the United States by American auto workers), they will continue to fail worse and worse, no matter how much money we inject into them.
Even if we gave them their blasted $34 billion bailout, they would simply be back in four years, like Oliver with a twist: Instead of "please sir , I want some more," it will be, "Give us another $50 billion right now, or we'll make the economy collapse again!"
That is the very definition of a bailout: enabling anti-market behavior by shielding companies from the consequences of their own corporate stupidity... hoping that if you just bail enough water out of the boat, the leak will fix itself.
November 3, 2006
Stupid, Meaningless Observation
Am I the only weirdo who has noticed that two of the "endangered" Republican senators -- who are, in fact, right next to each other on RCP's Elections Page -- are Burns & Allen?
Too bad there's no member of the House named Abbott; we already have a Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL, 80%).
And God knows, we have plenty enough Democrats who could be called "the Marx brothers!"
August 4, 2006
Travelblogging: The Ingrate American Bathtub
I hate, loathe, despise, and abominate hotel shower curtains. I don't mean the nice, heavy kind you can buy in Bed, Bath & Beyond that hang like bullet-proof armor and come with their own nylon webbing. I mean the cheap-jack, gauzy curtain that is more like a long sheet of wax paper.
As the shower heats up -- assuming it does -- it heats the surrounding air, of course. The air expands, causing a pressure differential between the inside and outside of the shower stall. This causes the fluttery curtain to grope inward, like a giant, clutching hand, to wrap the body within like an Egyptian mummy.
It's bad enough in the morning, when I'm generally in a hurry. But it's intolerable at night, giving me nightmares of being suffocated by a soggy but intelligent winding sheet -- vast, cool, and unsympathetic.
I much prefer a bath before bed; but a bath is precisely what our hotel -- which shall remain unnamed in this piece for liability purposes -- does not have.
The reason for the lack is obvious; there is so little room in the bathrooms of the Milford Plaza Hotel (700 8th Ave) that it would make more sense to put the bathroom inside the bathtub than the more normal arrangement. In fact, I doubt a proper bathtub could even be fitted inside the entire hotel room, here at the Milford Plaza (also 270 W. 45th St -- two addresses, one cramped location).
Worse, the shower has a special safety feature that automatically cuts off the hot water whenever the temperature hits 80° Fahrenheit; this is for my protection and is installed by, I rib you not, "www.antiscald.com".
So what would a "proper bathtub" actually look like? We came close with our hotel in Niagara Falls, the name of which I will be happy to tell you: it was easily big enough for two, contained Jacuzzi jets, and was properly sloped. But even there, I have complaints. Oy, have I got complaints!
Bathing was a public affair for thousands of years, stretching all the way back to Bronze-Age India (and possibly to the pre-Cambrian). The Romans bathed in large public buildings in water heated by coal ovens on a lowered floor. The Celts bathed in hot water if they happened to find a thermal vent but normally luxuriated in icy rivers and frozen lakes. The Dark-Age English did not bathe at all; the modern-age French still don't.
Bathtubs in America are still by and large modeled after the early "clawfoot" tubs of the nineteenth century, despite the easy ability to vacuum-form plastic into pretty much any shape you can envision: modern tubs are still hard, simulating the porcelain-coated cast-iron tubs of your great-great-(great?)-grandparents' day; you still must lie rigidly on your back, as if in a coffin; the water level is still kept so low (by use of a spill drain) that you must choose between immersing your legs or, by scrunching down and poking them out of the water, your chest.
One modern innovation serves to make the experience even less pleasant: frequently, the back of the tub stands at a 90° angle to the bottom, meaning that if you lie back, as perforce you must, either your scapulae must rest with nearly your entire bodyweight against the sharp edge of the tub... or else you must have the neck of a particularly limber heron, so you can fold it at right angles to the lower part of your spine.
I have long thought that the design of this torture device was deliberate: our Victorian ancestors considered any activity that required disrobing to be disreputable to the point of sinfulness, something decent people avoided -- or at least did as little of as possible while still perpetuating the species. In the case of bathing, I am convinced the tub was designed for maximal discomfort, thereby limiting the time you might spend in such sloth and indolence, thinking lustful thoughts (good heavens) about scrubbing your paramour's back.
The Japanese have a different approach. To them, a bathtub is primarily a meeting room for clients. Thus, they bathe in groups, sit up straight, and wear their glasses. In most public baths in Japan, contrary to the lascivious thoughts of Westerners, men and women are separated -- though in some onsen (resorts) built around a hot springs, there is mixed-sex bathing.
The Japanese home tub is big enough for at least two, and you can fully immerse yourself. Alas, it too has its problems of poor design, not least of which is that you must bathe sitting up rigidly like a soldier. Also, the Japanese tub is not used for cleaning yourself; you are supposed to do that before entering or be considered an absolute boor. So no bubble bath.
American hot tubs (a.k.a. Jacuzzis, though that's a trademarked term) come closer to the mark: they allow you to recline while still fully immersing yourself, and they have a remarkable innovation that they copied from the Japanese: you can set the water temperature via thermostat, and the tub will maintain that setting.
But it's very difficult to find a hot tub small enough to be used in an ordinary bathroom -- and especially in a mini-sized bathroom, such as we have at home (or the microscopic bathrooms found at the Milford Plaza, 212.869.3600, which also has a very sporatic supply of water in the pipes and no coffee anywhere on the premises, though there are eleven Starbucks within a two-block radius, including one inside a McDonalds). Besides, most hot tubs are made of rigid acrylic thermoforming and thus as hard as galvanized steel.
I don't mind occasionally bathing in a crowd (I am a native Californian); but most of the time I really prefer solitude, so I can lie back and meditate upon equal justice for all and other aspects of Judeo-Christian civilization.
So to end a long story before it goes totally off the rails and turns into a document the side of the Constitution of the United States, forcing readers to gnaw their own legs off to escape, let me set forth the ideal bathtub:
- It must allow for reclining, while you contemplate all that jazz about Judeo-Christian civilization, but also be deep enough to sit up straight when some accidental brilliance occurs and you want to get it down quickly;
- It must be deep enough for complete immersion, right up to your chinny-chin-chin;
- It must be temperature regulated, so you can stay as long as you like without contracting hypothermia and having to crawl into a pizza oven to recover;
- It should be small enough not to seem cavernous for one, like being the only fellow in an auditorium -- but also large enough for two (just in case);
- The material must be soft and comfortable for long stays (this also applies to a proper toilet seat);
- The back must slope gently up to an adjustable neck support, also cushioned;
- The tub must be set up to allow bubble bath (for the ladies) and shaving (for both sexes) without ruining the mechanism and requiring a house call by the plumber; ideally, a fog-free mirror should be included for shaving or applying makeup;
- It should, of course, come in colors everywhere you comb your hair, like a rainbow...
- ...And include a phone jack and high-speed dataport;
- Shower facilities should probablly be included, since the tub will obviously be larger than a traditional one, taking up the room that could be used for a separate shower stall -- with or without a soggy but intelligent winding sheet -- vast, cool, and unsympathetic.
It's my understanding that each of these can be done with off-the-shelf technology; no advanced government research should be necessary, no taxpayer money whatsoever. Only the will lacks.
Arise and liberate yourselves from the Victorian straightjacket! Let us rescue the Great American Bathtub and turn it into an experience you'll want to repeat again and again, multiple times a day. The noses of the world will thank us.
Well, except for the French.
November 13, 2005
Another one of these cheesy personality tests, this one asking to which race of Middle Earth you belong.
All right; but I don't know whether I answered honestly, or whether I subconsciously answered in the (obvious) way that would result in a "score" of Elvish!
Sachi came out as Numenorean, just like Hugh Hewitt (from whom I stole the link to the test; a tip of a Numenorean helm):
You can take the test here. Let me know what you got!
September 26, 2005
WHO Are YOU?
On this test, I came out here:
| You are a |
You are best described as a:
Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
Hat tip to Patterico for pointing me there!
Sachi is a Capitalist:
| You are a |
You are best described as a:
Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
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