November 16th, 2010

DAWN

Democracy: It doesn't work.

I'm done with democracy. It turns into people wanting the authorities to confirm their wishful thinking & their biases. In a country where people think Hauser's Law is for real, or that the Laffer Curve has a steep slope with a peak below 20% of GDP, or that cutting federal employee salaries by 10% will make a meaningful difference to the federal debt, clearly the populace are too stupid to have the franchise.

These are things people want to believe, & it's as true of the rich as of the poor. Everybody's trying to get more out of the state than they put in, & that's impossible. No machine is perfectly energy-efficient, no institution, public or private, gives you back more money than it costs to run.

And that's just my country. Democracy is the protector of superstition around the world--so long as it's the dominant superstition.

Democracy is too stupid to work. And I could say that I'm stuck with it. But that's not really good enough.

In Britain the royal family are national symbols & adored by the people's silly side, while the elected governments have to do the hard job of governing. Maybe in this country it can work the other way around. Let electoral politics become a shallow game, put celebrities in charge, then hire professionals to do the real work. It's called bureaucracy, & the more ridiculous we make the elected pols, the better the bureaucrats look.

Maybe the way to save, nay, reestablish good government is to stop trying to elect competent Congressmen.

Alternatively, I could back a good old absolute monarch right now; just crush any idea that you're allowed to govern yourselves, you cretinous mob.

Down with Jefferson, up with Ivan the Terrible.
Godzilla, default

On Free Markets and Government Regulation:

One thing that does not surprise me these days is to see people making multiple millions of dollars advocating laissez-faire systems where they'd benefit greatly but very few others would. The question I have is a simple, if provocative one: isn't it better said that free markets are best made free by government regulation? The height of the Laissez-Faire era co-incided with the robber barons, and it was not a co-incidence. Bereft of things like the income tax and anti-trust laws, essential government regulations for any society making a pretense of freedom much less trying for the real thing the result was the emergence of wealthy and powerful men like Gould, Morgan, Vanderbilt, Astor, and Carnegie.

The "free market" system led not to freedom but to things like said robber barons calling in the US Army to disperse strikers with gunfire into the ranks of said strikers. It led to things like Black Friday, a known incident where a Robber Baron deliberately triggered an economic depression in 1869. The regulations that emerged under the Progressives, FDR, and the Great Society have led to a much deeper prosperity minus the brutality of right and left that resulted in the age of Laissez Faire at its finest, when poverty was also much vaster and deeper than it is today (when one out of every five Americans goes hungry).

So the question I have is simple: if Tea Party anarcho-capitalism gets its wish to rescind things like the income tax, like direct election of Senators, like the Federal Reserve, and like the various anti-trust laws that have been in effect for most of the 20th Century, how do they intend to deal with the emergence of latter-day Jay Cookes who'd have immense sums of money and like their predecessors would be just as keen to have Federal troops disperse any workers foolhardy enough to ask for their rights?

X-posted to my LJ and The_Recession.
  • paft

Why Yes, Mr. Gutfeld, I AM a Jerkophobe

From Greg Gutfeld's Red Eye:

So I’m going to begin this Greg-a-logue by stating plainly that I’m probably a jerk. I say that because when I examine the opinion I’m about to give, the reason for that opinion could be that I’m a jerk.


Hold on to your seats folks. This indicates he’s about to say something utterly indefensible and repulsive and try to pass it off as I-gotta-be-me, boys-will-be-boys sincerity. He’s offering the relatively mild term “jerk” to forestall being called something worse.

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Trust me.

2002: An 86 yr. old veteran is held for 45 minutes by several TSA employees while they contemplate "whut is this potenshully dangerous object in his pocket?" - requiring that he remove his belt, hat, and shoes multiple times for the inquiring minds. It turned out to be a Congressional Medal of Honor.
http://www.snopes.com/military/medal.asp

Granted, that incident took place long before the quality, common sense, and level of courtesy TSA employees exhibit today:

2010: TSA pats down a screaming toddler
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfmoms/detail?entry_id=77140

Well damn, AT LEAST we can discard worries about health issues over the x-ray scans:

"If you think of the entire population of, shall we say a billion people per year going through these scanners, it's very likely that some number of those will develop cancer from the radiation from these scanners," said David Brenner (Director of the Center of Radiological Research, Columbia University, professor of radiation biophysics)
http://edition.cnn.com/2010/TRAVEL/11/12/body.scanning.radiation/index.html?hpt=T2

To be fair and balanced, Dr. Alexander Garza, the assistant secretary for health affairs and CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER FOR TSA, said he travels often with his wife and three boys and has no fear about putting his family through the airport scanners.

"The risk is so low it's ALMOST negligible," he said.

---

I trust my government to tell the truth. In the 1960s, I was told there was no danger from Agent Orange. Take pictures of my fabulous body; pat me down.

But answer me this, omnipotent protectors: in view of the Madrid railway bombings, why don't we have these scanners at all the AMTRAC stations?
Carl Sagan

As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas


From a helicopter hovering over Greenland, the oceanographer Fiammetta Straneo took measurements to determine how fast the water is melting the nearby Helheim Glacier.

The New York Times on Sunday, had a great article about scientists studying the quickening pace of glacier melt in Greenland. According to climate experts, sea levels are expected to rise significantly due to melting glacial ice; estimates vary from three to six feet by the end of the century.


Climate scientists readily admit that the three-foot estimate could be wrong. Their understanding of the changes going on in the world’s land ice is still primitive. But, they say, it could just as easily be an underestimate as an overestimate. One of the deans of American coastal studies, Orrin H. Pilkey of Duke University, is advising coastal communities to plan for a rise of at least five feet by 2100. “I think we need immediately to begin thinking about our coastal cities — how are we going to protect them?” said John A. Church, an Australian scientist who is a leading expert on sea level. “We can’t afford to protect everything. We will have to abandon some areas.”


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It's a fascinating read, extremely well written. I thought I'd pass it along to the community. One worrisome feature is that apparently due to budget constraints, several satellites used by NASA and NOAA for studying glacial ice melt, and water temperatures, etc are being retired with no immediate replacements, due to budget constraints. NASA is using airplane overflies to garner what information it can, but losing satellites at this critical juncture is not good.

I thought this article by Fiammetta Straneo is fascinating as well. It's a study of sea levels during the Roman period and the implications of rising sea levels on modern society. Another resource to check is the The National Snow and Ice Data Center.
pikaLegs
  • tridus

The bureaucracy and how to fix it

I think many of us have dealt with government bureaucracy at one point or another. The incidents that tend to stick out are the ones where bureaucrats come up with something so out of touch with reality, that people can't understand HOW it could possibly happen. TSA comes to mind. Security isn't special in this regard, this is just a bureaucracy run amok. But it's not the only example, we can also look at what happens when a person in my home province of New Brunswick, Canada, tries to build a house.

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...I COULD MURDER A CURRY.

Weekly Topic

Aight, ladies & gen'lmen, this is the bi-weekly topic that you chose on the last poll for the period Nov 15-28:

"America's role in the world"

A very fruitful and conveniently Americacentric topic, which comes kinda timely after Obama's world tour (couple of curious gigs), plus the famous G20 summit where lots of bargaining happened without any apparent results, to the recent Beck-Soros shenanigans if you like. Anyway. Here's what may or may not be included in this subject:

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