Friday, 29 February 2008


Mike Hendrix loses a buddy

And God knows that Mike, of all people, doesn’t deserve it.  Go pass along some support, if you’re so inclined...

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29 leap facts for February 29th

Compiled by Diamond Geezer.

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Thursday, 28 February 2008


Because nothing says "casual elegance" like a dead squirrel

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In Passing

William F. Buckley, Jr.

The preventive-shutting-off-of-comments at sites like Huffington Post was unsurprising; neither was the range of tributes at The Corner and elsewhere.

But I was unprepared for the reaction of some commenters in this thread (at Tam’s) and this one (at Ace’s). Comments with the sort of the bemused solemnity that prevails when you’re ten years old and are told that your eccentric great uncle from Montana has died:

“Well, yes, I’m sorry he’s dead, but I really didn’t know him all that well, and, gee, he was awfully old, wasn’t he, and he sure talked funny (what was up with that, anyway?), but folks say he did great things (but I never saw him do them; all I ever saw was when he’d come to visit; he’d sit on the porch and chat with his old buddies, and use all these words that nobody had ever even heard of), and now everyone’s sad that he’s died, and though I didn’t really know him (not like gram’pa!), I suppose I should be sad too.”

Perhaps it's because we no longer know our own history.  At the close of the second world war, informed opinion was that Roosevelt’s alphabet agencies had saved America from the failure of capitalism that was the great depression, that the only way to prevent future wars was to exchange American sovereignty for “international cooperation” (and that the Soviet penetration of America’s nuclear program had actually been a good thing, because a nuclear Russia created a countervailing force against future American hegemony), and that the bureaucracy, with the advice of academically-certified experts in white coats, would regulate the future for all the rest of us.  Market economics?  Not after Baron Keynes and his disciples had repaired broken economies and then bent that revived power toward winning the war.  (And the U.K. would require only a few more years of rationing, just to be sure that resources would be allocated sensibly.  Be patient...)  No, it was democratic socialism that was the inevitable next stage of development, and if there were countries that imposed their socialism without doing it democratically, well, that was just a bug.

“Conservative” voices were discredited and fragmented:  Aside from the occasional congressman or academic who hadn’t gotten the message, “conservatives,” to most, were America-firsters like the John Birch Society, racist-populists like the KKK, or the cranks who campaigned against fluoridation of drinking water.[1]

This is the world into which National Review was born.

Others will write (and have. written) about the influence of Buckley, and of National Review.  This, by Reason’s Robert Poole, makes a good beginning:
By creating National Review in 1955 as a serious, intellectually respectable conservative voice (challenging the New Deal consensus among thinking people), Buckley created space for the development of our movement.  He kicked out the racists and conspiracy-mongers from conservatism and embraced Chicago and Austrian economists, introducing a new generation to Hayek, Mises, and Friedman.  And thanks to the efforts of NR's Frank Meyer to promote a "fusion" between economic (free-market) conservatives and social conservatives, Buckley and National Review fostered the growth of a large enough conservative movement to nominate Goldwater for president and ultimately to elect Ronald Reagan.
No small achievements, any one of them.

I would suggest that if you were born after 1960, Buckley’s influence is as much a part of your political awareness as the air you breathe:  Sometimes obvious, often unnoticed, but inevitably there.  Buckley may have seemed quaint, or old-fashioned, or irrelevant - but only because so many of the positions he espoused are now the axioms of informed opinion, and so many of his achievements are part of the landscape.

But we must remember that American politics, and American attitudes, and therefore America (and therefore the world), would be much different had William F. Buckley, Jr. not decided to start a little magazine back in 1955.

[1] As today's cranks campaign against vaccination, but on the other side of the spectrum. What goes around comes around.
[2] via “Oedipus” at Ace.

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The Press

I'd just like to know whose side they're on

The story so far:

In the days before [the London bus and subway bombings of] 7/7 [2005], when the BBC were still worrying about a post-9/11 backlash, someone had the idea of a programme depicting ordinary Muslims coping with other people's prejudices. “Don't Panic, I'm Islamic”, went out on 12th June 2005, to mixed reaction.  - Biased BBC
As it turns out, while making that program the BBC filmed some rather interesting people:
The missed opportunities in relation to the July 21 [2005] bombers can be disclosed today following the conviction of one of the most senior terrorist recruiters in Britain - a man who called himself “Osama bin London”.

Street preacher Mohammed Hamid - who once told young Muslims the 52 deaths in the July 7 attacks on London were "not even breakfast to me" - ... was found guilty of organising terrorist training camps and encouraging Muslims to murder non-believers at the end of a four-month trial at Woolwich Crown Court.
Perhaps the ultimate irony came courtesy of a BBC documentary called Don't Panic I'm Islamic broadcast in June 2005. Hamid was recruited from his stall on Oxford Street to represent the acceptable face of modern Islam.

He was filmed, along with co-accused Mohammed al-Figari and 14 other men at a paintball centre in Tonbridge, Kent... - The Telegraph
But wait, there's more:
Nasreen Suleaman, a researcher on the programme, told the court that Mr Hamid, 50, contacted her after the July 2005 attack and told her of his association with the bombers. But she said that she felt no obligation to contact the police with this information. Ms Suleaman said that she informed senior BBC managers but was not told to contact the police.
 - The Times

Questions, all: Who were the “senior managers?” Did they inform the police? And how does Ms. Suleaman’s conduct square with her obligations under the U.K.’s Terrorism Act 2000?

Now read on. (Here, too. And here.)

LATER:  More questions, from The Iconoclast, who fears a failure of nerve.

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Wednesday, 27 February 2008


No wonder it doesn't work

Thousands Standing Around, with 26% attrition.

Multiply the lowest-end estimated training costs by 67,000 employees who’ve left the agency—that’s more than $1 billion dollars into thin air.


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Innumeracy meets incoherence

“The Ed Biz”[1] continues to spiral Hades-ward:

My boy just got the practice version of the Oregon Standardized Math Test. This Sample Test is intended for Grade 3.

The test is a putrid example of how bad these standardized tests are. As near as I can tell, it's a combination of testers being proud of how well they can trick third graders, and utter ignorance of basic mathematical principles. - Bart Massey
He has example questions. Go and be properly appalled.

[1] “Education Business,” HT: Tom Lehrer

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Insuring against certainty

Robert Bruce Thompson:

The entire concept of insurance is based on the idea of a pool, the members of which are fungible insofar as the level of risk... But what if there were no need to depend on the law of large numbers? What if, like Robert A. Heinlein's Doctor Pinero in Life-Line, there was a way to determine exactly which of those 60-year old men would die, or exactly which of those 30-year-old women would become pregnant, or exactly which of those 17-year-old boys would be involved in a car accident?
DNA tests are essentially such foreknowledge...
But foreknowledge in the absence of intervening circumstances. (The 17-year-old boy targeted for a traffic accident next Tuesday might fall down the stairs next Monday and wind up spending Tuesday in the hospital, in traction.)

Thompson raises the problem of obtaining coverage for predicted conditions, or at least coverage that anyone could afford.
Why would any insurance company sell you such a policy, knowing ahead of time that they'll have to pay out on it?
(Well, in some cases they might not have to. What if you sign up for cancer coverage, then walk out the door and get hit by a truck?)
Or, if they did sell you such a policy, it would really just amount to a prepayment of the costs they know they'll incur.
Big companies do that all the time.[1] And individuals do, too. Ever heard of life insurance?

We insure against certainty all the time. Even if you live in Florida you can still buy hurricane insurance.[2]  So the insurance industry will take care of itself.  But then there’s the government...


Via: Jerry Pournelle’s mailbag.

[1] It’s called self-insurance, and they do it when the cost of a third-party policy exceeds the actual cost of losses minus the return obtainable from creating a reserve fund and then investing it.
[2] Not as cheaply as hurricane insurance would be for someone in North Dakota, but as risk approaches certainty, the cost goes up. TANSTAAFL.

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Inflation begins to get MSM notice, film at 11

Wall Street Journal oped page:

Inflation May Be Worse Than We Think

...The "core" CPI that excludes energy and food shows a 12-month rise of 2.5%...

Historical CPI data in the U.S. are complicated by occasional changes in the methodology the government uses to calculate the index. In the late 1990s, one of these changes reduced the reported inflation rate significantly. But taken as a whole, the relationship suggests my following rule of thumb to estimate CPI inflation at any time: Divide the percentage change in the gold price from eight years in the past by 80, and add three. This rule of thumb has largely worked over the past several decades. In the last eight years the price of gold has risen 225%. The rule therefore comes out with an answer that puts inflation a lot closer to 6% than 4%.

National Review
online: Kudlow's Money Politics:
...Since the summer of 2007 — and especially in recent months — there has been an alarming rise of inflation.

Economist Brian Wesbury says the Fed is in denial about rising prices. I think he’s right...

...using the so-called core inflation rate (which excludes food and energy) simply makes no sense over longer periods of time. In other words, core prices from month to month, and quarter to quarter, may be useful guides for the Fed, but they are no longer useful over periods of 12 months or longer. The rise of inflation, measured as a 12-month change, is truly significant over the past 4 months...

Incidentally, one of the reasons why voters are so negative on the economy is the increase in the price of energy, gasoline, oil, home heating fuels, and food.
Can you say “stagflation,” boys and girls? And would President O'Clinton pull a Nixon and say, “wage and price controls?”

This is nothing new. What’s important is that it’s beginning to get coverage outside of the blogosphere.


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Tuesday, 26 February 2008


Sign and portent

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