Thursday, 23 July 2009

Linkage

Turk wants a new QUANGO


There actually isn’t any Stapler Policy Center, but there should be.
...because it’s more necessary than the VPC.

UPDATE 090723 22:35: In the comments, Turk says he “had to Google ‘QUANGO.’”  For more on QUANGOs, see this and this.

Posted by: Old Grouch in Linkage at 17:34:24 GMT | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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Wednesday, 22 July 2009

In Passing

Honduras serves notice on Venezuela; rattles sabres


Xinhua Agency:

Honduras’ interim government on Tuesday gave 72 hours to Venezuelan diplomats to leave, accusing them of threatening to use force and interfering into the country’s internal affairs.

“The Foreign Ministry has requested the honorable embassy of Venezuela the withdrawal of its administrative, technical and diplomatic staff in a term of 72 hours due to the threats of using force, the interference in internal issues as well as the lack of respect to the territorial integrity,” Deputy Foreign Minister Martha Lorena Alvarado said.

The request, however, was turned down by Vezezuelan diplomats who said they would not leave Honduras and would not obey the order of any coup government not recognized by Venezuela.
As diplomat-speak goes, the Foreign Ministry’s announcement is rather strong.  Typically, should some second secretary get caught with his hand in the cookie jar (or in bed with the prime minister's sister), he’s simply declared “persona non grata” and tossed out without further explanation.  By listing specific reasons (“threats of using force, the interference in internal issues.., lack of respect to the territorial integrity”), the DFM has upped the volume on this one.[1]  Note also that any one of the three reasons given could be grounds for a declaration of war.

Question for the international lawyers out there:  If the Venezuelans are still in Honduras at the end of the 72-hour period, does that mean they forfeit any diplomatic immunity?

Link via Ace.
------
[1]  Interference in the internal affairs of the host country is a violation of the Vienna Convention (Art.41§1).

Posted by: Old Grouch in In Passing at 15:59:37 GMT | No Comments | Add Comment
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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

In Passing

When “compromise” means “giving them half of what they ask for”

Policy wonks arguing with true believers  Dept.

And I once held the opinion that Arnold Kling was a smart guy...
1.  We are here whenever President Obama wants to try to stop the insanity on Capitol Hill.  Instead, he keeps outsourcing his policies to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.  Thus, the stimulus that will take effect two years after the recession started.  Thus, the cap and trade bill that is mostly corporate welfare with a smidgen of CO2 reduction.  And thus a health care bill that worsens the outlook for government spending on health care.
And thus, Arnold assumes that the President has no idea of what his allies in Congress have been up to, that their actions don’t match the President’s desires, and that all these unfortunate consequences were accidental and unintended.
2.  We will help the President convert the tax deductibility of health benefits to a refundable tax credit, as supported by economists of all political persuasions.  That would help pay for reform and also help “bend the cost curve.”
...assuming that “reform” and “bending the cost curve” are actual goals of the president’s program, rather than pretexts.
3.  We will help the President convert Medicare and Medicaid to means-tested and illness-tested vouchers, which would give the United States what other countries have--a fixed budget for health care, rather than an open-ended spending commitment.
...assuming that the Democrats want a program that’s “fixed-budget” rather than an “open ended” one designed to create more and more dependants.
4.  We will support comparative effectiveness research, as long as it is used in the context of a system where patients and doctors make decisions, rather than have rationing imposed on them from the government.
...assuming that the President’s goal is to improve medical care, not tell people what to do.

Kling titles his post “Why I am Not a Republican.”  I’m glad he’s not, his “wet” beltway libertarianism would make him another part of the problem.

UPDATE 090722 21:25:  In the spirit of the above (but with less charity and more rage‘n’snark), “eddiebear” goes after David Brooks.

Kling Via:  Insty.

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In Passing

Too little, too late


Oh, now the Republicans come out of hiding...

The chairman of the Republican Party on Monday called President Barack Obama’s plan to overhaul health care “socialism...” - Associated Press story posted at Breitbart.com
If it took them this long to determine that the plan is socialist, they are  fools.

If it took them this long to muster enough courage to state this obvious truth, they are cowards.

If they waited this long to speak out because they preferred to let others do the heavy lifting, they are opportunists.

If they waited this long to speak out because they wanted to first see which way the polls were moving, thet have no principles.

Which is yet another demonstration of why the national Republicans remain useless for defending liberty.

Via:  DP

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Monday, 20 July 2009

In Passing

Hey RINOs, how’s that “stimulus” workin’ for ya?


Robert Samuelson:

The program crafted by Obama and the Democratic Congress wasn’t engineered to maximize its economic impact.  It was mostly a political exercise, designed to claim credit for any recovery, shower benefits on favored constituencies and signal support for fashionable causes.  As a result, much of the stimulus’s potential benefit has been squandered...

Whatever the virtues of these programs, the effects are diluted and delayed.  The CBO estimated that nearly 30 percent of the economic effects would occur after 2010.  Ignored was any concerted effort to improve consumer and business confidence by resuscitating the most distressed economic sectors.

Just a reminder:
Susan Collins, R-Maine
Olympia Snowe, R-Maine
Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania (gone but not forgotten!)

(Samuelson via IP).

Posted by: Old Grouch in In Passing at 19:38:11 GMT | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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In Passing

Best comment (so far) on the Amazon reader mess


Amazon has positioned the Kindle as just a vastly more convenient way to own books.  Once a customer has purchased and received a book, Amazon must under no circumstances ever meddle with the customer’s possession of that book or its content.  If they cannot promise to do this, then the premise of the Kindle is a lie; you do not own the books - they are Amazon’s to do with as they wish.  If that is the model Amazon chooses to adopt, fine - I will continue to make do with paper.  You may mock the “Chicken Littles,” but one day you will go back to reread a novel and discover that Greedo shot first. - commenter “hymie” at Volokh

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Meta

Just toddle over to Roberta’s...


...for the BlogMeet report and picture.

Also: Passing glances from Shermlock (who disavows knowledge) and Nathan.

Took a few photos (none worth reproducing), so I’ll leave it until August...

Posted by: Old Grouch in Meta at 17:41:21 GMT | No Comments | Add Comment
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Saturday, 18 July 2009

Rants

How to put your “favorite” Blogspot blogger off the air

...or at least make them harder to get to.

Have been watching this one develop for a day or so.  Friday night it made Instapundit:

Sure enough, if you click on Glenn’s link, you get...

If you’re willing to give Blogger a cookie and click the “Continue” button, you finally arrive at...

which (aside from the gray-on-black typography - hard for these old eyes to read - and the plethora of images - the page takes 5 minutes to load on my creaky dialup) includes such NSFW posts as The Libertarian Case For Judicial Activism (’cause that’s the path to Second Amendment incorporation- a good thing, right?), Social Security Administrators’ $700,000 Party (team building at the Biltmore Resort in Phoenix), Beware of Googlers Bearing Gifts (this one about the privacy implications of Google’s Chrome operating system and the company’s mounting stack of knowledge about each one of us) and The Victimization of Sarah Palin (no explanation necessary).

The only risqué or objectionable items that I saw were this a couple of images that accompanied the Palin post:  The risqué (NSFW, provided your employer is Pecksniff & Grundy):

...and the objectionable (news photo, language, not safe for animals or children, eye bleach required after!):

Oh yes, there is a post about Greening Up the World's Sex Life (Yeah, gw’an and clickit, ya pervert!), which turned out to be much less sexy that a lot of what’s available on daytime television.

Oh, she also doesn’t like Barak Obama’s programs and proposals very much.  And she’s pro-life.  And a self-described “recovering attorney” and “post-modern neo-feminist disrespectful dyke”  (NTTAWWT).

So whats going on?  Appears to be another case of “the enlightened” making use of Blogger’s “Flag Blog” button to punish another wrong-thinker.

You know, this button...
Screen shot of the FLAG BLOG button taken from Farmer Frank’s blog, which happened to be handy. Please don’t go there and click it- he might use me for target practice next time he gets his ‘pig gun’ out!
Because all it takes is for enough people to click it, and the blog gets flagged... automagically!
This blog chugged along for two and a half years without any problems, but with the Dawn of the Age of Obama—nothing but trouble.  The blog has never changed, and it certainly has not changed since May—the last time this happened, and Google, after an avalanche of complaints from my readers, decided that I am not really a purveyor of smut and removed the content warning splash page.
...
[The Flaggers] are offended that I do not worship the water that Barack Obama walks on—but when I was a pretty severe critic of George Bush these types could not get enough of me.

Liberals can be such spoil sports.
For those who aren’t aware of it, Blogger’s content-warning page will break search-engine spidering and also disconnect the blog from aggregators like Technorati.  And it adds a warning to any remaining Google links.  So being flagged can do horrible things to a blog’s visiblilty.
In fact, the only way word of my posts is getting out, on a regular basis, is through Culture 11—a social conservative site that snags my feed and it is picked up by some of the news wires—including Google News.

I must say, I find it rather amusing that a website started by folks like Bill Bennett, is more tolerant, and less prudish, than the enlightened New Age Yuppies of Mountain View.

And the blog stays flagged until someone at Google/Blogger decides to rescind it.

What’s more dismaying, this go-around is a repeat of a similar one that took place - and was supposedly resolved - one month ago.

o-o-0-o-o

As I mentioned at the top, I had noticed this a couple of days back, when I’d been trying to run down the answer to a problem I’ve had making comments on a couple of Blogger-hosted blogs.

Of course there’s no way to contact a real person at Google/Blogger.  So one must be content with its posted documentation, or, failing that, its support forums, where confused and angry users try to help each other.  Turns out that in the Something Is Broken forum there are a lot of questions (with not many answers) from people having problems posting comments.[1]  But there were also several threads about the GISS blog, including one with this snippy reply from a “Top Contributor,” (preserved here for your amazement, hilighting mine):
There are now a dozen threads taking up space in BHF, with everybody whining about this one blog that had an interstitial warning (and does not have, right now [wrong - o.g.]).  The soonest anything might even possibly be done will be Monday of next week, yet we have dozens of your readers posting daily.

If Blogger is to retain any control over the spam and pimping here, they will most likely have to ignore the whining, and leave the matter unresolved for several additional days, as “punishment”.  Otherwise, every blog that gets graced by an interstitial warning will engender the same amount of bitching and pimping. BHF will become nothing more than a forum of “xxxxxxx blog should not have an interstitial warning!”. We saw this last year, with The Daily Coyote.  [Guess they didn’t fix that problem, did they? - o.g.]
...
If you care about GISS, you will convince your readers to shut the fuck up, and wait until next week.  Either Blogger may remove the interstitial, or they will delete the blog and give you something to really whine about. I am inclined to recommend the latter, right now.
So there we are.  (Real class.)

There are ways to get out from under Blogger’s warnings.  Blogs can be hosted on the blogger’s own server (even using Blogger’s software), or the blogger can obtain a custom domain address.[2]  Either moves the blog out of the “Blogspot” domain (which seems to be Google’s major concern[3]).  And, of course, there’s always the possibility of moving somewhere with more liberal terms and conditions guts.[4]  But any of those options take time, and, if your old site just disappears, your readers will be left wondering what happened.

Which is something that anyone who posts on Blogger and might create (or have) some enemies ought to think about.

UPDATE 090724 20:02:  Google Product Manager Rick Klau tries to spin it as purely a “nudity” issue:
We simply responded to the fact that a number of posts there do, in fact, contain nudity.  Visitors to the site flagged the blog as containing objectionable content, and as set out in our TOS, blogs that contain nudity may contain an interstitial to let readers know what they will find when they click through.
Challenged to address the practice of using “objectionable content” complaints to game the system for ideological suppression, he says
I can’t see how us subjectively applying our standards helps anyone.


Related:
A Consuming Experience:  Flag as objectionable - censorship vs freedom of speech
Glance at the bottom of Blogger’s help page about “unlisted”, and you'll see that not only will the blog not appear against the owner's Blogger profile - it won't be crawled by search engines either (if the blog is using Blogger’s BlogMetaData tag - which includes all blogs using one of their standard templates).  And on the web, as everyone knows, if you’re not crawled by the search engines you may as well be invisible. So, it’s not very different from censoring the blog in question - to say otherwise is really being quite disingenuous. It seems to me the bottom line is: if you’re unlisted, you're toast.

The Blog Herald:  First report of blog censorship using Blogger “flag” option
A new report alleging that Google’s new “flag” feature has been used to censor a blog on the grounds that readers have disagreed with the opinion of a writer has appeared, in what if proven true would be the first case of the service announced last week being used in such a a way.

Blogcritics:  Censorship at Blogger.com?
You can’t expect the people who run Blogger to check each site personally, and there has to be a method of monitoring content.  The problem is that the manner in which a web log’s fate is decided is not through an objective study of its content by the administrators, but through the number of times it’s flagged as objectionable.

While they may cite a book called The Wisdom Of Crowds... to justify this as creating community standards, they have overlooked two things.  One, there is little separating that concept from the mentality of mob rule and lynch mobs; two, there is the potential for abusing this system.

How hard would it be for some group to organize themselves to generate enough votes by individual members to effectively block a person’s web site?  If special interest groups can organize to flood the switchboards of the F.C.C. over Janet Jackson’s nipple, why couldn't they manipulate results here in the same manner?

Jarod Lanier:  Digital Maoism
It’s not hard to see why the fallacy of collectivism has become so popular in big organizations:  If the principle is correct, then individuals should not be required to take on risks or responsibilities.  We live in times of tremendous uncertainties coupled with infinite liability phobia, and we must function within institutions that are loyal to no executive, much less to any lower level member.  Every individual who is afraid to say the wrong thing within his or her organization is safer when hiding behind a wiki or some other Meta aggregation ritual.


-----
[1]  Turns out there’s an Internet Explorer issue - not guilty here - and another which has to do with broken widgets for comments embedded below the post (Ahem!) which has to be fixed by the blog owner (Ahem! Ahem!).

[2]  Don’t ask me how I know that this works.

[3]  But see A Consuming Experience’s warning about the BlogMetaData tag.

[4]  As:  A crowd of objectors can’t silence somebody without a real person getting involved.

Posted by: Old Grouch in Rants at 23:29:28 GMT | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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Clipfile

Clipfile - July 18, 2009

“My suspicious meter REALLY pins when judges start telling U.S. citizens that they do not have standing to bring a constitutional challenge.  There's a public official who’s self-impeaching.” - Mark Philip Alger

Posted by: Old Grouch in Clipfile at 16:39:30 GMT | No Comments | Add Comment
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In Passing

All you need to know about Obamacare

Sauce, goose, gander  Dept.

The Wall Street Journal:
...If it’s good enough for the middle class, then surely it’s good enough for the political class too?  As it happens, more than a few Democrats disagree.

On Tuesday, the Senate health committee voted 12-11 in favor of a two-page amendment courtesy of Republican Tom Coburn that would require all Members and their staffs to enroll in any new government-run health plan.  Yet all Democrats -- with the exceptions of acting chairman Chris Dodd, Barbara Mikulski and Ted Kennedy via proxy -- voted nay.

In other words, Sherrod Brown and Sheldon Whitehouse won’t themselves join a plan that “will offer benefits that are as good as those available through private insurance plans -- or better,” as the Ohio and Rhode Island liberals put it in a recent op-ed.  And even a self-described socialist like Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, who supports a government-only system, wouldn’t sign himself up.

Of course, they also qualify now for generous Congressional coverage...
Look for that amendment to “mysteriously” (as in “Geegollywow, we can’t figure out how that happened!”) disappear before the bill’s final passage.

Posted by: Old Grouch in In Passing at 14:54:06 GMT | No Comments | Add Comment
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