A Place Called Commerce

I happened to ride through Commerce, Georgia today. It's a simple town, with a main street full of law firms and banks or credit agencies, antique shops and little shops for women, a couple of small restaurants -- including a pretty good pizza joint with pool tables and draft PBR -- and an active railroad track running right through the center of town. At one end of town is the Confederate memorial, kept up by the Daughters of the Confederacy and featuring an old-style Georgia flag.

At the other end of town is Veterans' Park, which is where the pool happens to be. The pool is open to the public for a small fee during the height of summer, Wednesday through Saturday from one to five.

If you go to the pool, though, leave your bad language behind. Signs proclaim in very tall letters that there will be absolutely no foul language at the pool, with violators ordered to leave at once.

The rule seems to have sparked little rebellion. Lifeguards refer to their elders as "Sir" or "Ma'am," as young Southerners are supposed to do. Teenagers at the pool are mannerly and obedient to it, though their tattoos suggest that they are otherwise embroiled in the culture that they see on television.

It's a nice little town. Too far from the mountains for me, but a pleasant enough place to pass through on a Saturday in the summertime.


This is courage, if you like.  A South Korean man soaks up Marxist fantasies to the point that he defects to North Korea with his wife and children, expecting free health care and a nice government job.  Right away he and his family are put into a brutal camp and told that his job will be to tour Europe and entice other families to the same fate.  He explains to his wife that he may have to do it in order to preserve their new life.  She slaps him in the face, saying "they would have to pay the price for his mistakes – he could not entrap others."

He goes to Copenhagen and defects, intending to spend the rest of his life telling the horrible, cautionary tale. His wife and children disappear into a camp to starve and die.

And in her place, what would we have done?

Elizabeth Warren Annoys Us for the Wrong Reasons

Via HotAir, an excellent summary of what regulations might help in the financial market, vs. what regulations actually will be pushed by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Congress should require federal agencies dealing with mortgages to put into place a minimum down-payment rule.  Existing regulators and law enforcement agencies could do better at policing deception and fraud—and show that they’re willing to shut down repeat offenders, even big ones.  And lawmakers should start phasing out Fannie and Freddie, so that government dominance no longer distorts the housing market.
Instead, the focus of CFPB enthusiasts, notably including Elizabeth Warren, is the kind of jam that 10% of consumers can get into when they demonstrate why the bottom 10% of consumers shouldn't be trusted within 100 feet of a financial instrument without a court-appointed guardian (leaving the rest of us alone, thanks very much).  New York economic-justice advocate Sarah Ludwig uses a middle-aged government worker as an object lesson.  Finding herself short of cash one month, she resorted to a payday lender, which lent her money a sky-high rates in exchange for a post-dated check on the strength of a pay stub proving she was employed.  Each month she could either pay the loan back or extend it.  Eventually, if she failed to do either, the payday lender would present the check at her bank.  Now, this was a deliberately kited check; there were no funds to pay it.  So she started incurring bounced-check charges and ended up with bad credit.   Is the solution for this once-burned consumer to work through the bad credit and repair her reputation?  Or is it greater federal government involvement in consumer protection and education?  It's hard to imagine that lack of education led this middle-aged government worker to close her eyes to the consequences of kiting a check.

Another poster child:
Andrew Giordano’s bank mistakenly gave him a replacement debit card that offered overdraft protection, and he failed to realize it.  He proceeded to overdraw the account multiple times, enough to result in $814 in fees.  “Funds obviously were not there,” his wife says plaintively.  “Why would [the bank] continue to accept the charges?”  Warren neglects to respond with the obvious question:  Why did Giordano have no idea how much money was in his account?
I had a little more sympathy for the woman who "became a victim when she racked up long-term debt on a variable-rate credit card and then professed shock when her card issuer exercised its right to raise the rate."  But Congress already passed a bill in 2009, with bipartisan support, requiring credit-card issuers to warn customers of an impending rate increase and to continue to apply the old rate to existing balances.  What's left for the CFPB to do?  Well, for one thing, a rule
that requires home buyers to pay a minimum-percentage down payment would be a simple, effective option.  People who have been able to save, say, 10 percent of a house’s value demonstrate financial discipline.   Further, a family that has equity in a house can refinance easily to get out of a bad mortgage; such a family also has the flexibility to move, if a breadwinner has the opportunity to take a better job in another city or state.  And creating a minimum down-payment rule would be fast and easy—a major benefit, since continued uncertainty about financial rules is contributing to banks’ reluctance to lend and thus to today’s sluggish economy. 
Yet the CFPB almost surely won’t take such an obvious step, and again, the fault lies with Congress.  The Dodd-Frank bill didn’t specify a down-payment rule because such a rule would push house prices down further—anathema to Congress.   Moreover, a down-payment requirement would run afoul not only of America’s debt-carrying middle class but of the affordable-housing and minority-group advocates who want poorer Americans to enjoy the same dream of indebtedness that the middle class enjoys.  As Orson Aguilar, executive director of the nonprofit Greenlining Institute, puts it, any mortgage rules that would require homeowners to have a good job, good credit, and a hefty down payment are “problematic.”
The author concludes: "the CFPB is likely to encourage poorer people to take on debt that they cannot afford."
The bureau can do so because Congress gave it the responsibility to enforce some “fair-lending” laws.  As Congress put it, the CFPB must study “access to fair and affordable credit for traditionally underserved communities” and ensure “nondiscriminatory access to credit for both individuals and communities.”  The probable result will be to strong-arm the financial industry to lend money cheaply to the poor—and when something is cheap, people buy more of it, even if they shouldn’t. 
The CFPB is already moving aggressively on this front.  . . .  In April, the CFPB’s deputy director, Raj Date, told consumer advocates at a Greenlining conference that the bureau would work assiduously to make sure that “lenders are not creating conditions that make loans more expensive, or access more difficult, for certain populations."

An Analysis of the Mass Shooting Problem

It's a little surprising when a mass shooting gets a lot of attention these days; we've seen so many of them over the years that they usually have to contain some especially shocking element (like last year's famous one, almost exactly a year ago). People often seem to think about these things as a sort-of disease.

For a long time we tried to understand how the disease was spread -- was it by violent video games? Movies? -- but that kind of efficient cause proves elusive, and for good reason. There is no such cause. The actual cause is not the efficient cause but the choice of the individual killer. They are doing these things for reasons of their own.

In spite of what we hear from determinists, humans are not pinball machines. We don't do X because we experienced Y; rather, we ourselves determine what experience Y means. We do that according to our beliefs, attitudes and upbringing, informed by far from determined by our physical makeup. The determination of meaning, and the decision of what to do about the meaning we find in the world, is a spontaneous process in the sense that it arises at least as much from our concepts as our biology.

Since concepts are invisible, we cannot prevent the free choice of evil. We can sometimes predict it, but often we cannot.

So: a certain number of people are going to decide to become killers. What to do about it?

One idea we often hear is that we should restrict access to firearms. There are reasons not to do this arising from the broader nature of human life, and the free citizen's relationship to the state. However, there are also reasons not to do it within the context of the problem. The first one is obvious: an armed citizenry can sometimes stop these attacks, whereas a disarmed citizenry is much more vulnerable.

Carrying a gun is kind of a pain, really, and the odds that something like this shooting will come up are small enough that most people may not think it's worth the hassle. However, a former Marine who happened to take his pistol to the movies that night could have stopped the attack earlier. This is in fact the best defense to an attack in progress, since it is an unpredictable factor from the point of view of the killer. He can avoid the police, but he can't be sure about the concealed weapons in the audience.

There's a second reason that is less obvious. The kind of mind that chooses this path is capable of worse. Even Timothy McVeigh, far from the smartest man in the world, could concoct a huge bomb. This fellow appears to have been brilliant: there's no limit to what kind of harm he could have created if he had chosen that route.

This is to say that the easy availability of firearms, and the glamour they are endowed with culturally, acts as a kind of brake on the harm done by mass killers. Firearms are less deadly than bombs, they take longer to do their work, and you have to be right there operating them in person. That exposes you to being stopped mid-act by armed citizens, and potentially even to the police arriving (although that is unlikely, since 'longer than a bomb' is still only 'a few minutes' rather than 'instantly'). You are available to be stopped before the harm is completed. You're easier to catch afterwards. Finally, a single person with a firearm can only kill so many people because of weight limits on how much ammunition he can carry.

For all these reasons, the best response is to encourage the carrying of arms by citizens, and to continue to glorify the gun. The last thing we want is for the evil among us to innovate.

In Praise of Sprawl?

What if a major reason for the income inequality that concerns many on the Left was anti-Sprawl aesthetics?
Economists have long taught this history to their undergraduates as an illustration of the growth theory for which Robert Solow won his Nobel Prize in economics: Poor places are short on the capital that would make local labor more productive. Investors move capital to those poor places, hoping to capture some of the increased productivity as higher returns. Productivity gradually equalizes across the country, and wages follow. When capital can move freely, the poorer a place is to start with, the faster it grows.... Or at least it used to....

In a new working paper, Shoag and Peter Ganong, a doctoral student in economics at Harvard, offer an explanation: The key to convergence was never just mobile capital. It was also mobile labor. But the promise of a better life that once drew people of all backgrounds to rich places such as New York and California now applies only to an educated elite -- because rich places have made housing prohibitively expensive....

[T]here are two competing models of successful American cities. One encourages a growing population, fosters a middle-class, family-centered lifestyle, and liberally permits new housing. It used to be the norm nationally, and it still predominates in the South and Southwest. The other favors long-term residents, attracts highly productive, work-driven people, focuses on aesthetic amenities, and makes it difficult to build. It prevails on the West Coast, in the Northeast and in picturesque cities such as Boulder, Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The first model spurs income convergence, the second spurs economic segregation.
So, to fight inequality, encourage sprawl. Or, if you hate sprawling cities like Atlanta or Phoenix, accept that you're the problem when it comes to creating inequality. You're making it too expensive for the working man to come live and work where you do. That means he'll live in Atlanta, where he will make a bit less money, but he can afford to live better on it. Which, in turn, means you might rethink what "inequality" means. If I could earn $5,000 a month here, or in New York City, or in China, there's a significant "inequality" even at the same rate of pay. After expenses I'd be scraping by in New York, doing quite well here, and rolling in dough in China once I converted my pay into Renminbi.

Addendum: Hank III & The Edge

My series on country music is over, but I wanted to provide a response to a comment.  Raven expressed an opinion that modern, pop country music seems to have lost the Outlaw edge.  That's true.  It has.

But there are some out there who are pushing the edge still, and one of them is Hank Williams Sr.'s grandson.  If you look into his music far enough, you'll find a lot you don't like.  He's part of a country band, a punk rock band, a metal band, and pushes out without regard to what people will be ready to accept.  So, you know, be warned.

Here's a couple of easier to digest things to get you started.

Here's him doing a couple of Outlaw classics.

...and some less easy things, which some of you will not like, and some of you will like even better.

This next one is NSFW at all... but for the record, he doesn't like pop country either.

And then there's this one, featuring a "hellbilly" sound.

So if you're interested in edge, it's out there.  He's far from the only one; if you liked the more radical pieces, you might also try the Pine Box Boys and see where that leads you.  They have less range, but they're very good within their range, and are linked to a lot of other bands who are looking for the edge.

If you didn't like Hank Williams, stay far away from those guys.

The Attack Dogs Eat At Waffle House

I had much the same sentiment when I saw this list.  Naturally, the presumptive explanation is that these organizations are, well, you know.  I mean, "Dixie" cups and "White" Castle burgers, well, how loud does a dog whistle have to be?

But I have to admit, I was a little surprised to learn this guy was among them.

The safety net

From the American Enterprise Institute, an essay speaking exactly to what's been troubling me lately about the argument that we have to submit to mandatory entitlement programs because capitalism is too risky:
What used to be called "public charity" is now "entitlement programs."  The difference is much more than semantics.  The word "charity" carries with it the implication that the intended beneficiary is someone else.  Those who paid taxes to support such programs, approvingly or not, did so in the clear understanding that they were paying to help other people; they neither expected nor desired any personal benefit from the programs.  . . .
Gradually, however, the left inculcated the notion that we are all at risk, due to the nature of "capitalism" (i.e., freedom), and hence that government programs for those in need ought to be seen as a universal necessity.  In other words, such programs were no longer to be viewed as something the vast majority of citizens provide for the benefit of the very few, but rather as something government ought to be providing for each of us as a primary function.
As I read somewhere else today, the safety net is supposed to be a trampoline for the very few, not social flypaper for the many.  I've been arguing with Grim recently about the conflation of insurance with subsidies.  The distinction is critical:  Insurance is appropriate for most adults, but subsidies are not.  If the category of "needy citizens" expands to include a large fraction of Americans, or even (as is now becoming the norm) a majority of Americans, the category has lost its meaning and programs that address it have lost their justification for existence.

H/t Maggie's Farm.

Taxing Internet Sales

Dr. Mercury at Maggie's Farm has been discussing the current proposals to tax Internet sales nationwide.  Some states are already doing it; my own beloved Texas has bullied Amazon into assessing sales tax, effective this month.  One of the ostensible rationales is the need to "level the playing field" for brick-and-mortar stores (as if anyone believed the motive was anything but the obvious desire to glom onto more revenue), but as Dr. M and many commenters pointed out, the local stores are going to need a lot more than an 8% advantage to complete with the on-line prices and selection.

Here at Swankienda99, we rely heavily on Amazon for things we can't get locally.  Ever since Amazon expanded out of books and took on the entire retail market, I've depended on them for the many food brands my duopolistic grocery store won't carry.  They're an especially good source for brands that have fallen out of disfavor but haven't completely ceased production.  In fact, I buy most things from Amazon that I don't need to touch or handle ahead of time, from cookware to linens to small appliances.  They let me search efficiently for products by key word and best price, they provide customer reviews that take the place of indifferent sales clerks, and they get me my stuff in two days for a flat annual fee.  It just has to be a product that can be easily shipped, so it can't be too heavy, too voluminous, or too perishable.

In order to compete, local stores may have to specialize in that kind of tricky freight, or provide expertise and advice that can't be duplicated by my fellow customers on-line, or carry things for which I'll pay a premium for same-day availability.  Big-box stores have gotten used to being passive purveyors who make their customers wander through miles of aisles on scavenger hunts.  I wonder if future retail merchants won't have to function a bit more like knowledgeable brokers in order to lure customers back.

What do you guys buy online?

They never learn

James O'Keefe always uses the same trick to get people to admit what they're doing.  He pretends to be a guy with a scam to bilk money out of the taxpayers, and he runs it by an organization he suspects is aiding and abetting similar scams.  He gets them talking and joshing with him.  He repeats, in increasingly outrageous terms, exactly what kind of scam he's running and how it works like a charm.  They laugh and agree that, yes, it works just like that, and they're totally cool with it.  Hey, the money's sitting right there, who wouldn't pick it up?  Ah?  Ah?  Usually they give him a little friendly advice about magic words to use in packaging the scam.  Then he releases the video and waits for them to complain that they were taken out of context.

In his wake he probably leaves a trail of emergency meetings designed to prevent anyone from each organization from spilling the beans to any more strangers who might be carrying cameras.  But he keeps moving from industry to industry, so they never see him coming.  And he doesn't seem to be running out of targets.

Act One, Scene One

The Post Office defaults on nearly eleven billion dollars in benefit payments for 'future retirees.'  That's not a state or a city; that's the US Federal Government.

So, what does that mean for the 'future retiree,' i.e., the current worker?  Does he or she have those retirement benefits or not?  Not, I would think, at least not to the same degree.

The Post Office is the least important of services, and so merely the first to arrive at where all are heading.  Soon it will be veterans' benefits and pensions, or the benefits and pensions of other federal agencies; then it will be Medicaid, or Medicare.  The question in front of us is mostly, I think, "How soon can we accept that this is the end of everything we've believed in and fought for, and start thinking about what comes after?"

We've come to the denial stage in our grief over the death of America.  Can it still be saved?  So much, we want to believe that it can be.  We've given so much.  I once watched rockets come in over Camp Victory, and saw them burst under the Phalanx guns.  'The rockets' red glare; the bombs bursting in air!' I thought at the time.  'Now I've seen it:  now I understand.'

Maybe half of one percent of us saw something like that in Iraq or Afghanistan.  I am speaking to Cassandra's point -- second link, above.  What matters most to what most people believe is where their interests are vested.  There are too many vested interests against reform on the scale necessary for America to survive.

Look out for them petards

It looks like bad things can happen when you jam an unpopular law through Congress using a tricky parliamentary procedure.  For one thing, some of the usual inconsistencies that might have gotten worked out in conference in a smaller bill are set in stone when the conference process has to be avoided like the plague and, in any case, the bill is thousands of pages long and full of the inconsistencies that inevitably result from brutal last-minute horse-trading.   In the case of ObamaCare, Congress managed to pass a bill that provides for consumer subsidies and employer penalties for states that set up the required insurance exchanges, but does not authorize either consumer subsidies or employer penalties if the states opt out and the federal government establishes the exchanges on their behalf.

Nor was this a scrivener's error, as the IRS now claims.  It was a conscious choice to increase the pressure on states to set up exchanges.  Apparently everyone calculated that, as the Cato Institute put it, the bill would reach state capitals to be greeted as a liberator.  As things stand, however, there is real doubt whether the IRS has the power either to issue subsidies in the form of tax credits or to impose penalties on non-conforming employers in the states that say "Thanks, but no thanks."  To date, eight states have politely declined, while many more are stalling.

The Cato paper provides a helpful summary for those of us who have forgotten just how contorted the parliamentary shenanigans got:
Congressional Democrats had intended to empanel a conference committee that would merge the PPACA with the “Affordable Health Care for America Act” (H.R. 3962) that had passed the House of Representatives.  Had this occurred, the PPACA might look quite different than it does today.  But in January 2010, Republican Scott Brown won a special election to fill the seat vacated by the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA).  Brown’s victory shifted the political terrain.  It gave Senate Republicans the 41st vote necessary to filibuster a conference report on the House and Senate bills. 
As a result, House and Senate Democrats abandoned a conference committee in favor of a novel strategy.  House Democrats agreed to pass the PPACA exactly as it had passed the Senate, but only upon receiving assurances that after the House amended the PPACA through the “budget reconciliation” process, the Senate would immediately approve those amendments.  Since Senate rules protect reconciliation bills from a filibuster, the PPACA’s supporters needed only 51 votes to pass the House’s “reconciliation” amendments.  The downside of this strategy was that the rules governing budget reconciliation limited the amendments House Democrats could make.  Supporters opted for an imperfect bill – that is, a bill that did not accomplish all they may have set out to do, but for which they had the votes – over no bill at all. 
The Act signed into law by President Obama and the law that the IRS rule purports to implement — the PPACA — is a hybrid of the two Senate-committee-reported bills, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (HCERA).  This history, and the need to resort to the reconciliation process to pass the final law, helps explain why the final legislation looks as it does, and why the Act does not conform with the hopes or expectations of some of its supporters.
Normally, if a bill contains a technical glitch, Congress can just fix it . . . . Oh, wait, they don't have the votes any more, do they?

Love and welfare


It's fun watching a meme take root.  This week, President Obama put his finger on the sore point that divides individualists from collectivists when he made a speech that has been paraphrased as "You didn't build that -- somebody else built it for you."  By now you've all seen a number of posters showing Mr. Obama cheerfully explaining the concept to the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, and Steve Jobs.  I enjoy watching the Net play with the theme:

Outlaw Country: A Final Word

Now that I've spoken to the things that seem to me to really matter, I want to just give the singers a chance to relax and have some fun. It wasn't all about a serious movement. Some of it, at least, was about the joy they found in life.


They weren't just Outlaws.  They were merry men.  Maybe that makes a difference.  Maybe it makes all the difference.

Ya'll know the words to "Rocky Top," right?

Encyclopedia Brown

When I was in the second grade, our teacher offered us special credit if we could learn to spell "encyclopedia."  We all did:  e-n-c-y-c-l-o-p-e-d-i-a, or -p-e-a-d-i-a.  I think at this point the old form is no longer taught even as an option.

One of my favorite series of books as a boy were the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries.  I read that the author died today, at the age of 85.  The neat thing about them, for an aspiring boy detective, was that they presented all the facts but none of the solutions.  The solutions were collected in a separate section in the back, for you to check once you had sorted out what you thought the proper answer might be.

In this the author -- his name was Donald Sobol -- answered the complaint raised by no less than Raymond Chandler in his famous essay, "The Simple Art of Murder."
 The poor writer is dishonest without knowing it, and the fairly good one can be dishonest because he doesn’t know what to be honest about. He thinks a complicated murder scheme which baffles the lazy reader, who won’t be bothered itemizing the details, will also baffle the police, whose business is with details. The boys with their feet on the desks know that the easiest murder case in the world to break is the one somebody tried to get very cute with; the one that really bothers them is the murder somebody only thought of two minutes before he pulled it off.
Donald Sobol didn't do that:  he gave you the cute answer, but he assumed you would figure out the missing piece.  Learning to do that was the point of reading his stories; it is why they are still worth reading, for boys of a certain disposition.

But if I am going to quote from the Chandler essay, I ought to quote the parts everyone ought to know.  Here they are.
[Hammett] wrote at first (and almost to the end) for people with a sharp, aggressive attitude to life. They were not afraid of the seamy side of things; they lived there. Violence did not dismay them; it was right down their street...
It is not funny that a man should be killed, but it is sometimes funny that he should be killed for so little, and that his death should be the coin of what we call civilization. All this still is not quite enough.

In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things. He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in.
If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in.
If you have that, you have enough to write a good mystery; you may even have a great deal more.

Socialize the Loss

Bloomberg is looking more at the Bain Capital issue.
What’s clear from a review of the public record during his management of the private-equity firm Bain Capital from 1985 to 1999 is that Romney was fabulously successful in generating high returns for its investors. He did so, in large part, through heavy use of tax-deductible debt, usually to finance outsized dividends for the firm’s partners and investors. When some of the investments went bad, workers and creditors felt most of the pain. Romney privatized the gains and socialized the losses.

What’s less clear is how his skills are relevant to the job of overseeing the U.S. economy, strengthening competitiveness and looking out for the welfare of the general public, especially the middle class.
Oh nonsense, man! Nothing could be more relevant to overseeing the U.S. economy.

Imagine that the country was a corporation, and its shareholders were those entities rich or powerful enough to arrange major campaign contributions.  The workers are those who, well, aren't that rich.  What happens when we suffer severe losses as a corporation?  We socialize the losses.

When things go well, why that's private profit!

I'm surprised you don't get this.  The President's out campaigning on the very point this afternoon.  How many times does he have to explain how economic management works?

Changing diapers prevents Alzheimer's

. . . Or, what can happen when popular science writers get hold of almost any story about non-human biology.  It seems that bees stay vigorous as long as they're tending larvae in the hive, but slide into decrepitude quickly after assuming their mature function of foraging.  When researchers removed the young larvae caretakers, some of the older bees were forced to give up foraging and tend the larvae themselves.  A protective protein in the brain slowed the decrepitude that afflicted their foraging colleagues.  The irrepressible authors cannot restrain themselves from noting:
They found Prx6, a protein also found in humans that can help protect against dementia – including diseases such as Alzheimer’s – and they discovered a second and documented “chaperone” protein that protects other proteins from being damaged when brain or other tissues are exposed to cell-level stress. 
In general, researchers are interested in creating a drug that could help people maintain brain function, yet they may be facing up to 30 years of basic research and trials. 
“Maybe social interventions – changing how you deal with your surroundings – is something we can do today to help our brains stay younger,” said Amdam.  “Since the proteins being researched in people are the same proteins bees have, these proteins may be able to spontaneously respond to specific social experiences.”

France to California: This Means War

Animal-rights activists in California attempted to block not only the in-state production of foie gras but also its importation.  The French, never willing to take an act of aggression lying down, responded with a call to boycott California wine.

An interesting side note:  California Republicans argue that, while the state can do almost any fool thing it wants within the state, the Interstate Commerce Clause forbids it to regulate what happens outside its borders.  It falls to the federal government to make mistakes in that arena.

Love that Thomas Sowell

He's a potent anti-Orwellian force:
Let us begin with the word "spend."  Is the government "spending" money on people whenever it does not tax them as much as it can?  Such convoluted reasoning would never pass muster if the mainstream media were not so determined to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil when it comes to Barack Obama. 
Ironically, actual spending by the Obama administration for the benefit of its political allies, such as the teachers' unions, is not called spending but "investment."  You can say anything if you have your own private language.

An Insight into Information Warfare

Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post suggests a model for thinking about the negative advertising campaigns of the Presidential election that is straight out of US Army doctrine.
The extent of [the Obama campaign's] effort is only now becoming clear. The Associated Press reports: “President Barack Obama’s campaign has spent nearly $100 million on television commercials in selected battleground states so far, unleashing a sustained early barrage designed to create lasting, negative impressions of Republican Mitt Romney before he and his allies ramp up for the fall.” Think of it like the Confederacy’s artillery barrage on the third day of Gettysburg before Pickett’s charge — you have to in essence disable the other side before the charge begins or its curtains.
This is exactly how the US Army thinks of what it currently calls "information operations."  It considers them a kind of strategic effect, a "shaping" effort almost precisely analogous to artillery.  You can use a heavy information barrage to deny terrain (as for example by blanketing a neighborhood with wanted posters with a picture and a large reward:  you might not catch the guy, but he'll have to feel very shaky about trying to pass through the neighborhood).  You can use it to demoralize.  You can use it to disrupt the cohesion of an enemy unit.

It's sort of surprising to see someone like Rubin get that concept so well.  It's also surprising to see the Obama campaign's efforts likened to a Confederate barrage.

"Always go right at 'em"

Photon Courier on why Admiral Nelson could beat the tar out of his opponents, and on the disquieting trend in the U.S. to follow rules and regulations rather than do what makes sense.   He quotes a 1797 Spanish naval official about why he always got his butt kicked:
An Englishman enters a naval action with the firm conviction that his duty is to hurt his enemies and help his friends and allies without looking out for directions in the midst of the fight; and while he thus clears his mind of all subsidiary distractions, he rests in confidence on the certainty that his comrades, actuated by the same principles as himself, will be bound by the sacred and priceless principle of mutual support. . . .  Experience shows, on the contrary, that a Frenchman or a Spaniard, working under a system which leans to formality and strict order being maintained in battle, has no feeling for mutual support, and goes into battle with hesitation, preoccupied with the anxiety of seeing or hearing the commander-in-chief’s signals for such and such manoeuvres.
Following the links at Photon Courier takes us to this 2005 article at WaPo bemoaning the lack of "insurbordination and freelancing" witnessed in the stumbling aftermath of Katrina:   "Everyone coloring inside the lines -- it's a great system until the wind starts blowing really, really hard."