Don't Trust Govt

Why The Gov't Can't Be Trusted to Reform Health Care:


One troubling provision of the House bill compels seniors to submit to a counseling session every five years (and more often if they become sick or go into a nursing home) about alternatives for end-of-life care (House bill, p. 425-430). The sessions cover highly sensitive matters such as whether to receive antibiotics and "the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration."
So, free American citizens will be required to submit to "counseling" from the government on how it's their time to die? 'You know, you should really consider asking not to be cared for if you have another stroke. I mean, think of the relief to your family of not having to care for you...'

But it's OK, because it will "reduce costs." Which savings, of course, the Senate is spending today!
Shockingly, only a portion of the money accumulated from slashing senior benefits and raising taxes goes to pay for covering the uninsured. The Senate bill allocates huge sums to "community transformation grants," home visits for expectant families, services for migrant workers -- and the creation of dozens of new government councils, programs and advisory boards slipped into the last 500 pages.
It's time to educate the government on its proper relationship to a free people. They can keep this nonsense, every last paragraph of it.

Own to Rent

"Own to Rent":

So, how bad an idea is this?

The plan would let borrowers who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments avoid eviction by renting their homes. They’d give up all their equity—if they have any—and future claims on the equity, in exchange for getting to keep their homes.

There are lots of problems with this idea, including havoc it would create in securitized mortgages, that it would make the housing market even more illiquid than it is, and that it would create a huge incentive on the part of even more borrowers to default. Think about it: now you don’t even have to walk away.
The idea isn't quite as crazy as it sounds on first hearing: Nicholas Taleb suggested a similar approach recently. However, his approach is much less punitive than this: the bank would claim a permanent stake in the house, in return for lowering the payments to something you could afford. (So, for example, the bank would always own 49% of your house; therefore, you'd only need 51% of the mortgate, and could make lower payments). That preserves not only your home, but your ownership of it. The bank doesn't become your landlord. It just gets a share of the sale of the house whenever it does sell.

If the moral hazard is the issue, though, the more punitive approach could be defended: it is good that you have to sign away all your equity, and all future equity, forever. That will keep everyone from doing it. After all, who doesn't want to pay half their mortgage costs in hard economic times?
Why E-books suck.
This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.

The MobileReference edition of the novel, “Nineteen Eighty-four,” by George Orwell that was deleted from Kindle e-book readers by no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.

Some body go check Orwell's grave. I think I can hear the spinning from here.




There's a badly run bar near my house. Used to be a drunk bar -- for probably 50 years. It was quiet then. A good neighbor, run by people who know how to run bars. Now, it's a hipster bar. They have bouncers there who...I don't know what they do, but they don't keep the assholes who patronize the place quiet....

I used to point out the proximity of the houses -- like, four feet away from where their car is parked, not behind some thick thicket of trees, and note that it's 2 a.m. and people (like me) were sleeping, and/or would like to be. This gets them combative. Even though I like to call an asshole an asshole, it appears to be an extremely counterproductive technique.

My new move is to come out and say, "Excuse me, my baby's sleeping..." Shuts the assholes right up and gets them to move, to boot. And they even apologize. Nicely. So...if you're 45 and would like to sleep, "[F*(&] you!"...but if you've extruded a child, "We're so sorry, Ma'am"?

What do you make of this?
The answer is obvious: it is the same reason people suddenly become highly respectful of a fellow airline traveler if he is a soldier returning to the wars. People will go so far as to give up their First Class ticket on an 11-hour flight for such a man. For 'just another traveler,' they wouldn't hesistate to shove past him.

Motherhood is service, as soldiering is service. It is among the most honorable of occupations.

Flying the flag of motherhood when you are not a mother, by the way, is perfidy.



Mark Tapscott writes in praise of a liberal:

This may come as a shock to some but a liberal college professor was among the most influential people in this conservative's life. In fact, I often wonder whatever happened to liberals like Dr. Jerry Polinard.

Polinard was my constitutional law professor at Oklahoma State University - I know, shocker, I didn't go to an Ivy League school like the really smart people - and I loved his class more than any other, even though he and I passionately disagreed on just about everything.

He was an inspiring teacher who clearly loved the teachable moments made possible in the humorous and constructive repartee between teacher and student in the college classroom. More important, he always made a persuasive case for genuine American liberalism, while also taking seriously the conservative critique of that view.

His was the liberalism of counterpoised power on behalf of individual freedoms. He argued that concentrations of power often develop in certain sectors of capitalist economies with large corporations. And our decentralized, federal system sometimes lets local and state governments abuse individual rights or groups of people who are powerless to defend themselves, such as the Jim Crow era for Blacks in the rural South and urban North.
Let me join him in celebrating a friend and teacher, surely the best I ever had, who was a man of the Left. He was, in fact, a self-described Socialist. Yet he taught me much about economics and war -- he was my first introduction to Clausewitz -- and I loved him for it.

Agreement is not the main thing. It is not, in fact, particularly important. What matters is the life of inquiry, more than the conclusions drawn. Break lances gladly, with a joyous heart:

"The hour when death is like a light and blood is like a rose, --
You never loved your friends, my friends, as I shall love my foes."


No-Bid Contracts:

Goodness, how can this be?

The Defense Department frequently awards no-bid work to small contractors for repairs at military bases under the new economic stimulus law, costing taxpayers millions of dollars more than when businesses compete for the work, according to an Associated Press analysis of 570 such contracts.
Under President Obama's stimulus bill? Not the President Obama who said:
The days of giving government contractors a blank check are over.
And yet his own stimulus plan is supporting such things? Unbelievable.

Oh, and also:
Administration Bridles at Bar on Contractors. “The Obama administration has objected to a provision in the 2010 defense funding bill currently before the Senate that would bar the military’s use of contractors to interrogate detainees.”

So much for all that fierce moral urgency of change.
The truth is that no-bid contracts are used mostly where the government is familiar with the service being rendered, and is happy with the way it is being performed. They aren't 'blank checks,' but rather, occasions where past good service is something the government wishes to see continued. They're prepared to pay extra rather than risk an interruption of that service, as would certainly be caused by swapping providers. It's like having a dentist you trust, who raises his rates: if you trust him and like how he has taken care of you, if you can afford it, you might well choose to stay with that dentist you trust rather than swap to a cheaper one. After all, the lowest bidder may have reasons for being able to work so cheaply that you will regret once you're under their drill!

Having seen several "no bid" contracts replaced by bidded contracts in the past, I've never yet seen an occasion where the bidding process didn't result in inferior service rendered. That need not always be the case, but it's no wonder that the "no bid" process is preferred by DOD in many cases.

The Highland Games

The Grandfather Mountain Highland Games:

So it was, this year, fine flags flying amid cloud and rain and sun. If you missed it, I'm sorry: but it will be there next year, be sure of it.


Pain and Valor:

The greatest leap of faith at the root of our foundations is the declaration that it is self-evident that all men are created equal. Inequality is the fact:

Inequality is a tricky concept. Typically when people talk about inequality in a political context they have in mind not inequality of virtue or beauty or intelligence, etc., but inequality of material conditions.
Those inequalities are manifest, though, and we cannot deny them. Indeed, they aren't even linked the way we would like to dream that they should be. Wealth and happiness are not linked, nor wealth and virtue, nor intelligence and virtue. Here writes a very wealthy, very unhappy woman:
[I]t’s clear that females are dissatisfied—more and more, divorce seems to be initiated by women. If marriage is the Old World and what lies beyond is the New World, it’s the apparently stable men... who are Old Worlders, and the Girls’ Night Out, questionnaire-completing women who are the questing New Worlders. They most embody what Tocqueville described as America’s “restless temper,” or l’inquiétude du caractère (Interestingly, according to EnlightenNext magazine, some northern European women are reportedly eschewing their progressive northern European male counterparts and dating Muslims, who are more like “real men.”)....

To a certain extent, men today may have more clarity about what it takes to raise children in the modern age. They don’t, for instance, have today’s working mother’s ambivalence and emotional stickiness.

Sickness. Again, the culture of seeing emotional difficulty as a kind of illness, needing medication and 'therapy.' The therapy brings no cure, and the despair grows.

Despair is a mortal sin. That has been forgotten, but it was one of the greatest insights of the old faith.

Cassandra writes:
More and more these days, I think we hide from our own knowledge of what is right because somehow we've decided that morality is too difficult.... But right and wrong haven't changed. It is we who changed.
Have we? I knew my grandfather, and I share his flaws -- and his virtues, if I may be bold enough to say so. Is that not the answer? Does not the lady say:
[I]t’s clear that females are dissatisfied.... Interestingly, according to EnlightenNext magazine, some northern European women are reportedly eschewing their progressive northern European male counterparts and dating Muslims, who are more like “real men.”
Is that not the answer? A virtus is a strength, an excellence: the kind of quality that you find in warriors, heroes, tamers of horses. Women are dissatisfied, she says: and why would they not be, with this crop? She sketches a gentle man who is very far from a gentleman: for as Blackstone says, a gentleman is one "qui arma gerit."
That is, "one who bears arms."....

Blackstone notes, as does the Oxford English Dictionary, that the "arms" in question are heraldic arms -- that is, symbolic ones. Those symbolic arms, however, were the later representation of what was earlier a very real right: the right to bear not only weapons, but armor onto the field. Heraldry describes the shield of a fighter. In the Middle Ages, the sort entitled to such a shield were those with the literal right to bear arms. It is only in these more decadent ages -- in more decadent countries -- that this right has become purely symbolic....

In America, the right to bear arms is secured in the Constitution itself. If you wish to register heraldic arms, the link to the American College of Heraldry is on the right. If you wish to bear literal ones, you have the right to do so. Every American man can be a gentleman.

To do so, though, requires that you constitute yourself a defender of your country and its civilization. It is not enough to say, as did Dutch humanist Oscar van den Boogaard:
"I am not a warrior, but who is?" he shrugged. "I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it."
No, that is not a gentleman, though he wears the finest clothes and writes the finest novels, keeps the best society, and has the finest manners. He has only the accidents of a gentleman. He has nothing of its essence.

The essence is to bear arms, in defense of country and civilization. That is the real thing, the root of the tradition. The arms may be symbolic, or they may be actual. The defense must be devout.

That may sit ill with some, but there it is. Honi soit qui mal y pense, goes the motto of the greatest of England's knightly orders.
That motto is normally translated as, "Evil to him who thinks evil of it." A more contemporary translation might rightly be: "To hell with you if you don't like it." Such a declaration is the essence of 'real manhood': a defense of what you love, and a defiance of the world to love it also, or stand aside.

When men are men, women are not dissatisfied. As you love women, then, defend manhood.

In a sense, these women have brought this on themselves: for they have not. Yet their pain is real, and no man ought to like to see a woman in pain.

UPDATE: As I reflect on this, this morning, I can think of several things that work against the concept. There is certainly female infidelity where men are very much men -- the famous "Jody problem" in the military, for example. The men are deployed, and the women are lonely. Here, too, the women are dissatisfied, but it is hardly the fault of the men, who are doing only their duty. (It is certainly the partial fault of one of the men, i.e., Jody.)

The absence of a 'real man' from their life is still the root of the problem, though in these cases the absence is caused by duty, one of the very things that defines a real man. The woman's lack of strength and faithfulness is at least as much at fault in these cases.
And our machines will eat you, too:

A Maryland company under contract to the Pentagon is working on a steam-powered robot that would fuel itself by gobbling up whatever organic material it can find — grass, wood, old furniture, even dead bodies.

The Ride Home

The Ride Home:

We have come out of the Wild, having stopped tonight at an inn with an Internet connection.

It was an eventful trip, besides what is pictured here. But I have been gone for too long: I had not known the elk had returned to my mountains.