What? Actually Vote?

What? Actually Vote?

Senator Bunning apparently stood up for making his colleagues do their job. Alone of all the Senators, he objected to a 'unanimous consent' call for an extension of expiring stimulus spending.

“It is simply unfair for one senator to attempt to hold the Senate hostage on this issue,” Durbin said. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) told POLITICO that it’s “just awful,” and that Bunning’s objection could turn off televisions for millions of households with satellite dishes, since the package has provisions dealing with that issue.“You’ve got to be pretty mad about something to stop that,” Rockefeller said of Bunning.
It's "unfair" to allow one Senator to prevent a "unanimous" vote?

As for turning off people's TVs, so they'll have to pay attention to the hole we are digging for ourselves: Good!


So, What Do We Mean By "Addiction"?

The case for treating sex as an addiction:

In the last week of treatment, he and his doctors mapped out what his life would look like back home after recovery. He sees a counselor and goes to a 12-step recovery program. "In my first 365 days after treatment, I went to 523 meetings," he says.

Early on in his recovery he did sometimes look at Internet pornography, but a software program he installed on his computer alerted his wife and sponsor in his support group, and he stopped looking at porn.

Gradually, Rogers says, he learned how to have a healthy sex life with his wife.

"That's what we aim for," Parker says. "We're not trying to turn someone into a monk. He needs to learn how to have sex like a gentleman."
The case against:
As Tiger Woods undergoes treatment, T. Byram Karasu—the University Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College—says medicalizing normal human behavior doesn’t help anyone....

The treatment for sexual addiction is a form of pseudo-redemptive window dressing in which no one, especially the addict himself, really believes.

Sexual addiction is not like other addictions. Unlike addictions to alcohol, cocaine, and cigarettes, in which the craving is induced by external elements, sexual craving, by its nature, is an innate and natural phenomenon. And sex addiction is a specific situation—the frequency of erection and the intensity of orgasm—dependent on the person’s blood-level of testosterone.
It's interesting that the "for" case posits a treatment different from the similar 12-step treatment for alcoholism, which I have always heard requires you to stop drinking entirely. Medical doctors being so very interested in our animality, the assumption is that one cannot abandon sex entirely and be 'healthy,' since sexuality is normal and natural, and therefore ought to be present in reasonable amounts.

Eating and drinking are also normal and natural behaviors, and one can certainly point to gluttony as a problem not only for the glutton but those around him or her; but one really can't stop eating, whereas one actually can stop having sex. Indeed, the practice of celibacy has enjoyed a high reputation through most of human history: it is supposed to have numerous benefits, so I have heard. Fasting, the closest analog, can only ever be a temporary condition.

Would we say that the same mechanism is at work in gluttony and unchaste behavior? Sometimes there is at least the additional aspect of deception; gluttony is usually practiced openly, whereas one can openly sleep with lots of other people if and only if one is unmarried. Leaving deception aside, though, it does seem to be an unnatural focus of pleasure in only one otherwise natural process.

Here, too, we return to alcohol addiction: the enjoyment of a glass of wine or a fine ale has such a long history -- at least since the dawn of civilization, and quite possibly explaining the dawn of civilization -- that it would be a little strange to view it as non-natural behavior at this point. It would be nice if we could develop a 'therapy' that allowed a man to 'drink like a gentleman,' instead of abandoning the normal as well as the unnatural pleasure. Why can't we do that? Or can we?
There’s one element of the Sinclair Method that may surprise some people. The patient must continue drinking alcohol for the treatment to be successful. The drug naltrexone must be taken in conjunction with alcohol in order to be effective. While the drug may reduce the desire for alcohol so much that a patient eventually ends up giving up alcohol completely, abstaining from alcohol on a permanent basis is not a requirement of this treatment. One of the main goals is to get destructive, problem drinking under control so that a person can live a normal life.
It may be that there is a common root, then: the reward systems of the brain getting out of whack, and needing to be reset. Abstinence may be one way of doing that, and simply blocking the chemical rewards may be another. That would tend to explain why we can have apparently addictive behaviors in natural, innate things like sexuality or eating of food; but does it also explain unnatural behaviors like methamphetamine abuse?

Saving Money

How to Save Money, Federal Government Edition:

Dennis the Peasant has a wider complaint with this, but I'd like to focus on just one aspect of it.

By altering how it awards $500 billion in contracts each year, the government would disqualify more companies with labor, environmental or other violations and give an edge to companies that offer better levels of pay, health coverage, pensions and other benefits, the officials said.
In other words, 'We're going to look for ways to disqualify low bidders in order to pay more for products and services than we do currently.'

This appears to me to be a method to raise, across the board, the cost of everything the government buys. Thus, the government will become more expensive even if it were simply to maintain current levels of services; but we'd also like (says the administration) to add a bunch of new services related to health care, environmental regulations, etc.

They really do not understand that there will soon be no more money. No one in the White House has even begun to think about it, to grapple with it, or to consider how we might address the problem.



The VA is going to take another look at Gulf War Syndrome.

Poli Corr Mascot

Politically Correct Mascot:

Our friend Major Leggett has a suggestion for a new mascot for Ole Miss, which continues its ongoing efforts to cleanse itself of any sense of having anything to do with Southern history. They don't play the fight song anymore, but maybe they won't have to change the name of the team:

I am the former Admiral of the fleet of the Galactic Rebellion. I spend much of my time now looking into new ways to use my skills as a leader of Rebels. Currently my interests are in-line with those of the University of Mississippi, which, as fate would have it, is in search of a new leader for its Rebels.
Personally, I can think of a symbol that would be more apt even than that. We all know that the Democratic Party has been out front all along in pushing for political correctness, so nothing could be safer than to adopt their own symbol as an expression of your submission to these principles.

Nothing could be safer, that is, except if it also wears an Army safety belt!

Now, that's a safe mascot!

I want one

I Want One:

The Dictionary of Old English sounds like something I would love to be able to use.

Healey was quick to point out that the dictionary is consulted by scholars in a wide range of fields and disciplines: social historians who are studying words for rank and class, historians of economics who are examining records and terms of early taxes, and researchers of many stripes who are interested in working with the early form of a language in a linguistically pure environment as is presented by the corpus.

After listing all these reasonable arguments for why we need a dictionary of Old English she added, almost as an afterthought “Plus, it’s our language.”

It is our language indeed, and these four words from it that she uttered in an afterthoughtish way made me feel fiercely interested in seeing the rest of the words after the letter G defined. And this makes me think how odd it is that we are such ardent admirers of museums full of partially reconstructed bone fragments, taken from animals that are millions of years removed from us, and yet we find it so difficult to warm to Old English. While it is true that this is a dead language, it has died so recently (at least compared with the dinosaurs whose fossils are perennially alluring) that the corpse is still warm.

You can see the roots and traces of our language, evident even in the words that did not quite survive until the present day. Bealofus (liable to sin) did not last into our vocabulary, having been pushed out by the upstart and Latinate peccable (we apparently do not need more than a single word for this concept). But the bealoful of yesteryear became the baleful of today, and so even though bealofus lost the evolutionary battle it still tickles the familiar to see it there.
It's important to our concepts in other ways, too. Consider this piece on American Exceptionalism, a very current debate, which makes a reference to Benjamin Franklin's name.
The traditional Marxist claim about the U.S. was that it was governed by the executive committee of the bourgeoisie. This was not intended as a compliment, but it was largely true. Look at the archetypal American, Benjamin Franklin, whose name comes from the Middle English meaning freeman, someone who owns some property. Napoleon dismissed the British as “a nation of shopkeepers”; we are a nation of Franklins.
Actually, most of us don't hold land in the way a "Franklin" would have, i.e., in fee simple while owning no duties to anyone. The word shows the introduction of Norman concepts to England, as you can see by the way the etymology goes back to Middle English, but then veers off into Anglo-French and from there to Old French. The original members of the class had not been "franklins" in Old English, but thanes (as we are reminded by the character of Cedric the Saxon in Ivanhoe). The thanes had a connection of service, as knights did: the class was defined by their military service to the king. The Norman conquest stripped that from most of them, but left a class that had property and a certain strength, and so were left alone. Thus, they went from being 'retainers' to being 'freeholders' -- liberated, yet also lowered, since it was their service that entitled them to be considered members of the aristocracy. This, too, mirrors the knights -- they were a lower class than the nobility, but their status as being members of the overall aristocracy was in virtue of their service.

If we are 'a nation of Franklins,' then, we are a nation of free men -- but men who owe no service to the society or the government. That is at once a strength and a weakness.

God Gap

Foreign Policy Needs More God:

So says the Chicago Council on Foreign Policy, at the conclusion of a study.

American foreign policy is handicapped by a God gap, a narrow, ill-informed and "uncompromising Western secularism" that feeds religious extremism, threatens traditional cultures, and fails to engage and encourage religious groups that promote peace, human rights and the general welfare of their communities....

American foreign policy's God gap has been noted by others in recent years, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "Diplomats trained in my era were taught not to invite trouble. And no subjects seemed more inherently treacherous than religion," she said in 2006.

The U.S. foreign policy establishment's reluctance to engage religion continues today, the task force says. "The role of nationalism and decolonization was not widely understood in the U.S. until after the Vietnam War, despite considerable supporting evidence in the 1950s. Such is the case with religion today," says the task force's report, released at a conference at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs.

"Religion has been rapidly increasing as a factor in world affairs, for good and for ill, for the past two decades. Yet the U.S. government still tends to view it primarily through the lens of counterterrorism policy. The success of American diplomacy in the next decade will not simply be measured by government-to-government contacts, but also by its ability to connect with the hundreds of millions of people throughout the world whose identity is defined by religion."
This is indeed a critical weakness in U.S. policy, but not merely because of some sort of sentimental attachment to secularism. There are actually very solid reasons why American officials have more trouble talking in religious terms than, say, officials from the U.K. The British government, similar to ours in many respects, has an official church: the Church of England. The U.S. government has in the 1st Amendment a rejection of the 'establishment' of a national church.

As a result, any U.S. official making a religious statement can speak only in the most bland and unobjectionable terms; or he has to speak as a private citizen, making very clear that his personal sense and feelings have absolutely nothing to do with the policy of his government. That latter position strips any power out of what he might say; the former prevents any power from being present in the first place.

The official in the U.K. has 'top cover' in the sense that, because there is a doctrine that he can appeal to as the official faith of his country, he's got a lot more depth and range that he can invoke here.

So, what do we do about the 'God gap'? There's really not very much we can do. We can bring in more people with religious backgrounds to speak in addition to our diplomats and and other officers. We can go out of our way to show respect for religious practice.

The report had four specific recommendations, but point 4 is going to be problematic for the reason listed above. Essentially, they argue that we should stop talking about religious freedom, because that is seen as a kind of 'cultural imperalism' in places without religious freedom. Unfortunately, that's the one thing we can talk about; it's the one kind of 'official doctrine' to which our diplomats can appeal. "We believe in honoring your religion, along with all the others," sounds like weak tea, but apparently it's too strong.

There are not a lot of good answers here. This may be one area where our form of government has a structural weakness. The principle of religious freedom has also provided us with a great internal strength; and there are some people in the world outside our borders who likewise aspire to it (although always fewer than not, since 'religious freedom' is about the freedom of minorities, since the majority already has religious freedom by virtue of main force. Thus, religious freedom is most commonly about the freedom of others, others you probably believe to be necessarily different from yourself in a crucial way).



This guy is my kind of guy. Mr. David Benke stopped a school shooter 'with the faith of his body,' as they used to say: wagering his life against a killer, and saving many others in the process. He also came away unhurt himself, whereas had everyone cowered he could well have been shot. This proves the truth of the proverb, 'He that will lose his life, that same shall save it.'

Also in good news today, car thieves meet Air Force security. These are things that make you feel good while you have your coffee.

Poison in the Well

Poison in the Well:

An interesting bit of history that I had never heard before.

Doctors were accustomed to alcohol poisoning by then, the routine of life in the Prohibition era. The bootlegged whiskies and so-called gins often made people sick. The liquor produced in hidden stills frequently came tainted with metals and other impurities. But this outbreak was bizarrely different. The deaths, as investigators would shortly realize, came courtesy of the U.S. government.

Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.
Can you imagine the havoc that would be created if the government, today, were accused of poisoning crack cocaine or methamphetamine in an effort to scare off users?

Class War

"Class War"

That is the title of a Reason piece that portrays the public sector pension crisis as a case of public servants versus the rest of us.

Although Americans may have a vague sense that the nation has run up a great deal of debt, the public employee benefit problem is not well known. Yet the wave of benefit promises is poised to wash away state and local government budgets and large portions of the incomes of most Americans. Most of these benefits are vested, meaning that they have the standing of a legal contract. They cannot be reduced. And the government employees’ allies, such as California’s legislative Democrats, are cleverly blocking some of the more obvious exit strategies.

For instance, when the city of Vallejo went bankrupt after coughing up 75 percent of its budget to police and firefighters, the state Assembly introduced legislation that would allow cities to go bankrupt only if they get approval from a commission. Such a commission would of course be dominated by union-friendly members. The result: Cities would be stuck making good on contracts they cannot afford to fulfill....

That money will come from taxpayers. The average private-sector worker, who enjoys a lower salary and far lower retirement benefits than New York or California government workers, will have to work longer, retire later, and pay more so that his public-employee neighbors can enjoy the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.

He Was Right!

He Was Right!

Dad29 says: "He Said 'If You Elect Me the Seas Will Stop Rising,' and he was right"!

In the Instapundit sense, anyway.

Who built America?

Who Built America?

Thomas Freidman is talking about nation building in America again, which raises an interesting question. When we do 'nation building' in other countries, we're talking about using a relatively functional organization -- the US military, with State Department and other assistance -- to improve services in non-functional areas like parts of Afghanistan. America itself, though, is a 'functioning area' if anything is: problems with corruption and bad philosophy in our government aside, if America doesn't work than nothing can be said to be functional.

So, do we need "nation building"? Well, maybe, if you mean (as he seems to mean) infrastructure improvement projects. The Federal government certainly has a role in improving interstate commerce by building, say, roads across multiple states or bridges between two states.

How have we built the infrastructure we have? Let's look at a few examples.

The railroads: The Federal role here was limited to crafting a system that would encourage and reward private industry in building the rail system. They were paid bribes, essentially, in terms of the land that they were granted along the railway route, which they could sell or lease to raise funds. That paid for the construction of the railroad; after it was built, it operated on a for-profit basis.

The highways: The Interstate System was based on Dwight D. Eisenhower's support for a network of highways connecting the nation. He got the idea from the Lincoln Highway, the first intercontinental road, which was apparently built by a private group. Automobile manufacturers were important in funding the Lincoln Highway, and in lobbying for the Interstate System. The Federal role here was to help the states organize their efforts, and provide some funding.

The airport system: This, again, was a partnership between industry and (local) government. The cities of America have had a leading role here, with states supporting them. The Federal role has been smaller; but there has also been a large degree of input in terms of money and leadership from private industry.

The telephone network: This has been very largely a private investment, with the government serving a regulatory role either to avoid, or to manage, monopolies in certain areas. The same is true for cell phone networks.

The internet: The government played a major role in the formation of the internet, though private investment has expanded it in many ways. Government continues to sit in regulation on the basic structure of the thing, but new additions to the network are very often based on private companies, groups or individuals who have information they wish to add. Many of these provide their own infrastructure up to a point, and normally pay for access through their privately-owned Internet Service Provider.

We could go on and consider oil pipelines, deep-water ports, etc., but I think the point has been made.

The government has certainly had a role in the building of the infrastructure of America. Sometimes this has been a leadership role, and sometimes it has mostly been about arranging funding; and sometimes it hasn't led and it hasn't funded, but it's regulated the provision of privately-created services.

All of these models are before us if we talk about "nation building in America." I'd like to know two things about any such proposal:

1) What is this new system that needs to be built, which we don't already have in the sense that we "didn't have" a railroad or an Interstate System until it was built?

2) Which model of Federal leadership are you proposing? The one where they find ways to spur private investment (like the railroads)? The one where they take control of an existing private system (like the AT&T breakup)? Or the one like the Internet, where it really builds something new and then lets private groups add on?