Aw, man!

Aw, Man!

Finally the government comes up with a worthwhile use of taxpayer dollars, and some pennypincher shoots it down.

The Billy Carter Gas Station is privately owned, but its ownership would be transferred to the government if the legislation is approved. The gas station has old gasoline pumps, stacked tires outside, colorful articles from Carter’s closet, commendations from around the world and “Billy Beer” paraphernalia.
And it was such a good time to re-examine our opinion of the Carter years, too.

Marmots and AGW

Global Warming Crusaders Target Marmots in Cruel Genocide

Or is it "zoocide"? Whatever: they can't wash the blood off their hands this time.

"I didn't intend to spend 40 years studying marmots, but new questions kept coming up," confesses a researcher whose professional life was hijacked by this under-reported drama. His perseverance paid off for us all with his "groundbreaking study, published in Nature," revealing to a stunned scientific community that "mountain rodents called marmots are growing larger, healthier and more plentiful in response to climate change." The longer growing season has boosted the plucky creatures' size, strength, and numbers. Unless. Unless we let Al Gore back out of his cage, in which case decades of hard-fought progress in the marmot community could be senselessly undone.

Snapping Back to the Narrative. Someone must have handed our scientist a note from off-camera during the interview, because he hastens to add: "This benefit to marmots is probably short-lived. . . . [I]f there's less snowmelt to nourish plants that marmots forage in the summer, it will severely affect them. In droughts, we've had very high mortality." Marmots cannot catch a break.

The next time you thoughtlessly exhale, or wait to exhale, consider that you're dooming a marmoset to the Scylla and Charybdis of obesity and starvation. Here's a site where you can support marmot research. Look into your hearts and dig into your wallets.

Federal Pre-emption

Enforcing Federal Law As It Ought to Be

I understand federal pre-emption. I support federal pre-emption in the areas where it applies. I even agree that it applies with particular force and reason in areas like immigration. It's just that I think the federal law that enjoys pre-emptive power should be the actual federal law that's been passed by Congress and stuff.

Here's the money quote from the DOJ's July 6 brief in the Alternative Universe that is the Arizona immigration enforcement lawsuit:

Although a state may adopt regulations that have an indirect or incidental effect on aliens, a state may not establish its own immigration policy or enforce state laws in a manner that interferes with federal immigration law.
That actually sounds pretty good to me. The part I don't get is why the feds who happen to be in office this year get to establish their own version of "federal immigration law" without complying with all those tiresome procedures for amending the laws on the books.

Here's how it seems to work: You're a Sanctuary City? No problem of any kind. You're doing the Lord's work. You're in accord with the Immigration Law As It Would Exist in a Just Universe. We, the feds, have the exclusive right to ordain what that is using only the power of our own minds. But over there, you're a Non-Sanctuary State? Knock it off. You're acknowledging the force of the law as written, which is an intolerable intrusion into the majesty of our federal powers.

The fact is, though, I'm pretty encouraged today by the tone of the federal district judge's questions, which show a healthy skepticism about the DOJ's case.


Wealth Yes/No

Remember the summer of $4 gas and the Lehman bankruptcy, when things seemed so crazy that we elected a wannabe Socialist without adult experience and watched a nominally Republican administration push nearly a trillion dollars in bailouts? I didn't like TARP at the time, but I held my nose and swallowed because the alternative seemed equally unthinkable. Now that opening those particular floodgates seems to have ushered in an endless round of mindboggling "stimulus" spending, I suppose I'll be wondering for the rest of my life what might have happened if we'd just said "no" and taken our lumps.

It's a daunting job to imagine, but I have been appreciating Bill Bonner's essays on the need for an honest global deleveraging, painful but unavoidable. He argues that what the world opted to try in 2008 was to replace private debt with public debt rather than destroy the bad private debt once and for all. The experience of Japan, however, shows that you can avoid the pain of deleveraging only by accepting an unconscionably extended stagnation instead. I realize this opinion is not original with Bonner, but he expresses himself clearly enough for me to follow, which is not true of most economists:

After Lehman went down, the whole street was ready to fall. Households, businesses, banks - trillions in debt might have been wiped out overnight; we'll never know.

Instead, we're headed for Tokyo where they've had bailouts, boondoggles and counter-cyclical fiscal stimulus for 20 years. And for what?

"It would have been worse had the Japanese authorities not acted," say the neo-Keynesians.

How they know that is a mystery to us. As it turned out, Japanese investors lost nominal wealth equal to three entire years' GDP. And the economy today hasn't grown in 17 years or created a single new job.

Nor has the debt been reduced. Instead of permitting the private sector to destroy and pay off its debt, the public sector fought against it...borrowing heavily to try to bring about a recovery. Result: no recovery . . . and almost exactly the same amount of debt. But while the private sector paid off its debt, the public sector picked up the borrowing. Now it's the government that owes money all over town.

Is that progress, or what?

What. In the U.S., 24 million households own their homes outright, 51 million have a mortgage, and 37 million rent. (I focus on home mortgages here because our banks seem now to have nothing but mortgages and sovereign debt left in their portfolios.) Of the homeowners with mortgages, 11 million are under water. Bonner quotes an estimate that it will take more than eight years to clear the market of foreclosed, distressed, and defaulted homes so that supply-and-demand forces can kick back in and start driving housing prices back up. If we keep propping the housing prices up with more "Cash for Cottages" programs, maybe we can stretch that period to a Japanese-flavored 17 years.

More cheerfulness from ZeroHedge, which notes that bonds are signaling deflation while stocks are signaling inflation:

[U]nlike a Schrodinger Thought Experiment, you can't live in a world in which assets predict both inflation and deflation at the same time. Perhaps all it takes is for some person with a dose of common sense to "observe" this discrepancy and collapse the wave function of the insanity that our market has become. The snap back will be violent.

The comments to that last thread are memorably bleak. Here's my favorite: "As long as they keep the box closed we can't see the dead cat. So maybe in order to prevent this from going any further someone were to shake the f*** out of the box." Another commenter believes the bizarre shape of the market results from banks drawing cash from the Fed window and using it, not to loan into the economy, but to buy treasuries. I keep reading about that last one and wondering about what it means, too.


Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Sierra Charlie?

South Carolina has some explaining to do. Exactly how did this happen?

Via LiberalLand, which notes these two selling points especially:

* “Well he’s a new face in politics, and he don’t show porno to college chicks.”

* “Alvin Greene is the one for you; he knows how you feel ’cause he’s unemployed, too.”
My favorite line, though, might be the one that explains that we know he's big on family values, because he lives with his mom and dad.

Life & Times at Stirling

Life & Death at Stirling Castle:

The skeleton of a young knight killed in battle proves that it was a man's life, indeed.

Even though the warrior was probably only in his mid-20s he appears to have suffered several serious wounds in earlier fights. Indeed, he may have been living for some time with a large arrowhead in his chest. Bone re-growth around a dent in the front of the skull suggest he had recovered from a severe blow, possibly from an axe. The fatal wound, however, occurred when something, possibly a sword, sliced through his nose and jaw.

The unknown warrior, who lived in or around the early 1400s, was laid to rest under the floor of a chapel near the castle’s royal apartments. Peter Yeoman, Historic Scotland head of cultural resources, said: “We know little about this burial area but the evidence suggests it was sometimes used during extreme circumstances, for example to bury the dead during a siege. However, by using modern analysis techniques we have started to discover quite remarkable information about this man. It appears he died in his mid-20s after a short and violent life. His legs were formed in a way that was consistent with spending a lot of time on horseback, and the upper body points to someone who was well-muscled, perhaps due to extensive training with medieval weapons."


In addition to the three serious wounds, it seems the man had also lost a number of teeth – perhaps from a blow, or a fall from a horse. A large, tanged arrowhead was found in skeleton and appears to have struck through the back or under the arm.
Now, some of that is just that archaeologists are usually somewhat softer than Dr. Indiana Jones. I think most of us gentlemen who read this blog could post a tally of injuries that would make them think we'd led a "short, violent" life. Still, it shows a man who fought hard and often; was long in the saddle; and whose early death was answered by all the honor that his companions at arms could afford to show him.

The End of the Cosmopolitan Ottomans

The End of the Cosmopolitan Ottomans:

Via Arts & Letters Daily, which is indeed a daily read of mine for several years now, a story about the good old days in Istanbul. The lesson is meant to be much wider than Turkey, however.

Sectarian violence, ethnic conflict, religious politics, are all prominent features of the current situation in many Middle Eastern countries. Thriving Jewish communities came to an end in every country after the inauguration of the state of Israel and the subsequent wars. Christian communities, integral to the population and society of many countries, and prominent participants in the politics of Arab and regional nationalism, are now increasingly under pressure....

A common theme in public discourse, in both the region and the West, is that these patterns of conflict have deep historical roots in the ‘mosaic society’ of the region, conflicts being only suppressed by imperial impositions, whether of the Ottomans or the British, and subsequently by violent dictatorships such as that of the Ba`th regimes. When these are removed, as in the case of Iraq, then the deep-seated schisms are given a free reign and manifested in conflict and violence. The opposite reaction comes from more liberal quarters of Middle Eastern as well as some Western commentators, who point to past periods of co-existence and harmony, as well as the lowering or even the erasure of communal barriers under the impact of modernity. Many Iraqis, for instance, appear bewildered at the sharpening of Sunni-Shi`i conflict, and protest that in their days nobody knew or cared who was Sunni or Shi`i in their circles, and point to the many inter-marriages. The current conflicts, then are explained in terms of imperialist manipulation...
Who's right? Both parties, the author says: but they are descendants of two different parts of society, one of which won, and one of which lost. The cosmopolitans lost.

La-La Land

There'll Always Be a California

What is going on out there? The tiny city of Maywood (1.2 sq. mi.), just southeast of downtown Los Angeles, made the national news when it recently fired all city employees and outsourced everything, from city hall staff to street crossing guards to maintenance workers to fire and police service. And the residents so far couldn't be happier.

“We don’t want to be the model for other cities to lay off their employees,” said Magdalena Prado, a spokeswoman for the city who works on contract. “But our residents have been somewhat pleased.”
Maywood's colorful history of municipal descent into Mad Max territory includes the conviction of a deputy city clerk for hiring a hit man to knock off a city councilman.

Although Maywood, like many American (and especially California) cities, has suffered from a dropoff in tax revenues, its biggest problem was its police force, which inspired so many lawsuits that the city was about to lose its liability insurance. The police department's $8 million annual budget was eating up half the municipal funds. Police service now is being provided by contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department at half the price, a change that also allowed the insurance bill to drop from $1 million to $200,000. City hall staff are now provided by contract with a nearby small city:

an estimated 100 employees and contract with neighboring Bell, which will handle other city services such as finance, records management, parks and recreation, street maintenance and others. Maywood will be billed about $50,833 monthly, which officials said will save $164,375 annually.

The city of Bell has received its own unusual media attention this week. Local residents of this tiny working-class community (median income is about $40,000, and 65% of residents over 25 do not have a high school diploma) were startled to learn that their city officials were the highest-paid in the country. Bell's City Manager Robert Rizzo earns $787,637 a year. In comparison, President Obama makes $400,000, L.A. City and County's chief executives earn $338,000 and $257,000 respectively, and Governor Schwarzenegger declines to accept his $174,000 salary.

Bell has roughly the same population as Maywood but about twice the area (2.5 sq. mi.). Both communities are predominantly Hispanic with a high proportion of displaced foreign travelers, as they're now called among the enlightened (h/t Bookworm). Bell council members defend Rizzo's salary, explaining that

the city was near bankruptcy when Rizzo came aboard 17 years ago. Since then, they said, he has put Bell on sound financial footing, with its general fund nearly tripling to about $15 million.
He does seem to have steered his little community through the same shoals that wrecked neighboring Maywood. If Rizzo is fired, as is threatened at this afternoon's closed-session Bell council meeting,
Rizzo, 55, would be entitled to a $659,252-a-year pension for the rest of his life, according to retirement calculations made by The Times that were reviewed by pensions experts. . . . That would make him the highest-paid retiree in the CalPERS system. . . .

I don't live in a city, but I've read my county budget, which is pretty lean. We don't expect our county officials to do a whole heck of a lot here. I can't really draw a bead on this Bell situation. Is it like Kansas City before the Great War, where the city bosses were utterly corrupt but kept a clean, pleasant city nevertheless? Bell is neither a basket case nor a paradise on Earth. The salaries are a caricature of out-of-control government spending, yet the city stays solvent without provoking its residents to a tax revolution or its deputy clerks to take out contracts on councilmen. Will they really get rid of Rizzo and all the other unusually highly paid officials, and if they do, will they find someone to do a better job for less? At the very least, maybe the residents will wake up and take some interest in their local governance.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

(A Friend Emails This)

Social Justice in Crops

How About If the USDA Helps Farmers Spread Dirt Around Instead of Wealth?

Here's what I don't get. The new take is: Sherrod sounded racist at first, but then the story turned into a sweet, totally acceptable riff on how federal agencies shouldn't be obsessing about black-vs.-white, they should be obsessing about poor-vs.-rich, so now she shouldn't have been fired after all.

Wait a minute. When did it become the U.S. Dept. of Social Justice and Wealth Redistribution via Agriculture Policy? How about if she obsesses about agriculture instead?

Update: I keep writing "Sharron" when I mean "Sherrod." Sheesh.

Georgia Primary Results

Georgia Primary Results:

I wasn't aware that Sarah Palin had made an endorsement in the race for governor, but apparently a whole lot of other people knew it.

Republican efforts to hold the governor’s office in Georgia may well rest on the shoulders of former secretary of state Karen Handel, who became the leading vote getter in Tuesday’s primary after she received an endorsement from Sarah Palin. Handel won 34 percent of the vote and will now face former congressman Nathan Deal in an Aug. 10 runoff....

Palin picked Handel on July 12, calling her a “common-sense conservative” even as the former Alaska governor acknowledged Handel was an underdog. Handel also does not have the backing of some Georgia conservatives.
Georgia has an open primary, so that you must decide whether to vote in the Democratic Party primary or the Republican Party primary. I have done both in different years -- in 2000, for example, I voted in the Republican primary in order to vote for John McCain. In 2004 and 2008, I voted in the Democratic Party primary. (I don't recall what I did in 2002).

This year I voted in the Republican Primary because the major race was the race for governor; the Senate race is going to go to whoever the Republican nominee happens to be, and as he's running unopposed, we can be pretty sure who that will be. The governor race was important and wide open, though, and there were two good reasons not to vote in the Democratic primary.

1) Roy Barnes was obviously going to win it, as he did handily. Now, those of you who were around Georgia long enough to remember the last time he was governor understand that he must not be allowed to resume the office, as he is a lying, faithless scoundrel. If another candidate were running close, I'd have been glad to vote against Barnes; but as he took two-thirds of the vote, that was not the case.

2) My former Congressman of many years, Nathan Deal, was running in the Republican primary. As much as I disdain Congress in general, I was always fairly well satisfied by Deal as Congressmen go. If he wants to be governor, I'm reasonably glad to support him given the other options.

I had thought the race was going to be between Deal and John Oxendine (who ended up much further back in the field than I expected -- perhaps Ms. Palin's influence touched his supporters especially). I honestly wasn't considering the former secretary of state at all, as I'm not aware of any thing she ever did that greatly improved the state of Georgia. I'm not sure why Ms. Palin decided to jump in on this, and I'm still not sure after reading her statement. Maybe she just wanted to see if she could swing another election? Looks to me like the answer is, "Yes -- so please exercise that power with more care and caution."

I'm quite sure that my endorsement means a great deal less than Ms. Palin's, but for what it's worth, if you're interested I still think Deal is the best of the candidates remaining on the field. I intend to continue to support him in the runoff on the 10th of August.


My Weekly Rant on the State of Public Education

Actually, I may be a little past-due. I meant to update my education rant when I read that the main upshot of the recent fracas over Texas counting failing students as passing was to suggest putting an asterisk by the improved school ratings that resulted. The spokesman in the story where I read this seriously addressed the issue of whether the schools could or could not be expected to find room for the asterisk and the explanation (*rating may be based on meaningless and/or fraudulent massaging of actual test results) on the schools' public marquees. No, I am not making this up.

But today's fresh inspiration for an education update came from Big Government, where I saw that American Federation of Teachers’ president Randi Weingarten is outraged that “suddenly, everyone’s an education expert.” Big Government's response:

If your union can figure out a way to pay for the system yourselves, then we’ll let you run the show and gladly seek school alternatives. Until then, taxpayers WILL have the final say – and what are you going to do about it? Have another protest? Brandish your brass knuckles?


The Race Card, from IMAO

Via Little Miss Attila, who has some of the best links I've run into lately, the IMAO site weighs in on the newest concepts in racism.

By the way, IMAO's host is pretty upset about Breitbart's lifting his "race card" graphic (image left), so I want to be sure to give it appropriate credit here. Selected IMAO one-liners to follow:

The White House saw part of the video and thought Sherrod was racist. Then they found out she was a reformed racist and fired her.
Remember that Black Panthers at your polling place are more scared of you than you are of them. Especially if you’re a cracker.
Context matters when charging someone with racism? Weird. When did that happen?
Make your choice on the Sherrod issue, liberals: Do you stand with Andrew Breitbart or Glenn Beck?
A conservative racist will never get credit for reforming. A liberal racist will be assumed to have reformed just by being for higher taxes.
I have to say: It’s quite fascinating what liberal journalists say when they think no one else is listening. Funny. Privately, I tend to express things more sympathetic to the left than I say publicly.

IMAO has a periodic photo-caption contest that looks entertaining. He asks that contestants keep their captions to a reasonable length, with ten as a maximum, and suggesting that the humor content will increase exponentially as the number of words approaches "one."

Also, this brilliant advice on ObamaCare if the Republican take back Congress:

* Repeal Obamacare. Once again, probably can’t do this the normal way without Obama’s vote, but if the Republicans get together and burn every physical copy and delete every soft copy of the Obamacare bill, that will effectively be a repeal since no one will know what the law was to follow it. It was thousands of pages no one read; it will be gone forever.

Love Thy Enemy

Love Thy Enemy:

I met Christopher Hitchens once, when I went to his protest-in-support of Denmark. We have all heard of his condition, and apparently it has occasioned some discussion.

The writer somehow misses Hitchens' own remarks, which are worth reprinting.

Well look, I mean, I think that prayer and holy water, and things like that are all fine. They don’t do any good, but they don’t necessarily do any harm. It’s touching to be thought of in that way. It makes up for those who tell me that I’ve got my just desserts. It’s, I’m afraid to say it’s almost as well-founded an idea. I mean, I don’t, they don’t know whether prayer will work, and they don’t know whether I’ve come by this because I’m a sinner.
I don't hold it against any man that he believes what he believes; I don't know how much control he has over it in any case. It strikes me that atheism is as likely to seem rational and right to some, and wrong to others, in just the way that Nominalism and Realism seem right or wrong, emphatically, to different people, across centuries. It may be that the truth is neither, but that human minds cannot reach it; and so we need both perspectives to fence off the strange area where the truth lies.

That is a more radical claim than it may seem on its face. Logic requires one or the other to be true: either "Fairness" is a real thing in the world, or it is a name we give to a concept we have; or even stronger, either God Is or Is Not. That last can be written in symbolic modal logic, in the strongest possible way:


That is, "It is necessary that P is the case, or that not-P is the case." For P and ~P to both be true is a logical contradiction; it cannot logically be the case that God both does and does not exist, or that Realism is both false and true.

If I say that it is not true that God exists, nor is it true that he does not exist, I'm saying something that appears to be logically impossible. One of us should be right, and the other wrong. Yet I'm not sure that is how it is. Logic is a feature of human consciousness, and consciousness remains one of the great mysteries. It is not at all clear to me that it is what it appears to be; indeed, scientific evidence shows us that our experience of consciousness is different from reality. Logic is also based heavily on conventions of language, as Peter Abelard, Gottlob Frege, and others have explored. Logic therefore may not be the reliable guide that we believe it to be.

If it is not, however, that leaves us with little else beyond faith. I have a great faith in natural theology -- in trying to understand God's purpose by examining the truth, as well as it can be established by science, of the world we are in. Yet I also think it is rational to have faith in a God that is and is not: perhaps he is in ways we do not expect, and therefore is not what we do expect.

Or perhaps it is even more difficult: one of those things of which we cannot speak, and must therefore avoid. If that is so, we may differ on these questions with no harm, and indeed, possibly with great good.

All of which is to say: May God save Christopher Hitchens. He may have to walk the valley alone, but at least he can do it in the knowledge of friendship. That is only what we will want when -- so soon -- we walk in the valley ourselves.

Fair Fights

On Fighting Fair:

There is no such thing as a fair fight.

So, the key to fighting is always to maximize the unfairness to your own benefit.

This does not imply, as you might think, a devotion to dirty fighting. That is because there prove to be some signal advantages to 'fighting fair.'


Faith in Social Security

Faithless Security:

Six in ten workers expect nothing from Social Security when they retire. Count me among them; I've never expected to see a red cent of the money they have taken from me and my family over the years.

The numbers are sixty-six percent up to age 55, and nearly eighty percent under the age of 35.

When you consider FICA as a line item expense, it is going to rank up there with your biggest monthly expenses. This is especially true if you are "self-employed," and paying fifteen-point-three percent of your income, pre-tax! Even if you are not self-employed, because the tax is figured into your wages, the tax is depressing your pay as well as swiping cash from your pocket.

In return for your other major expenses, you get some sort of positive good: food to eat, or a roof over your head. In return for this one, however, you are probably going to receive nothing at all if you are not already over 55 years of age. Furthermore, you know perfectly well that you are not likely to receive these benefits; and they are brought to your attention regularly, perhaps twice a month when you inspect your pay stub, or quarterly when you have to write a massive check to Uncle Sam.

My entire life I've watched the Congress spend every dime of the "trust fund," and leave a big IOU in the empty chest. I've watched the guarantors of Social Security treat those IOUs as if they were real money, when they should have been raising the roof with protests. They have given the henhouse to the foxes.

It's nothing but theft. Legal or not, it's just plain theft.

Sir Doggington

Episcopalians on Sex

Let's Make Sex a Lot More Heartless

Could this Episcopalian youth counselor be any more wrongheaded? He sees that young people are forever experiencing pregnancy scares and unwanted pregnancies, but what a depressing set of conclusions he's drawn about what we need to teach them on the subject. Why, he wonders, do so many "bright, educated young people" find "such flimsy excuses for not using contraception, even when contraceptive devices are easily available"? After passing de rigueur observation that we as a society haven't managed to make contraception cheap enough, he concludes that other compulsions are operating: young people more or less consciously choose to forgo contraception, in part because they cling to "myths" about the meaning of sex.

He explains his own state of mind as a reckless young teenager knocking up his girlfriend. The stirring words from Macbeth were in his mind: "But here, on this bank and shoal of time, we’d jumped the life to come." What this meant to him was:

It seemed desperately romantic (remember, I was 17). As awful and as risky as what Macbeth and his wife were doing, they were doing it together, as a couple, bonding themselves together in their mutual sin. And as my girlfriend and I wrapped ourselves around each other, unable to get enough of one another, I remember thinking “I’m willing to risk everything for this — and the life I’m willing to jump is my own, my future.” Like so many young people in this same situation, I was briefly intoxicated with thoughts of a life together with a baby. My gal and I would always be together, would be unable to part, if we made a child together, or so I believed.
So he knocked her up, and a couple of months later he was doing the responsible thing, paying for her abortion. The moral he draws?
But we often forget that for some young people, the use of contraception not only symbolizes caution, it can come to symbolize a lack of complete and utter trust. . . . [What we need is] honest discussion about the romantic myths we attach to sex, particularly to intercourse: myths about fusion, myths about commitment, myths about what it means to have sex without barriers. . . . The sex education we need is about more than “protection.” It’s about more than providing access to abortion as a last resort, thought that remains an important component of justice-centered sex ed. Proper education will center on what sex means and what it doesn’t. And we can start by gently, firmly, and lovingly tearing down the myth that unprotected heterosexual intercourse represents the most intimate and magical expression of trust and love. Until we deconstruct that lie, we only tempt the unprepared to jump too quickly the lives they have to come.
Wow. Abortion is an important part of justice-centered sex ed. But not as important as disabusing young people of any notions that sex is about fusion, commitment, responsibility, love, or engendering helpless infants who will deserve loving protection from both parents. Glad we cleared that up! But I think I'd rather spend time with the kids who haven't gotten the message yet.


What'll They Think of Next

I confess to never having received a flu vaccination in my life. I can't explain why. It may be a friend's experience with Guillain-Barre syndrome some years ago, or a strong aversion to visiting any doctor when I can possibly avoid it, or the fact that either I've never had the flu or I've only ever contracted versions too mild to worry about. Or it could be that, like many Americans apparently, I have a lingering fear of needles. I don't have the strong reaction to them that I suffered from as a child, but I seem to find ways to avoid them, though for some odd reason I don't at all mind having my blood drawn.

Anyway, alert scientists are on the job. They've come up with a new vaccine delivery system that not only avoids syringes but has several additional advantages. It's a patch with such tiny, micron-sized needles that you can't feel them. They dissolve in your skin, leaving behind only the vaccine in your system, and a water-soluble patch on your skin that can be disposed of without creating any "sharps" hazard. Avoiding needles also avoids the dangers of re-use and contamination, particularly in impoverished countries where this has been a terrible problem. The immune response from the skin delivery system is even better than from an intramuscular injection, something to do with the prevalence of the right kind of immune cells there. Because the little micron-needles use a dry form of vaccine, it is more stable in storage than the injectable sort. The patch could be administered by non-experts or even sent home to be applied privately by the patient.

The patch has been testing well in animals. It will be a while before it is available for people.

This Too

This, Too:

Via T99's introduction, I found this little piece of playfulness.

This is why it is still worth trying to find a way to hold it all together.

Njal 2

The Saga of Burnt Njal, Discussion Two:

We are reading The Saga of Burnt Njal, and this week we are discussing sections 21-37. Next week we will talk about sections 38-53.

Now we're starting to get into the meat of the story. Sea battles! Murders! But also lawsuits, with poetry:

"Yes, so must it be, this morning --
Now my mind is full of fire --
Hrut with me on yonder island
Raises roar of helm and shield.
All that bear my words bear witness,
Warriors grasping Woden's guard,
Unless the wealthy wight down payeth
Dower of wife with flowing veil."
I imagine that some of you found it very satisfying to see Hrut repaid in kind by Gunnar. Note that Gunnar is a good man, though, and treats Hrut this way largely because it was how Hrut behaved himself. Toward Njal, his friend, Gunnar takes no advantage: they strive hard to be fair with each other, and to make peace on terms the other can manage.

Here we also begin to encounter the feuding of the wives. It is important to note that Bergthora is entirely in the right -- it may not be obvious, because they seem to be going eye-for-an-eye in murdering each other's servants and friends. However, the initial cause of the dispute was Hallgerda taking offense at Bergthora asking her to move down the table to make room for another guest in Bergthora's hall. Bergthora had a perfect right to order her own household, and to settle questions of precedence. Hallgerda's insults escalate the issue, and are repaid in kind. Gunnar refuses to fight in her unjust cause, but takes her home: so she escalates further, to sending a wicked man to murder a well-loved member of Njal's household.

This feud will continue to escalate through next week's readings. It is important to keep track of the quality of men on each side: both their social standing and reputation. So, ask yourself both: are they thrall or free? Are they honored men, or men distrusted and scorned?

What did you think of this week's readings?

The Common Law?

The Common Law?

Instapundit put up a poll asking about the design of this new DOJ website. I'm not sure that design is all that important in a DOJ website; but if we are going to talk about it, the one point of the design that bothers me is the quote they put up at the top of the page:

Apparently this phrase is carved in stone on the DOJ building, so putting it on the website is not a big deal by comparison; but what a strange sentiment! Common law (which is to say, the decisions of courts and precedents) has little to do with "Mankind" or "the People," and everything to do with judges and lawyers. It is their will, in other words, insofar as it is "will" instead of the interpretation of positive law.

Insofar as it is "will" in the judicial sense, American "common law" should be entirely guided by our Constitutional law. It is the Constitution that is the expressed will of the People -- not "Mankind," which includes a lot of folks who are not part of the American "We, the People." It is the upholding of the Constitution that the DOJ ought to be thinking of as its chief mission.

Apparently the quote drew other eyes than mine. The Spectator asked after it, and came up with the following answer.

Another DOJ lawyer says, "It's taken from an inscription along one of the outer walls of the department ["The common law derives from the will of mankind, issuing from the life of the people, framed by mutual confidence, and sanctioned by the light of reason"], but no one is sure where the quote came from."

The quotes that ring the building were selected during the construction process back in the administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Some attorneys believed the quote is pulled or adapted from the writing of Sir William Blackstone, the 18th Century British jurist, who wrote the Commentaries on the Laws of England, which influenced not only British law, but also the American constitutional and legal system. But other Department of Justice employees say the quote originates from British lawyer, C. Wilfred Jenks, who back in the late 1930s and after World War II was a leading figure in the "international law" movement, which sought to impose a global, common law, and advocated for global workers rights. Jenks was a long-time member of the United Nation's International Labor Organization, and author of a number of globalist tracts, including a set of essays published back in 1958, entitled The Common Law of Mankind.

Most telling: Jenks, as director of the ILO is credited with putting in place the first Soviet senior member of the UN organization, and also with creating an environment that allowed the ILO to give "observer status" to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and to issue anti-Israeli statements, which precipitated efforts by the U.S. Congress to withdraw U.S. membership from the ILO. The U.S. actually did withdraw in the mid-1970s due to the organization's leftist leanings.

"It was Jenks's efforts that helped make the ILO a tool of the socialist and communist movement," says one of the DOJ lawyers. "We used to joke about how fitting it was that this was Janet Reno's favorite quote to use in speeches, and now the Obama folks think it encapsulates out department's mission."

Suggestions to highlight quotes from the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights or quotes from the Founders, the Federalist Papers or prominent American jurists were quickly shot down by the Department of Justice's media and new media teams, according to DOJ sources familiar with the design process, and the White House communications shop was given input to the overall design as well.
So it's an old quote, from a source no one can quite identify: the Spectator's attribution to Communists is weak, though not wholly implausible. It is a quote that apparently is highly inspirational to people like Janet Reno and the current White House.

Perhaps a small matter; perhaps just a window into their thoughts.

The Borderline Sociopathic Blog For Boys: Real Men Of Genius: Potato Chips From A Microwave

Real Men Make Their Own Potato Chips

On The Borderline Sociopathic Blog For Boys, a one-minute tutorial for homemade potato chips from the microwave. "Sometimes, when a real man is standing in his tidy-whities in the kitchen watching football and eating cold Beefaroni from the can, he gets the urge for a second course. This is that man. That is this course."

Other excellent video clips there, too. A 30-second clip of Sam Rockwell dancing reminds me to say that "Moon," a 2009 film starring Rockwell and directed by Davie Bowie's son, Duncan Jones, is well worth watching if you're trying to think what to order from NetFlix.