Your Lying Eyes

Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.

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31 March 2006

Amnesty? What Amnesty?

Senator Arlen Specter on why his new immigration bill does not grant illegal immigrants amnesty:
"It is not amnesty because the undocumented aliens will have to pay a fine. They will have to pay back taxes. They will undergo a thorough background investigation. They will have to learn English. They will have to work for six years. And they will have to earn the status of staying in the country and the status of moving toward citizenship."
I think his quote must have been cut off, because what's obviously missing is the "or else..." part. I think the way that goes is "...or else they're just going to have to stay here as long as they want and never become a citizen which they aren't really interested in anyway. And the same goes for anyone else who sneaks into this country - you're just going to have to stay here as long as you like."

Missed It By That Much

Just caught a minute of a kids' show on Amelia Earhardt on PBS where the young narrator noted that Eleanor Roosevelt once took a plane ride with Amelia and was so excited she wanted to get a pilot's license. But FDR vetoed it, claiming he couldn't afford to lose the First Lady in a plane crash. To think America could have been that close to shedding itself of one of its greatest embarrassments - now, we can only dream of what might have been.

29 March 2006

The Return of the Ice Age

You remember Dr. Abdusamatov, the Russian astronomer who predicted another 'little ice age' later this century based on his readings of solar cycles? The release of "Ice Age 2" reminded me to follow up on this story. I found a Pravda article that provides a lot more background. [NOTE: Due to the rather unartful nature of the translation provided by, the following excerpts are best read in a thick Russian accent ala' Boris Badenov.]

First off, Dr. A. is no two-bit telescope jockey - he is "chief of the Space Exploration Department of the Central Astronomical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the supervisor of the Astrometria project of the Russian part of the International Space Station, Doctor of Physical Sciences, Khabibullo Abdusamatov" thank you very much. Dr. A. notes that there are three types of solar cycles - an 11 year, 100 year, and 200 year. As far as the 11 and 100 year cycles, not to worry. It's the 200 year cycle that's a real bugger.
The theory, the scientist told Pravda.Ru, was not considered a common scientific theory in the world. “The whole world has recognized the global warming theory, which pictures catastrophic situations in the future. I do not march in step with the world at this point. However, my theory has raised a certain interest in other countries. Hardly had I made a statement to RIA Novosti when I received several messages from scientists living in the USA, Iceland and other countries. They wanted to know more of my theory. They also want to know if I have delivered a detailed report on the matter and where it was published,” the scientist said.
Here's another roughly translated site proposing a powerful 200 year cycle and relating it to major historical events. However, Dr. Aleksei Babushkin is more reassuring:
Temperature changes periodically occur in different parts of the planet. However, it is not an irreversible process. Nature controls itself – a continuing universal drop of temperatures will not happen. All that global cold and heat has been made up by American film directors.
Another scientist, Pavel Demchenko, is not so quick to dismiss other climate change concerns:
An analysis of the average empirical evidence on Earth shows that the human civilization will most likely have to experience the global warming. The year 2005 set a record of the average temperature on the surface of the globe that has ever been registered during the history of scientific observations.
The global temperature increase of ~1 degree c. in the last century is consistent with the impact of Abdusamatov's 200-year cycle.
Mr. Abdusamatov's theory corresponds with the results of the research about the increase of Earth's temperatures in the 20th century, which makes many scientists continue the trend of the future warming. Abdusamatov has made an opposite conclusion about the cold period, which is to follow the warm era. However, both the possible cold and warm weather periods are characterized with a change of Earth's temperature by only one degree Centigrade.
Well, hopefully he's right. With the Chinese and Indian economies only starting to grow, significant reductions in greenhouse gases over the coming decades seem rather unlikely, barring some dramatic technology developments. I think global cooling will be a lot easier to deal with.

I Like Immigrants

Literally, yes, just for the record - all the Latino immigrants I encounter - the guy who makes my sandwich at lunch, the guys who cut grass in the neighborhood, who paint houses, clean homes and offices - lovely, pleasant people all. It's too bad their grandchildren are going to want to cut our throats when they're still making sandwiches, cutting grass, painting houses, cleaning offices...

27 March 2006

Immigration Reform: Bush's Last Stand?

What seemed unthinkable just a short while ago has now become a very real possibility: Republicans could lose one or both houses of Congress. The person with the most to lose is President Bush. A Democrat House would mean hearings: on NSA wiretapping, torture, WMD's...well, the list seems endless, doesn't it. That an impeachable offense might arise in at least one of them seems fairly likely. If the Senate were lost as well, the Bush administration would be spending all its time testifying on Capitol Hill.

Various constitutional crises would crop up regularly as executive privilege claims would be proferred and contested. Even if Bush's term were to run out before the issues were settled, the election of a Democrat as President in 2008 would put Bush and his administration at risk for criminal investigation and prosecution. A slew of pardons would no doubt be issued in January '09, and perhaps a new controversy will arise as to whether a president can pardon himself.

With the personal stakes so high in the upcoming mid-term elections, should we fear that extra-legal means might be employed to assure a Republican victory? Possibilities would include a faked terrorist attack to altered ballot results using the non-auditable electronic Diebold voting machines. I don't think this is as far-fetched as it sounds. We all accept that fraud was likely in Illinois in 1960 and that fraud propelled LBJ to his first Senate victory. In 2006, it's not just a lost election that's at stake for George W. Bush, but his very Presidency if not his personal freedom, that's at risk. So pulling a few strings here and there must be awfully tempting.

But all this might be avoided if W. were to adopt as his own a widely popular position: strict controls on immigration without a guest worker program. Even though he has been the biggest front-man for the shortsighted business interests clamoring for cheap labor from across the border, he can do a complete 180 today and salvage this fall's elections. It's too late for his business backers to abandon him now - a Democratic congress would be too much of a disaster for them in other ways. Perhaps it is too late for his administration sycophants to switch gears, so here's some quick talking points to help with the transition:
  • The American people are the hardest working people in the world. Our brave young men and women in the armed forces should convince anyone that people who can withstand 9 humiliating weeks in boot camp and 9 excruciatingly hot and dangerous months in Iraq can and will do any job and do it well.
  • While we may be a nation of immigrants, we insist on assimilation into our society and acceptance of an 'American' identity. High levels of immigration do not allow our Hispanic brothers and sisters to assimilate as our ancestors did so well. We need to give our legal residents a fair chance to become full members of our community by stopping the unending flow of new immigrants.
  • The promise of America has always been a middle class life for all who work hard and play by the rules. But millions of undocumented workers make this impossible for many who have to compete with low wage workers for employment. We need to vastly reduce the number of illegal immigrants within our borders to keep the American dream alive.
  • We have seen a drop in the number of students graduating from college each year with science and engineering degrees. We cannot remain a great nation while our most important asset - the human capital of succeeding generations - declines. In order to ensure a rewarding career to those of our young people with the drive and determination to succeed in high-tech careers, we must limit the number of visas we grant to industry for hiring overseas workers.

Got it boys? - now get crackin' - your boss's job could depend on it! This may not be all the points you'll want to raise - but it's a start. If you need more help, you know where to reach me!

Talk About Getting Caught With Your Pants Down

Great. Steve Sailer links to me with expansive quotes in a major VDARE article (on Mike Judge and King of the Hill), even referring to this blog as 'perceptive'. So how am I prepared to greet these hundreds of new visitors expecting to read something 'perceptive'? With a dumbass 5-day-old post on how I don't know what a 'Guy Fawkes mask is'. I don't think people really appreciate the pressure involved in blogging.

23 March 2006

So This Guy in a Guy Fawkes Mask Walks into a Bar...

The new movie V for Vendetta features a kind of superhero who wears a Guy Fawkes mask. Do you know what that is? If not, you can join me and everyone I know in what must be the most ignorant group of people in the world. Because, you see, to the people who write movie reviews, it seems, the term “Guy Fawkes mask” is an utter commonplace needing no explanation, its usage certain to trigger in their legions of learned readers an instant vision: “Ah, yes, he wears a Guy Fawkes mask – I can just picture it!” No further elucidation is necessary – no need to waste ink even parenthetically describing something so ubiquitously understood – he’s wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, dammit!

Now it’s one thing to know who Guy Fawkes was – we all know he was some odd character from one of those bizarre incidents in British history involving some Papist plot to blow up Parliament. But we’re presumed to know about this eponymous mask? This presumption seems to cut across ideological and cultural lines. The New Yorker: “a rebel hero, in a Guy Fawkes mask, who blows up Parliament…” An reviewer: “an enigmatic hero wearing a grinning Guy Fawkes mask…” FrontPage: “He's a terrorist in a Guy Fawkes mask…” Even the great Udolpho indulges (albeit with style): "...aside from encouraging more gay men to wear Guy Fawkes masks every Halloween..." The casual references are everywhere. See for yourself.

I did try and use Google to find out just what a Guy Fawkes mask is. Of course if you just type in "Guy Fawkes mask" you're inundated with thousands of 'Vendetta' related posts by commenters eager to prove that they know what it is. So I tried filtering these out, eventually ending up with this search string: "guy fawkes mask" -vendetta -movie -film -portman. That generally succeeded in getting rid of the 'Vendetta' related posts (though a few, like DDT-resistant mosquitos after a good spraying, still hung around), but left an odd assortment of Guy Fawkes Day remiscences, paranormalist sites, professional wrestling vignettes, and shopping lists ("...jam, biscuits, Guy Fawkes mask...") - not one of them deigning to actually describe what this apparently ubiquitous mask looks like!

So, as a service to the next poor, ignorant, slob who finds himself stumped by an off-handed reference to this mask du jour, I hereby offer the first and only definition (based on pictures I've seen while researching this) of the term "Guy Fawkes mask" to appear anywhere on the internetGuy Fawkes Mask - Get yours today!: A Guy Fawkes mask is a comical or grotesque face mask with a resemblance to the British saboteur Guy Fawkes, featuring an elongated chin, a mustache and optional beard, prominent cheek bones, and a grinning, wide-eyed countenance. I invite my learned readers to contribute corrections to this definition in comments. If we can get this polished up, perhaps I'll add it to Wikipedia

What About the Good News from Iraq?

ABC News reports that they've been inundated with mail complaining that their Iraq coverage is biased towards the bad news in Iraq and we're not hearing enough about the good news from Iraq. President Bush's similar complaint in his latest forays into the public debate is the obvious impetus behind these viewers' protests.

But is it really the job of the media to cover "good news"? I don't think so. I think the job of reporters is to report "news" - stuff we don't expect, things that are new and different. So if there are people in Iraq who are not killing each other, that's not news - that's how things are supposed to be. If some U.S. sponsored project is helping to rebuild some school or sewage plant or electrical plant, that's not news, because that's something we promised to do and are expected to do.

Similarly, we don't hear about every killing in Iraq or every U.S. military action and certainly not every U.S. casualty because these are ongoing activities that simply don't constitute "news." The press should not have an agenda (heaven knows they often do), and so it is not the job of the press to publicize American good deeds. If the press emblazons news of torture across their headlines, that's an indirect way of saying that Americans don't typicaly torture their detainees - if we did, it wouldn't be news.

The same situation holds here stateside. When a white pregnant woman disappears in the middle of upper-middle-class suburbia, that's news, because it happens so rarely. When a woman in the black inner-city or some white working class enclave turns up missing, that's not news (or not very big news), because such reports are fairly common - and the end result is usually rather unexciting - she ran off or her drunk/drug addict husband/boyfriend did her in. The media doesn't run stories every day about normal life in the ghetto - how kids go to school, fathers go to work, mothers do laundry - that would be rather patronizing. The "news" from the ghetto is usually bad - the news from everywhere is typically bad. When reporters report on mundane affairs, that's usually a sure sign that there's an agenda at work, which is what we don't reporters doing. I think most people understand this - so I doubt this meme will have much traction.

20 March 2006

Ain't Easy Being a Gangsta

Black men in the United States face a far more dire situation than is portrayed by common employment and education statistics
The NY Times article paints a pretty depressing scene, where
65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless — that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent
By their mid-30's, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison
Among black dropouts in their late 20's, more are in prison on a given day — 34 percent — than are working — 30 percent
The article hits on probably the biggest factor in all this:
With the shift from factory jobs, unskilled workers of all races have lost ground, but none more so than blacks
The only hint that displacement by Latino immigrants might be an issue is this off-hand comment:
Dropout rates for Hispanic youths are as bad or worse but are not associated with nearly as much unemployment or crime, the data show.
Alas, the proposed solutions represent the usual litany of ineffective programs: job training, early childhood education, skills training for prisoners, and the grand-prize winner:
In a society where higher education is vital to economic success, Mr. Mincy of Columbia said, programs to help more men enter and succeed in college may hold promise.
Hello, Mr. Mincy - have you got a frickin' clue?

19 March 2006

What's Wrong - or Not

Alan Brinkley reviews Kevin Phillips's new book American Theocracy in the Times Book Review. Based on Brinkley's review, it would appear that Phillips has misdiagnosed America's problems - or at least has decided to dwell on some secondary issues.

According to Brinkley, Phillips cites three forces that threaten our future: our dependence on oil, Christian fundamentalism, and debt. Now obviously having to import 2/3 of our oil is a problem, but clearly less of a problem than that faced by Europe and Japan who import nearly all their oil. And certainly we take our energy needs very seriously in formulating our foreign policy.

But does oil really dominate our Mideast policy? I'd say Israel is the dominant force in our Mideast policy, and oil serves merely to moderate that policy by giving Arab nations some leverage so that our foreign policy does not completely favor Israel. While Phillips seems to lay blame for the Iraq war on oil interests, the more likely culprit is the pro-Israeli coterie in Cheney's office and the Pentagon (one of the main hawks at the Pentagon has been indicted for sharing state secrets with Israel). Indeed, during the run-up to the war, G.H. Bush's old guard were desperately trying to derail young Bush's plans. It's seems pretty clear that the impetus for the war came not from the more traditional Bush family circles but rather from the new breed of neo-cons brought into the administration. So Phillips seems a bit off on this one.

His next villain is even more unlikely. While the agenda of the religious right might be viewed with some concern by many Americans, they hardly constitute the most serious demographic threat to our nation's future. It's pretty bizarre, in fact, that in a nation where 1 out of 3 births are illegitimate and a materialistic mind set led to negative savings
Phillips finds people who oppose extra-marital sex and debt are found to be such a menace. Phillips, born and raised in Connecticut and an Ivy-Leaguer through and through, no doubt is horrified by the coarseness of the Evangelical masses, just as his Puritan cultural-forebears were horrified by the Scots-Irish immigrants who poured into the American frontier. Unfortunately, his snobbery prevents his noticing the far more ominous demographic time-bomb ticking away all around him in the millions of legal and illegal immigrants who are permanently altering our nation's very fabric. At least based on Brinkley's review, one gathers Phillips hasn't a word to say whether a continuous stream of over a million third world peasants might present some long-term consequences. No, he's too busy worrying that should fundamentalists get too powerful America could end up as a theocracy with prayer in public schools, abortion illegal, and married women largely consigned to housework - in other words, 1950's America. Wouldn't that be a disaster.

His third worrisome trend is certainly a real one - the growing pile of debt we are bequeathing ourselves. But the debt itself is really not so much of a concern. Our problem is that the debt is being financed by foreign governments. Otherwise, the national debt is really just a form of transfer payments from those citizens who do not own government bonds to those who do. Not ideal, but easily reversible via tax policy. But when we owe money to foreign interests, then we have no recourse. So our real problem is our absurdly high and growing trade deficit, which is fueled by our insatiable consumer tastes. For reasons that I suppose I'll have to read the book to understand, Phillips blames this on Evangelicals, even though 5 minutes watching Pat Robertson (probably an eternity to Phillips) would make it clear that conservative Christians view debt and credit-card consumerism as sinful behavior.

I'm sure the book is a lot better than this review makes it out to be, with a lot of solid backup for his arguments, but I doubt Phillips has a real intuitive feel for the populace. He nailed it with his prediction way back in the day that the growing Sunbelt would be good news for Republicans, but perhaps he never really understood why. With his latest book, he seems to be consistently missing the mark: worrying that our foreign policy is influenced by a critical energy source rather than by a single, small, (real) theocracy in the Mideast; or that our way of life is threatened by millions of religious, tradition-minded Americans as opposed to the yearly onslaught of millions of non-English speaking, low achieving immigrants who aren't assimilating; or that it's the large budget deficit in and of itself as opposed to our eroding manufacturing base and massive trade deficit that threatens our future.

17 March 2006

What About "Male" Abortion

Mickey Kaus has a quick review of the suddenly hot topic of whether men should be able to opt-out of child care just as women can via abortion. After all, a woman can decide without the father's consent to abort his child. That option is not open to a man - if he doesn't want a child, tough. Kaus discusses some of the tricky questions that would come up in trying to prove the intent of the father - did he or did he not inform the mother that he had no interest in being a father, etc.

To me, the entire pro-abortion argument is founded on the belief that a woman should have the option ("right") to undo a terrible mistake. It does seem "fair" that a man should have this right as well. But fairness aside, would a paternal opt-out provision discourage women from engaging in extra-marital sex? There is an absurd number of out-of-wedlock births in this country right now - if "optional paternity" could reasonably be expected to lower it, then I'm all for it. But my guess is that it is not - that the vast majority of unwed mothers don't end up getting child support payments and that such considerations are not on the minds of either party at the time of the 'infraction'.

15 March 2006

What About That O'Connor Speech

A friend passed along this Slate article about the lack of press coverage of a recent speech by Sandra Day O'Connor bemoaning Republican attacks on the judiciary. In the speech O'Connor apparently warned that an erosion of judicial independence could lead to dictatorship. The only real coverage of the speech came from NPR's Nina Totenberg and Keith Olbermann, an insufferably smug, self-important ignoramus unworthy of additional pixels.

I actually heard Totenberg's somewhat breathless report on NPR the morning after the speech. It didn't seem particularly noteworthy and I assumed Totenberg was reporting on it primarily because she had attended the event which was not widely attended. But liberal bloggers are up in arms over the press's ignoring the speech, pointing to this as further evidence that the press protects the Bush administration. But as this Slate article makes clear, the speech simply was not news.

Contrary to what many apparently believe, it is not the press's job to publicize criticisms of Republicans. It is instead the job of the press to find and report "news" - i.e., things we don't already know. O'Connor focused on comments made by Tome DeLay and Sen. John Cornyn early last year - moronic comments that were at the time widely covered and roundly denounced. She didn't much care for the comments. So the press is supposed to give major coverage to the earth-shattering revelation that a retired Supreme Court justice thought that a Senator's suggestion that activist judges are just asking to be shot was out of line? Or that efforts to restrict the judiciary's independence is a bad idea? Now if O'Connor said in her speech that the judiciary ought to be reined in or that Cornyn had a point about activist judges, that would be news. But she said nothing of the sort - in fact what she did say she'd already said before, as the Slate article makes clear:
To begin with, the Georgetown talk wasn't the first in which O'Connor had chided congressional meddlers, and it won't be the last...Last July she lamented the threat posed to an independent judiciary by "some members of Congress." Ralph Thomas of the Seattle Times quoted her as saying, "in our country today, we're seeing … a desire not to have an independent judiciary."
The mainstream press ignored the O'Connor talk not because of some hidden agenda - it simply lacked any news content.

13 March 2006

Outlawing Abortion

As everyone knows, South Dakota has outlawed abortion. Abortion is probably a bad thing for society - it encourages - or rather, removes the principal deterrent to pre-marital sex which, outside of the brief fun the participants are having while engaging in it, provides no benefit to society while contributing many lasting problems - delayed or premature marriage, diseases (some deadly, many costly, many leading to infertility), and ill-advised pregnancies. Abortion of course directly mitigates the last of these, but a look at birth and abortion statistics indicates that the vast majority of abortions are of pregnancies that wouldn't have occurred if the option were not available.

Still, I'm afraid that pro-lifers are fooling themselves here if they think this is a good development. Sure, nowadays even poor South Dakotans can get themselves to another state to get an abortion, so I don't think metal-hanger scenarios are too likely just yet. But a pregnant woman who really does not want to have that baby is going to get an abortion - somehow or other. How is the state going to stop her? They can threaten to revoke an abortionist's license, but then there will be an abortion black market. Then you have to start throwing people in jail.

If you, as a citizen, feel something should be made illegal, understand what you're saying: you're saying that people who do the things you want to make illegal can be killed for doing it. That's what's ultimately involved, because when we make an activity illegal - whether it's smoking pot, viewing child pornography, talking on cell phones while driving, or performing abortions - we're sending men with guns to stop it, and if the perpetrators resist, the guys with the guns may kill them.

You can't just declare something illegal and expect it to stop - it must be enforced, and that means using force. As a society, we just love to make things illegal and then rely on the police and prosecutors to use sound judgement in only going after the really bad guys. Not always a good idea. I sympathize with the desire to end abortion, but it's not going to work and is an unnecessary distraction from other more pressing problems.

11 March 2006

Mexico is Booming!

So says Tyler Cowen. Among the exciting growth statistics he throws out: The Mexican middle class is now 40% of the population; 560,000 new homes were built last year and 720,000 are expected to be built this year; sales of home appliances have tripled over the last year.

So what he's saying is that Mexico is building more new homes than the number of people they are sending over the border in illegal aliens - and we're supposed to feel obligated to accept Mexican immigrants? I guess that's the idea behind the safety-valve - we take their least economically desirable citizens and their middle class gets to enjoy a nice economic boom.

Says Tyler: "Each time I visit Mexico, the more I am convinced that country has turned the corner" So while the country is turning the corner, how 'bout if about a half-million of them make a U-turn at the U.S. border since our middle class has already 'turned the corner' - in the other direction.

Related: Udolpho has some thoughts on the big pro-illegal-immigration rally yesterday in Chicago.

10 March 2006

Terror Perception Gap

The recent Dubai Ports World controversy has exposed a major gap in the President's viewpoint versus the American public's regarding the terrorist threat. Bemoaning the collapse of the deal with the UAE company, the President today expressed his frustration:
"I'm concerned about a broader message this issue could send to our friends and allies around the world, particularly in the Middle East. In order to win the war on terror, we have got to strengthen our relationships and friendships with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East."
So the President's main concern is fighting the war on terror. Americans, on the other hand, aren't really so much concerned with the war on terror - they're primarily concerned with keeping terrorists away from them.

09 March 2006


Japan is apparently getting set to turn down the lights and send the partiers home:
[A] decision by Japan's central bank on Thursday, by a vote of 7-1, to scrap its unprecedented super-loose monetary policy has raised concerns about the possible fallout on the global economy.
Ok, but changes in the monetary policy of a major nation is hardly unprecedented - we've done that here in the USA several times. So what's the problem?
[B]ecause no major central bank has ever had such a loose policy, no one knows for sure how to end it smoothly. "These are uncharted waters for a central bank," R. Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia University Business School and a central banking expert, said. "Exiting with minimal disruptions will be a difficult exercise."
But that's Japan's problem, not ours - our economy is the envy of the world! Right?
One reason for all the anxiety about the behavior of Japanese investors is the size of their holdings overseas...A reversal of these huge flows of cash could have even broader ripple effects in the global economy, some economists say. If money grows scarcer in the United States, interest rates could rise there, too. Economists say this could lead to a situation - far-fetched but not entirely implausible - in which the Bank of Japan deflates the American real estate market, as homebuyers face more expensive mortgages.
Our huge deficits make huge foreign investment in our economy mandatory. Should investors find other markets more attractive - as would happen with positive real interest rates in Japan - this would have to lead to some combination of higher interest rates, reduced imports, or increased exports in the U.S. The impact from each of them will be a reduced standard of living - but increasing our exports would at least position us better for the future by increasing our investment in domestic manufacturing. Letting our manufacturing base dwindle away poses two obvious (to me, anyway) risks we should not want to face: The most obvious would be a major crisis requiring a rapid industrial response like we faced at the outset of WWII. The other would be finding vast numbers of men without any - well, manly jobs to do.

The prospect of transforming millions of coarse, hard-living, male blue collar workers into gentle, accommodating service workers perfectly interchangeable with women may be a feminist's dream, but the reality would be quite different. Most likely men will begin to drop out of the work force and just let the women do these jobs. Right now our real-estate boom has kept men busy building things, but once that cools off (as seems even more inevitable now) the growing crisis will soon become apparent. The notion that education - acquiring new skills for the new economy - will relieve this crisis are just plain silly. Computer programming jobs are already being outsourced in
- exactly what skills are these guys supposed to acquire in order to remain competetive in the global marketplace? Bioengineering? Nuclear physics? Afraid not - about the only skill our legions of workers will need in the new economy is the ability to say "May I help you, ma'am?" and then avoid smacking her when she gives him crap - the latter may well be too much of a challenge for most. Of course there will be other options readily available - white supremacist militias could stand in for workplace camaraderie, the drug business can always use some tough men, and off-the-books financial service businesses could always use debt

We need to re-industrialize, we need to do so as a matter of national policy, and we need to do so now. Will this cause a net reduction in our standard of living? Most certainly, if measured purely in financial terms. But it will make all the difference in fending off a more disastrous decline in the quality of life over the coming decades. And a decline in our standard of living seems inevitable - do we pay now or surrender later?

05 March 2006

What's With Intellectuals and the NBA?

Tyler Cowen likes to blog about the NBA, Matthew Yglesias is obsessed with it, and now Malcolm Gladwell is going on about it. Who are these people? I don't know one person who gives a defecation (I'm trying to maintain the intellectual theme) about anything that goes on in the NBA except when a bunch of players jump into the stands to beat up drunk fans. In the Gladwell discussion he and the ESPN commentator discuss how a lot of stars seem to phone it in after they sign a huge contract. Ya think? The whole league is a joke - no one can take seriously a league where a large percentage of the players are indifferent towards winning on any given night - and that's the playoffs - the regular season you can just completely forget. So what is the appeal of this charade to the intellectual class? Is it because their feelings of athletic inferiority find some consolation in thinking that it's only their failure to be 6'7" that kept them from being great basketball players themselves? Does the heavy African-American dominance give the sport a kind of cachet sort of in the way that Howard Cosell and Dick Schaap were mesmerized by the young Cassius Clay? Or are they just so dorky they can't tell a real sport from a fraud?

Iran's Nukes - Not Ready for Prime Time?

A kind of confusing article in the Times today provides a number of perspectives on Iran's progress with its nuclear program. The general thrust of the article is that Iran has a good deal of work to do, and rapid progress at this point seems unlikely.
Obstacles, the experts say, remain at virtually every step on the atomic road. The most significant, they add, involve the two most technically challenging aspects of the process — converting uranium ore to a toxic gas and, especially, spinning that gas into enriched atomic fuel.
The Iranians need to become expert at doing both these since no international help is available. Manufacturing centrifuges to spin out the U235 sounds particularly daunting. They are working off blueprints purchased from the rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Khan and having problems:
[W]hen operators shut down an experimental cascade of 164 centrifuges at Natanz, about 50 of them broke or crashed...Iran must replace and repair the broken machines and prepare the cascade for operation. Then comes the really hard part: if all goes well, the Iranians must mass-produce thousands of centrifuges and learn to run them in concert, like a large orchestra.
So it sounds like Iran is quite a few years away from being able to threaten anyone. Being a Shiite theocracy with no natural allies among the nations of the world, Iran is unlikely to secure assistance among current nuclear powers to help them along. This should give us a few years to experiment with different policy approaches and stumble on one that works. The Bush administration is pushing for a broad coalition to stop the Iranian program in its tracks, fearing that any early success could lead rapidly to a weapons program. This may or may not be a good strategy, but we clearly have time to find out if it works. In the meantime, even Israel should find solace in knowing that even Iran knows that using a nuclear weapon would mean no more Iran.

03 March 2006

Small Sign of Change

An article in the Times discusses the difficulties some immigrants are having in NYC getting health care. Some of the stories are touching, but attempting to solve individual hardship cases via national policy is always a bad idea. The suggestion in the article that word is starting to spread that America may not be a good place for an immigrant - particularly an illegal one - to get sick can only help reduce the inflow. But the effect is unlikely to be too large, as this little disclaimer buried in the middle of the 3,000 word article makes clear:
No one is suggesting that hospitals and clinics are seeing a decline in immigrant patients. On the contrary, as a decade of record immigration continues at an estimated annual clip of 1.2 million newcomers, the number of patients who speak little or no English is growing everywhere. And some hospitals and clinics are trying harder than ever to at least meet language needs.
But still, illegal immigration is certainly a bad thing - and any steps that stop encouraging it is at least a step in the right direction.