Your Lying Eyes

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

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27 June 2011

All The News That's Pro-Gay

That appears to be the Times's motto - if it's pro-gay, we'll print it, however preposterous. And so we have For Many Immigrants, Marriage Vote Resonates. Having trouble making the connection? - don't worry, the reporter of the article can't quite pull it off, either.
The news was celebrated over the weekend by gay immigrants just as it was by other gay groups. On Monday, after the dancing had slowed, many immigrants outside the gay community said that the victory carried a special resonance for them, as well, for they understood discrimination better than most. Their relationship with gay advocacy groups is complex, even as some see similarities in their struggles. And because it is a state law and not a federal one, some of the benefits being sought, like citizenship for same-sex spouses, will not be forthcoming, and that has somewhat muted their response.
In other words, the link is very tenuous.
“Both groups are used to having to hide,” said Ms. Archila, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, an immigrant advocacy group. “Each one of these movements is able to understand oppression in ways that other groups may not.” Advocates for the two groups say that immigrants and gay people are among the last still fighting for basic civil rights. Progress for one, they say, will help the other.
Why do immigrants have to hide - oh, maybe they're illegal immigrants. So being gay is like being an illegal immigrant?
Gay Latino immigrants like Gamaliel Lopez, a native of Mexico, came to this country because they could not imagine an openly gay life at home. They found acceptance in some ways — Mr. Lopez says he can express his sexuality without fear in New York — but they also felt as if they entered the country with two black marks: one for being an immigrant, another for being gay.
Well if they entered the country, they'd have to be an immigrant, right? So confusing.
Mr. Lopez said he hoped the vote would help erase the stigma of being gay, and offer a model of acceptance for immigrants. “We are a step closer to finding dignity for immigrants as well,” he said.
As night follows the day.
There was disappointment that New York had lagged behind other states, like Iowa, and other countries, like Argentina, in allowing same-sex marriage.
Iowa sounds like heaven - lots of immigrant jobs (particularly in meat-packing) and gay marriage! Argentina, too - or is Argentina even less welcoming of Central American immigrants than America?
And, perhaps most important, there was frustration that federal law does not allow American citizens and legal immigrants to seek United States residency for their same-sex partners. Husbands and wives are allowed to petition for foreign-born spouses.
But until illegal immigrants can petition for gay spouses, we will not rest!

While the people interviewed in the article are no doubt real, the piece has the feel of a hoax - like the Times is pulling our leg. We all know that immigrants from traditional societies are much more anti-gay than native-born Americans, and thus the more immigrants the worse it is for gays. But in the Times's fantasy world, where white-Christian-traditional Americans constitute an oppressive ruling class, the two groups just have to be fighting on the same side.

Update: Derb points out in the comments that gay marriage is legal in Mexico! How funny.

25 June 2011

British Accents

Some thoughts on British accents and how Americans are impressed by them.

But where did that new, awful British accent come from? You know, the Russel Brand type accent - though there are much worse than him - really clipped and guttural? Has it always been around, but only recently with easier flow of communications has it been able to make its way across the pond? Or is it a kind of newish phenomenon, like the Valley-girl accent? Its dreadful enough that I could imagine TV and film producers over the years banning it from American productions. There was always the cockney accent for low-class Brits, but that was rather endearing.

20 June 2011

The Legalization Canard

Via Tyler Cowen, there's an Op-Ed in the Times arguing that legalizing marijuana will do little to stifle the power of the drug cartels in Mexico. The article notes that the cartels are more than capable of altering their "business model" to meet such a threat.

But the real pointlessness of the legalization discussion is how preposterous the notion is. Sure, we could - and should - completely de-criminalize the personal consumption of marijuana (or any drug, for that matter). But that will change little - personal drug use carries rather light penalties these days.

In order to use drugs, you need to be able to acquire it. (Let's forget self-cultivation for a moment). That means you need to buy it - and buying it means there has to be a market. So does legalization also include selling it? And if legal to sell, it must therefor be legal to distribute, and thus to manufacture. Are we really going to legalize the manufacture, distribution, and sale of marijuana - for profit? Remember, no profit, no market.

A free, and unfettered market in marijuana? No such market could even be contemplated in the U.S. of A. Ok, so it must be regulated - whose going to do that? How immense a bureaucracy must that be? What kind of standards would be established? Who'd establish them? What legislator is going to vote on this year's acceptable level of THC per gram of leafy material? Or is the FDA going to be the arbiter of what is safe in marijuana? How will they enforce their standards?  What kind of licensing will be required? How strenuously do we need to monitor each sale to ensure no minor ever gets his hands on any of this otherwise legal product? And when all is said and done, how would such a tightly controlled market not be vulnerable to black-market end runs, and wouldn't this market look very much like it does today?

We already pay a pretty hefty price to enforce alcohol control, which is of course a very legal product. But alcohol was always legal and unregulated until relatively recently - marijuana legalization is a new concept - but it's legalization would be introduced at a time when substances once thought relatively benign - such as cigarettes and cold medicines - are themselves coming under increasingly tight control. Meaningful legalization of marijuana is simply a preposterous notion these days.

Regarding self cultivation, sure, you could grow a little pot in a planter for personal use, but any more and you become a distributor. Do you honestly think that's going to be allowed? Kids get busted for operating lemonade stands these days. Legalization simply can't happen - not in any fashion that would eliminate the black market.

09 June 2011

Obama Was Dealt a Lousy Hand, But Still...

No doubt Obama came into office with a big mess left behind by his predecessor. The glass-half-full take on that would have been that there's only one way to go - up. But that hasn't happened.

The reason seems simple enough - Obama can't fathom what exactly it was that Bush screwed up. On the surface, Obama saw the problems simply enough. We had a dumb war in Iraq, a neglected war in Afghanistan, a financial crisis driven by out-of-control banks, and other unattended to issues like health care and climate change. Now all he, the great unifier, needed to do was get out of Iraq, get more serious about Afghanistan, put in place some financial regulation, pass a health-care bill and some climate-change legislation. Easy as pie - two terms guaranteed.

So what happened? He hasn't been able to discern the fundamental mistakes Bush made, largely because he thinks just like him. While the genesis of the Iraq War may have been as stupid as little George wanting to avenge Daddy's humiliating defeat, its true exegesis is the worship of Democracy and its inevitability for all peoples. While we may be getting nearly all out by the end of this year, our presence there will continue to weigh on us financially for years to come.

And now the same theological battle appears to be bogging us down in Afghanistan permanently and is spreading throughout the Middle East. It could well be that in the heat of the 2012 elections the entire region will be in flames.

Regarding the economy, Obama is even more at sea. The crisis is the result of excessive lending to people who should never have borrowed money to begin with, exacerbated by a sever trade imbalance and high levels of low-skilled immigration. But there's nothing in Obama's playbook to address these. Indeed, he wants to continue to loan even more to unworthy cases. He is continuing the free-trade policies of his predecessors and has no interest in lowering levels of unskilled immigration. His maniacal belief in the magical powers of higher education appears to be spawning an entire generation of debt slaves.

His rather anti-climactic victory in getting  a rather unpromising health-care reform bill passed is a testament to his poor leadership skills. Instead of rousing the public regarding the inequities and inefficiencies in the current system, he engaged in shallow philosophical debates about "end-of-life" care. On climate change, I doubt there's anything any current politician could do to overcome the doubters, but having the likes of Van Jones and Lisa Jackson leading the charge is hardly a way to gain many converts.

Obama still has a good chance at re-election, but he has surely squandered his many opportunities to show Americans he can lead and bring about real improvements.

07 June 2011

They've Got Our Backs

As the economy falters and the Obama administration flails about while "Main St" languishes, it's comforting to know a strong opposition party is there to protect the interests of ordinary Americans. Case in point:
  • Trade Policy: Republicans in the Senate are up in arms over Obama's failure to move unconditionally and expeditiously on free-trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama. "At a time when 14 million Americans are looking for work, they actually want to hold off on these known job-creating agreements in exchange for a green light to spend more money. It's astonishing," McConnell said. Because nothing says "Jobs" like free-trade with Columbia, Panama and South Korea.
  • Meanwhile, on the campaign trail: Tim Pawlenty introduced his candidacy by offering the wealthy a cut in their tax rates from 35% to 25%. Right now, people making over $10m per year pay about 21% of their income in taxes. So Pawlenty is obviously in sync with the American worker who finds this tax burden his wealthy neighbors offensive and would prefer they spent that money on cheap immigrant labor.
  • Bank Profits: On an issue that is so critical that Senate Republicans have joined forces with a number of Democrats, Sen. Corker is working around the clock to stave off the capping of debit card fees at 12 cents per transaction. “We have people on both sides of the aisle that realize this policy is detrimental,” Corker said on the Senate floor. Clearly, when it comes to the health of Main Street, bank profits trump the earnings of retailers, and no one senses this more than Mr. Joe Sixpack.
That-a-way to rally the troops, boys!

02 June 2011

Criminalizing YouTube

Via Drudge, I see that there is a bill in the Senate to expand the reach of criminal enforcement of copyright law. In theory, at least, it land you 5 years in jail for merely embedding or perhaps just linking to a copyrighted video.

The whole idea of criminalizing copyright violations rubs me the wrong way. Sure, there needs to be a mechanism to crack down on wholesale illegal distributions of software, movies and music against which civil procedures would be ineffective. But that can be done without mobilizing federal police powers to enforce copyright law.

And furthermore, the copyright thing has become a bit of a racket, hasn't it? Is it really necessary that Sean and Julian Lennon continue to earn royalties on "She Loves You" thru 2050? Is it even remotely conceivable that the artistic impulses of aspiring rock'n'rollers would be thwarted if whatever entity holds the copyright on Buddy Holly's recording of "That'll Be the Day" were to forfeit its ownership?

I humbly suggest a far more constructive regime. Copyrights have initial terms of 50 years. At the end of 50 years, the rights to an additional 20 years are put up for public auction managed by a public exchange. All sales are subject to a 50% excise tax (i.e., the seller pays the tax). There would also be a nominal charge for the exchange (or the government could operate it itself off of the tax revenues).

Thus, if Disney wants to keep hold of Mickey Mouse, they'll have to battle others for the rights. Of course Disney would have an unfair advantage in the auction, since they're effectively paying themselves for the rights - except for that 50% tax. So while it's unlikely another entity would beat Disney out in the bidding, it would still be worth it for them to try, since there wouldn't be any downside. If Mickey's copyright renewal for 20 years has a current value of $20,000,000, Disney would be sure to go that high - even up to $40 million if necessary, to keep it, as they'd only be paying 50% of the bid. But other bidders would make sure the price Disney has to pay at least approaches that $20 million.

It would also make for some hard choices on the part of record companies - how many of their works are they willing to pay a tax to own? Sure, it's hard to see why someone would want to effectively pay twice as much to gain a copyright than the current owner, but many collectors might find value in old songs that a record company might not appreciate. If nothing else, it would raise lots of revenue.

I assume there's either a serious flaw in this approach or someone else has already proposed it, but I couldn't find anything with a few minutes of googling.

01 June 2011

Bring Us Your Tired, Your Poor...

Invade the World/Invite the World all rolled into one:

Before he was granted refugee status in the U.S. and settled down in Bowling Green, Ky., Waad Ramadan Alwan was allegedly a sniper and skilled bomb maker who targeted U.S. forces and bragged that his "lunch and dinner would be an American."

Alwan is one of two Iraqi refugees who the Justice Department announced Tuesday had been charged with participating in an alleged plot to send cash, explosives and Stinger missiles to Iraq for use against Americans.

The men are among 56,000 Iraqis who took advantage of special programs to come to the United States after demonstrating they were in danger from Iraqi militias for their religious beliefs or because they were translators for U.S. government or media organizations.

Alwan was admitted into the U.S. in 2009 even though his fingerprint was found in 2005 on an unexploded roadside bomb that was set to blow up a U.S. convoy in Iraq, according to court documents. His print was loaded into a Defense Department database. But when he applied for U.S. refugee status, a search of that database was not yet a part of the application process.

But such problems are long behind us:

Since then, those information-sharing weaknesses have been identified and corrected, said an official with the Department of Homeland Security. Also, as new records go into the terrorist watch list, he said, refugees already in the U.S. are being vetted again.

Well, glad that's solved.