Monday, December 19, 2011

The New Pledge of Allegiance

Those with even a rudimentary grasp of national issues know that the free speech guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights isn't limited to personal verbalization. The concept has morphed into "freedom of expression", which might include art works. Nude dancing, flag burning and campaign contributions as well as pornography have been considered as examples of free expression.
Non-verbal expression can and does include activity that is somewhat less apparent at first glance. The pledge of allegiance, at one time a staple primary school morning ritual, has fallen into disuse. An adult American rarely recites these words, even in a public setting, probably never to himself. Yet, there is a pledge of allegiance that millions of Americans voicelessly utter each day. They buckle their seatbelts. By doing so, drivers not only buy in to the theory that government knows best, they demonstrate that they're a legitimate part of the program, that they're giving the state's coercion a thumbs-up. Certainly many drivers give this endorsement reluctantly, but that doesn't matter to the state. They have agents that can make your life miserable if you care to exercise what you mistakenly believe to be your freedom. If you simply forget to click, they're on the look-out for that, too. Carelessness is to be punished just like defiance.

The state may not be able to read your mind (yet) or mandate your clothing but they can require you to display an easily seen and enforceable expression of subservience. Always buckle your seat belt.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Twin City Light Rail Update

At 6:45 AM the other day I pedaled my bike the two miles down University Ave. in St. Paul from Lexington Ave. to Rice St. This would definitely be "rush hour" time, peak fares on the bus and I-94 a few blocks away packed with traffic. Yet on this route, which will see the construction of a new billion dollar light rail project, there were a total of THREE people waiting for a bus. Edinburgh, Scotland has a similar project under development.

UPDATE of the UPDATE: Thursday, January 12, 2011, 1:30 PM, Bus 16A, from St. Paul city limits eastbound to downtown St. Paul, 7.1 miles, 49 passengers got on the bus.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


"...the Occident's attitude toward work, so far from being natural and normal, is strange and unprecedented. It was the relatively recent emergence of this attitude which, as much as anything else, gave modern Western civilization its unique character and marked it off from all its predecessors.
In practically all civilizations we know of, and in the Occident too for many centuries, work was viewed as a curse, a mark of bondage, or, at best, a necessary evil. That free men should be willing to work day after day, even after their vital needs are satisfied, and that work should be seen as a mark of uprightness and manly worth, is not only unparalleled in history but remains more or less incomprehensible to many people outside the Occident."

This passage is from Eric Hoffer's tour de force, "The Ordeal of Change". Although the work is filled with nuggets of insight, this particular observation is important because it applies so directly to the aims of the welfare state. The concept of "working" and having a "job" is not a universal one, even in the Occident. There are many westerners that are quite satisfied to live at lower level of consumption if they can do so with a minimum of effort. Who is to say that they are wrong? And, at the same time, who is to say that the rest of society should subsidize their values? "Progressives" maintain that the "poor", whoever they might be, are victims in some Darwinian contest for economic supremacy, losers, through no fault of their own, in the game of life. The reality is that they're not playing the game and that the game's rules shouldn't apply to them.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cinema/Literary Notes

The 2000 Israeli cops and robbers flick "The Investigation Must Go On" is the enraging story of a psychopathic Tel Aviv police lieutenant whose efforts to wring a confession out of a happy-go-lucky night club singer for a crime he didn't commit destroys the lives of a number of innocent people. A very popular film at festivals around the world and in Israel itself, it contains some odd vignettes. At one point, Micha, the deranged cop, is attempting to get in the apartment of the arrested Shalom Shalom to interrogate his wife. He tries to bribe her with the gift of a copy of New York novelist Paul Auster's book, "The Music of Chance", which had been made into a film in 1993. Amazingly, she says, perhaps truthfully, that she's already read the book and refuses to admit him. One can only wonder why this reference made it into the show.

W.G. Sebald died in a car crash in England at age 57 in 2001. In that same year his last novel, "Austerlitz" was published. Born in Bavaria, he spent most of his adult life in Britain as a lecturer at the now infamous University of East Anglia and as a writer. "Austerlitz" is a recounting of the title character's experiences through the words of the narrator. The first paragraph is 117 pages long. This book, like others by Sebald, is a curious amalgam of perhaps factual history, architecture, nature study, art and eccentric personal observations, with Europe and the British Isles as the focus. Black and white photos scattered through the text illustrate the author's assertions. An unusual and captivating read. Other novels he wrote were, "Vertigo", "The Emigrants" and "The Rings of Saturn".

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Calculated Risk: How Large is the Outstanding Value of Sovereign Bo...

Calculated Risk: How Large is the Outstanding Value of Sovereign Bo...: CR Note: Reader "some investor guy" has put together some data on sovereign default risk. This is the first in a series of posts. Debt iss...

Thursday, December 1, 2011


A look at Lauren Tamayo, superstar rider in the American lady's cycling peloton.

The Heat is On - Ep 3 "Racing with The Devil" from Jim Fryer/BrakeThrough Media on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Santa Tax Next?

This from "The Foundry":

President Obama’s Agriculture Department today announced that it will impose a new 15-cent charge on all fresh Christmas trees—the Christmas Tree Tax—to support a new Federal program to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees.
In the Federal Register of November 8, 2011, Acting Administrator of Agricultural Marketing David R. Shipman announced that the Secretary of Agriculture will appoint a Christmas Tree Promotion Board. The purpose of the Board is to run a “program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expend existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry” (7 CFR 1214.46(n)). And the program of “information” is to include efforts to “enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States” (7 CFR 1214.10).
To pay for the new Federal Christmas tree image improvement and marketing program, the Department of Agriculture imposed a 15-cent fee on all sales of fresh Christmas trees by sellers of more than 500 trees per year (7 CFR 1214.52). And, of course, the Christmas tree sellers are free to pass along the 15-cent Federal fee to consumers who buy their Christmas trees.
Acting Administrator Shipman had the temerity to say the 15-cent mandatory Christmas tree fee “is not a tax nor does it yield revenue for the Federal government” (76 CFR 69102). The Federal government mandates that the Christmas tree sellers pay the 15-cents per tree, whether they want to or not. The Federal government directs that the revenue generated by the 15-cent fee goes to the Board appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to carry out the Christmas tree program established by the Secretary of Agriculture. Mr. President, that’s a new 15-cent tax to pay for a Federal program to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees.
Nobody is saying President Obama doesn’t have authority to impose his new Christmas Tree Tax — his Administration cites the Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996. Just because the Obama Administration has the legal power to impose its Christmas Tree Tax doesn’t mean it should do so.
The economy is barely growing and nine percent of the American people have no jobs. Is a new tax on Christmas trees the best President Obama can do?
And, by the way, the American Christmas tree has a great image that doesn’t need any help from the government.

"The Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act of 1996." Well, well, well. Seems to me that if one person or a group of people have a commodity that needs research, promotion or information, maybe they should just hire somebody to do it for them. And pay for it themselves. Certainly a fifteen cent tax on a Christmas tree isn't going to put the hurt on the holiday season for anyone but why should a small segment of the US agricultural complex be subsidized by the taxpayers?

Further information:

Artificial War On Christmas Campaign Launches Fake Obama "Christmas Tree Tax"
November 09, 2011 12:38 am ET - by Jeremy Holden

Right-wing media figures are accusing the Obama administration of seeking to impose a tax on Christmas trees; but the Christmas tree industry has been working since 2008 -- before President Obama was elected -- to partner with the Department of Agriculture and establish a marketing campaign funded by tree growers in order to promote the sale of fresh Christmas trees.

On November 8, the Federal Register published a rule establishing a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture "to strengthen the position of fresh cut Christmas trees in the marketplace and maintain and expand markets for Christmas trees within the United States":

USDA received a proposal for a national research and promotion program for Christmas trees from the Christmas Tree Checkoff Task Force (Task Force). The program will be financed by an assessment on Christmas trees domestic producers and importers and would be administered by a board of industry members selected by the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary). The initial assessment rate will be $0.15 per Christmas tree domestically produced or imported into the United States and could be increased up to $0.20 per Christmas tree. The purpose of the program will be to strengthen the position of fresh cut Christmas trees in the marketplace and maintain and expand markets for Christmas trees within the United States.

The Task Force proposed that a referendum be held among domestic producers and importers three years after the first assessments begin to determine whether they favor continuation of the program.
Led by the Drudge Report and Fox Nation, right-wing media figures immediately leaped on the rule, calling it President Obama's "Christmas tree tax":

Gateway Pundit blogger Jim Hoft said the "Christmas Tree Tax" illustrated that "Barack Obama hates Christians."

Far from a tax initiated by the Obama administration, the proposal to create an assessment on tree growers to fund a research and promotion program through the USDA was begun by the industry during the Bush administration.

In February 2008, faced with declining sales, members of the National Christmas Tree Association created a task force to consider the merits of a checkoff program, which would allow the USDA to collect a fee from growers in order to fund research into marketing Christmas trees. NCTA officials explained:

While the fake tree industry is investing dollars to vigorously promote their product, the Real Tree industry is pulling back and devoting fewer funds to public relations and marketing. More than 1,000 people donated more than $900,000 for 2004 promotion and marketing programs. By 2007, donations to the market expansion activities had dropped to about $400,000. The erosion of funding resulted in fewer projects aimed at positively impacting consumer attitudes about Real Trees limiting the ability of the industry to affect the sales of Real Trees in the marketplace.

Given this continued erosion of the market share of farm-grown Christmas Trees, an industry task force is being formed to study the possibility of a federal marketing order that could establish a nationwide checkoff designed to support expanded promotion, marketing and research projects.

The NCTA Board of Directors supports the industry task force study of a federal marketing order.

Even if the industry decides to pursue a nationwide checkoff, it takes at least a year for USDA to follow its "rule making procedures." Thus, it is highly unlikely that a checkoff could start before 2010. In the interim, NCTA will engage in an aggressive promotion and protection program as funds allow.

The NCTA board urges members and non-members to be involved in the discussion and will schedule a town hall discussion at the 2008 national convention at which time the task force will give a report.
In April 2008, NCTA officials announced the formation of a task force to continue studying the merits of a checkoff program. As explained in the Fall 2008 edition of Christmas Trees, a leading Christmas tree magazine, fee levels are established by industry -- not government -- and commodity growers frequently partner with the USDA for marketing and research checkoffs:

Examples of other agricultural commodity Checkoffs include the egg, beef, pork, mushroom, milk, and honey, etc. industries. We're all familiar with the Dairy industry's ad campaigns; "Milk Does a Body Good" and "Got Milk." "Pork: the Other White Meat," "Beef: It's What's for Dinner" and "The Incredible Edible Egg" are recognizable slogans developed and funded by Checkoff programs. These four 'big guns' collect between $45 and $91.2 million in assessments annually.

Funding for promotions and research comes from within each industry. Fees could be assessed for example, in the Christmas tree industry, on a percentage of the selling price, per cut tree or per seedling basis. The amount of the assessment, who would participate, how the fees would be collected and how utilized, would be determined by the industry taskforce with the input of growers and attendees at the National Convention. Fresh imports (mainly from Canada) would be assessed at a comparable rate. As in other agricultural industries there would be exemptions for smaller growers. If the assessment is made on a cut tree basis, 4,000 trees has been discussed as a minimum. A percentage of the amount collected could go to state associations in proportion to the amount paid from within that state. The state association could utilize the funds for promotion and research abiding by the same rules as the national Checkoff organization. Hugh anticipates that Christmas tree assessments would be comparable to the amount raised by the blueberry industry, which is $2 million.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

At least no one was shot to death

Dismal Tale of Arrest for Tiniest of Crimes
By JIM DWYER New York Times
The arresting officer came by the cell, Samantha Zucker said, to make snide remarks about finding her with a friend in Riverside Park after its 1 a.m. closing.

For instance:

“He was telling me that I needed to get a new boyfriend, that I should get a guy who takes me out to dinner,” Ms. Zucker said. “He mocked me for being from Westchester.”

Early in the morning on Oct. 22, a Saturday, Ms. Zucker, 21, and her friend Alex Fischer, also 21, were stopped by the police in Riverside Park and given tickets for trespassing. Mr. Fischer was permitted to leave after he produced his driver’s license. But Ms. Zucker, on a visit to New York City with a group of Carnegie Mellon University seniors looking for jobs in design industries, had left her wallet in a hotel two blocks away.

She was handcuffed. For the next 36 hours, she was moved from a cell in the 26th Precinct station house on West 126th Street to central booking in Lower Manhattan and then — because one of the officers was ending his shift before Ms. Zucker could be photographed for her court appearance, and you didn’t think he was going to take the subway uptown while his partner stayed with her at booking, did you? — she was brought back to Harlem.

There she waited in a cell until a pair of fresh police officers were rustled up to bring her back downtown for booking, where she spent a second night in custody.

The judge proceeded to dismiss the ticket in less than a minute.

News about the Police Department lately could run under the headline of the daily Dismal Development, starting with a judge declaring Tuesday that an officer was guilty of planting drugs on entirely innocent people and continuing back a few days to gun-smuggling, pepper-spraying and ticket-fixing.

Here, in the pointless arrest of Ms. Zucker, is a crime that is not even on the books: the staggering waste of spirit, the squandering of public resources, the follies disguised as crime-fighting. About 40,000 people a year — the vast majority of them young black and Latino men — are fed like widgets onto a conveyor belt of arrest, booking and court, after being told to empty their pockets and thus commit the misdemeanor of “open display” of marijuana.

Such arrests are a drain on the human economy.

Ms. Zucker said that throughout her stay in police station cells, other officers were shocked that she had not been given a chance to have a friend fetch her ID. “The female officers were gossiping that the officer who arrested me had an incredibly short fuse,” she said.

We are instructed by the mayor that the garish crimes of police gun-running and fake arrests are the work of rogues, not the daily toil of honest police officers. A fair point — but no more than Ms. Zucker’s observations of spiritual corruption.

“While it may have been one out-of-control officer that began the process,” she said, “no other officer had the courage to stand up against what they knew was a poor decision.”

After two days of storming design firms around the city with about 80 classmates, Ms. Zucker stopped at the hotel near West 103rd Street where the group was staying so she could drop off the bag she had been schlepping. Then she got Mr. Fischer — a classmate, not a boyfriend, the leering remark of the police officer to the contrary — to walk with her a few blocks to the park, at about 3 a.m. They wanted to see the Hudson River, which runs past her hometown of Ardsley, N.Y.

“We’re there five minutes when a police car came up and told us we had to leave because the park was closed,” Mr. Fischer said. “We said, ‘O.K., we didn’t know,’ and turned around to leave. Almost immediately, a second police car pulls up.”

Its driver said they would get tickets for trespassing and demanded their IDs. Ms. Zucker suggested that someone could bring her papers from the hotel. “He said it was too late for that, I should have thought of it earlier,” she said.

The law does not require people to carry identification, but those who do not have it with them when they are stopped for an offense are held for a court appearance instead of receiving a summons for a later date.

Asked about the policy, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, said officers can allow a friend or relative to retrieve ID. He did not say if a supervisor approved the arrest of Ms. Zucker, which was attributed in court papers to a Police Officer Durrell of the 26th Precinct.

Twice, she said, the officer told her not to call him by a specific foul term.

“I said, ‘Sir, I never used that word.’ ”

No doubt he was hearing things: the unspoken truth about his unspeakable actions.

At the same time, we have this:

Democrats For Election Fraud

Posted 07:02 PM ET
Suffrage: We're used to Democrats' trotting out the Republicans-are-racists trope whenever they want to score a political point. But even we can't believe they're doing it to block reasonable protections against election fraud.

This week, Maryland's Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, claimed that "we are witnessing a concerted effort to place new obstacles in front of minorities, low-income families and young people who seek to exercise their right to vote."

Earlier in the month, NAACP president Benjamin Jealous declared that "this is the greatest assault on voting rights, happening right now, that we have seen since the dawn of Jim Crow."

It all sounds so menacing. Except that these liberals are excoriating Republicans for supporting what the vast majority of Americans agree is a perfectly reasonable requirement for voters — that they show a photo ID before casting a ballot.

This year, three states enacted photo ID laws, and three others toughened their existing laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In all, 31 states now require voters to show some sort of ID, with 15 requiring a photo ID.

The requirement is hugely popular with the public — a Rasmussen survey this June found that 75% of likely voters back photo ID laws, including 63% of Democrats — which is hardly surprising given that citizens routinely have to produce a picture ID to board a plane, buy alcohol and any number of other mundane tasks.

Plus, the states offer free photo IDs to those who can't afford them and let people cast provisional ballots if they don't bring their IDs on Election Day.
Well, to liberals intent on politicizing everything under the sun these days, voter ID laws are merely a Republican ploy to suppress turnout among those most likely to vote Democratic — namely blacks, Hispanics and the poor. They point to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice that claims the requirement could disenfranchise 5 million eligible voters.

But a Heritage Foundation analysis of that study found it to be seriously biased and fundamentally flawed. It notes that there's no concrete evidence whatsoever that ID laws discriminate or suppress turnout.

In fact, turnout in Indiana and Georgia — the first two states to enact strict photo ID laws — climbed sharply after that requirement went into effect.

What's more, legal challenges have failed because, as Heritage's election expert and former FEC commissioner Hans von Spakovsky noted, "The plaintiffs were unable to produce a single individual, much less 'millions' of voters, who would be unable to vote because of the requirement to show a photo ID."
Does this strike anyone as unreasonable?
Well, to liberals intent on politicizing everything under the sun these days, voter ID laws are merely a Republican ploy to suppress turnout among those most likely to vote Democratic — namely blacks, Hispanics and the poor. They point to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice that claims the requirement could disenfranchise 5 million eligible voters.

But a Heritage Foundation analysis of that study found it to be seriously biased and fundamentally flawed. It notes that there's no concrete evidence whatsoever that ID laws discriminate or suppress turnout.

In fact, turnout in Indiana and Georgia — the first two states to enact strict photo ID laws — climbed sharply after that requirement went into effect.

What's more, legal challenges have failed because, as Heritage's election expert and former FEC commissioner Hans von Spakovsky noted, "The plaintiffs were unable to produce a single individual, much less 'millions' of voters, who would be unable to vote because of the requirement to show a photo ID."
And when the Supreme Court upheld Indiana's voter ID law by a vote of 6-3 in 2008, liberal Justice John Paul Stevens concluded that asking for an ID "does not qualify as a substantial burden on the right to vote."

Liberals also make the curious claim that voter ID laws aren't needed because there isn't any evidence of "widespread" election fraud.

What are these people arguing? That a little voter fraud is perfectly OK? That we don't need to take steps to secure the sanctity of the voting booth until the election process completely breaks down?

Whatever happened to the Democrats' insistence that we had to count every vote and that every vote counted? Surely they understand that even one case of fraud is unacceptable, since it denies another citizen his right to be heard.

In any case, the liberal argument that election fraud is a myth merely ignores the many reports of fraud over the years. Can you spell Acorn?

Keeping elections honest is a fundamental responsibility of our government officials. It's too bad Democrats would rather play crass racial politics than uphold this principle.

So, it's against the law to be in a park after dark without an ID but you can vote without one?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Old Buildings

Parts of downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, especially the area known as "Lowertown", are, like many American cities, made up of buildings raised in the latter years of the nineteenth-century and first half of the twentieth. St. Paul is also well-known as a reliable center of "progressive" politics. New cars sport "Wellstone!" bumper stickers, though the popular socialist senator died in a plane crash eleven years ago. The political atmosphere is permeated by not only draconian anti-smoking regulations and "living wage" ordinances but also an enthusiastic historical preservation movement. Exteriors of old buildings are to be preserved in their original appearance and new structures must fit in with their surroundings dating from a previous era.

One can't help but wonder what the situation would have been if similar ideas had existed when these buildings were erected. At that time they were state-of-the-art, the most modern and technologically advanced structures in the country. Could the residents of nearby neighborhoods have insisted that new buildings be compatible in appearance with existing log cabins and tar paper-covered shacks? Who decides when history begins? And how can forcing the owners of property to conform to these historical imperatives be justified? Is it really "progressive" to require that buildings appear to have been built a hundred years ago?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A couple of days ago I took a detour on my way home from work to visit St. Paul Saddlery on James and West 7th in St. Paul, MN. In business since 1908, the company is one of the few still manufacturing horse harness for carriage and draft teams. It's operated by a descendant of the founder, a guy named Gary, who toils alone in a room full of antiquated machinery that cuts, stitches, punches and bangs on leather. I thought it might be interesting to converse with Gary for a little while and get some perspective on a business that's a remnant from another era. He was pretty pessimistic about the harness business and business in general. When I inquired about leather tanning, the process that produces his raw material, he said that US hides were shipped overseas for tanning, that little of that was done here and like everything else, our manufacturing capability was sadly relocating to foreign locations.

I mentioned that in my earlier years I had worked in a packing house. That working in the hide cellar, step number one in turning the exterior of a cow into leather, was regarded as the worst possible job in the plant and employment there considered punishment by those unfortunate enough to be sent there. That I had never had any ambition to work in a tannery. That I knew no one who had ever expressed such an ambition. That no child had ever told me that their goal in life was to become a tanner. That I would be very much surprised if a domestic tannery could attract permanent employees. And that the nation's fixation with college education didn't include courses in leather production. For some reason this put a damper on the conversation and I soon left.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Alaska Wood Bison Update!

Admit that the future of the 103 wood bison lounging in a pen at Girdwood, Alaska, waiting for bureaucrats to determine their fate, has kept you on pins and needles since our previous post. Well, the latest news on this situation from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner isn't going to put your mind at ease:

Release of bison into Alaska wilderness put on hold again
by Tim Mowry /
08.14.11 - 12:32 am
FAIRBANKS — The re-introduction of wood bison in Alaska has been delayed for at least another year, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is paying for it.

The federal agency recently forked over $200,000 to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to maintain a captive herd of more than 100 wood bison for another year at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood south of Anchorage.

The hope is it will give federal and state agencies enough time to negotiate a special rule that will make the animals exempt from the Endangered Species Act when they are finally set loose in Alaska. The state has been holding the bison at the AWCC for more than three years as part of a plan to restore the shaggy beasts to the Alaska landscape. The Department of Fish and Game imported 53 bison from Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada, in June 2007 to complement a herd of 33 wood bison that were already being held at the AWCC.

The herd size has since grown to 103 with the addition of calves the past four years.

The Fish and Wildlife Service gave the state $200,000 to maintain the herd for another year “because we support the reintroduction and believe that it is clearly in line with our missions and mandates,” agency spokesman Bruce Woods wrote in an email. The money will cover food and veterinary costs for the herd for the next year.

Release stalled

The department’s original plan was to release at least 40 of the animals in one of three locations — the Yukon Flats, Minto Flats or the Innoko River Flats — in spring 2010. The most recent plan, after concerns were raised about releasing the animals in the Yukon Flats (national wildlife refuge) and Minto Flats (oil and gas development), was to release a small herd into the Innoko River Flats in western Alaska in spring 2011.

But that release has been stalled while the state waits for the Fish and Wildlife Service to approve a special rule, called a 10j rule, that would not prohibit resource development, i.e. oil and gas drilling, in areas where the bison may be released. The snag at this point is over a provision in the 10j rule that will allow future hunting of wood bison after they are released, assuming the population increases to allow for that.

“The main obstacle we are dealing with is a lack of inclusion of general hunting in the special rule,” Doug Vincent-Lang, a special assistant to ADF&G commissioner Cora Campbell and the state’s endangered species coordinator, wrote in an email.

Wood bison existed in Alaska in the 1800s before becoming extinct because of a combination of hunting and changing habitat.

There are no wood bison in the United States but they are still listed as endangered because they are listed as threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act, that country’s equivalent of the Endangered Species Act in the U.S. Wood bison were downlisted from endangered to threatened in Canada in 1988 but they were not downlisted in the U.S.

The fact there are no wood bison in the U.S. and they are still listed as endangered is “simply amazing,” Vincent-Lang said.

Hunting is integral

The Fish and Wildlife Service gave the state the option in March of publishing a proposed rule in the federal register by the end of April without a provision allowing future hunting or waiting for several months until the issue could be discussed further and, hopefully, resolved.

Releasing the animals without a clause that would allow hunting down the road was not an option, Vincent-Lang said.

“Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison when we put them on the landscape,” he said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes that, spokesman Bruce Woods at the Anchorage regional office said, but has yet to figure out a way to incorporate such language into the 10j rule without compromising legal requirements. The provisions of the ESA that allow designation of nonessential experimental populations are legally complex, he said.

“The service has always known that hunting would be among the ultimate goals of this re-introduction, but 10j rules are designed to aid the recovery of species listed under the Endangered Species Act and the agency is focusing on this goal,” Woods wrote in an email. “While the Fish and Wildlife Service remains committed to and supportive of the reintroduction and ultimately the hunting of wood bison in Alaska, the agency wants to provide assurances to the state that the rule establishing the population of wood bison is within the legal framework.”

Hunting is an integral part of wood bison restoration and management in Canada, where the population of wood bison has increased to approximately 4,400 animals in seven disease-free, free-ranging herds.

“Even though they’re listed in Canada as a threatened species, Canada recognizes the need for hunting,” Vincent-Lang said. “We are working closely with the USFWS to resolve this issue and remain confident that we can reach a solution.”

Bison Timeline


After numerous meetings with Native villagers in the Yukon Flats to document the existence of wood bison in Alaska in the 1800s, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game begins working on a wood bison re-introduction plan.


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces it cannot support the wood bison restoration effort because of concerns that doing so would not be compatible with the purposes of the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge. The project is put on hold.


ADF&G re-evaluates the re-introduction effort and determines it is an outstanding wildlife conservation opportunity for Alaska that should be fully examined in an open, public decision-making process. Still unsure if the feds will go along with a release in the Yukon Flats, ADF&G begins looking at other possible release sites.

June 2005

ADF&G forms the Wood Bison Restoration Advisory Group, a consortium of environmentalists, Native subsistence hunters and trophy hunters, and holds a two-day public meeting to determine if there is public support for the project. The group endorses the plan and comes up with three possible release sites — the Yukon Flats, Minto Flats and Innoko River Flats.


Local advisory committees in the Minto and lower Innoko-Yukon River areas endorse the wood bison restoration plan after meeting with ADF&G. The Eastern Interior and Western Interior federal subsistence advisory councils also endorse the plan.

August 2006

ADF&G initiates an evaluation of the wood bison restoration plan according to the state’s wildlife transplant policy and determines “that wood bison are an extirpated indigenous species and are native to Alaska.”

January 2007

A wildlife transplant policy review committee concludes that wood bison restoration will not likely effect a significant reduction in the range, distribution, habitat, or preexisting human use of other species in Alaska.

June 2008

ADF&G imports 53 wood bison — 27 females and 26 males — from Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada. The state used a $100,000 grant from the Turner Foundation to transport the animals by truck to Alaska, where they were released into pens at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to serve a two-year quarantine.

January 2009

After meeting with officials from Doyon, Ltd., who expressed concern that releasing wood bison on the Minto Flats could jeopardize the Native corporation’s plan to drill for oil and gas in the Nenana Basin, former state Sen. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, introduces a resolution calling for a halt to the wood bison introduction until Alaska gets the federal reassurance it wants.

April 2009

Former half-term Gov. Sarah Palin asks the departments of fish and game and natural resources to look for places other than the Minto Flats to release the wood bison because their release there could endanger oil and gas or mineral exploration, production or development under the Endangered Species Act.

February 2010

A notice of the state’s intent to develop a “10j rule” that would establish wood bison as a “nonessential experimental population” is published in the federal register.

March 2010

In a presentation to the Board of Game in Fairbanks, ADF&G officials say the Innoko River Flats is now the preferred release site because of concerns over the Yukon Flats and Minto Flats. Game Board chairman Cliff Judkins directs ADF&G to come up with a harvest plan for both subsistence and sport hunting before any bison are released.

July 2010

The state delivers its version of the proposed 10j rule to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for review.

November 2010

ADF&G announces the wood bison have been given a clean bill of health by state veterinarians after being tested multiple times for tuberculosis and brucellosis. The only thing preventing their release is the adoption of a 10j rule to make them exempt from the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tells the state it hopes to have the final rule in place by the end of July 2011.

April 2011

Rep. Alan Dick, R-Stony River, introduces a bill — HB 186 — that would require legislative approval before the bison could be moved into the Interior. Dick says environmental groups would sue the state to make money and ensure the land where the bison are is off limits to human use. The Alaska House Resources Committee refers the bill to the Alaska House Rules Committee, where it is still sits.

Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.


Erich von Kuehnelt-Leddihn's "Leftism, From DeSade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse" was published in 1974. Here are some of the first few pages:

"Let us state at the outset of our investigation that, viewed from a certain angle, we all are subject to two basic drives: one toward identity, the other toward diversity. Neither in ourselves as persons, nor in the nations through the course of history are these drives always the same in their intensity and in their balance. How do they manifest themselves? We can all experience a mood during which we feel the desire to be in the company of people of our own age, our own class, our own sex, conviction, religion or taste. It is quite possible that this drive toward conformity, this herd instinct, is something we share with the animal world. This strong identitarian feeling can rest squarely on a real herd instinct, a strong feeling ofcommonness and community directed in a hostile sense toward another group. In race riots and demonstrations of ethnic groups this collective sentiment can manifest itself with great strength. This sort of conformist herd instinct was the driving motor of the nationalistic gymnastic organizations of the Germans and the Slavs, so potent in the first half of this century and engaging in enormous, carefully synchronized gymnastic performances. When five or ten thousand identically dressed men or women are carrying out identical movements, the onlooker gets an overpowering impression of homogeneity, synchronization, symmetry, uniformity.

Identity and identitarian drives tend towards an effacement of self, towards a nostrism ("usness") in which the ego becomes submerged. Of course, nostrism (a term created by the Austrian Nazi Walter Pembaur) can be and usually is a clever multiplication of egoisms. Whoever praises and extols a collective unit in which he participates (a nation,a race, a class, a party) only praises himself. And therefore all identitarian drives not only take a stand for sameness and oppose otherness, but also are self-seeking. There is an identitarian (and nonsexual) aspect to homosexuality ("homoeroticism") coupled with the refusal to establish the sometimes difficult intellectual, spiritual, psychological bridge to the other sex. And in this respect homosexuality is a form of narcissism, of immaturity and implies the limitations of the "simpleton."

Luckily man in his maturity and in the fullness of his qualifications has not only identitarian but also diversitarian drives, not only a herd instinct but also a romantic sentiment. More often than not we have the yearning to meet people of the other sex, another age group, another mentality, another class, even of another faith and another political conviction. All varieties of the novarum rerum cupiditas (curiosity for the new)-our eagerness to travel and to eat other food, hear another music, see a different landscape, to get in touch with another culture and civilization are derived from this diversitarian tendency in us. A dog neither wants to travel, nor does he particularly mind getting the same food day in and day out, if it is healthy fare. Man, however, wants change.
The ant state, the termite state, might remain the same all through the centuries, but man's desire for change results in "history" as we know it. There is something in us that cannot stand repetition, and this hunger for the new can be quite fatal if it is not blended with an element ofpermanence -and prudence.

All higher theist religions rest squarely on this longing, this love for otherness. Though I would not subscribe to Karl Barth's formula of Gott als der ganz andere (God as the totally different One), no theist will deny God's otherness. We are created in His image, though we are not a facsimile of God. This is one of the reasons why the Incarnation moves man so profoundly, why over its exact nature the first Ecumenical Council raged with such bitterness and led to tragic heresies and schisms.

Viewing these two tendencies, these two drives, both with psychological foundations, but only the romantic sentiment with an intellectual character, we inevitably come to the conclusion that modern times are more favorable to the herd instinct than to the enthusiasm for diversity. This is perhaps not immediately evident, because in a few ways the opposite seems to be the case: The craving for travel can now more
easily be satisfied, and in the domain of art a greater variety of tastes
and schools exists today than in the past. In other, more important realms, however, identity has been pushed in every way, partly by passions (mostly of an animal order), partly by modern technology and procedures forming part and parcel of modern civilization. In another book we have dealt with the dishonesty in the use of the fashionable term "pluralism." As a matter of fact all modern trends point to the
specter of a terrifying, bigger and more pitiless conformity. In this connection we must never forget that identity is a cousin of equality. Everything which is identical is automatically equal. Two fifty-cent coins of the same issue are not only identical but also equal. Two quarters are equal to a fifty-cent coin, but they are not identical with it. Identity is equality: It is equality-at-first-sight, an equality which takes no lengthy reasoning or painstaking investigation to discover.
Therefore all political or social forms which are inspired by the ideal of equality will almost inevitably point into the direction of identitarianism and foster the herd instinct (with subsequent suspicion, if not hatred, for those who dare to be different or have a claim to superiority).

There exists a dull, animalistic leaning toward identitarian gregariousness, but we encounter also a programmatic, passionate, fanatical drive in that direction. Nietzsche knew of it, so did Jacob Burckhardt. It has fear as its driving motor in the form of an inferiority complex engendering hatred and envy as its blood brother. Fear implies a feeling of being inferior to another person (or to a situation): Hatred is possible only if one feels helpless in the face of a person considered to be stronger or more powerful. A feeble and cowardly slave can fear and hate his master; his master in return will not hate, but will have mere contempt for the slave. Haters all through history have committed horrible acts of cruelty (which is the inferior's revenge), whereas contempt-always coupled with a feeling of superiority-has rarely produced cruelty. In order to avoid that fear, that feeling of inferiority, the
demand for equality and identity arises. Nobody is better, nobody superior, all can relax, all can be at ease, nobody feels challenged, everybody is "safe." And if identity, if sameness has been achieved, then the other person's actions and reactions can be forecast. No (disagreeable) surprise can be expected, everybody can read thoughts and feelings in everybody else's face. And thus a warm herd feeling of
brotherhood will emerge. These sentiments, these emotions, this rejection of quality (which can never be the same with everybody!) explain much of the spirit of the mass movements of the last 200 years.

The other factor is envy. Envy has complex psychological roots .. several, not just one. There exists, first of all, the curious feeling that whatever the other person possesses has in some (roundabout) waybeen taken away from me. "I am poor because he is rich." This inner, often unspoken argument rests on the assumption that all goods and good things in this world are finite. In the case of money or, even more so, of landed property, such argument might have some substance. (Hence the enormous envy of peasants as to each other's real estate.) Yet this argument is often unconsciously extended to values which are not finite. Isabel is beautiful; Eloise is ugly. Yet Isabel's beauty is not the result of Eloise's plainness, nor Bob's brightness of Tim's stupidity. Again envy might subconsciously use a statistical argument. ("Not all
of us brothers can be bright, not all of us sisters pretty. Fate handed it to her, to him, and discriminated against me!")

The second aspect of envy lies in the superiority of another person in an important respect. The mere suspicion that the other person feels superior on account of looks, of brain-power, of brawn, of cash, etc., can create a burning feeling of envy. The only way to find a compensation lies in a successful search for inferior qualities in the person who figures as the object of envy. "He is rich, but he is evil," "He is
successful, but he has a miserable family life," "He is well born and well connected, but, oh, so stupid." Sometimes these shortcomings of an envied person serve as a consolation: sometimes they also serve as a "moral" excuse for an attack, especially if the object of real or imagined envy has moral shortcomings. In the last 200 years the exploitation of envy, its mobilization among the masses, coupled with the denigration of individuals, but more frequently of classes, races, nations or religious communities has been the very key to political success. The history of the Western World since the end of the eighteenth century cannot be written without this
fact constantly in mind. All leftist "isms" harp on this theme, i. e. , on the privilege of groups, minority groups, to be sure, who are objects of envy and at the same time subjects of intellectual-moral inferiorities. They have no right to their exalted positions. They ought to conform to the rest, become identical with "the people," renounce their privileges, conform. If they speak another language, they ought to drop it and talk the lingo of the majority. If they are wealthy their riches should be taxed away or confiscated. If they adhere to an unpopular ideology, they ought to forget it. Everything special, everything esoteric and not easily understood by the many becomes suspect and evil (as for instance the increasingly "undemocratic" modern art and poetry). Of course there is one type of unpopular minority that cannot
conform and therefore is always in danger of being exiled, suppressed or slaughtered: the racial minority.

As always hypocrisy is the compliment which vice pays to virtue,and in inciting envy, this ugly feeling will never be openly invoked. The nonconforming person or group sinning against the sacred principle of sameness will always be treated as a traitor, and if he is not a traitor the envious majority will push him in that direction. (As late as 1934 there were German Jews who tried to form a Nazi group of their own:
naively enough they considered anti-Semitism a "passing phase." Yet can one imagine a German Jew in 1943 not praying in his heart for an Allied victory? He was pushed in that direction.) Thus to be different will be treated as or made into treason. And even if the formula Nonconformist-Traitor will not always be promulgated with such clarity, it lurks at the back of modern man's mind only too often, whether he openly embraces totalitarianism or not. One wonders how many people who sincerely reject all totalitarian creeds today would subscribe to the famous dictum of St. Stephen, King of Hungary, who wrote in his will to his heir presumptive, St. Emmeric: "A Kingdom of only one language and one custom is a fragile and stupid thing. "

Unity and uniformity have been blended in our minds. The modern magic of sameness has been enhanced not only by a technology producing identical objects (e.g., one type of car owned "commonly" by half-a-million people), but also by the subconscious
realization that sameness is related to cheapness and that sameness makes for greater intelligibility, especially to simpler minds. Identical laws, identical measurements, an identical language, an identical currency, an identical education, an intellectual level, an identical political power ("one-man-one-vote"), identical pay rates, identical or nearrency, an identical education, an identical intellectual level, an identical political power ("one-man-one-vote"), identical pay rates, identical or
near-identical clothes (the blue denim of Communist China!)-all this seems highly desirable. It simplifies matters. It is cheaper. It saves thinking. To certain minds it even seems "more just."

These identical tendencies run into two obstacles; nature and man (who is part nature). Still, nature is more easily pressed into identical patterns by human endeavor, as witness certain types of gardening. Hills can be "leveled." Geometry can be impressed upon the landscape. To make man more identitarian is a more difficult task, yet not such a hopeless one to the dolt who "optimistically" declares, "All men are equal" and then "All people are more alike than unlike." Here one has to remember Procrustes, the legendary Greek robber and sadist who flung his victim onto a bed: Those who were too short were stretched and hammered until they filled it, those who were too long were "cut to size." Procrustes is the forerunner of modern tyranny.
Here, however, the identitarian comes up against the mystery of personality. Human beings are different: They are of different ages, different sexes, they vary according to their physical strength, their intellect, their education, their ambitions. They have different character and different kinds of memory, different dispositions. They react differently to the same treatment. All this enervates and antagonizes the identitarian. The shoemaker takes it for granted; it is a headache for the shoe manufacturer. It is natural to the governess and no mystery to parents, but it can become an insoluble problem to the teacher of a large class. Along with this goes the proclivity among large groups to give up at least part of the personality. Mass-man in a mass has the tendency to think, act, and react in synchro-mesh with the crowd, a
phenomenon that might have a scientific explanation. And precisely because human identity is difficult to achieve, a poor substitute often has to be brought in. This equally unworkable substitute is equality."

The remainder of this work can be found here:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Handicapped Parking

It seems that even the smallest parking lots have handicapped parking spots reserved. No doubt it's a legal requirement. But what happens to a handicapped driver when all the handicapped slots are filled, as they often are? Do they then go to another location where they can more easily park? Do they wait, engine idling, for a cripple to leave so they can inherit the spot? Or do they just go home, hoping to try again later?

Monday, August 1, 2011

More Federal Mandates

The AP reports on the latest mis-guided HHS policy implementation:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Health insurance plans must cover birth control as preventive care for women, with no copays, the Obama administration said Monday in a decision with far-reaching implications for health care as well as social mores.

The requirement is part of a broad expansion of coverage for women's preventive care under President Barack Obama's health care law. Also to be covered without copays are breast pumps for nursing mothers, an annual "well-woman" physical, screening for the virus that causes cervical cancer and for diabetes during pregnancy, counseling on domestic violence, and other services.

"These historic guidelines are based on science and existing (medical) literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The new requirements will take effect Jan. 1, 2013, in most cases. Over time, they are expected to apply to most employer-based insurance plans, as well as coverage purchased individually. Plans that are considered "grandfathered" under the law will not be affected, at least initially. Consumers should check with their health insurance plan administrator.

Sebelius acted after a near-unanimous recommendation last month from a panel of experts convened by the prestigious Institute of Medicine, which advises the government. Panel chairwoman Linda Rosenstock, dean of public health at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that prevention of unintended pregnancies is essential for the psychological, emotional and physical health of women.

Birth control use is virtually universal in the United States, according to a government study issued last summer. Generic versions of the pill are available for as little as $9 a month. Still, about half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Many are among women using some form of contraception, and forgetting to take the pill is a major reason.

Contraception is about more than simply preventing pregnancy - it can help make a woman's next pregnancy healthier by spacing births far enough apart, generally 18 months to two years. Research links closely spaced births to a risk of such problems as prematurity, low birth weight, even autism. Research has shown that even modest copays for medical care can discourage use.

In a nod to social and religious conservatives, the rules issued Monday by Sebelius include a provision that would allow religious institutions to opt out of offering birth control coverage. However, many conservatives are supporting legislation by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., that would codify a range of exceptions to the new health care law on religious and conscience grounds.

Although the new women's preventive services will be free of any additional charge to patients, somebody will have to pay. The cost will be spread among other people with health insurance, resulting in slightly higher premiums. That may be offset to some degree with savings from diseases prevented, or pregnancies that are planned to minimize any potential ill effects to the mother and baby.

The administration did allow insurers some leeway in determining what they will cover. For example, health plans will be able to charge copays for branded drugs in cases where a generic version is just as effective and safe for the patient.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Ideas of a Socialist

Arthur Koestler, author of the celebrated novel Darkness at Noon, was many things; writer/journalist, investigator of the paranormal, political prisoner, womanizer and suicide. But, more than anything, he was a committed socialist, although a vociferous critic of the Soviet Union. In 1944 he wrote the following in his essay The End of an Illusion:

"The paramount lesson which we have to draw from the failure of the Russian experiment is that economic factors are important, but not all-important. The regimental tailor is not a socialist institution, and a nationalised economy may become an instrument of tyranny and reaction. By concentrating all its attention on the economic issue, the Left became deaf to the strange and changing moods of the People. Their religious nostalgia turned into free valences of the soul, apt to fuse into the wrong compounds of chauvinism, mysticism, addiction to new myths.
The weaning of the Left, the breaking up of the false emotional compounds, is one half of the task. The other half is the creation of a new fraternity in a new spiritual climate, whose leaders are tied by a vow of poverty to share the life of the masses, and debarred by the laws of the fraternity from attaining unchecked power. If this seems utopian, then socialism is a utopia.
The age of enlightenment has destroyed faith in personal survival; the scars of this operation have never healed. There is a vacancy in every living soul, a deep thirst in all of us. If the socialist idea cannot fill this vacancy and quench our thirst, then it has failed in our time. In this case the whole development of the socialist idea since the French Revolution has been merely the end of a chapter in history, and not the beginning of a new one."

The Latest From Judy Shelton

Judy Shelton, monetary authority and critic of fiat money and government deficit financing, has apparently been inspired to address the debt ceiling fiasco:

She's certainly one of the more interesting economists you'll ever run across. Here's a great interview with her from November of 2009.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Big Three

Linsey Hamilton wins again
Linsey Hamilton leads usual adversaries Emma Bast and Terra James toward the finish line of a scratch race at the National Sports Center Velodrome in Blaine, MN on July 28, 2011.

Changes Down on the Farm?

This report tells us that the DOT is considering a requirement that operators of farm equipment have a Commercial Driver's License and follow the rules that apply to other CDL operators. The story tells something of the background of the operation of farm machinery in the US, that family members, often as young as twelve, have been using powerful equipment to plow, cultivate, harvest and process crops. Of course, farming also had a juvenile component before mechanization. Kids drove horses and oxen centuries before the introduction of the tractor.

No doubt the ostensible reason for considering this policy is safety, both for the operators of the equipment and the public at large. Isn't that always the case? That's why there's a picture of a baby drowning glued to the side of a 5-gallon paint bucket. That's why you'll be arrested for driving without a fastened seat belt. And there's no doubt that farming can be a dangerous pursuit. Every year we hear about farmers entangled in equipment with a resulting loss of limb or life. So tractor drivers should be registered just like pistol owners. Thank goodness for the state and its concern for our safety and well-being.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It gets more weird every day

A Pennsylvania mommy is going to trial because she got on a school bus to see if her child was OK. Apparently it's against the law, at least in Pennsylvania, for an adult to get on a school bus. And although this particular incident seemed to have been resolved to everyone's satisfaction months ago, county attorney Charles F. Chenot III isn't going to let the matter disappear. As he says, if they do, sex offenders with kids on the bus will jump on and molest other students.

Naturally, the first thing that a normal person would think is that there needs to be a little of that increasingly uncommon, especially in educational circles, common sense used here. Maybe every parent shouldn't succumb to panic when they perceive a situation where their child could be in danger. And maybe the authorities could have the judgement to disregard an isolated incident where no actual harm has been done. But that misses the real point.

Through some tortuous logic, the state is legally responsible for the education of residents of a certain age. In exchange for this obligation the state and schools themselves make regulations regarding the conduct of the students and parents. Why? Why is the government involved in something like bussing children to school in the first place? Even if you can justify the behemoth US public education system, how is it possible to extend the justification for instruction to transport? At one point, there couldn't have been any bussing to schools because there were no buses. How did we arrive at the conjecture that hauling kids to school at government and ultimately the taxpayers' expense was part of the education package? Must have been before they turned the schools into subsidized restaurants.

I remember asking the bartender at a saloon in the hamlet of Interior, South Dakota where the school was. He replied that there was no school, the kids went to Wall, 32 miles up the road. I said that was a long bus ride every day. He said, "Yeah, it would be, but they drive theirselves."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stephen Pearl Andrews

Individual anarchist Stephen Pearl Andrews said this in a continuing discussion with Horace Greeley and Henry James in 1853:

"The most stupendous mistake that this world of ours has ever made is that of erecting an abstraction, the State, the Church, Public Morality, according to some accepted standard, ...into a real personality, and making it paramount to the will and happiness of the individual."

"Give up...the search after the remedy for the evils of government in more government. The road lies just the other way-toward individuality and freedom from all government... It is the inherent viciousness of the very institution of government itself, never to be got rid of until our natural individuality of action and responsibility is restored. Nature made individuals, not nations; and while nations exist at all, the liberties of the individual must perish."

Quoted from Men Against the State, James J. Martin, The Adrian Allen Associates, 1953.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Queen of Wheels

Minnesota Elite Women's Criterium Champion Teresa Moriarty

Perhaps the most successful female Minnesota athlete that doesn't play with a ball or don skates is cyclist Teresa Moriarty, who through the years has won every local road race of note and continues to be a sterling representative of her sport. In this year's edition of the state criterium championship, held before a deserted state capitol building in St. Paul, she attacked from the start and soloed in front of the pack for the entire race, sprinting up the hill to the finish line with a 36 second advantage. Yesterday she once again showed who's the boss in local women's cycling with a victory in the inaugural "South Side Sprint" in Minneapolis. Moriarty has occupied this spot for some years now but no one seems to be able to push her off the throne.

Teresa escorts a participant in the kid's race to the finish line after her own triumph a few minutes earlier.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fear of Anarchy, the Classroom and Lord of the Flies

Bring up the possibility of a stateless society, anarchy, and you'll typically get the response, "But who would build the roads? And what about crime? There wouldn't be any order!" Where does this assumption come from and does everyone believe that society without the state is impossible?

In the US, and probably most other western countries, students are daily exposed to the necessity of order. When a teacher leaves the room, they tell the class to behave, study their lesson and be quiet. As soon as the door shuts behind the teacher pandemonium ensues. When the teacher returns, order is restored. This is a lesson that survives into adulthood, just like algebra and English. Without authority there is chaos. The idea that people mature and act differently as adults than they do as children isn't recognized.

That's why William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies, and its two cinema interpretations have proven to be so popular in the government-sponsored classrooms. Golding's first novel, originally published in 1954 to less than enthusiastic reviews, eventually became one of the most read works of fiction in US high schools and colleges. A group of British schoolboys are marooned on a tropical island when the plane carrying them away from an atomic war crashes. No adults survive the crash and the boys, ranging in age from 7 to 12 are forced to fend for themselves. There are four main characters, Ralph, the responsible type; Jack Merridew, a budding alpha male; Simon, the focus of the story's metaphysics; and Piggy, a myopic asthmatic who also attempts to use logic and reason in the boys' attempt at survival and hopefully eventual rescue. In a Hobbesian progression the boys begin a rapid descent into barbarism and murder until finally order is restored with the arrival of the Royal Navy. While there is certain amount of character development in the story, the basic premise is that without authority (the state) and in a condition of anarchy, humanity will devolve into bestial savagery. There's no evidence, historical or otherwise, that such a thing would ever occur under any circumstances but to think contrarily runs counter to statist beliefs.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Wintercow Hits a Homerun.

Where Did it All Go?
Jul 15th, 2011 by wintercow20
The following bar chart demonstrates the spending levels of the various federal agencies between 2006 and last year. Over that time, federal expenditures increased from $2.66 trillion to $3.72 trillion, an increase of over 40%. During this time period, prices rose by about 8% and population rose by about 3.5%, so in real per capita terms, over a mere 5 year period federal government spending per capita has increased by over 28%. This is larger than real median family income increased over the preceding 30 years.

Percent Changes on the Right, All Figures Nominal

The red bars indicate current spending levels while the green ones indicate past spending levels. Does anyone at all, in Congress, in the press, on the street, in the academy, ever look at this picture and ask where it all went? How can it be possible for spending to have increased by over 28% in real per capita terms, but now all kinds of federal agencies and programs are experiencing … a … crunch? You’d think you were being put on Candid Camera with this sort of rhetoric.

And consider this, even with the “grand budget deal” that would have spending slashed … slashed! by $2 trillion over 10 years, that means we’d be reducing spending from $3.7 trillion (using the latest year as an illustration) to a “mere” $3.5 trillion, still a mountain of spending beyond what prevailed a few years ago (about a 20% real increase per capita). If I asked you the following how would you answer: “your real per capita spending will increase by 20% over the next five years, would you characterize that as a crisis? Would your roof shingles begin to fall off? Would you have to do without heating your home? Would you have to stop purchasing things at Amazon? Of course not. Real per capita increases mean spending over and above what you are currently able to do.

How is it possible to be spending over a trillion dollars more today than five years ago and for anyone to be claiming we are in a crunch? Certainly with the lagging revenues we have a deficit issue, but I urge you to be aware of the rhetoric that makes a deficit problem appear to be like one where agencies cannot somehow afford to do the things they did just a couple of years ago.

And allow me to ask, can some “progressive” who wants even more spending and taxes please point out a year when spending levels were appropriate? And would you kindly do me the favor of comparing how the agencies performed and how our “vital” infrastructure was doing when spending was at those levels? And then can you again answer my question, what the heck has the government done with all of the new money that has been spent since that nirvana?

The University of Rochester's Michael Rizzo posts here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Death Penalty Administered

This incident wouldn't have made the news at all if the victim hadn't have been an athlete of moderate renown. Turner was an NFL player with the Cincinnati Bengals and a local football star. But, he made the mistake of encountering law enforcement and will now be the focus of funeral rites. Of course, as is usually the case in affairs of this type, there are two versions of events, the cop version and the witness version. Surveillance video from the c-store might reveal the truth.

Not surprisingly, family members were agitated at the hospital where Turner was declared dead. The result was the arrest of two family members, as described here.

Of course, a sheriff's department investigation has determined that the shooting was "within department policy".

An account of the memorial service for Turner is here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Broadway Melody of 1940

A movie that features some fabulous dance numbers by Fred Astaire, George Murphy and Eleanor Powell also includes a spectacular juggling routine by perhaps the greatest female juggler ever, Trixie Firschke.

Powell and Astaire danced together in only one film and this was it:

An Economist Changes Her Mind

Christina Romer, UC-Berkeley economics professor and former head of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, has penned an op-ed for the NYT recommending tax increases as the least painful method of dealing with the federal budget deficit. She hasn't always felt that way. The Wall Street Journal in announcing her appointment, pointed out that "That the Romers are so well-regarded by their peers of both parties has many economists cheered that the Obama administration is going for the top minds in the field rather than those who adhere most closely to party lines. The Romers’ work has even been cited by Republicans as supporting the idea that tax increases negatively impact economic output."

But that was in 2008. This is 2011. The science of economics has evidently changed in the last three years. Romer has a different take on taxes now. The Keynesian theory that government spending drives the economy has come to the fore. Romer now maintains that increased taxes on "the rich" will be paid for out of their savings, putting less strain on the finances of "the poor". That would extinguish the fact that only savings, deferred consumption, can be used to create the capital necessary for economic expansion and a subsequent increase in employment. The less saving there is, the less investment there can be.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Twenty-seven feet six inches

That's the distance that a pair of draft horses must pull a loaded stone boat in competition to record a "full pull". While the specifications and rules of draft horse pulls can vary from region to region, in Wisconsin contests are usually divided into two divisions, one for teams weighing 3200 lbs. or less and another for teams of unlimited weight, which could be as much as 5000 lbs. a pair. The stone boat is initially loaded with weights that would add up to perhaps 4500 lbs., an amount that probably all the teams entered would be able to manage. Each team has three opportunities to make the pull and those that are successful move on to the next round, where more weight is added. Eventually, only one team is able to make a full pull and wins the event outright or, if no team makes a full pull at a given weight, the one that pulls the boat the farthest wins.

Horse pulls are calm affairs, except for the horses themselves when actually involved in a pull. There is no loud music or other noise. Spectators are cautioned to be quiet, as the horses take their cues from sounds and can be easily distracted. Beer and barbecued chicken are cheap. If the competitors can be said to wear uniforms, they would be T-shirts printed with farm equipment advertising, bib overalls and free caps, much like the audience.

A low key yet exciting afternoon at a draft horse pull in rural Wisconsin is a step back to another age when things happened more slowly and quietly.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bad Lieutenant

Bad Lieutenant is a 1992 crime drama starring Harvey Keitel and directed by Abel Ferrara. It's the story of a New York City detective addicted to drugs, gambling, alcohol, violence and weird sex. His descent into hell is through the investigation of a particularly sick crime, an imaginary National League baseball playoff series between the Mets and Dodgers and a drug-addled Catholic vision experience.

While the movie might not be just the thing for everyone, The Onion AV Club interview with director Ferrara paints a great picture of the movie-making process that any cinema buff will find interesting. For instance:

"O: On the commentary track, you look at the credit "A Pierre Kalfon Production" and ask, "What's a Pierre Kalfon production?" So... what is it?
AF: Yeah, it's a joke. This is some robber baron. He's the guy who was the in-between guy between Canal+ [the largest French financing company] and us. In France, if you rob a quarter-million dollars from the budget, that's business as usual. I'm not kidding. I'm very angry about what happened. They're using our names to raise money. In their mind, if it wasn't for them, there would be no financing, so they see it as their money, you dig what I mean? When you deal with the French... The French, they stick together. So between Pierre and these guys, it got to a point... Canal had put up X amount of money to preproduce the film, and we never saw a penny of it. We were preproducing it for nothing, and all along, Pierre had this money in his pocket. I initially said, "Forget it, I'm not going to do this." But then, who would believe that there was $200,000 appropriated for preproduction, and I didn't know about it? So we were forced to make the film. I wasn't going to have anything to do with this film, but I made it with Canal under the express consent that Pierre have nothing to do with it, and I have final cut anyway. Everything went along well until we finished the movie and they just stole the fucking print and put on all these producers that I never even heard of. And now, with the poster, Barry Amato—the guy who produced the film, who actually made it happen—his name isn't even on it. It's a nightmare. We own 25 percent of this movie, but when they sold it in the States, they made a deal with a company that doesn't even have distribution set up. I mean, who is Barry Barnholtz? Who are these people? We own that film. We slaved on it for two years. In the film business, it's basically honor among thieves. I see the biggest rip-offs in the world, and they're all sitting next to each other at Morton's or Spago. With this film, we're seriously thinking about filing a class-action lawsuit. They promised me theatrical distribution, and they opened it in L.A., but they have one print. They booked three cities, and they only have one fucking print. No ads. Who the fuck do these people think they are? They put it out, we get very good reviews in the L.A. papers... In the rest of the world, we don't have these distribution problems, though we still have never gotten proper accounting. I don't want to sound like some whiner, but there's a place where you've got to draw the line, and this is the film. This is one of the reasons why we haven't done another film since then."

Read the whole interview here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Most Important Second

In modern America there can be no more significant moment than the one in which a law enforcement officer points a weapon at an individual. In a society that purports to respect the sanctity of life, the judicial process and the theory of presumption of innocence, this second can be instant death or the beginning of a long and convoluted process of incredible expense. This Los Angeles Times story highlights one of the truly bizarre features of the US legal system.

But it's not really bizarre. It's actually another feature of a statist welfare system, the recipients being appeals attorneys, prison guards and judges instead of unmotivated losers. With the average time spent on death row in California being over 25 years and no one at all being executed since 2006, the death penalty has become an expensive and ineffectual scam that can only be administered instantaneously by a deputy sheriff or patrolman.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Probably the Tip of the Iceberg

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Democrat Salvatore diMasi was convicted on June 15 in federal court on seven of nine felony counts, including extortion and conspiracy in connection with the award of state contracts according to the Boston Herald. DiMasi is the third consecutive Massachusetts speaker to be convicted of crimes committed while in office, although the previous two served no jail time.

There's a question waiting to be answered here. Is DiMasi a criminal that took advantage of his elected position to line his own pockets? Or is he merely a casualty in the ongoing battle between the all-powerful federal government and their inferiors at the lower level of the polity?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nature Valley Grand Prix, What Did We Learn About the Women?

Peanut Butter & Co/2012 rider Lauren Tamayo shows us the results of a race mishap.

When it was all over for the ladies on early Sunday afternoon we knew for sure a couple of things that we may have suspected. First, Italian sprint queen and current world road champion Giorgia Bronzini can climb hills, too, if they don't go on all day. Second, Kristin Armstrong, who sat out this race last year because she was about to become a mother, is working her way back to where she was when she won this event three years in a row and was an Olympic gold medalist. Third, Joelle Numainville, a rookie in the women's pro peloton last year, is now a bonafide threat to occupy the podium after any race, along with her more experienced Tibco to the Top team mate Erinne Willock. These two Canadians regularly compete with Colavita rider Leah Kirchmann from Winnipeg. Canadian ladies are a dominant force in women's cycling. Lastly, for even the casual spectator, women's racing is a much more exciting affair than the formulaic product produced by the men. Sorry, guys.

Nature Valley Stillwater Criterium results:
1. Giorgia Bronzini
2. Evelyn Stevens
3. Kristin Armstrong

Nature Valley General Classification results:
1. Amber Neben
2. Erinne Willock
3. Kristin Armstrong

HTC-High Road star Evelyn Stevens gets ready to put the hurt on the peloton charging up Chilkoot Hill in Stillwater.

Joelle Numainville rides to the start line.

2008 World Time Trial Champion and race leader Amber Neben gets ready for 18 miles of racing with 2,000 feet of vertical climbing.

The ladies begin their 13 laps of torture, forgetting about the picturesque scenery of Stillwater and the St.Croix Valley.

Amber Neben leads world champion Giorgia Bronzini across the line two laps before the finish.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bloodbath on Hennepin Avenue

Lauren Tamayo leads Shelley Olds, Leah Kirchmann and Joelle Numainville around a corner in Minneapolis.

The Uptown Minneapolis Criterium is a popular feature of the 5-day, 6-event Nature Valley Grand Prix, one of the premier bicycle races in the US. On June 17, eighty-one ladies, including world road racing champion Giorgia Bronzini, from Placenza, Italy; Olympic champion Kristin Armstrong; US champion Shelley Olds; world record holder Lauren Tamayo; multiple world champion Amber Neben and US time trial champ Evelyn Stevens lined up at the intersection of 31st & Hennepin to make 28 laps around a neighborhood variously described as "trendy" and "chic", then crowded and noisy with cyclists, racing fans, al fresco diners and various breeds of dogs on leashes, all celebrating the end of the work week.

As is often the case, the women's race was an aggressive affair compared to the tame, predictable effort put forth by the men later in the evening. The powerful Peanut Butter & Company/2012 team was anchored by Armstrong, a four-time winner of the women's championship and leader by 23 seconds in the general classification standings after three stages. Other teams had taken aim at winning the stage, if not the overall leadership. Diadora Pasta rider Olds, who had won the NVGP general classification as a member of the Peanut Butter & Company/2012 team last year, attacked immediately with Amanda Miller of HTC and Leah Kirchmann of Colavita/Forno d'Asolo. They were soon joined by second-year sprint star Joelle Numainville and then powerhouse Lauren Tamayo. Eventually this group extended its lead far enough that Armstrong's place in the standings was threatened and teammate Tamayo dropped back to escort the US Olympic hopeful back to the front. The riders were making a right turn from Lake Street to Hennepin Ave. to get the bell for the last lap when disaster struck. Olds may have brushed a barrier and then struck another rider. The crash ultimately took 39 riders down, including some of the leaders.

Four competitors were taken to the hospital by ambulance, including Olds, Hillary Billington, Robin Bauer and Laura Ralston. Armstrong received road rash and an injury to her arm but walked away. During the time it took to sort matters out, remove broken bikes and send injured riders to the hospital, officials nullified the race, meaning that no results would apply, including points awarded for sprints. Two more events remain to be contested, a 76 mile road race around Menomonie, WI on Saturday and a gut-wrenching up hill and down 13 lap criterium in the St. Croix River valley city of Stillwater on Sunday.