Sunday, September 30, 2012

They're Recording Everything

The ceaseless march of technology brings us ever closer to a dystopia even grimmer than that imagined by Orwell or Terry Gilliam in his epic motion picture, "Brazil".  This story in the Sept. 29 edition of the WSJ tells us about the combination of cameras and computers that are used to record the locations of cars identified by license plates then stored in data banks that are shared by government agencies and various private organizations without the knowledge of the vehicle's owner, or indeed without any human action at all.  Sure, individuals could, conceivably, write down these same plate numbers and make a note of the location where they were observed and this information could be stored in file cabinets somewhere so the concept is really nothing new, but the organization, storage and retrieval of the data has made a quantum leap.

 Fifteen years ago, more than half of these types of surveillance tools were unavailable or not in widespread use, says Col. Lisa Shay, a professor of electrical engineering at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who studies tracking.
"What would the 1950s Soviet Union have done with the technology we have now?" says Col. Shay. "We don't have a police state in this country, but we have the technology."

Most interesting is the fact that, with all these incredible technological advancements, processes and mechanisms that weren't even a dream just a short time ago, the nation-state and its agents still use the centuries-old technique of employing explosive force to drive a small metal pellet through the body of humans, with often fatal consequences, who are merely suspected of some crime or refusal of responsibility. There haven't been any technological leaps that would enable an agent of the state to harmlessly incapacitate a suspect offering resistance to arrest or attempting to flee.  From this we must infer that the state and inventors that wish to sell their products to the company that never writes a bad check, are more interested in acquiring information that will increase their income and power, rather than save or extend lives.  In fact, it seems as though agents of the state actually want to kill people.

On a parallel theme, there's been a problem with the social security numbers of some honored military veterans.  On-line bios of the soldiers were accompanied by their social security numbers.  Social security numbers were originally issued to identify wage earners so that their contributions to the national Ponzi scheme could be put in the right pigeon hole of the "lock box" and be eventually withdrawn when the worker retired.  That limited use has expanded to make the social security number an identifier for all manner of things, both public and private, from issuance of fishing and hunting licenses to library cards to passports and college applications.  Everybody gotta have a number.  And since the number of an individual can be used for nefarious purposes by evil-doers, it has to be kept a secret shared only between the individual and the government.  But the government, abstraction that it is, is made up of individuals as well.  And they get to know the secret.  What do you suppose the possibility might be that some pencil-pusher in either the public or private sector, with access to social security numbers and the attached names, has sold that information to whomever might need it?  I'm betting that the possibility is 100%.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Gazing Forlornly At The Mis-guided Heller

we have James Buchanan, who gives us his view of how the world operates, even when the technocrats like Heller are at the controls:

. James M. Buchanan, "Order Defined in the Process of its Emergence"*

*A note stimulated by reading Norman Barry, "The Tradition of Spontaneous Order," Literature of Liberty, V (Summer 1982), 7-58.
Norman Barry states, at one point in his essay, that the patterns of spontaneous order "appear to be a product of some omniscient designing mind" (p. 8). Almost everyone who has tried to explain the central principle of elementary economics has, at one time or another, made some similar statement. In making such statements, however, even the proponents-advocates of spontaneous order may have, inadvertently, "given the game away," and, at the same time, made their didactic task more difficult.
I want to argue that the "order" of the market emerges only from the process of voluntary exchange among the participating individuals. The "order" is, itself, defined as the outcome of the process that generates it. The "it," the allocation-distribution result, does not, and cannot, exist independently of the trading process. Absent this process, there is and can be no "order."
What, then, does Barry mean (and others who make similar statements), when the order generated by market interaction is made comparable to that order which might emerge from an omniscient, designing single mind? If pushed on this question, economists would say that if the designer could somehow know the utility functions of all participants, along with the constraints, such a mind could, by fiat, duplicate precisely the results that would emerge from the process of market adjustment. By implication, individuals are presumed to carry around with them fully determined utility functions, and, in the market, they act always to maximize utilities subject to the constraints they confront. As I have noted elsewhere, however, in this presumed setting, there is no genuine choice behavior on the part of anyone. In this model of market process, the relative efficiency of institutional arrangements allowing for spontaneous adjustment stems solely from the informational aspects.
This emphasis is misleading. Individuals do not act so as to maximize utilities described in independently existing functions. They confront genuine choices, and the sequence of decisions taken may be conceptualized, ex post (after the choices), in terms of "as if" functions that are maximized. But these "as if" functions are, themselves, generated in the choosing process, not separately from such process. If viewed in this perspective, there is no means by which even the most idealized omniscient designer could duplicate the results of voluntary interchange. The potential participants do not know until they enter the process what their own choices will be. From this it follows that it is logically impossiblefor an omniscient designer to know, unless, of course, we are to preclude individual freedom of will.
The point I seek to make in this note is at the same time simple and subtle. It reduces to the distinction between end-state and process criteria, between consequentialist and nonconsequentialist, teleological and deontological principles. Although they may not agree with my argument, philosophers should recognize and understand the distinction more readily than economists. In economics, even among many of those who remain strong advocates of market and market-like organization, the "efficiency" that such market arrangements produce is independently conceptualized. Market arrangements then become "means," which may or may not be relatively best. Until and unless this teleological element is fully exorcised from basic economic theory, economists are likely to remain confused and their discourse confusing.
James M. BuchananCenter for the Study of Public Choice
George Mason University (after 1983)

Found here:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Walter W. Heller Kept Keynesian Economics Alive

Among other things, Walter W. Heller was the Chairman of Economic Advisers from 1961 to 1964, and helped to formulate the increasing role of the federal government in the US economy under Kennedy and Johnson.  He was the architect of the "War on Poverty" and, for a time, the leader of Keynesian economic theory in the country.  After leaving the Johnson administration he returned to his previous post as a professor of economics at the University of Minnesota.  Here is an excerpt from his 1966 book New Dimensions of Political Economy, Harvard University Press:

...A professional resolve to maintain our basic reliance on the market process does not require us to admire or to tolerate the resulting income distribution, or the existing division of resources between the public and private sectors, or the forces of monopoly and consumer deceit that tend to thwart the market process.  There are substantial differences among economists on how far the government should go in protecting consumers or setting guideposts for wages and prices.  But there is little difference-at least among the vast majority of economists-in supporting strong measures to protect the free play of market forces against monopoly and price-fixing, and in strongly opposing direct wage and price controls as inefficient and inequitable substitutes for market forces, to be considered as a last resort in a war economy.

    The study of macroeconomics, in turn, moves us in the other direction.  The basic structure of the Keynesian theory of income and employment-and even the basic strategies of Hansenian policy for stable full employment-are now the village common of the economics community.  When Milton Friedman, the chief guardian of the laissez-faire tradition in American economics, said not long ago, "We are all Keynesians now," the profession said "Amen".

     True, we still differ over the tactics and timing of fiscal and monetary moves for stabilization.  We do not, for example, agree on precisely when we should tighten the monetary and fiscal tourniquets in an overheating economy or loosen them in a slack one.  But we do agree that economy cannot regulate itself.  We now take for granted that the government must step in to provide the essential stability at high levels of employment and growth that the market mechanism, left alone, cannot deliver.


There you have it folks.  The country, and by extension the world in its entirety, can't properly  function without the guiding hands of economists like the late Dr. Heller.  Monopolies would abound, customers would be exposed to insurmountable deceit and the curse of unemployment would doom our growth and prosperity.  Thank goodness the apparatus to remedy these ills was implemented with the help of Dr. Heller.

Heller Hall, headquarters of undergrad economic indoctrination at the University of Minnesota.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

J. Edgar Hoover Talks to Henry Ford

J EH:  Hi, Mr. Ford.  Have a seat.  Nice to see you.  Heard a lot about you.  Maybe you've heard of me?

HF:  Can't say as I have.

JEH:  As you can see by the sign on the door, I'm the head of the Bureau of Investigation.  In a few years, it will be the Federal Bureau of Investigation but we're not there quite yet.  And I'll be the boss.

HF:  This Washington, D.C. is a swell place but I've got plenty going on back in Michigan, what can I do for you?

JEH:  Let me explain some things first and then we'll get to what you can do for me, actually for the great and wonderful USA.  This is the Bureau of Investigation.  We investigate things, things that are bad for the country.  Like bank robberies, postal fraud, pornography, and sedition and treason.  When those kind of crimes are committed, it's our job to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice.  But that's not all.  We know that there are people that want to commit these crimes but just haven't got around to it yet.  They might be planning to sell secrets to the Bolsheviks but haven't gotten the whole thing done.  We investigate those types, too.

HF:  I'm basically just trying to manufacture and sell automobiles.  You might be driving one now, lots of folks are.  Anyway, it's a big job and keeps me pretty busy, I don't think that I've got time to be helping you out with your investigations.

JEH:  Well, let me say this about that.  First of all, its the duty of every American citizen to help us, the legal authorities, in any way they can.  Catching crooks isn't easy, they get more inventive all the time.  And as technology advances, your cars are a good example, the bad guys put it to use and we have to keep up with them.  We're getting big into fingerprints now, no two humans have the same fingerprints so if we can get a record of the fingerprint of every person, well, we'll have a very useful tool in fighting crime, see what I mean?

HF:  I guess so.  Does this mean that you want to fingerprint me or my employees?

JEH:  It might come to that, eventually, but we're not set up for it now.  There is another way that you can be of assistance, however.  When a crime is committed, witnesses give descriptions of the criminal to the police.  Lot's of times it's pretty generic.  "It was a black guy."  Or, "He looked like a Mexican".  That's not a very useful description.  There's lots of Negroes running around, we can't grab them all.  So the officer will ask questions that narrow it down.  Like"What color shirt was he wearing?"  What we need you to do, and this might sound kind of demanding, but we need you to paint your cars other colors beside black.  They're just not that easy to tell apart when one of them scrams from a bank robbery and blends into all the other black model Ts on the street.  You think that you can do that for us?

HF:  Nobody has ever asked for a model T in any other color and we hadn't planned on painting the model A anything but black, either.  Sure, there's some car nuts that paint their cars goofy shades of red or green but if we starting offering that where would it all end?

JEH:  I'd hoped that you'd understand our situation more quickly, Mr. Ford.  This is very important, to the USA itself.  It would be nice if we could work something out on an informal basis, rather than through legislation or regulation.

HF:  OK, I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later.  We'll begin painting them other colors as soon as we can set up for it.

Greek Government Income Isn't Making It

Greek English language newspaper ekathimerini publishes this today, on the same day that Athenians take to the streets in riots.

Firms Owe Billions in Taxes and Loans

The total amount owed by entrepreneurs and the self-employed to the state, social security funds and banks is 194 billion euros, just short of the country’s gross domestic product, according to data compiled by the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE).
Of that total, about 44 percent, or almost 85 billion euros, comprises overdue debts. This huge amount cannot simply be explained away by the economic crisis, but it is obvious that the dramatic drop in turnover, the rise in extraordinary taxes and reduced access to bank loans due to the dire financial situation have exacerbated the problem.
The ESEE data show that the total debt comprises 41.1 billion euros owed to the tax authorities, 4.3 billion euros to the fund for self-employed professionals, OAEE, and 11.5 billion euros to the Social Security Fund (IKA), while expired debts to banks come to 28 billion euros.
For 2012, the sum of the enterprises’ obligations is estimated at 104 billion euros, half of which concerns taxes due.

Police push protesters during a protest march marking a 24-hour general strike in Athens
UK Telegraph photo of Greek riot police pushing protestors in Athens.

American Free Market Entrepreneurs In Action

A champion local scalper (or is that ticket re-sale specialist) in action.

At an unnamed location in an inconsequential American city, independent entrepreneurs sell tickets THAT HAVE ALREADY BEEN PAID FOR to willing customers for less than face value.  How can this be?  Well, these tickets were purchased by people who are now uninterested in attending the game, maybe because they're going to a baby shower instead or are too hung over to get out of bed or no longer wish to watch the follies of a team that's fighting over last place in its division.  No matter, they've put these tickets, probably at a price, into the hands of these itinerant salesmen.  Now it's their goal to get those unneeded ducats into the hands of fans that actually want to see the game, and they do.  I bought a $68 Delta Skybox seat, a pretty good spot to watch a ball game, for the reasonable sum of $15.What could possibly be wrong with that?

Some sales are from scalper to scalper, which may be what's going on here.

As in any bazaar-like environment, the seller and prospective buyer can fail to come to an agreement.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Spanish Financial Catastrofe'

This story gives us a glimpse into what happens when a government spends a lot of money that it doesn't have. Note that much of the spending was on "infrastructure", such as the unused Valencia airport. Keynesians and their weird MMT cousins are constantly touting infrastructure projects financed with fiat money as the answer to a moribund economy and high unemployment.

 The Spanish, members of the EU and restricted to the use of the Euro, at least officially, don't have the ability to print their own money, a luxury in which the US indulges enthusiastically. The current thinking isn't all that much different than it was during the "progressive era" in the last decades of the 19th century. Go to bimetallism because there isn't enough money in the system. Now the idea is to print more money, buy more dubious assets, and get the snowball rolling down hill once again.

 Curiously, the battle against counterfeiting seems to be more intense than ever. The Treasury has redesigned currency to make production of bogus bills more difficult. Retail clerks routinely examine even $20 bills with special pens to determine their authenticity. However, all but a tiny percentage of exchanges in the US are done electronically or by check. Cash has become a relic of a bygone barbaric era. Accounts are now kept on an electronic scoreboard somewhere in Oz.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas CEO Talks About The Situation

Richard Fisher, CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas gave a talk at the Harvard Club of New York City on Sept. 19, 2012 where he gave his opinions on the role of the Federal Reserve in the US economy.

It will come as no surprise to those who know me that I did not argue in favor of additional monetary accommodation during our meetings last week. I have repeatedly made it clear, in internal FOMC deliberations and in public speeches, that I believe that with each program we undertake to venture further in that direction, we are sailing deeper into uncharted waters. We are blessed at the Fed with sophisticated econometric models and superb analysts. We can easily conjure up plausible theories as to what we will do when it comes to our next tack or eventually reversing course. The truth, however, is that nobody on the committee, nor on our staffs at the Board of Governors and the 12 Banks, really knows what is holding back the economy. Nobody really knows what will work to get the economy back on course. And nobody—in fact, no central bank anywhere on the planet—has the experience of successfully navigating a return home from the place in which we now find ourselves. No central bank—not, at least, the Federal Reserve—has ever been on this cruise before.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What's Up With Animals in the News?

Why do stories about particular animals get picked up by the media? Is there some reason that we should know about a sea turtle being released off Cape Cod?

The pre-mature death of a panda is a sad thing but is it a matter of international interest? Perhaps knowledge of any aspect of panda biology is a plus.
A fellow that gets attacked by an eight-point buck has a perfect right to go get his .30-06 and blow a hole in it. What's newsworthy about that?
Mr. Rook would have been within his rights to ventilate his bull William but the nasty bovine inflicted fatal injuries. Now we know enough not to wear a "bobble hat" around a bull with an attitude.
Dog suckles kitten.A feel-good story.

The Pen Could Have Been Loaded

Or he could have run over him with his wheelchair. Either way, it had to be done.

Brian Claunch Further information here.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Marianne Vos Wins Elite Women's World Cycling Championship

After five consecutive second place finishes in the biggest event in women's road cycling, Dutch superstar rider Marianne Vos bridged across from the peloton to a breakaway and then sprinted away in the final kilometers to win her tenth cycling world championship, two in road racing, five in cyclocross and three in track racing, as well as a gold medal in the 2012 Olympic games and she's only 25 years old.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

milk and manure are produced on the same end of the cow

UPDATE: The jury has aquitted the raw milk pusher of all charges! A small victory for the right to choose your own food is described here.

 That's the analysis of Heidi Kassenborg, director of the dairy and food inspection division at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in an interview that's part of an article on the upcoming jury verdict in a case accusing a man of selling raw milk.
The state enforcement of laws against raw milk are meant to protect the population from pathogens but there are folks willing to assume the risk in order to obtain the benefits that they feel accrue from unpasteurized milk. Does the state really have the right to curtail one's freedom to eat what one wishes?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Do We Need the Federal Reserve System?

Economist Lawrence H. White tells what the Federal Reserve does and what alternatives to it would do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hudson Dog Track/High School

Update! The Hudson City Council has rejected the re-zoning of the land that St. Croix Meadows occupies. Now it's war between the school board and the city council.
In the 1980s, when ELO and Gloria Estefan ruled the FM airwaves, beery Wisconsin liberalized its puritan attitude toward gambling by allowing the opening of a number of dog tracks in the state, one of which was in Hudson, a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.  St. Croix Meadows was a moderate success at first, offering wagering on its own races and on simulcast dog and thoroughbred races from across the country.  This didn't last as Indian casinos sprang up in close proximity and gamblers gravitated from the mystery of guessing about greyhounds to the mindlessness of pushing buttons on video poker machines.

In the late 90's the owner of the now-dormant track came to an agreement with a couple of the less important native bands in the state to convert the facility into a casino but they were unable to secure the required approval from the Department of the Interior, a development that cast an unfavorable light on Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt   The track was soon shuttered and sits there even now, a forlorn reminder of the perils of placing one's wealth at the mercy of the supposed democratic process, in this case the decision made by a career bureaucrat.

But times change and Hudson's role as a kitchen and bedroom for a growing share of the St. Paul workforce has meant that new infrastructure is needed to inject the minds of the children of the workers with government-approved propaganda.  The elected officials have determined that a new high school is needed and the search for a site has determined that the dog track has many of the attributes required.  This article updates the current status of the situation.

There's more to the selection process, however, than the somewhat complicated economics of which property would ultimately be the best choice for a new school.  First of all, the school is to be designed to accommodate 2000 students and eventually as many as 2500, on a minimum of 50 acres.  Has the "factory school" really lived up to expectations?  Does cramming all these adolescents into a facility that resembles nothing so much as a prison produce the educated and aware adults that parents supposedly want and that the elites say we need?  Or are these giant, impersonal institutions proving that education has evolved into a complex dead end that no longer achieves its goals?  Maybe Hudson should think about several smaller schools, perhaps even rent some space downtown and establish more intimate relationships between the educational bureaucracy and its raw material.

Another factor in the decision is, of course, taxes.  Today, receiving no income from the operations of the track, the owners are still on the hook for $94,000 in property taxes.  Putting the property into the public domain would remove those tax receipts and probably more from local government coffers, almost enough to pay the salary and benefits of one special education teacher.  Of course, if another site is selected and the dog track property developed in other ways, the tax receipts would go up dramatically.  A big if.

Finally, there are some other drawbacks to the dog track site.  Beside the physical problem of demolishing some existing outbuildings there are a couple of significant administrative obstacles that could derail the project.  One is that the land would have to be re-zoned!  Re-zoned!  Another is that the city's "comprehensive plan" would have to be amended!  No, not the comprehensive plan!  When politicos make a plan, it has to be followed.  And once something is zoned, it has to stay in that zone.

Simultaneously, another issue affecting the Hudson residents is percolating a few miles up the St. Croix River in Stillwater, Minnesota.  Wisconsin commuters, at least some of them, want a new bridge across the river to augment the aging but picturesque aerial lift bridge that can't begin to accommodate rush-hour traffic across the watery border.  Nobody doubts for a second the ability of the engineering fraternity to design and the general contracting industry to build either a bridge that can effectively move traffic across the river or a school that can warehouse teens for nine months of the year.  Technology isn't the problem.  The political process is.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Guide to Sound Money

Economist Judy Shelton is the co-director of the Sound Money Project of the Atlas Institute.  You can download her A Guide to Sound Money  Below you can listen to her thoughts on our current currency situation..

No Can Fly Airplane Without Cockpit Voice Recorder

ERA Aviation, a Fairbanks, AK based airline, has been forced to suspend service for a short but indefinite time while it upgrades its cockpit voice recorders to meet FAA requirements, according to this story in the Fairbanks News-Miner.  The mandate is meant as a safety feature, but the voice recorders are normally only used in the analysis of a crash, long after the dismembered bodies have been removed from the scene.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Wisconsin National Horse and Pony Pull 2012

The indoor arena at the Dunn County Fairgrounds in Menomonie, Wisconsin is the site of the annual Wisconsin National Horse and Pony Pull.  This year the feature event, the heavyweight competition between draft teams weighing more than 3200 lbs., attracted 15 teams from Wisconsin and Minnesota and produced one of the most exciting exhibitions ever.  The John Loomis team from Mondovi, WI, always a threat to take first place, did so once again, making a full pull of 27'-6" on its first attempt after every weight addition, including the final load of 13,000 lbs.  The second place team was the big Belgian pair of Gunner and Pete from the Larry Soppa barn in Arcadia, WI.   Mark Ullom's team from Barronet, WI took third place.
The royalty of the Wisconsin horse pulling kingdom, winning teamster John Loomis and teamster Becky receive the first place trophy from official Jim Lowery.
Perfectly proportioned powerful pulling posteriors.  The muscular hindquarters of the winning Loomis Belgian team.
Loomis readies his team for action at a pull earlier in the season.
Gunner and Pete take a breather between pulls.
A rare sight in this day and age, a row of beautiful Belgians with their double trees behind them.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Is He Mentally Competent to Get the Death Penalty?

This story from the Arizona Republic tells us about the legal skirmishes surrounding the impending trial of Christopher Redondo, accused of murdering a Gilbert, AZ police lieutenant on January 28, 2010.  The accused's defense team has stated that the defendant is in such a mental condition that he can't contribute to his defense and mitigate the prosecution's demand for the death penalty.

Well, it turns out that Redondo has already been convicted of another murder and is serving a life prison term  without the possibility of parole.  Since his accomplice in the Gilbert murder has been sentenced to 107 years, it seems likely that the state wouldn't have much trouble getting a conviction and perhaps the death penalty for Redondo in that case.  Is this really necessary?  Does it make sense for the state of Arizona to use its resources, actually the resources of the taxpayers, to continue legal proceedings against an individual that can't possibly walk the streets again?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chicago Teachers' Strike

The government subsidized baby-sitting/meal program known as the Chicago Public School system has been suspended by its employees, who refuse to accept a significant increase in compensation and more responsibility for their production.

The main issue here, never discussed in conversations about public employee wages and benefits, isn't whether or not the teachers deserve a certain level of compensation.  It's the fact that applicants for public employee positions aren't required to annually  bid for their jobs, the low bidder being awarded the opening. Provision of teaching services to the school district isn't any different than provision of paper clips, ball points or bus service, all of which are provided by the low bidder.  Such should be the case with instructors as well.

When a private company, even one with an organized work force, attempts to do significant business with a government agency, it's required to submit a competitive bid that's compared with other firms.  The cost of its labor force, and its productivity, is the most important factor in getting that bid.  Why should it be any different with government employees themselves?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fuel in Afghanistan

This report from RT indicates what can, and does, happen when government functionaries, even military ones, find opportunities for personal enrichment.  Curiously, how can shredding documents effectively screen financial ineptitude or malfeasance?  Isn't all this info stored away on untouchable servers and hard drives scattered about the globe?  Shredding documents just seems so . . . twentieth century.  A nation that controls death-dealing drones from 12,000 miles away even now relies on outdated paper to record transactions? And, by the way, what's used to make the marks on the paper?  At one time, the vaunted IBM Selectric typewriter was the instrument of choice for completing the endless number of forms required by the military.  Could this still be the case?  Is there a factory somewhere near Fort Campbell, KY making or refurbishing Selectrics for the army?  Is there an MOS for Selectric repair, like there is for aircraft maintenance?  Or are these byzantine forms completed with ordinary ball point pens?

 As usual, it's easier to simply kill some one than keep track of the numbers.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Greed, or avarice, if you will, is one of the seven capital sins of the Christian church, the remaining six being wrath, sloth, pride, lust, envy and gluttony.  We don't hear much about the others in this era of financial shenanigans but there's a nearly universal condemnation of greed.  It happens, however, that there's a continuum  of subjectivity to all of the seven deadly sins.  There doesn't seem to be a line of "pride" somewhere between abject self-hatred and total egomania.  If one eats two quarter-pounders with cheese rather than just a fish sandwich is he bumping against the "gluttony" milepost?  What about sloth?  Are unemployed folks that sit in front of the big eye all day instead of sweeping up the walk in front of their section 8 housing just as sinful as derivatives traders, but in a different category?  Lust seems to have acquired something of the attributes of a disease, sexaholics and alcoholics even sharing the same encounter groups.  Wanting to hose the neighbor's daughter isn't lustful, she just insists on wearing those provocative clothes.

Greed, defined by Merriam-Webster is:   : a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed. 
 How does anyone know "how much is needed"?  If someone wants a banana split, which nobody actually needs, are they guilty of greed?  Union workers, whose representatives bargain tenaciously for every cent of wages, fringe benefits, and other compensation, while decrying the greed of management certainly aren't being entirely altruistic themselves.  In fact, union members often enthusiastically sign on for overtime work with higher compensation which decreases the opportunities for other workers.  What about that?  When the agent of a baseball player or television actor holds out for an extra quarter million are they being greedy or just going after what the market's been paying?  We can apparently measure greed, or at least some incidents of it, in dollars, which is a little easier than measuring pride or wrath.  Maybe that's why it so easy to rage against Wall Street.

Cheating at College And the New Morality

That's the headline affixed to a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal weekend edition.  The letter itself:

The continuous demonstration of serious character defects by our nation's "leaders" has eroded the expectation of proper behavior of our populace ("Harvard Investigates Allegations of Cheating," U.S. News, Aug. 31). What at one time was universally viewed as wrong or criminal is now considered to be quite normal. Thus, this country is beginning to practice Third World, banana-republic morals.
The "leaders" and individuals who pretend to be cleverly fooling all the rest of us through their reprehensible behavior are only fooling themselves. In the process, however, they are training the rest of us to emulate their own shameful lack of values.
Donald D. McCauley
Los Altos Hills, Calif.

It has to be asked, "Why wouldn't college students cheat?"  They're being cheated by the very institutions that supposedly require them to adhere to a code of moral conduct.  Let's not even consider that the cost of a college education in no way reflects the value of that education.  A sheepskin is merely a very expensive identification card that shows a person spent some time in a classroom.  The  grading system devalues the efforts of dedicated but naive students that are actually making an effort to improve their minds.  When an instructor fails to show up for class, there's no refund of tuition to the student.  The cost of regularly updated instructor-typed texts, akin to what was once the price of tuition itself, is a scandal.  Great amounts of resources are devoted to meaningless sports programs and abstractions like diversity.  A left-wing agenda pervades even the physical sciences.  The list goes on and on. 
The general morality of "Third World, banana republics" is probably on a higher plane than that of its American counterpart.  Celebrated politicians like Elliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, and, yes, William Jefferson Clinton, take a backseat to nobody in depravity.  The very US Secret Service, protector of the life of the president and the integrity of the nation's currency, stiffs a lowly Columbian whore of her hard-earned pay.  It would be interesting to compare the rate of unwed motherhood in purportedly barbaric Columbia to that of the District of Columbia.

And there's antithesis to " What at one time was universally viewed as wrong or criminal is now considered to be quite normal."  That's that things that were once neither wrong nor criminal have been criminalized by a power-mad bureaucracy enabled by legislative pandering to minority interest groups.  Thus we have volumes of legal restrictions with draconian penalties for once normal activities like the sale of unpasteurized milk, consumption of marijuana, curfews for teens, cockfights, internet gambling, etc., etc.  Part of the problem is the confusion between what is illegal and what is wrong.  Everybody can identify basic wrongdoing.  Stealing the neighbor's newspaper is wrong, no attorney is needed to determine that.  But insider trading, giving a tip to someone on a stock purchase, that may be illegal but it might not be wrong.  

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Jennifer Granholm @ the DNCC

If you missed the best performance of the kabuki exercise in Charlotte, NC last week here's your chance to get a look and listen. Sure, one of the most inept governors in the history of the Wolverine State is certifiably crazy, but she's also very entertaining up there on the podium. It was BHO's speech at the 2004 convention that put him in the national spotlight. Luckily, Jennifer was born in Canada and is thus ineligible for the highest office in the land. Couldn't help but be reminded of the National Socialist rallies at Nuremburg in 1927, the emphatic, enthusiastic manner of Granholm injecting the same into the automatons down below.

One Dashing Eagle

Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico, high in the cool Sierra Blanca Mountains,  has long been the site of the richest race in North America for two-year old horses of any breed, the All-American Futurity for registered American Quarterhorses.  A pot of $2.4 million was the lure for the qualifiers in 26 preliminary heats leading up to the fifty-third running of the big race on Labor Day, a 440 yard dash that took only 21.23 seconds for One Dashing Eagle to complete.

Thomas Paine Said:

Remember him? Author of "Common Sense" and other pamphlets that influenced the revolutionary thinking of the 18th century British colonies in America?

  Almost everything appertaining to the circumstances of a nation, has been absorbed and confounded under the general and mysterious word government. Though it avoids taking to its account the errors it commits, and the mischiefs it occasions, it fails not to arrogate to itself whatever has the appearance of prosperity. It robs industry of its honours, by pedantically making itself the cause of its effects; and purloins from the general character of man, the merits that appertain to him as a social being.

Our president, and some of his acolytes, like Elizabeth Warren, should take this quote to heart and maybe even read some more of Paine's work, The Rights of Man, for instance.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Grupo Fantasma

Austin, Texas band with a sound of its own performs on this retro video.  They'll be in Madison, WI on Nov. 2, or so they say.

Project Indect & Narusinsight

You may not have heard of either of these phenomenon. Narusinsight is the more effective replacement of "Carnivore", the Clinton-era FBI program that monitored internet traffic to protect us all from ? It monitors just about everything that passes between servers and individual PCs, searching for info that Janet Napolitano and Leon Panetta can use to arrest and prosecute the "evil-doers". Naturally, a lot more information is obtained as well. This excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on the the company that developed the software explains its use:
 The intercepted data flows into NarusInsight Intercept Suite. This data is stored and analyzed for surveillance and forensic analysis purposes. Other capabilities include playback of streaming media (i.e. VoIP), rendering of web pages, examination of e-mail and the ability to analyze the payload/attachments of e-mail or file transfer protocols. Narus partner products, such as Pen-Link, offer the ability to quickly analyze information collected by the Directed Analysis or Lawful Intercept modules. A single NarusInsight machine can monitor traffic equal to the maximum capacity (10 Gbit/s) of around 39,000 DSL lines or 195,000 telephone modems. But, in practical terms, since individual internet connections are not continually filled to capacity, the 10 Gbit/s capacity of one NarusInsight installation enables it to monitor the combined traffic of several million broadband users. According to a company press release, the latest version of NarusInsight Intercept Suite (NIS) is "the industry's only network traffic intelligence system that supports real-time precision targeting, capturing and reconstruction of webmail traffic... including Google Gmail, MSN Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail" [11] It can also perform semantic analysis of the same traffic as it is happening, in other words analyze the content, meaning, structure and significance of traffic in real time. The exact use of this data is not fully documented, as the public is not authorized to see what types of activities and ideas are being monitored.
 Other countries would also be interested in what their citizens were discussing via the web waves, too. But now a consortium of countries, the hugely successful EU, is setting up a trans-national version of an internet traffic analysis program. It's called Indect and is described here. Those who remember the '80s movie Brazil can't help but see the parallels.  The differences are more important and ominous, efficiency and the increasing detachment of humans in favor of artificial intelligence.