Monday, October 29, 2012

Tom Wolfe's "Back To Blood"

The UK Telegraph has published an excerpt of Tom Wolfe's latest novelistic effort, Back To Blood.

 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Drugs in Pro Cycling

The Lance Armstrong affair has not only destroyed the reputation of America's most successful cyclist, it's moved the sport itself even further into the netherworld of applied pharmaceuticals of Festina and Operation Puerto.  It's obvious now that literally the entire competitive structure of elite cycling has been compromised by drug use.  The list of winners that have climbed the podiums of the most prestigious races is dominated by riders implicated in doping.  While Armstrong's seven Tour de France titles have been erased from the record books, in fact there is probably no significant race that hasn't been won with the assistance of drugs.

Oddly, most of the scrutiny, and punishment, has been dished out to the winners.  Does this mean that those that finished in the grupetto are innocent?  Of course not.  Some may not have been good enough to win even with chemical modifications.  But what of those that refused to break the rules, that rode "clean"?  Don't they deserve something like sympathy for making a futile but legitimate attempt to compete with pumped riders?

No, they don't.  Doping has been an accepted, if not acknowledged, part of elite cycling for years and the riders, all of them, have been more aware of it than any serious or casual fan.  A cyclist competing against the very best, and the most chemically enhanced, riders, without the benefit of doping, was simply adding credibility to the proceedings.  He was competing in an event that he could not hope to win for the prestige or the experience itself or maybe money.  His riding against doped riders was a false signal to the world that the race was indeed a true athletic contest.  An honest person would have declined to compete in an event that he knew to be a travesty.  If there are any "clean" riders, they would be just as guilty as their EPO-pickled opponents.  They should all be banned.
 
Lance Armstrong, Ivan Basso and Danilo De Luca, all dopers, followed by a herd of dopers.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What's Up With College Drama?

College athletic teams have seasons that extend for months and include dozens of opponents.  Players endure or enjoy daily practices for months in exchange for subsidized education and a spotlight that may vault them to a well-paid entry to the professional ranks.  The University of Minnesota men's  basketball team has 31 scheduled games beginning on Nov. 9 and ending on March 9, with the remote possibility of playing in the NCAA championship game on April 8.  Other schools have similar schedules in other sports.

What about drama?  The same U of M theater department is performing a seventeenth century play, "The Rover" a total of ten times between Nov. 1 and Nov. 11.   Northwestern College in Roseville, MN, a small, non-denominational Christian liberal arts school once headed by evangelist Billy Graham, is presenting "The Sideshow", their version of a 1998 Broadway musical on Nov. 1-3.  Three performances.  Just three.  Farther south on Snelling Ave. in St. Paul, the Theater Arts department at Hamline University is putting on the new Broadway adaptation of "Cabaret" six times from Nov. 2-10.  In April, the Augsburg College Theater Arts department in Minneapolis will perform the now almost mandatory "Cabaret" a total of seven times.

Why does a basketball season last five months and a drama season just days?  Are acting, directing and the ancillary skills of theater more easily learned than shooting free throws?  Are productions likely to run out of audience in short order and play  to empty seats?  That doesn't seem to be a problem with small college sports, at least, whose audience is primarily composed of friends and relatives of the athletes.

Ubiquitous television may be a factor in the short runs of college drama productions, folks might be more inclined to nestle at home with a bowl of popcorn in front of the big eye than tottering down to the campus theater to see some live drama and music.  Unfortunately, both the players and the potential audience are losers in the bargain.

Paul Wellstone

Today, October 25, marks the 10th year since the death of Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota in a plane crash near the iron mining community of Eveleth, MN.  In addition to Wellstone himself, his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia and four others died in the crash.

As has been the case with many other politicians, Wellstone's untimely death has actually enhanced his standing among his supporters.  Even today, a decade later, bumper stickers bearing his name are visible on cars, especially on the streets of progressive enclaves like St. Paul.

 
New cars sold in St. Paul are required to have this bumper sticker attached.

Be that as it may, the semi-deification of this "working class hero", who was actually a community organizer, academic and eventually elected politician seems to be at odds with what progressivism actually reveres, which is the collective.  The collective, the community, society in general, is more important than any one individual according to the progressive view.  The individual is a part of the collective and his aspirations are secondary to the well-being of the whole.  Public policy must be oriented toward the good of the collective and individual achievement channeled in that direction as well.

Worship of the Wellstone memory doesn't seem to jibe with the "rule by laws, not men" theory of John Adams and other advocates of democracy.  That's because the idea that society can be governed, or more realistically, controlled, by a system is wrong.  All societies, large and small, throughout history, have been dominated by personalities.  This is because humans identify with other humans, not abstractions or even identifiable groups of humans.  Politicians, for instance, represent ideals and abstractions that are held by their supporters independently of what those politicians may actually believe.  Once a politician has established an image, an image that's accepted by a significant portion of the electorate, that image has a strong residual power, both positive and negative.  It will take precedence over the general and particular  philosophy of the party that he represents.  Franklin D. Roosevelt employed many of the failed strategies of his predecessor but was perceived as having a much different approach, the "New Deal", and having been the US president during the success of WWII has been venerated ever since by those ascribing to what they feel are progressive ideas.

So, on October 25, those with fond memories of Wellstone won't celebrate the supposed democracy that brought him to office, but will instead honor the man himself, even though they would be unlikely to be able to enumerate his accomplishments and beliefs in any but the most general terms.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lance Armstrong and Big Bucks

This article on the Bicycle.net website goes into some of the details of the potential financial repercussions of the lifetime cycling ban given Lance Armstrong by the USADA.  All of his endorsement contracts with the likes of Trek, Nike and Oakley have gone up in smoke, court decisions made in his favor may be contested again and the organizers of the Tour de France might seek the return of prize money awarded to Armstrong, although it's been reported in the past that he shared the winnings with members of his team.  Perhaps, since it's a team sport, they, too, will have to return these winnings.


Lance Armstrong wearing the leader's yellow jersey in the Tour de France, followed by 1997 Tour winner and banned doper Jan Ullrich.

The most curious statement in the article is this:  Armstrong, who reportedly has an estimated net worth of $125 million....  It doesn't say who, exactly, reports this figure, but even if it's remotely close to the truth it's an astonishing sum.  The fact that an individual can amass such an amount of wealth by riding a bicycle about  Europe in July, even with sponsorships and endorsements, is mind-boggling.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

$5 Bill Worth Almost a Quarter Million


Bills issued by banks were commonplace before the Federal Reserve Bank was established in 1913.

According the Fairbanks Daily New-Miner in this article a $5 bank note issued by the First National Bank of Fairbanks in 1905 has been auctioned off for just under $247,000.  The face on the bill is that of Charles Fairbanks, for whom the city was named, vice-president under Theodore Roosevelt, and has been in the possession of the Fairbanks family since it was presented to the Indiana attorney, senator and counsel to Jay Gould.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cadel Evans Met With Dr. Michele Ferrari in 2K

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that 2009 world champion, 2011 Tour de France winner and BMC rider Australian Cadel Evans has admitted to meeting with banned Dr. Michele Ferrari in 2000 for a physical evaluation while he was in the process of transitioning from mountain bike racing to the UCI pro cycling tour.  Evans maintains that the meeting was the only time he ever spoke with Ferrari and had nothing to do with doping.  Then again, that's what they all say.  Ferrari has been the central figure in a number of doping scandals, won an appeal of his conviction for sporting fraud and abusive exercise of the profession of pharmacy in Italy but was subsequently banned by the USADA, just as Armstrong has been.   Now admitted doper George Hincapie was an important Evans team mate during his Tour de France victory.


Aussie cycling hero Cadel Evans.


Dr. Michele Ferrari, banned sports physiologist.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Growing Mushroom Cloud Over Pro Cycling



Gazzetta dello Sport has released information  acquired from the Padua, Italy investigators looking into the activities of banned physician Michele Ferrari that implicates one-time Rabobank rider and Giro d'Italia GC victor Russian Denis Menchov and Giro winner Michele Scarponi in doping, The investigation involves not only doping but money laundering and smuggling and concerns athletes in other sports, sports agents, and bank employees.  An explanation of this latest cycling scandal in English is here.


Winner of the 2009 Giro, Denis Menchov



2011 Giro victor, Michele Scarponi

It's becoming more and more obvious that professional cycling is as much a contest of pharmaceuticals and blood modification as it is a sporting event.

Rabobank Pulling the Plug on Pro Cycling

Dutch financial institution Rabobank has decided to end its seventeen year professional cycling sponsorship at the end of the year while still honoring its present contracts, another consequence of the WADA, USADA, UCI investigation and subsequent ban of multiple Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

While the future of the men's team is somewhat assured, the powerful women's team is in a more precarious position as mentioned here.


The future of the women's team - which includes World and Olympic champion Marieanne Vos, is not so clear: "We want to completely support Marianne Vos' Olympic ambitions for 2016, but we have not yet worked out the details of that support. We are still looking for a solution," Bruggink added.
"We were shocked at the many details of the USADA report, which was published last week. For us, this has made the glass more than full. Enough is enough. And we are not confident that cycling will improve in the medium term."
Rabobank rider Marianne Vos, 2012 Olympic and world road racing champion.
Sponsors come and go in professional cycling so the withdrawal of Rabobank isn't unprecedented.  In fact, Deutsche Telekom, operating under the name of T-Mobile, dissolved its relationship with its high-profile cycling team in 2007 for basically the same reasons, drug infestation of its riders.  The sport has yet to recover its German fan base.
However, the women's side of the sport hasn't been affected  by doping scandals.  With a team made up of stars like Vos, AnneMiek Van Vlueten, Iris Slappendel, Lucinda Brand and Megan Guarnier, Rabobank had assembled perhaps the most powerful group of riders in the world. While Giant Bicycles is exploring ways to keep them together this event is just one more set-back to the viability of women's pro cycling.  Hopefully, things will improve for a group of athletes like no other. 



Changing Statistics


www.shadowstats.com uses the methodology employed by the US government in the past to determine economic data and trends.  As this article in Amphora Report explains, the means of arriving at statistical data points by government agencies  has changed over time and in every discernible case, the change has tended to make the government performance appear better.  The blue line on the above graph indicates the changes in the Consumer Price Index, what can be considered the level of inflation, with the methodology used in 1980 to determine those figures.  The red line displays CPI levels year-by-year using the changes adopted by those generating the statistics.  Under the developed criteria, US inflation is presently about 2%.  If it was determined with the same methodology as used in 1980, the annual level of inflation in 2012 would be just under 10%, as any of us who have purchased eggs, beef or motor fuel could attest.


A similar graph compares the "official" unemployment rate (red line) with the unemployment rate as it was compiled in 1980 (blue line).  Draw your own conclusions.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Senator Tom Coburn's Wastebook 2012 Is Out

The Oklahoma MD that drives "progressives" crazy has just put the latest edition of his annual "Wastebook" on line here. It's a description of some of the worst examples of federal financial folly.
Such as:

 Tax exempt status of professional sports leagues that generate millions. Although dodging taxes in any manner can't be entirely bad.

 SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) funds used to purchase gourmet coffee at Starbucks, fried chicken at KFC, and pizza at Pizza Hut.

 A failed program to teach Moroccans how to make pottery for just a $27 million investment.

 It costs the government 2.4 cents to produce a penny.

 There's lots more and some of them would be funny if it wasn't so sad.

Debbie Gravitte Sings "Junk Man"

Spectacular Broadway diva Debbie Gravitte sings "Junk Man", a song composed by Joseph Myer and Frank Loesser back in the early '30s, at the Kennedy Center.


More Problems for Clarence Dupnik in Tucson

Wednesday AM Tucson police were called to a bar in downtown Tucson to investigate the unprovoked and savage assaults on several people. Turns out the misbehavior was caused by 5 Pima County jailers, employees of inept local sheriff Clarence Dupnik, the same Clarence that emphatically stated in January 2011 that US representative Gabrielle Giffords had been shot by a disgruntled conservative who turned out to be a schizo madman. And the same Clarence that commanded the joint task force that sent a hail of bullets into the bedroom of Jose Guarena in south Tucson on May 11, 2011, killing the Marine veteran. The five jailers are now on administrative leave, which probably means that they're being paid to stay home and refrain from beating people up outside saloons. When employees in the private sector don't show up for work, for whatever reason, they're usually terminated. Not so with law enforcement personnel.
Stay away from this guy, and his employees, for your own good. Update: The Tucson Police Department has released a surveillance video of the incident that can be seen here.

Megan Guarnier Joins Marianne Vos

Dutch-based Rabobank women's cycling team has announced the signing of American powerhouse and US national champion Megan Guarnier to a contract for the coming season, further strengthening a deep line-up that includes Olympic and world road racing champion Marianne Vos, GC threat Annemiek Van Vlueten, Iris Slappendel, Pauline Ferrand-Prevot, and fellow newcomer Lucinda Brand.


Guarnier leading the climb up Chilkoot Hill as she wins the final stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix with a solo breakaway.

The 27 year old Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Middlebury College with a degree in neuroscience works for an engineering firm in nuclear risk assessment when she's not making things difficult for the other riders in the women's peloton, as she did in her victory in the most difficult stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix, the prestigious Giro della Toscana, and the US national championships.  Guarnier has shown that she has the talent and determination to compete at the high level of European women's racing and has said in interviews that she is looking forward to riding for a team that can make her a better cyclist.  Her penchant for aggressive tactics and solo breakaways makes her one of the world's most exciting riders.

megan guarnier

Megan Guarnier puts on her game face at the line-up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Blind Retiree Tazered by English Cops

An unnamed cop in Chorley, Lancashire, UK, searching for a drunken hooligan running around with a Samurai sword, used a Tazer device on a 61 year old blind pensioner strolling down the street on his way to the local.  According to the police spokesman, the officer mistook Mr. Farmer's white cane for a Japanese sword.  Pretty easy to do.  Samurai warriors with swords are often mistaken for blind folk as well.

FBI Foils Terrorist Bomb Attempt. . . Again

The FBI has announced, via Twitter no less, the arrest of 21 year old Bangladeshi terrorist Quazi Mohammed Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis for attempting to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Wednesday morning with a 1000 lb. car bomb.  This article in Forbes gives us the beginning of the spin on this case and points out that the guys carrying on the traditions of J. Edgar Hoover have been able to foil 15 such plots since September 11.  Further, more detailed aspects of the plot are given in this ABC News report.

During the time since the multiple hijackings and destruction of the World Trade Center there has apparently been no successful significant terrorist strike in the US.  However, all the attempts that we hear about, such as this one, involve federal agents making contact with the would-be bombers, supplying them bogus explosives and other supplies and then pulling the plug on their operation after they've attempted to detonate the phony bomb.  How many of these attempts do you suppose would have gotten anywhere near completion without the active assistance of the feds?  In fact, aren't the feds actually encouraging dopey, idealistic, warped jihadists by providing this assistance?  Apparently, federal agents are trolling the internet looking for these nut-cases so they can enable their dreams and make headline-grabbing arrests that legitimize further encroachments on the rights of Americans.


















Cops Use Driver License Info to Stalk Ex-Cop


Ex-cop Anne Marie Rasmusson

A former St. Paul, Minnesota police officer has agreed to a $385,000 settlement in a claim against that city for the unauthorized search of state records for her information by St. Paul cops, as detailed in this article on the Twin Cities.com website of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  Rasmusson has also agreed to a $280K settlement with some other Twin City area municipalities yet even more cities and the state itself are in line to make a substantial payment for the illegal behavior of sworn peace officers.  No word yet on any disciplinary action against individuals.

Government Red Tape

Monday, October 15, 2012

Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass

is interviewed on the Imus in the Morning Show on October 15.  A frequent guest on the show, Haass explains the situation in the volatile Middle East, the "old order", that maintained stability is gone, replaced by a "new order" that is unable or unwilling to control the situation, which leads to tragedies like the Benghazi embassy attack.  He compares it to the "wild west".

In reality, the wild west was never like Iraq or Libya or Egypt or Syria. Hillarian US diplomacy, in a spasm of naivete, has greeted the perhaps inevitable demise of desert autocrats with undeserved enthusiasm.  The forces that deposed these tyrants, with US assistance both acknowledged and covert, have made no compact to further American interests.  Neither do they intend to transform the political landscape of their respective countries.  What they will do is take over the displaced dictators' apparatus for their own interests.

Haass and other statists are unable to deal with what are, for the moment at least, non-states, where the jockeying for supremacy is between tribes and to a lesser but ancillary extent religious sects.  The US view is that other communities are structured much as the US itself is, with competing groups like political parties that share a common national view.  That the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, for instance, is a kind of super-Muslim reaction to an apostate secular state.  Of course, this isn't true.  Just as in the rest of the world, there's been an urbanization of the Arab countries.  But the conservative Muslims that have moved from the hinterlands to the cities have brought along their centuries-old tribal relationships, which trump the new and artificial nation-state paradigm.  Dealing with Egypt or Libya isn't the same as dealing with Belgium or even Columbia.  


Gerhard Richter's "Abstraktes Bild (809-4)"



There's never a shortage of material ripe for ridicule in the post-modern abstract art world but it isn't often that we get a nearly daily dose of pretension from the inhabitants of planet absurd.  Shortly after a Mark Rothko joke is purchased for a colossal sum and shipped off to impress the bib overall-clad woodsmen and their aproned partners in Arkansas, another Rothko is defaced at the Tate in London.  Now guitar legend Eric Clapton has put 25% of his 2001 $3.4 million purchase of Richter art up for sale and that item, pictured above, has been auctioned off to an anonymous bidder for US $34.2 million. Here we see the German master actually using his incredibly complicated and subtle techniques to create art that will eventually be worth a fortune.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Irrepressible Janet Daley

As my great hero, the economist Arthur Laffer, has said: “If you pay people to be poor, you will get more and more poor people.” 

This quote within a quote comes from Janet Daley's latest column in Britain's Daily Telegraph.  Unfortunately, she seems to be too optimistic about Americans' attitude toward the current situation.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tony Smith's "Die"



"Die", a sculpture by minimalist artist Tony Smith.

A 2003 blurb from the New York Times relates the acquisition of the above work of art:


INSIDE ART

Chinese Austrian Economics

"We human beings always seek happiness," says Mr. Zhang. "Now there are two ways. You make yourself happy by making other people unhappy—I call that the logic of robbery. The other way, you make yourself happy by making other people happy—that's the logic of the market. Which way do you prefer?" A great statement from an article in today's Wall Street Journal, an interview with influential and controversial Chinese economist Zhang Weiying.

Secret Service Parties Down Again

A Secret Service agent assigned to duties in Miami during a campaign visit by Barak Obama was found intoxicated to the point of unconsciousness on a street corner by local law enforcement and placed under arrest this week. You may remember an incident earlier this year when Secret Service agents working in Columbia during a presidential visit there were found to have not only engaged in enthusiastic consumption of adult beverages but also hired and then refused to pay ladies of the evening for their services. The idea of an armed federal employee with literally the license to kill staggering around in a drunken stupor is just too frightening to contemplate.

Evelyn Stevens Winning Stage 3 of the 2012 Giro Donne

Specialized-Lululemon American rider Evelyn Stevens captured the pink sweater denoting the race leader with her solo victory in the third stage of the 2012 Giro Donne beginning in Vernio and ending 124 kilometers away in Castiglione de Pepoli. Overtaken on the next stage by soon-to-be Olympic and World Champion Marianne Vos, Stevens finished the general classification standings in third place, second in the mountains classification and fourth in points.

Friday, October 12, 2012

because Brown had a firearm, the officers perceived him as a threat.

Sometimes it's hard to tell when you might be a target. Earl Brown died two weeks after being riddled with bullets while in the performance of duties as a security guard at a metals recycling facility in Lauderhill, FL. Initial description of the incident includes another one of the inane statements authorities use to justify incredible ineptitude, “My understanding is that there were no markings on his person that indicated, that in fact, he is employed as a security guard,” said Lauderhill police spokesman Capt. Rick Rocco. In other words, if you're a burglar, wear a security guard's uniform and you won't be shot.

TWO ARMSTRONGS, LANCE AND GEORGE


Disgraced American cyclist.                                       Disgraced American soldier.

During Abraham Lincoln's bloody attempt at keeping the southern states under the thumb of  northeastern mercantilist interests, George Armstrong Custer was a flamboyant, successful and renowned hero of the Union cause.  After Appamattox, Custer's military career moved west, the southern rebels had been subdued, if not killed, and it was time for Manifest Destiny to be implemented on horse back.  The neo-lithic tribes of the otherwise uninhabited lands between the Mississippi and the Pacific had to be either imprisoned on reservations or sent to the Happy Hunting Grounds, a policy determined at the highest political levels and implemented by General Phillip Sheridan.  Custer himself was one of many tasked to carry out this policy on the ground.  His defeat at the Little Big Horn in 1876, in what's now eastern Montana, was at first a national tragedy.  But, as time went by, the public became aware not only of the death of 258 US cavalrymen on the banks of an insignificant, generally unnavigable creek in the middle of nowhere, but also of a government policy that was meant to exterminate human beings.  There was a subtle change in the attitude of the general population over the federal government's strategy in western expansion.  Now that the land had changed ownership, with zero likelihood of it ever being returned to its original owners, a semblance of a guilty conscience began to emerge.  Of course there couldn't be collective guilt, it had to be personified, and that person was to be the blood-thirsty Custer, not only a killer of women and children, but a loser and failure as well.  This process peaked in the late sixties when the movie "Little Big Man" appeared, portraying Custer as a princely psychopath.  He had become the poster boy for 19th century American cultural and military excess extended to Southeast Asia.  And so it remains even today.  There are no George Armstrong Custer high schools.

Lance Armstrong, professional cyclist and seven-time Tour de France winner, has become the poster boy for pharmaceutical excess in sports.  Stimulants and performance enhancing drugs have been present in sports probably since before the original Greek Olympic games.  With increased knowledge of human physiology and chemistry, drugs were bound to become significant in athletic contests, not only in endurance events like cycling but also in sports where short term explosive strength was needed, football, baseball, etc.  As salaries in professional sports rose to stratospheric levels, it was inevitable that competitors on the edge of success would use drugs to get the advantage needed to win an event or maintain a spot on a team.  Sanctioning bodies made an attempt to limit drug's influence on their own sport, setting up drug testing programs for participants in unlikely endeavors like snooker, darts and draft horse pulls.  High profile athletes       were caught using illegitimate techniques to improve their performance. One third of the 1984 US Olympic cycling team engaged in blood doping, which was not forbidden at the time.  Track and basketball star Marion Jones forfeited 5 Olympic medals after admitting using PEDs.  Weight lifters have tested positive for PEDs 36 times in Olympic competition since the practice has been made illegal.  Jim Bouton's book Ball Four, an account of his career in major league baseball, makes extensive mention of the use of amphetamines by ballplayers.  One-time Oakland Raider Bill Romanowski admitted to using human growth hormone, as have a number of other NFL players.  NBA basketball star Rashard Lewis tested positive for PEDs and was given a ten game suspension.

But perhaps in no other sport is drug use as much a topic of conversation as cycling.  Although doping has been not just common but mandatory for success in the Tour de France since its inception in 1903, the death of Tom Simpson in 1967 brought negative attention to the practice.  The list of riders suspended from the Tour and other UCI events for failing drug tests is a long one that includes some of the most successful riders in the sport, including the greatest of all, Eddy Merckx. The BALCO affair in San Francisco involved "designer steroid" use by high profile stars in several sports, including baseball legend Barry Bonds and cycling Olympian Tammy Thomas.  But nobody accused of PED use has the international profile of Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor, charity spokesman, and cycling superstar.  Just as to Americans Armstrong is what the Tour de France is all about, so too has he become what doping in cycling is all about.  The USADA, the agency with a nearly $9 million federal budget to investigate drug use in a media sports promotion in France, has released a report to the UCI of over 200 pages detailing the extensive use of drugs by teams of which the now-retired Armstrong was a member.  Eleven of his former teammates gave testimony to the agency documenting Armstrong's drug use and their own.  Since his refusal to defend himself in the arbitration process addressing the charges, Armstrong has been banned for life.  The eleven witnesses, some of whom are also retired, have received 6 month bans.  Another view of the case appears here.

Armstrong is portrayed in the media as a doping ringleader and pusher of banned substances to his teammates.  That's probably an accurate assessment.  But his teammates, the much-respected George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Frankie Andreu, and others, were hardly forced to submit to the doping regimen.  Nor were big time riders on other teams, Alexander Vinokurov (current Olympic gold medalist) or Danilo DeLuca, for instance, were caught doping without having any connection to the seven time Tour winner.  Yet Armstrong will be the face and the name remembered for decades as the doping villain of sport, in a society where pharmaceuticals are endemic , just as George Armstrong Custer will forever  take the individual blame for the genocidal policies of the society of which he was only a member.  

You Can't Live Without a Cellphone

Ludwig von Mises in his book  Economic Freedom and Interventionism describes how luxuries become necessities:

  About 60 years ago Gabriel Tarde (1843–1904) the great French sociologist, dealt with the problem of the popularization of luxuries. An industrial innovation, he pointed out, enters the market as the extravagance of an elite before it finally turns, step by step, into a need of each and all and is considered indispensable. What was once a luxury becomes in the course of time a necessity.
The history of technology and marketing provides ample exemplification to confirm Tarde's thesis. There was in the past a considerable time lag between the emergence of something unheard of before and its becoming an article of everybody's use. It sometimes took many centuries until an innovation was generally accepted at least within the orbit of Western civilization. Think of the slow popularization of the use of forks, of soap, of handkerchiefs, and of a great variety of other things.
From its beginnings capitalism displayed the tendency to shorten this time lag and finally to eliminate it almost entirely. This is not a merely accidental feature of capitalistic production; it is inherent in its very nature. Capitalism is essentially mass production for the satisfaction of the wants of the masses. Its characteristic mark is big-scale production by big business. For big business there cannot be any question of producing limited quantities for the sole satisfaction of a small elite. The bigger big business becomes, the more and the quicker it makes accessible to the whole people the new achievements of technology.
Centuries passed before the fork turned from an implement of effeminate weaklings into a utensil of all people. The evolution of the motor car from a plaything of wealthy idlers into a universally used means of transportation required more than 20 years. But nylon stockings became, in this country, an article of every woman's wear within hardly more than two or three years. There was practically no period in which the enjoyment of such innovations as television or the products of the frozen-food industry was restricted to a small minority.
The disciples of Marx are anxious to describe in their textbooks the "unspeakable horrors of capitalism" which, as their master had prognosticated, results "with the inexorability of a law of nature" in the progressing impoverishment of the "masses." Their prejudices prevent them from noticing the fact that capitalism tends, by the instrumentality of big-scale production, to wipe out the striking contrast between the mode of life of a fortunate elite and that of the rest of a nation.
The gulf that separated the man who traveled in a coach and six and the man who stayed at home because he lacked the fare has been reduced to the difference between Pullman, or first class, and coach travel.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Leah Kirchmann & Joelle Numainville

TamayoOldsNVGP2011-1
 Winnipeg, Manitoba native Leah Kirchmann leads Joelle Numainville around the corner in a race when the two Canadian stars rode for different teams. In 2012 they were both members of the Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies women's racing team. In a string of misfortunes Kirchmann broke her collarbone in a crash at the Uptown stage of the Nature Valley Grand Prix in June and was not selected for the Canadian Olympic team. She came back in late July, finishing 9th in the prestigious Tour de l'Ardeche and 21st in the UCI World Championships in Valkenburg, the Netherlands. Despite her abbreviated season, she finished 16th in the USA Cycling Criterium Calendar. Numainville, of Montreal, QC, was one of three Canadian women selected for the Olympic team and finished 12th in the women's road race and later, at the World Championships, took the 13th spot in the women's competition. She ended the season ranked 27 in the UCI elite women's world cup rankings. Fans of women's cycling are excited about the 2013 racing season and the expected performances from these two still developing young elite riders.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

LEOPOLD KOHR


Leopold Kohr

Guru of the "small is better" movement of the late '70s and early '80s, Kohr has this to say in his The Overdeveloped Nations, The Diseconomies of Scale, Schocken Books, NY, 1977:

"Of the two forms of government intervention now proposed to avert future downswings, which henceforth threatened to end not so much in depression as in collapse, one is symbolized by Marx, the other by Keynes.  The assumption of both is the same :  business cycles, being offsprings of an uncontrolled system, cannot occur if he economy is under control.  But while the Marxian approach advocates the outright replacement of uncontrolled capitalism by fully controlled socialism, the Keynesian approach offers social control merely as a 'compensatory' emergency measure fluctuating in intensity with fee enterprise systems's fluctuating need of support.  In practice, however, the Keynesian  approach entails a degree of socialization which may differ in purpose from the Marxian aim, but hardly in its effect.  For as the preceding chapter has shown, once government is equipped with the necessary machinery to become an effective interventor in the private economy, it is clear that its enormously enlarged apparatus cannot be dismantled each time a crisis has passed.  This would itself at once lead to a new crisis.  Thus, even the Keynesian approach leads, in he last analysis, not to fluctuating but permanent controls which, in addition, must be the more sweeping the larger the economy and the greater the disruptive potential of its cyclical fluctuations."

Additionally:  ". . . it pays to be a democrat amongst democrats, a fascist amongst fascists, a communist amongst communists, an intriguer amongst intriguers, an idiot amongst idiots."

Mark Rothko's "No. 210/no.211 (Orange)"

UPDATE:  The work of Rothko has been even more newsworthy since the defacement of one of his paintings at the Tate Gallery in London.  Not everyone considers the vandalism to be an epic tragedy.
Novelist and art critic Ruth Dudley Edwards not only considers Rothko a fraud but also excoriates esteemed British artists like Tracey Emin, "creator" of the work below and others.
My Bed
I have a similar work at my house but it's dynamic art, changing from day to day according to what newspapers and books I'm reading and what clothes are laying around waiting for a trip to the washing machine.
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 The administrators of the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, want their facility to be impressive and relevant. This article in the WSJ describes their response to criticism that their collection did not include enough abstract art.

Don Bacigalup, former director at the Toledo (Ohio, not Spain) Art Museum was somehow coerced into moving from the suburb of Detroit to the wilderness of central Arkansas, but his previous position doesn't lend the required prestige to the new museum. Will a new Rothko help?

Mark Rothko himself, Russian-born creator of abstract American art that no chimpanzee could hope to duplicate.

The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, easily the most impressive building ever constructed in Bentonville and probably the entire state of Arkansas. The shocking lack of a multi-million dollar abstract painting hanging in the building has been alleviated with the purchase of the Rothko. Nuevo-riche Alice Walton has brought real culture to the heartland.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Border Patrol Agent Killed By Border Patrol

    On October 2nd, somewhere in the brush between the once-bustling mining community of Bisbee, AZ and the Mexican border, a tripped sensor meant to detect illegal immigrants and smugglers led to the convergence of two groups of US Border Patrol agents who opened fire on one another, resulting in the death of one and wounding of another, as described in this Arizona Daily Star article.  In it are given the current explanations for how such a tragedy could occur.

     This "friendly fire" incident brings up some questions.  Since nobody but Border Patrol personnel were involved, it must mean that at least one of these agents felt that he had cause to open fire on another.  What would be the reason for this?  If a family of Mexicans were illegally making their way through the desert to enter the US and had tripped the sensing device, would they have been fired upon?  Is anyone wandering around in the Gadsden Purchase subject to the death penalty?  What's the procedure for intercepting and questioning suspects in this area?

     Residents of southern Cochise County have long been exasperated by the continuous northward migration of undocumented immigrants across their property.  But their personal tribulations have been overshadowed by US government policies determined by the political activity of unaffected ideologues thousands of miles away.  While the construction of a probably ineffective border fence has been authorized but never completed and dozens of green and white Border Patrol SUVs manned by armed federal agents careen around the rattlesnake-infested desert, cities further north have declared themselves sanctuaries for those without a visa or passport.  This mixed signal tells potential illegals that once they've made it across the dangerous border area, the opportunity for economic advancement isn't any more perilous than that of a legal resident.  The other portion of the trans-border traffic, the drug smuggling industry, is willing to assume the dangers of confrontation with the Border Patrol because of the profits guaranteed by the ill-conceived "war on drugs" and because they've been able to enlist Border Patrol agents into their effort.  This conflict, like the "war on poverty" and other actions against some perceived domestic problem, will never be won.  The bureaucracies that make up the armies in these wars will never de-mobilize.      

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Cherise Rogers and LA County Justice

cherise rogers
  Cherise Rogers

This article describes the ordeal of a citizen caught up in the gears of the machinery of the legal system, which, in this case, came to a conclusion that did not involve incarceration, although it did mean five years of expense and anguish.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Emilia Fahlin & Chloe Hosking Go To Hitec Products

Chloe Hosking
Youthful sprinter Chloe Hosking
American fans of elite women's cycling won't be seeing two of their favorites during the coming road racing season as Specialized-Lululemon's Swedish time trial and GC star Emilia Fahlin and Aussie sprint powerhouse Chloe Hosking have joined Scandinavian super pro Emma Johannson and sprinter Emilie Moberg on the Norwegian-based Hitec Products team, along with Australian Rachel Neylan and Italian Rossella Ratto, making an already powerful squad even more formidable. emilia fahlin Swedish champion Emilia Fahlin

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tomatoes Key to Swing State Election?

     Barak Obama's Commerce Dept. has given preliminary approval to terminating an tomato trade agreement between the US and Mexico that's been in effect for the last 16 years.  The impetus behind the decision is not the complaints of US consumers, who are happy to have good tomatoes available year around for reasonable prices, but Florida tomato growers faced with Mexican competition.  The move is opposed by a number of industry and retail groups in the US and Mexican trade officials vow retaliation if it comes to pass.  This Chicago Tribune story provides some of the details.  Florida growers' and American importers' concerns are addressed in this item and this one.  Fresh tomatoes are Mexico's number one export to the US.
In an election year, trade issues seem to have come to the forefront in the political rhetoric of both presidential candidates. The incumbent, of course, has the wherewithal to actually do something to mollify some constituents at the expense of others. While he stands to gain the support of influential agriculturalists in an important state, it's unlikely that his base will change their votes over an increase in the cost of an important salad and spaghetti ingredient for the rest of the country.

Hyperinflation in Iran

While monetary authorities can attempt to peg the value of their currency to that of other countries, the real index between it and another is the black market, the true source of value information about any product. In the case of the Iranian Rial, its value has dropped against the US dollar by 65% in a little over 2 years. Steve H.Hanke has posted information on this here. A case could be made that the situation is even worse than it appears, since the value of the US dollar, described as stable by the government, has fallen against a number of commodities, oil and gold, for instance. An analysis of the causes of for the Iranian inflation is given here. As usual, it is government meddling in the economy that produces the distortions that destroy their own medium of exchange. Persians are buying gold and property as a hedge.  Further information from Financial Times here.

Further info here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

US Judge Orders Iran And Al-Qaeda Pay $6 Billion Compensation To Victims Of 9/11

According to various news sources, including this article in Business Insider, federal judge George Daniels has found Iran, Al Queda, Hezbollah, the Taliban and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responsible for the aircraft hijacking and crashes of Sept. 11, 2001 and ordered these parties to pay a total of over $6 billion to the families of the victims. It's not known when the cash, checks or money orders from the defendants, who were not present at the hearing, will arrive.

Bureaucrats Screw Up Rail Franchise

A months long bureaucratic soap opera has ended with the vindication of billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson, whose outrage over the award of a critical London-Scotland rail franchise led to court action and the admittance by authorities that bureaucrats had committed errors that could cost taxpayers as much as 40 million pounds.
Virgin head Sir Richard Branson gets on the train.

Arab Tribe Threatens To Disown Jordanian Appointee

      At least part of the leadership of the Obeidats, one of the most numerous and powerful Arab tribes in Jordan, is calling for one of its members to decline his nomination as ambassador to Israel for the Jordanian government and is threatening ostracism should he accept the post.

     The objecting contingent of the tribe harbors a hatred for the Israelis, or at least finds it ineffective to negotiate diplomatically with a nation that refuses to accommodate their desires.  Not really a very unique situation.  Nation-states break off diplomatic relations all the time, that a tribe should employ a similar tactic isn't very surprising.

     The issue in this situation is the role of the tribe in the nation/state environment.  While leaders of the tribe can "disown" Walid Obeidat, other members of the tribe, his closest relatives, for instance, will probably ignore the downgrade.  Tribes frequently have internal conflicts, if this one is serious enough it might even lead to a split in the tribe, although that seems unlikely.  Even now tribal leaders are discussing the pros and cons of the appointment and while some will see any intercourse with the Zionist entity as wrong, others will point out that having an Obeidat in such an important position actually enhances the prestige of the tribe.  At some point a non-democratic consensus will be reached and while the losers will be upset, life will go on.  There won't be any gunfire over it.

     Part of the controversy is related to the position of the tribe vis a vis  the Jordanian government itself and the other tribes under it.  As a significant portion of the Jordanian population, the Obeidats are a player in the politics of the kingdom.  Abdullah II, head of a relatively new monarchy originally legitimized by the British, has a tenuous grasp on power and needs all the friends he can keep.  We can't know ever nuance of this affair, which could have many dimensions.  But it does point out that tribal affiliations are a still an important feature of human society.


Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordanian King Abdullah II.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Solar Panels

solarpanel

More Phony Drug Tests

The Saint Paul, Minnesota police crime lab has been in hot water because virtually none of the people that worked there actually knew how to operate drug testing equipment, the scientific basis for convictions in that city and and surrounding locales that used the lab for their own cases, throwing the results of these cases into serious doubt, as is told here. While the St. Paul affair seems to be caused by ineptitude rather than malice, the following incident in Boston is of greater concern. This lab worker provided false test results apparently in order solidify her position in the organization. No one knows, or will probably ever know, exactly how many innocent individuals were sentenced to prison on the basis of these fraudulent tests and how much wealth went from the pockets of them and their relatives to pay attorneys to unsuccessfully defend them. Perhaps the Ninth Commandment: You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.; Exodus 23: 1-2, isn't as important anymore as, let's say the 16th Amendment to the US Constitution. Nevertheless, the apparatchiks involved in the criminal justice system need to be held responsible for the impartiality and accuracy of their work.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Alien Powers, or the Pure Theory of Ideology

Antipodean political scientist and professor emeritus at the London School of Economics, Kenneth Minogue, quoted from the above book:

Ideology is a philosophical type of allegiance purporting to transcend the mere particularities of family, religion, or native hearth, and its essence lies in struggle. The world is a battlefield, in which there are two enemies. One is the oppressor, the other consists of fellow ideologists who have generally mistaken the conditions of liberation. Communists, anarchists, fascists, and nationalists battled for allegiance throughout the latter part of the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century. Within communism, as within all other ideologies, competing opinions—revisionist and revolutionary, Trotskyist and Stalinist, to mention only the larger battalions—have battled it out, and violent conflict on tactics can be traced down to the lowest levels. Yet for all their differences, ideologists can be specified in terms of a shared hostility to modernity: to liberalism in politics, individualism in moral practice, and the market in economics. All such practices represent the triumph of the anarchic particularism which is, in ideological terms, the soil of oppression. Left to themselves, the people of the actual world we live in will generate, ideologists all believe, nothing but structures of domination.

Minogue gives a lecture at Oxford shortly after the publication of his latest book,  How Political Idealism Threatens Our Civilization.




Kenneth Minogue -'How Political Idealism Threatens Our Civilization' from oxford libertarian on Vimeo.