Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony

The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony was incredible, wasn't it? I've searched in vain for some decent YouTube clips, but none are available yet. Lord have mercy, what a show.

I love China, and I want wonderful things to happen for those people. Yeah, they're acting like idjits over Taiwan and Tibet. I keep hoping they'll make so much money that they'll stop caring. (Hit the "China" label at the bottom of this post if you want to read some of my bizarre travelogues from over there.) They've been through so much crap with horrific political systems, imperialist humiliations from the west, the opium wars, Marxist lunacy, Chairman Mao, The Great Leap Forward, and The Cultural Revolution. And now they're coming out of it. If you ever get a chance to go over there, jump on it.

About 30 years ago, their Commie government got sick and tired of watching people starve to death on fertile land while Tibet and Hong Kong, with virtually no natural resources, prospered. The Chinese government opened four "Free Market Zones": Shenzhen, Shantou, Hainan, and Xiamen. (I've made five trips to Xiamen. It's now the Cleveland, Ohio, of China.) Of course, everyone who could do so tried to get into these special economic zones. They might claim to be Socialists, but they're not stupid. Those places prospered.

Early this morning, I started wondering.... Could any other nation done anything comparable to this opening ceremony? Let's start with, for lack of a better term, the "anglo" nations. The U.S., Canada, Great Britain, or Australia?
We could never get that many people to cooperate. The unified, thematically cohesive event we saw last night happened because the government was willing to underwrite and enforce the artistic will of one person. Heck, we couldn't have gotten that performance out of the committee/planning stage.
I think it's safe to include Japan in that category.

Other countries in Western Europe? Germany? Forget it. France? The unions would never cooperate, and you can't pull off something like that with a 32-hour work week.

Eastern Europe? Latin America? South America? Any of the nations in Central or Southern Africa? Nope. This would've bankrupted their treasuries.

Numerous Middle Eastern nations have enough money. Saudi Arabia, maybe. But imagine all of the Imams and ayatollahs raising hell because doing such and such is against Islam. They would never allow female athletes to compete in immodest sports like beach volleyball within their nations either. So scratch them.

Russia? No way. They've taken some wrong turns and lapsed into a Mafia state. The whole ceremony would be about Putin. North Korea, ditto, and the ceremony would have to be about Kim.

So correct me if I'm wrong, but I only came up with one other nation that is in that triangular area at the interstection of 1) creativity, 2) wealth, and 3) the ability to somehow enforce its will among its subjects.

Think about it, and then click here to see if you agree.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Free Association Friday

A guy named Don runs a blog called 2008 China Olympics, and he asked to be blogrolled here.

He found out about this site through this unflattering post about China.

For a while, you couldn't access this site from China, a situation brought about shortly after I posted this thing about the China Olympics logo.

My boss, Marvel Variants, was in China last week, and they had loosened controls enough for him to be able to log on. (The hits had already cranked back up about a month ago.)

If you're wondering about the name "Marvel Variants", it refers to obscure price variations in Marvel comic books. Mr. Variants is trying to do with those things what the Hunt brothers tried to do with silver.

If you're wondering what the Hunt brothers tried to do with silver....they tried to corner the market. At one point, they owned half of the silver known to exist in "commodity" form. Once people figured out what they were up to, the Feds intervened, and everybody involved went bankrupt.

Believe it or not, the Hunts were motivated to do this because at the time it was illegal for private U.S. citizens to own gold - a situation that existed from 1934 till sometime in the 1970's. (The government saw gold as a competitor to cash, and they wanted to monopolize the means of exchange.)

The only major political figure to make a big deal about this government monopoly in the last 30 years: Ron Paul. He wants us back on the gold standard. Don't read his book "The Revolution: A Manifesto" if you don't want to be bothered about why we have so much faith in the little pictures of dead presidents called "cash".

If we keep printing the stuff to cover our debts, it's going to be worth less and less against the euro, the peso, the pound, and especially the renminbi. It's also helpful to think of it being worth less and less against the loaf of bread, the hour of electricty, the haircut, the gallon of gas, or anything else you swap for cash. It's worth only what people will give for it since it is no longer tied to a rare commodity.

I mention the renminbi because it's the official currency of China, the nation that now holds a lot of our national debt. China and Japan hold about 20% of our IOU's. Some people think China is buying up U.S. debt to prevent us from intervening if they go nuts in Taiwan or Tibet.

Which is what most of the protests at the China Olympics are about.

And I guess that gets us back to the 2008 China Olympics blog. Check it out if you get a chance.

Just think. Getting through all that took up five minutes of your life. Five minutes that you can never, ever get back....

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Does John McCain Know THIS About Joe Lieberman?

I don't even remember how I found this abomination.
A Memphis, Tennessee, pastor named Reverend George Books is actively campaigning against Congressman Steve Cohen.

Cohen's shortcomings are described in a letter from Reverend Brooks, which is duplicated in italics below. All of the bold text is his. You can hit this link and read it without my editorializing, but I hope you won't. I want to spoon it out to you in delicious bite-sized morsels. Here's the first chunk of what apparently went out in the mail to a Cohen supporter.

'Anti-Christ Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis, TN., who, to the detriment of many, legalized gambling in the form of the Tennessee Lottery awhile back. And is also attempting to legalize MARIJUANA FOR THE SICK.

This guy likes unnecessary commas and capital letters even more than I do.
Next are some pictures of Congressman Cohen and openly gay Congressman Barney Frank.

However, he and pal Barney Frank, the gay congressman from Massachusetts, were unsuccessful in passing their last "pot bill". So maybe now they'll go to work on a national "same sex marriage bill", given the recent victory of California gays. For, who knows, these two may one day decide that they want to "tie the knot".

Or, in their tradition, break a glass and have everyone shout "Mazel Tov" ! Please allow the Reverend Brooks to explain:

Also, both are Jewish, and therefore absolutely refuse to believe in Jesus as the Messiah or the Son of God.

They don't merely refuse it, they absolutely refuse it. Whew.
Then Reverend Brooks decides his audience has reached the teachable moment....

Just in case some Memphis Christian voters are not aware that Jews are against Jesus.

So that explains why I never got invited to any Christmas parties at the Rothsteins. I had wondered. But does everyone know this? Or does it only get taught in seminaries at the doctoral level? Should we start spreading the word? (Full Disclosure: I've had three Bud Lites, and I'm having a great time writing this.) Is this Jewish belief system ever discussed at the highest levels of government? ? ? Reverend Brooks wants to know also:

Is John McCain aware that his advisor, pal, and possible VP candidate Joe Lieberman DOES NOT BELIEVE IN JESUS ?

Is John McCain aware? Who knows? Here's some more doctrine:

Jews do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah or the Son of God. And say that people who believe in the Trinity are actually worshipping three Gods.

Can you imagine the Republican V.P. vetting committee sitting down with Lieberman, and digging around about former drug use, speeding tickets, shady contributors, Clarence Thomas moments, and then getting to the big question: "Joe, I'm sorry, but there's one more question we've got to ask. Do you believe that God exists as three persons but is still one being?And that God has but a single divine nature but God's son Jesus assumed human nature, and therefore had two natures, and is really and fully both God and human? I'm sorry, Congressman, but there are preachers in Memphis who are going to want to know...."

Back to the letter:

Now what does McCain have to say about this? And what about the Southern Baptist Convention, John Hagee, Mike Huckabee, Pat Robertson, Rod Parsley....

Just typing that unholy list of groups and names was almost enough to make me give up pork and put on a yarmulke.

....and other Christian leaders? As well as the Jews of America and Israel, who owe America an explanation as to why Christians should be fighting and dying in wars for them? A people that played a role in the death of Jesus Christ, and believe in him not.

I think it was the Italians who played the biggest role in the death of Jesus Christ. But that's a minor quibble.
We now get to Reverend Brooks' final point:

Which actually makes them anti-Christ.

There's some other stuff in the cover letter about Jesus actually being a black man, blah blah blah.
Reverend Brooks is probably black.
Reverend Brooks is probably the product of a 99% Christian, relatively non-diverse, homogeneous environment.
Reverend Brooks has the right to say whatever he wants to say, under the banner of free speech.
But Reverend Brooks is also an anti-Semitic idiot.

Caption This Kitten

It's late Wednesday night, and I need a caption for this photo:

There was no winner of last week's caption challenge, since the dreaded Fembuttx had the best caption, and I'm not letting her win anything. That brings this week's prize money up to four dollars instead of the usual two.

Thanks to these folks for the picture.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I.O.U.S.A. - The Movie

Here's a trailer for the new documentary I.O.U.S.A.
Looks like the scariest thing ever filmed about the national debt.

Keep watching that national debt clock to your right. It doesn't appear to be slowing down.
Here's the intermission blurb that they've been showing about I.O.U.S.A. on the Sundance channel:

I've done it.
I probably won't need to write another post about Accountant Documentaries for the rest of the year.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Global Dimming. Yes, Global Dimming.

Prepare to be inundated with information about Global Dimming.

Yes, Global Dimming. It has absolutely nothing to do with the high reproductive rates among Lou Dobbs fans.

As usual, Wikipedia has the most concise summary of the concept:

Global dimming is the gradual reduction in the amount of global direct irradiance at the Earth's surface that was observed for several decades after the start of systematic measurements in 1950s. The effect varies by location, but worldwide it has been estimated to be of the order of a 4% reduction over the three decades from 1960–1990. However, since 1990, the trend has reversed.

In other words, less sunlight is making its way to earth. And what causes Global Dimming? Could there be any beneficial side effects? Here's

Wait, now pollution is preventing global warming? That’s the conclusion of a recent study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, which says rising temperatures seen in Europe over the last few years result as much from the reduction of air pollution as from the creation of it.....

(The authors of the study) realized the temperature rise was assisted by more sunlight penetrating the newly pollution free skies. It seems that the stricter pollution standards, adopted in part to slow global warming, may have sped it up.....

The idea that pollution may be reflecting some of the sun’s energy is not new. The term global dimming is decades old, and some believed that the reduction in pollution was the cause global warming. But now, with the link between greenhouse gas pollution and global warming firmly established, papers like this one highlight how complex the situation is, and how solutions like simply cutting air pollution may have a range of unintended and counterintuitive consequences.

The link between greenhouse gas pollution and Global Warming is firmly established? I think the jury is still out on that one. (What caused our earlier ice ages to end?) Anyway, get ready to hear a lot about Global Dimming, which may or may not turn out to be a bad thing. We're still waiting on Nancy Pelosi to send out a memo before we develop any firm opinions, aren't we?

In the meantime, assuming that pollution increases Global Dimming, which slows the process of Global Warming, and assuming that Global Warming is the great evil of the age, here are some suggestions for helping decrease the amount of sunlight that hits the earth:

- Bring back Right Guard aerosol deodorant.
- Purchase a Ford F-150 STX. Drive it a lot.
- Drill for oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve. To counteract the harmful effects of these wells on the environment, start a well fire once a month. Wait a couple of days before putting it out.
- Stop worrying about your carbon footprint. Build a house that makes Al Gore's look like Snoopy's. Heat it with coal.
-Discontinue emails. Send smoke signals.
- Do the right thing, and insist on products and food produced on the other side of the world. Lobby Congress to have these items transported to your city by coal-burning locomotives, steamships, and 1940's Soviet tractors.
- Move Senator Harry Reid to the top of Mount Everest, so his emissions will reach the upper atmosphere faster.

The Obama Tire Pressure Gauge

The Republicans and John McCain are hammering Obama's suggestion that Americans keep their tires properly inflated, and are passing out Obama air pressure gauges like the one shown above. Obama claims that this would save more oil than would be produced by additional wells.
Perhaps that's true. Perhaps it isn't.
But I already keep my tires properly inflated.
Granted, if everyone else did so, it would decrease the demand for oil.

I continue to be amazed at the groups who are anti-globalization except when it comes to oil.
I get a kick out of the politicians who slam the oil industry for excess profits (which are less than those of the finance or technology industries), but continue to give tax breaks and subsidies to oil companies.
Why not eliminate all this posturing, stop grandstanding, cease the bribing and lobbying, end the Sale Of Indulgences, and let people drill if they think they can make some money drilling?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Two Dead Dogs and a 32-Pound Package of Marijuana

Radley Balko at Reason magazine points the world to so much great stuff, I'm thinking of doing something called "The Weekly Radley".

Anyway, since dogs in jeopardy seem to be a popular topic around here, Mr. Balko says that two dogs belonging to the mayor of Berwyn Heights were shot during a SWAT team drug raid.

Here's The Washington Post, with just the facts:

A police SWAT team raided the home of the mayor in the Prince George's County town of Berwyn Heights on Tuesday, shooting and killing his two dogs, after he brought in a 32-pound package of marijuana that had been delivered to his doorstep, police said.....

The package was addressed to Calvo's wife, Trinity Tomsic, said law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.
Tippett said police are working to determine for whom the drugs were meant....

"My government blew through my doors and killed my dogs," Calvo said. "They thought we were drug dealers, and we were treated as such. I don't think they really ever considered that we weren't."
Calvo described a chaotic scene, in which he -- wearing only underwear and socks -- and his mother-in-law were handcuffed and interrogated for hours. They were surrounded by the dogs' carcasses and pools of the dogs' blood, Calvo said.

And here's Mr. Radley Balko again:
So far there have been no arrests, and the police seem to be backing down from the idea that the mayor and his wife are drug dealers. If it’s true that they aren’t, I’m sure we’ll soon hear lots of apologies to the mayor for not being more careful and thorough, given his esteemed position.

The real question is whether there will be any discussion over the appropriateness of sending a SWAT team into any private home, handcuffing the occupants at gunpoint, and slaughtering the family pets—all over the mere receipt of a mailed package of weed. I doubt it.

Even if hizzoner turns out to be guilty, it’s always worth contextualizing these cases: We’ve reached the point where it’s commonplace for the government to wage violent, confrontational invasions of private homes over the suspicion of possession of the dried leaves of a plant.
And here's Mr. Whited Sepulchre:

I haven't posted much about the need to reform drug laws, other than a couple of posts about the near impossibility of completing a long parole or probation sentence. But jails are becoming a growth industry. We've passed China and Russia in the number of inmates and per capita percentage of inmates. Our drug prohibitions are the biggest problem in Bolivia and Colombia, and the situation along the Texas/Mexico border makes the Prohibition era 1920's look like a Sunday School class.
My friend Dr. Liz once told me that she sees marijuana laws as the Police Department's buffalo. (i.e. - Native Americans couldn't prosper and grow without a healthy supply of buffalo. That's a great line, when you think about it.)

Mrs. Whited Sepulchre works as a Youth Minister, so lobbying for relaxed marijuana possession laws gets awkward. Still, we're using the lives of a lot of casual marijuana users as fodder for a government growth industry. The number of social workers, lawyers, job counselors, parole officers, drug testers, police officers, and prison employees who rely on this particular "buffalo" is astounding.

Couldn't their time be better spent doing something else?

One other thing.....I was googling about for pictures of Cheye Calvo, or even better, his dogs. Instead, I came up with this site, where he was a speaker at "National ID at the Crossroads: The Future of Privacy in America".
National ID cards and privacy issues are a big time libertarian issue.
Libertarians generally speak out in favor of relaxed marijuana laws.
The libertarians who speak out loudest in favor of relaxed marijuana laws are generally those who occasionally ....
Aw, never mind.
They still didn't need to shoot his dogs.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Top 30 Libertarian Blogs and the Top 13 Libertarian Websites

Brian Holtz has posted a list of the top 30 Libertarian blogs. I've copied it here for ease of reference on my part more than anything else. Hit the link to see his ranking criteria. It's a combination of traffic and inbound Technorati links. All commentary below is his.

Glenn Reynolds: Instapundit - "The Blogfather" is a liberventionist who ignores the LP as "trivial" and "a net negative"
Raimondo & Garris: 2 Rothbardians have flitted among 4 parties, backing Buchanan 2000 & Nader 2004
Andrew Sullivan: The Daily Dish Time hired the gay Catholic New Republic ex-editor who coined "South Park Republican"
Lew Rockwell Culturally conservative anarcho-capitalist paleolibertarians who disdain the LP
Reason 60K-circulation techno-optimistic libertarian magazine bemused by the LP
Neil Boortz The libertarian-leaning conservative talk radio personality
Volokh Conspiracy Law school profs who say the LP makes major parties less libertarian at the margin
Marginal Revolution Brilliant GMU economists/philosophers/aesthetes ignore the LP
Homeland Stupidity A libertarian look at technology and privacy
Hammer of Truth Most important LP-friendly blog; Stephen Gordon is now LP Comm Director
Jane Galt: Asymmetrical Information Libertarianish economics-literate journalism; McArdle hired away by The Economist
Daniel Drezner Tufts PoliSci prof gets 58/160 on the libertarian purity test
Radley Balko: The Agitator Cato Institute policy analyst says "the LP is bad for libertarianism"
Vodkapundit Liberventionist who criticizes "doctrinaire libertarianism"
Samizdata Broad US/UK/Australian perspective from liberventionists who call the LP "turgid"
Jon Henke et al: QandO Interventionist neolibertarian Republicans who have given up on the LP
Strike the Root "A libertarian / market anarchist perspective" that says the LP isn't radical enough
EconLog 2 brilliant economists, including anarcho-capitalist theorist Bryan Caplan
Becker-Posner Blog Chicago's economics Nobel laureate and brilliant federal appellate judge
Catallarchy Founding liberventionist Brian Doss says the LP's job is to discipline the GOP
Virginia Postrel: Dynamist Former Reason editor, NY Times columnist, and Future And Its Enemies author
Cato At Liberty Official Cato Institute blog
Cafe Hayek 2 more brilliant GMU economists who focus on ideas, not politics
Vox Populi "the Christian Libertarian commentator from WorldNetDaily"
Technology Liberation Front Libertarian perspectives on technology
Rational Review Tom Knapp's web journal seeks a radical LP for this "revolutionary era"
Cato Unbound Monthly big-idea essay and reaction essays by big thinkers
Positive Liberty Intelligent libertarians embarrassed by the LP's anarchist silliness
Kn@ppster ZAPsolutist anarchist Knapp is hedging his LP bet with a new protest party
Coyote Blog Capitalist libertarian thinks the LP is too kooky
Will Wilkinson: Fly Bottle Ex-GMU Cato Institute policy analyst
Free Liberal "non-partisan left-libertarian journal of politics and economics"
David Friedman: Ideas Milton Friedman's son is the world's leading utilitarian anarcho-capitalist theorist

He's also done a list of the top 13 Libertarian websites:

Ludwig von Mises Institute The leading American institute for Austrian economics
Cato Institute Arguably the most important force for freedom since its 1983 schism with the LP
Libertarian Party The only American political party advocating personal and economic liberty
Library of Economics and Liberty No bricks or mortar, but a potent academic-oriented web presence
Future of Freedom Foundation Advocates the "free markets and limited government that made our nation great"
Advocates For Self-Government Pushes its Nolan Chart quiz and lists libertarian celebrities
Ayn Rand Institute Official institute for Rand's Objectivist philosophy
Independent Institute Second only to Cato as a libertarian think tank; GMU's Tabarrok directs research
Reason Foundation Libertarian think tank specializing in privatization, environment, and California
Adam Smith Institute
Institute for Humane Studies Founded 1961, moved from Menlo Park to GMU in 1985, focuses on scholarships
International Society For Individual Liberty Students for Individual Liberty (1969) merged with Libertarian International in 1989
Downsize DC The late Harry Browne's group for petitioning Washington