August 2011 Archives

alien-baby-sling.jpg

(HT: FailBlog and I-forget-who from work.)

Rock-throwing 16-year-old shot with crossbow.

San Diego police say a 16-year-old boy throwing rocks at a sport utility vehicle was struck by a crossbow arrow fired by a passenger.

Police say the shirtless boy and a friend were throwing rocks at a black Toyota RAV4 in the Linda Vista neighborhood Monday afternoon when a passenger fired a crossbow out the window.

The boy was shot in the right side and was taken to a hospital. The San Diego Union-Tribune says his injuries are not life-threatening.

His name wasn't released.

Nobody has been arrested.

Inference: If the police know he was throwing rocks at an SUV, then they probably know who was in the SUV and who fired the crossbow.

My take: Ok, I'm torn. Rocks are deadly weapons in the right circumstances, and if the person in the SUV felt that his safety was threatened then firing the crossbow at the assailant was completely legitimate. However, if these were normal hand-sized rocks then it's unlikely that they'd be able to endanger people inside an SUV. The SUV owner has a right to protect his property even if his life isn't in danger, especially if he attempted to warn off the attacker before using deadly force against him.

But! Driving away and calling the police would have been the more prudent choice, especially since law enforcement is at likely to come down hard on the victim (Mr. Crossbow) as on the attacker. Mr. Crossbow will probably be sued and will end up with a lot more trouble and expense than he would if he had driven away. That may not be Right, but it's very probable.

It's very risky to use force to protect property if you can't make a credible claim that you were afraid for your life.

"Meanwhile, an aimless depression from the tropics stalled in Washington, D.C. But enough about Barack Obama, let's talk about Hurricane Irene." -- James Taranto

I was thinking about the current concept of copyright protection this morning, and it made me quite angry. I doubt I can capture the full scope of my mental rant, but allow me to summarize:

1. The purpose of protecting authors' exclusive rights to exploit their works is to incentivize creativity. It's a bargain between creators and society: we'll use the threat of violence to protect your creative works, and in exchange that work will enter into the public domain after a certain amount of time.

2. Copyright laws are specifically authorized by the Constitution, and in 1790 terms were set as 14 years with 14-year renewal if the author was still alive. That seems too long to me, but not unreasonable or unjust.

3. Current US law appears to protect copyright for up to 120 years or life-of-the-author plus 70 years. This is completely insane. There's no way to reasonably argue that authors will refuse to be creative if their great, great grandchildren don't maintain the exclusive right to exploit the author's work. Current law is an abuse of process: large companies (e.g., Disney) earn money from copyrights and then use that money to lobby Congress for copyright extensions. Repeat ad nauseum.

4. The smartest one of us wouldn't be able to do more than smear poop on a cave wall in the shape of a buffalo without the thousands of years of intellectual property bequeathed to us by our ancestors for free. This inheritance is of incalculable value, and 99% of what we do now is derived from this legacy. In this light, is society's benefit from Mickey Mouse really worth the tens of billions of dollars that Disney has extracted from us by means of copyright laws?

5. The RIAA and MPAA would have us believe that without intellectual property laws our culture would grind to a halt as creators refused to create. Stupid. For thousands of years artists, writers, and musicians have created amazing works of art, all without the benefit of copyright protection. It's ludicrous to argue that they'd stop now if their exclusive rights were protected only for a decade rather than 120 years or life-of-the-author plus 70 or whatever.

6. Copyright is dying. There's no way that the generation that is currently in college will ever convict anyone of copyright violations for music, book, or movie "piracy". It just won't happen. The end. Copyright is a distortion of the natural order that can only exist if it is mutually beneficial to authors and society. That balance is so far out of whack now that there's going to be whiplash when the existing copyright system finally collapses. (I put "piracy" in quotes, because many copyrighted works should be in the public domain and be a part of our common heritage and cultural legacy. You can't "pirate" what you have a right to possess.)

7. If the Tea Party were savvy, they'd make freedom from stifling copyrights a plank in their political platform and quickly win over millions of young voters.

I know that hobbit comparisons are supposed to be insulting, but remember that the hobbits win... and if you're against the hobbits then who does that make you? Walter Russell Meade writes that after decades spent mocking him the Left is just beginning to realize that Clarence Thomas is approaching their Mount Doom.

There are few articles of faith as firmly fixed in the liberal canon as the belief that Clarence Thomas is, to put it as bluntly as many liberals do, a dunce and a worm. Twenty years of married life have not erased the conventional liberal view of his character etched by Anita Hill's testimony at his confirmation hearings. Not only does the liberal mind perceive him as a disgusting lump of ungoverned sexual impulse; he is seen as an intellectual cipher. Thomas' silence during oral argument before the Supreme Court is taken as obvious evidence that he has nothing to say and is perhaps a bit intimidated by the verbal fireworks exchanged by the high profile lawyers and his more, ahem, 'qualified' colleagues.

At most liberals have long seen Thomas as the Sancho Panza to Justice Antonio Scalia's Don Quixote, Tonto to his Lone Ranger. No, says Toobin: the intellectual influence runs the other way. Thomas is the consistently clear and purposeful theorist that history will remember as an intellectual pioneer; Scalia the less clear-minded colleague who is gradually following in Thomas' tracks.

If Toobin's revionist take is correct, (and I defer to his knowledge of the direction of modern constitutional thought) it means that liberal America has spent a generation mocking a Black man as an ignorant fool, even as constitutional scholars stand in growing amazement at the intellectual audacity, philosophical coherence and historical reflection embedded in his judicial work.

As a child, he may have killed a lion; he quite possibly coined the phrase "my bad"; he certainly warned Congress about Osama bin Laden in 1993.

Manute Bol.

(HT: Marginal Revolution.)

Oh noes! Irene is shaping up to be a real national emergency.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is keeping a line open to President Obama and the First Family as they vacation on Martha's Vineyard and Hurricane Irene -- growing both in size and strength -- appears destined to pelt the Bay State sometime Sunday.

An early POTUS pull out has not been ordered, but FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate told the Herald this morning, "We briefed the president yesterday and are keeping him and his team updated."

If Obama goes back to Washington and starts "working" again expect to see the economy plummet.

(HT: RB.)

Man bites dog? Tweeters bite twit.

Regardless of what President Obama and his political advisers had hoped for, the three-state Midwest bus tour last week prompted far more criticism and ridicule than support in Twitter comments, according to this week's Hill Hexagon.

An analysis of Twitter traffic by Crimson Hexagon over the days of the tour showed that 72 percent of the opinions expressed were negative, while 22 percent were neutral and only 6 percent were favorable.

Among the negative comments, 21 percent were generally negative toward Obama, 17 percent called it a campaign stunt, 15 percent complained about taxpayers picking up the tab, 12 percent offered derisive names for the tour -- similar to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's "Magical Misery Tour" -- and 6 percent complained that he was not in Washington working.

I wonder what the political skew of the Twitter demographic is?

(HT: PowerLine.)

As a California native, yes, the East Coast Quake was rather weak. The real danger wasn't the moderate shaking, but the zillions of brick buildings.

Joanne Razo, a legal assistant who lives in Washington, D.C., has lived through an earthquake in Los Angeles and said she knows that a 5.8-quake is mild by West Coast standards. But for her, the scary part was not the ground shaking but that "this area is not equipped to handle anything like this."

I never want to live in a brick house anywhere.

(HT: RD.)

The Teachers Assistants' Association at University of Wisconsin at Madison has voted to disband.

Under the new state law, pushed by Governor Scott Walker, public employee unions like the one that represents Wisconsin T.A.s must be "certified" with a vote of members each year. Typically, once unions win a vote to represent a bargaining unit, they do not need to return for elections year after year -- if ever. Further, under the new law, the unions can negotiate only for limited wage increases; they can't negotiate over benefits, working conditions or other issues.

Union leaders said that they couldn't function well if they had to effectively be in a perpetual organizing drive for the annual union votes, and also if they had to pay annual fees to be certified. "Our membership was keenly aware of the sort of resources and energy it would take in order to hold on," said Adrienne Pagac, co-president of the union and a doctoral student in sociology at Madison.

Why shouldn't unions periodically require a vote from their members to continue representation?

Seeking certification year after year, she said, "would have meant diverting resources and neglecting all of the other things we do for members - representing them at the work site, being advocates for them, engaging our community." Pagac added that "being a union member is not just about sitting across the table from management and hammering out a contract. It's about democracy in the workplace."

Democracy in the workplace... that never needs to be voted on again?

The union faces challenges as it adjusts to the limits imposed by the state law. Under the old contract, union dues were automatically deducted from the paychecks of the 2,700-2,800 graduate teaching assistants at Madison. Now the Teaching Assistants' Association must seek dues from members by itself.

So, in summary:

Old system: automatic mandatory due collection from paychecks, no voting.

New system: voluntary dues, voting required.

The new system seems more democratic to me!

MÖBIUS sculpture:

Twenty-one large triangles animated by Melbourne, throughout Federation Square. MÖBIUS is a sculpture that can be configured into many cyclical patterns and behave as though it is eating itself, whilst sinking into the ground.

The result is an optical illusion and a time-lapse of people interacting with the sculpture and moving through Melbourne's landmark location throughout the day.

(HT: GeekPress.)

Mitochondrial degradation plays a role in many age-related diseases, but researchers have found a treatment that might rejuvinate mitochondria!

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have found a protein normally involved in blood pressure regulation in a surprising place: tucked within the little "power plants" of cells, the mitochondria. The quantity of this protein appears to decrease with age, but treating older mice with the blood pressure medication losartan can increase protein numbers to youthful levels, decreasing both blood pressure and cellular energy usage. The researchers say these findings, published online during the week of August 15, 2011, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may lead to new treatments for mitochondrial-specific, age-related diseases, such as diabetes, hearing loss, frailty and Parkinson's disease. ...

Declining mitochondria are known to influence chronic diseases in older adults, explains Walston, whose next step is to translate studies from cell culture and animal based studies to human studies in hopes of developing new therapies. "Our findings will help us determine if the drugs that interact with this receptor will also lead to improvement of mitochondrial function and energy production. This, in turn, could facilitate the treatment of a number of chronic diseases of older adults."

Fantastic news!

Jeremy Walker writes about why he thinks America is in deep trouble.

Last week I was thinking about all of the hype surrounding the debt-ceiling when it occurred to me that I haven't check the status of the Federal Reserve's Monetary Base lately. What follows is a lengthy post where I try to recapture all of my thoughts on this and various topics that I have written about over the course of the past few years.

If you're pregnant with twins and you kill one of the babies, is that just half an abortion?

As Jenny lay on the obstetrician's examination table, she was grateful that the ultrasound tech had turned off the overhead screen. She didn't want to see the two shadows floating inside her. Since making her decision, she had tried hard not to think about them, though she could often think of little else. She was 45 and pregnant after six years of fertility bills, ovulation injections, donor eggs and disappointment -- and yet here she was, 14 weeks into her pregnancy, choosing to extinguish one of two healthy fetuses, almost as if having half an abortion. As the doctor inserted the needle into Jenny's abdomen, aiming at one of the fetuses, Jenny tried not to flinch, caught between intense relief and intense guilt.

Almost as if? So... killing one baby isn't even half an abortion. If abortions aren't bad at all anyway, why hesitate to call killing one unborn baby an abortion, much less half an abortion?

Jenny's decision to reduce twins to a single fetus was never really in doubt. The idea of managing two infants at this point in her life terrified her. She and her husband already had grade-school-age children, and she took pride in being a good mother. She felt that twins would soak up everything she had to give, leaving nothing for her older children. Even the twins would be robbed, because, at best, she could give each one only half of her attention and, she feared, only half of her love. Jenny desperately wanted another child, but not at the risk of becoming a second-rate parent. "This is bad, but it's not anywhere as bad as neglecting your child or not giving everything you can to the children you have," she told me, referring to the reduction. She and her husband worked out this moral calculation on their own, and they intend to never tell anyone about it. Jenny is certain that no one, not even her closest friends, would understand, and she doesn't want to be the object of their curiosity or feel the sting of their judgment.

If I were killing babies I'd keep it secret too.

What is it about terminating half a twin pregnancy that seems more controversial than reducing triplets to twins or aborting a single fetus? After all, the math's the same either way: one fewer fetus. Perhaps it's because twin reduction (unlike abortion) involves selecting one fetus over another, when either one is equally wanted. Perhaps it's our culture's idealized notion of twins as lifelong soul mates, two halves of one whole. Or perhaps it's because the desire for more choices conflicts with our discomfort about meddling with ever more aspects of reproduction.

Is killing one of two really more controversial? I was surprised to hear that opinion. To me, killing a baby is no more or less acceptable if that baby has a sibling or a twin.

The justification for eliminating some fetuses in a multiple pregnancy was always to increase a woman's chance of bringing home a healthy baby, because medical risks rise with every fetus she carries. The procedure, which is usually performed around Week 12 of a pregnancy, involves a fatal injection of potassium chloride into the fetal chest. The dead fetus shrivels over time and remains in the womb until delivery. Some physicians found reduction unnerving, particularly because the procedure is viewed under ultrasound, making it quite visually explicit, which is not the case with abortion.

Yes, I can see why it would be especially unnerving to actually watch a baby be killed. That's because killing a healthy baby for the sake of convenience is evil.

Alte writes about high-IQ dating from a woman's perspective.

Because of the demographic factors that high IQ men outnumber high IQ women (2:1 to 5:1, depending upon her IQ) and that many high-IQ women do not want to marry, traditional, marriage-minded high-IQ women have little trouble finding spouses -- as long as they don't wait too long, of course. That is because of assortative mating, which results in the fact that most married couples are within 20 IQ points of each other. Although not every man is impressed by a woman's credentials and career, few men want to marry someone markedly less intelligent than they are.

To understand this, it is important to note that a person with an IQ=140 is as different from a person of IQ=120, as he is from a person of IQ=100, as he is from a person of IQ=80. A man of 140 IQ will naturally prefer women of IQ>120 for marriage because he will have difficulty relating to, and communicating with, a less-intelligent woman. She likely won't get his jokes, understand his work, captivate his mind, or share his interests. Although he might have sex with her, he will be disinclined to marry her. This might go some way toward explaining why promiscuous super-high IQ men report finding women so "interchangeable" and uninteresting -- hence all of the talk about sexbots. High IQ women are rare enough that it is unlikely that these men are "pumping-n-dumping" their way through their particular pool of ideal potential spouses, but are rather lowering their "intelligence standard" a bit, in order to accumulate more short-term partners.

So a person with an IQ of 140 is likely to marry someone in the 120-160 range. This means that a woman with an IQ of 140 will have a larger range of partners to choose from because there are so few eligible women at the far-range. This female-advantage increases dramatically as you move rightward from IQ 120, a theory which mirrors my own dating experiences, and those of the other high IQ women that I know. Although we might get less random male attention than other women, the attention we do receive tends to be more exclusive and intense, and we are more highly-valued by our mates. In other words, it is more difficult for us to find someone suitable to date, but it is easier for us to choose a marriage partner from among our dates.

It's always interesting to me to read about dating from behind enemy lines, so to speak.

What's that? You think 39% approval is bad? No way! President Obama created or saved 39 approval points!

(HT: James Taranto.)

The always brilliant Mark Steyn on the London riots:

Her Majesty's cowed and craven politically correct constabulary stand around with their riot shields and Robocop gear as young rioters lob concrete through store windows to steal the electronic toys which provide their only non-narcotic or alcoholic amusement. I chanced to be in Piccadilly for the springtime riots when the police failed to stop the mob from smashing the windows of the Ritz and other upscale emporia, so it goes without saying that they wouldn't lift a finger to protect less-prestigious private property from thugs. Some of whom are as young as 9 years old. And girls.

Yet a police force all but entirely useless when it comes to preventing crime or maintaining public order has time to police everything else. When Sam Brown observed en passant to a mounted policeman on Cornmarket Street in Oxford, "Do you know your horse is gay?", he was surrounded within minutes by six officers and a fleet of patrol cars, handcuffed, tossed in the slammer overnight, and fined 80 pounds. Mr. Brown's "homophobic comments," explained a spokesmoron for Thames Valley Police, were "not only offensive to the policeman and his horse, but any members of the general public in the area." The zealous crackdown on Sam Brown's hippohomophobia has not been replicated in the present disturbances. Anyone who has so much as glanced at British policing policy over the past two decades would be hard pressed to argue which party on the streets of London, the thugs or the cops, is more irredeemably stupid.

The social welfare state has infantilized its citizens (or "subjects" in the UK).

Big Government means small citizens: it corrodes the integrity of a people, catastrophically. Within living memory, the city in flames on our TV screens every night governed a fifth of the Earth's surface and a quarter of its population. When you're imperialists on that scale, there are bound to be a few mishaps along the way. But nothing the British Empire did to its subject peoples has been as total and catastrophic as what a post-great Britain did to its own.

Just bought a OBi100 VoIP Telephone Adapter and Voice Service Bridge for under $45, and it's supposed to work with Google Voice to give you VOIP with no monthly fees. I'll report back once I cancel Vonage.

Jonathan Chait is absolutely right in his assessment that "mainstream"/liberal journalists tend to obscure the substance of political disagreements.

Meanwhile, Tom Friedman writes a column today envisioning a world in which both parties come together. Republicans agree to endorse Obama's policy agenda, and Obama agrees to admit that he could have explained his agenda more clearly. I share Friedman's enthusiasm for such an outcome, but I fail to see how this relates to the current impasse.

This is one way in which conservative journalism is actually far more sophisticated than mainstream news journalism. Conservative pundits, while usually slanting their account in highly partisan and often misleading terms, do a fairly good job of grasping and explaining the fact that the two parties fundamentally disagree on the causes of and solutions to the economic crisis and the long-term deficit. In this sense, a Rush Limbaugh listener may well be better informed about the causes of the impasse than listener of NPR or other mainstream organs. The former will have in his mind a wildly slanted version of the basic political landscape, while the latter's head will be filled with magical thinking.

I disagree that conservative outlets slant their opinions in a "highly partisan and misleading" manner, but sure, conservative pundits have a conservative slant. However, I am a daily listener to NPR, and I definitely agree that the leftist commentators on that show frequently avoid addressing the substantial issues at hand and instead expend their time and energy on straw men.

(HT: James Taranto.)

Feral humans are victims of "tolerance":

So there we have it: a large, amoral, brutalised sub-culture of young British people who lack education because they have no will to learn, and skills which might make them employable. They are too idle to accept work waitressing or doing domestic labour, which is why almost all such jobs are filled by immigrants.

They have no code of values to dissuade them from behaving anti-socially or, indeed, criminally, and small chance of being punished if they do so.

They have no sense of responsibility for themselves, far less towards others, and look to no future beyond the next meal, sexual encounter or TV football game.

They are an absolute deadweight upon society, because they contribute nothing yet cost the taxpayer billions. Liberal opinion holds they are victims, because society has failed to provide them with opportunities to develop their potential.

Most of us would say this is nonsense. Rather, they are victims of a perverted social ethos, which elevates personal freedom to an absolute, and denies the underclass the discipline -- tough love -- which alone might enable some of its members to escape from the swamp of dependency in which they live.

Most peoples' dogs are better behaved than these humans.

MIT researchers claim to have found a way to identify cells infected with any kind of virus.

Now, in a development that could transform how viral infections are treated, a team of researchers at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory has designed a drug that can identify cells that have been infected by any type of virus, then kill those cells to terminate the infection.

In a paper published July 27 in the journal PLoS One, the researchers tested their drug against 15 viruses, and found it was effective against all of them -- including rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, H1N1 influenza, a stomach virus, a polio virus, dengue fever and several other types of hemorrhagic fever.

The drug works by targeting a type of RNA produced only in cells that have been infected by viruses. "In theory, it should work against all viruses," says Todd Rider, a senior staff scientist in Lincoln Laboratory's Chemical, Biological, and Nanoscale Technologies Group who invented the new technology.

Amazing accomplishment. I hope it pans out.

(HT: Marginal Revolution.)

For the past few hundred years Western Civilization has grown "nicer" as we've grown richer. It should be clear though: America isn't nicer now than in 1776 because we're more "enlightened" -- we can afford to be nicer because by historical standards we're so insanely wealthy. I'm not just talking about monetary wealth, but also social and institutional wealth. How much is the "rule of law" worth? How much are 43 consecutive peaceful transfers of power worth? Trillions of dollars.

Richard Fernandez points out that this social capital isn't unlimited, and that societies can experience their equivalents of "bank runs".

In one sense legitimacy is the fiction on which society is based. It is to government what confidence is to a bank. As long as everyone believes that the bank will pay the depositor no one will demand all his money back. As long as most believe that the King's justice is effectively invincible, no one will challenge it. But when a government behaves in a supine manner for an extended period -- or a bank refuses to pay out without a good reason -- then doubts begin to grow. Both legitimacy and confidence are more severely tested and once it is known that there isn't enough money in the bank to pay everyone nor enough cops in the station house to arrest everyone then the fiction is bust.

A deadly cycle begins to set in. Both the government -- or the bank -- have to make payouts in force or money more frequently than they otherwise would. There is a "run" on this key resource and their are bankrupted. Financially in the bank's case and politically in the case of government. When confidence finally dwindles to its last remaining levels the declining institution must either risk everything on the last throw to restore it or face collapse. ...

But whether the preferred term for this quantity is 'legitimacy', 'confidence', the 'strong horse' or 'design margin', the presumption on the political Left since the War has been that Western Society has an infinite or nearly infinite supply of it. It seemed impossible to them that a society with a Big Design Margin might eventually become one with a Small Design Margin. And even if it did, why do Design Margins matter anyway?

There's always another dollar to distribute or tax; another regulation to be imposed; another rule of war; another apology that can be made. We can play whatever the handicap. Haven't we always won despite? Religion and national myth can be denigrated to any extent desired, while hostile ideologies can be simultaneously exalted. We're so rich we shouldn't care.

The problem is that the Left doesn't realize that we can be nice because we're rich. If they squander the wealth on idealism for too long, eventually it will run out. When we can no longer afford to be nice, we'll stop.

It seems like a simple idea and you wonder why not everybody gets it. But you have to realize that the Left, in accomplishing the ruin of a society -- by debasing the coin of its culture if not its actual coin -- always starts and finishes by meaning well. That's the get out of jail card: idealism. They genuinely set out the improve the world and if you knew them you would have no reason to doubt the purity of their motives. In fact, they are genuinely just as surprised as anyone else when it doesn't work.

The catastrophe, when it comes, begins always for the children, the youths, the yoots, the utes. Then it fails. But don't worry. They'll try harder the next time and then they'll succeed. They're idealists after all.

Conservatives don't always realize that we are rich enough to be nice, but the Left needs to recognize that our wealth is not unlimited. Most Conservatives don't want to end up with a situation like the one below, but we're also not going to tolerate a situation like the one we're seeing in London.

DrunksWithGuns.jpg

(HT: Instapundit for the image.)

London looters are not only organizing via social media, they're also sharing images of their plunder.

looter.jpg

(HT: Gizmodo and RC.)

New video about League of Legends: Dominion. Looks awesome.

Obama "paralyzed politically", refuses to lead.

Later, the White House press corps pressed spokesman Jay Carney on whether Obama would be unveiling a deficit reduction plan "in a form of being scorable by the Congressional Budget Office." When Carney demurred, Politico's Glenn Thrush asked: "You said he will be contributing to the process, talking about the super committee, but he won't be leading it. He is the leader of the free world. Why isn't he leading this process?" Carney responded: "Glenn. Look, this President, his leadership on these issues is quite established."

Quite established to whom? After Obama's statement, the markets fell another 210 points. Obama is unwilling to call Congress back from its August recess and push for a larger stimulus agenda because he fears alienating already skeptical independents. But he can't bargain constructively on deficit reduction with Republicans because liberals will abandon him if he pushes for real entitlement reform. As a result, Obama is paralyzed politically. All he can do is watch the market, and his reelection chances, drop.

Obama is a non-entity, and it seems like he isn't even trying.

President Obama: Please resign. It's obvious you don't really want to be president anymore, and we're pretty sick of you as well.

Update: Obama is so out of his depth.

Socrates taught that wisdom begins in the recognition of how little we know. Mr. Obama is perpetually intent on telling us how much he knows. Aristotle wrote that the type of intelligence most needed in politics is prudence, which in turn requires experience. Mr. Obama came to office with no experience. Plutarch warned that flattery "makes itself an obstacle and pestilence to great houses and great affairs." Today's White House, more so than any in memory, is stuffed with flatterers.

Much is made of the president's rhetorical gifts. This is the sort of thing that can be credited only by people who think that a command of English syntax is a mark of great intellectual distinction. Can anyone recall a memorable phrase from one of Mr. Obama's big speeches that didn't amount to cliché? As for the small speeches, such as the one we were kept waiting 50 minutes for yesterday, we get Triple-A bromides about America remaining a "Triple-A country." Which, when it comes to long-term sovereign debt, is precisely what we no longer are under Mr. Obama.

Then there is Mr. Obama as political tactician. He makes predictions that prove false. He makes promises he cannot honor. He raises expectations he cannot meet. He reneges on commitments made in private. He surrenders positions staked in public. He is absent from issues in which he has a duty to be involved. He is overbearing when he ought to be absent. At the height of the financial panic of 1907, Teddy Roosevelt, who had done much to bring the panic about by inveighing against big business, at least had the good sense to stick to his bear hunt and let J.P. Morgan sort things out. Not so this president, who puts a new twist on an old put-down: Every time he opens his mouth, he subtracts from the sum total of financial capital.

The Daily Mail always has some of the best UK coverage, and I especially like the huge, high resolution images they embed in their stories. Here's their coverage of last night's rioting in London. Is the UK a third-world country now?

The army of police officers on-duty in London will swell to 16,000 tonight - compared with just 6,000 last night - as reinforcements are drafted in from 26 forces across the country.

Today huge swathes of the capital woke up to the charred debris of burned out buildings and streets littered with waste. David Cameron has recalled Parliament for the day on Thursday as he pledged to bring the situation under control. ...

After cutting short his Tuscany holiday to deal with the worsening public disorder crisis, Mr Cameron said today: 'We will do everything necessary to restore order to Britain's streets and to make them safe for the law-abiding.

'Let me, first of all, completely condemn the scenes that we have seen on our television screens and people have witnessed in their communities.

'These are sickening scenes - scenes of people looting, vandalising, thieving, robbing, scenes of people attacking police officers and even attacking fire crews as they're trying to put out fires. This is criminality, pure and simple, and it has to be confronted and defeated.

'I feel huge sympathy for the families who've suffered, innocent people who've been burned out of their houses and to businesses who have seen their premises smashed, their products looted and their livelihoods potentially ruined.

'I also feel for all those who live in fear because of these appalling scenes that we've seen on the streets of our country. People should be in no doubt that we are on the side of the law- abiding - law-abiding people who are appalled by what has happened in their own communities.

'I am determined, the Government is determined that justice will be done and these people will see the consequences of their actions.'

More embarrassing than a credit downgrade?

Hey financial markets, chill out! Legendary Obama supporter investor Warren Buffet says America's debt should be "AAAA"!

U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett not only thinks that Standard & Poor's shouldn't have downgraded the country's credit rating from AAA to AA+ -- he thinks it should have been raised to "quadruple A." ...

Buffett, 80, meantime, said Friday that that the S&P decision "doesn't make sense" and that his Omaha, Nebraska-based company would hold onto its sizeable number of U.S. Treasury bills.

"In Omaha, the U.S. is still triple-A. In fact, if there were a quadruple-A rating, I'd give the U.S. that," he told Fox Business News.

The best part is this image of Obama giving Buffet a Medal of Freedom:

So Buffet owns t-bills and he received the highest civilian medal from President Obama. His debt advice is completely objective, I'm sure.

(HT: National Review.)

Our credit downgrade is pretty humiliating. The next 15 months will be spent affixing blame to "someone else". So, let's get started! I happen to think that "Cut, Cap, and Balance" was the only debt option on the table that could have prevented a downgrade.

Throughout the debate over the debt ceiling, the media did all of us a great disservice. They reported as though the Republicans were threatening to ruin America's credit unless they got their way.

Closer to the truth: If only conservatives like Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., had gotten their way -- i.e., huge spending cuts -- perhaps we wouldn't have just been downgraded by S&P. DeMint predicted ahead of time that none of the debt deals on the table except for "Cut, Cap and Balance" would prevent a downgrade. He has been vindicated.

The bond-rating houses kept saying all along that they weren't worried about the debt ceiling not being increased. Rather, they were worried about the long-term prospects of the U.S. government paying back $15-plus trillion, which is where our national debt (both publicly held and obligated to trust funds) will be shortly.

From Standard & Poor's downgrade announcement we see that they don't care how we reduce the deficit:

Standard & Poor's takes no position on the mix of spending and revenue measures that Congress and the Administration might conclude is appropriate for putting the U.S.'s finances on a sustainable footing.

However, President Obama never presented a plan for reducing the deficit at all, with spending cuts, new taxes, or anything. All he did was give speeches. The only actual written plan that could have prevented the downgrade was the "Cut, Cap, and Balance Act".

Baboons kidnap feral puppies and raise them as guard dogs.

(HT: Woot.)

Glenn Reynolds' readers report "TAX CHEAT!" Tim Geithner stamped bills are showing up in the wild!

UPDATE: A reader emails:
After your post some time ago about the "Tax Cheat" stamp, I had been carefully reviewing the bills I receive to see how many had Geithner's signature. They recently started popping up regularly. And lo and behold, yesterday, when I went to get a cheese steak (I'm in the Philadelphia suburbs), I got a "Tax Cheat"-stamped bill as change. Loved it.

Best regards
(don't use my name, I don't want to get audited or anything like that.)

Well, the guy behind the stamp already did. Doesn't seem to have stopped him, though. And this is the first sighting of a stamped bill "in the wild" that I've heard of.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader emails:

I work at a Trader Joe's in St. Louis. I wasn't actively looking for the Tax Cheat bills, but while giving change last week I noticed that one of the singles I pulled out of my drawer had something on it. I looked again, and it was stamped. The next bill had "Cheater" written over the signature in red pen.

The best part about the experience is, upon my pointing it out, the customer said they were keeping both bills for themselves and wouldn't spend them.

Hmm. I wonder how widespread this phenomenon is.

It's not too late to order "TAX CHEAT!" stamps now! I hope Geithner never leaves... it's like my own personal stimulus program.

Walter Russell Mead has written a brilliant analysis of the crisis facing the progressive movement.

Meanwhile, Greenberg has not yet come to grips with the deepest and most difficult aspect of the crisis of liberal legitimacy. He roots the dangerous and corrupting special interests outside the state: with their money and their lobbying the corporations and the fat cats influence and pervert the state. But the state and its servants do not, in Greenberg's story, constitute a special interest of their own.

This is not how voters see it. For large numbers of voters the professional classes who staff the bureaucracies, foundations and policy institutes in and around government are themselves a special interest. It is not that evil plutocrats control innocent bureaucrats; many voters believe that the progressive administrative class is a social order that has its own special interests. Bureaucrats, think these voters, are like oil companies and Enron executives: they act only to protect their turf and fatten their purses.

The problem goes even deeper than hostility toward perceived featherbedding and life tenure for government workers. The professionals and administrators who make up the progressive state are seen as a hostile power with an agenda of their own that they seek to impose on the nation.

This perception, also, is rooted in truth. The progressive state has never seen its job as simply to check the excesses of the rich. It has also sought to correct the vices of the poor and to uplift the masses. From the Prohibition and eugenics movements of the early twentieth century to various improvement and uplift projects in our own day, well educated people have seen it as their simple duty to use the powers of government to make the people do what is right: to express the correct racial ideas, to eschew bad child rearing technique like corporal punishment, to eat nutritionally appropriate foods, to quit smoking, to use the right light bulbs and so on and so on.

Read the whole thing. He's spot-on. Continual failure and blundering by the government undermines the progressive vision of a powerful, benevolent ruling class. The country is sick of it.

Krauthammer is right: an unresolved ideological battle doesn't mean that Washington is "broken".

We're in the midst of a great four-year national debate on the size and reach of government, the future of the welfare state, indeed, the nature of the social contract between citizen and state. The distinctive visions of the two parties -- social-democratic vs. limited-government -- have underlain every debate on every issue since Barack Obama's inauguration: the stimulus, the auto bailouts, health-care reform, financial regulation, deficit spending. Everything. The debt ceiling is but the latest focus of this fundamental divide.

The sausage-making may be unsightly, but the problem is not that Washington is broken, that ridiculous ubiquitous cliche. The problem is that these two visions are in competition, and the definitive popular verdict has not yet been rendered.

Our Constitution was designed so that these sorts of ideological battles would unfold slowly and be played out over the course of several election cycles. This is a feature, not a bug.

The Budget Control Act is a very small step in the right direction.

$2 trillion of spending cuts is big for Congress but small relative to our underlying fiscal problems. If this bill becomes law and if the fall Joint Committee process is successful, the remaining spending problem will be more than an order of magnitude larger than this accomplishment. If you think this summer has been painful or dread the battle of this fall, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Wait until Congress wrestles with the big stuff.

So far, small steps have been working pretty well for conservatives:

Three times in the past year Congressional Republicans have played brinksmanship with the President and come out ahead: the December 2010 tax rate fight, the Spring 2011 CR fight, and now the Summer 2011 debt limit fight. They have a game plan that has delivered multiple incremental wins so far, and a playing field that favors them for the Fall 2011 Joint Committee fight. In a balanced Washington they have successfully leveraged a debt limit increase to cut spending and not raise taxes.

For these reasons I am fairly optimistic this bill provides an opportunity for another incremental win this fall. If I'm right, it also establishes a pattern for when the debt limit expires in 2013.

This pattern is important. In the past, the debt limit has been increased 70+ times with no strings attached. Now, the precedent has been set that debt limit increases should be matched dollar-for-dollar with spending cuts. That's a powerful precedent.

Forget the actual topic under discussion -- whether or not Amazon should be forced to collect sales tax -- and look at the mental processes at work inside the mind of a tax lawyer. It's no wonder our tax laws are so Byzantine.

You have to look to the nature of the link or connection between the state and the transaction. That link shouldn't be limited to physical presence any more than it should be expanded to include merely having an online presence.

One factor to consider is the solicitation of orders. Targeted advertising inside a state, including TV, radio and print ads, may not by itself be determinative but is a piece of a bigger picture. Also important are local agents and affiliates. Despite arguments from Amazon, I think states like New York and California are getting it right when considering locations of affiliates.

How and where orders are processed also matters. The location of warehouses, telephone operators and return centers should be part of the equation.

Finally, I think that you have to look to whether the retailer gets anything in return. What kinds of services and protections are being offered to the retailer inside the state? Does the retailer benefit from access to state courts, police protection and transportation systems?

There's not an easy answer to many of these questions. But then, when it comes to tax, you wouldn't expect anything different.

Do I "expect anything different" from a tax lawyer? No. But maybe that's a flaw with tax lawyers and not a problem inherent with collecting revenue for operating the government.

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