July 2009 Archives

If you've got $15 million burning a hole in your pocket you can pick up the remarkable Ennis House on sale now!

Known as the Ennis House, it's an architectural masterpiece designed by the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright. But, like a lot of old houses, it needs some work.

Drive past the grime and glitz of Hollywood toward the hills of Griffith Park and suddenly, there it is: a Mayan temple perched above the city. Ennis House is one of Wright's most famous creations — and not only to architecture buffs.
Glass Mosaic

The house has starred in several movies, from 1950s horror flicks to thrillers like Day of the Locust in the '70s. The house featured prominently in the '80s cult film Blade Runner, which is set in 2019 Los Angeles. Ennis House was the darkly elegant residence of the head of Tokyo's "yakuza," or mob, in Black Rain, starring Michael Douglas.

More pictures here.

Some great tips for maintaining a strong marriage despite your kids. As the father of a six-month-old I really appreciate these tips.

One of my favorite times of day is when my wife and I (and the baby) go for a walk together. Our daughter is along for the ride, but she's quiet enough in her stroller that we adults can talk and spend time together without distraction.

Also, I always make it a point to tell my daughter that I love her very much, second only to her mom.

Paul Graham writes about the differences between mangers' schedules and makers' schedules.

There are two types of schedule, which I'll call the manager's schedule and the maker's schedule. The manager's schedule is for bosses. It's embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you're doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it's merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you're done.

Most powerful people are on the manager's schedule. It's the schedule of command. But there's another way of using time that's common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can't write or program well in units of an hour. That's barely enough time to get started.

When you're operating on the maker's schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That's no problem for someone on the manager's schedule. There's always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker's schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.

Basically right. This is also why adding management responsibilities to an engineer typically makes his engineering work disproportionally less efficient. Maybe I should try blocking off mornings or afternoons for "actual work" (as engineers refer to the stuff they do when they aren't in meetings).

(Well ok, "chairmen" are just called "chairs" now because some of them are women, but whatever; shouldn't it be "chairpersons"?)

Anyway, Jay Cost has written a terrific explanation for why Democrats in Congress can't pass bills despite their commanding majority: their committee chairmen are far more leftist than the median Congressional Democrat.

From 1954 to 1970, there was generally a tight correspondence between the committee chairs and the median legislator, with each being pretty moderate. In the mid-70s, they all tacked to the left - but whereas the median legislator quickly swung back to the right, the chairs kept trending leftward. By the 103rd Congress (1993-94), the differences had become quite substantial - with committee chairs being well to the left of the median legislator. After 12 years of Republican rule, the Democrats returned to power - and their chairs had moved farther leftward while the median voter was basically unchanged. The 110th Congress (2006-07) exhibits the largest divergence between the chairs and the median legislator since World War II. We don't yet have ideological scores for the current Congress, but I am sure there is still a great deal of space between these groups.

Much of this deviation can be explained by the system of seniority that governs chairmanships. It's not a formal rule among House Democrats, but nevertheless:

[Nancy] Pelosi, unlike her GOP predecessors, chose to follow seniority in designating committee chairs. As a result, many of the Democratic chairs are liberal "old bulls" who either headed or were senior members of several of the most influential committees prior to the GOP takeover in 1995. [Davidson, Oleszek, and Lee (2008), 213.]

I mentioned last week that Bush's median share of the 2004 vote in the districts of current chairmen was just 36%. Democrats in liberal districts are less likely to be defeated, meaning that they are around long enough to ascend to chairmanships, and more likely to be liberal.

Meanwhile, thanks to majority-minority districting, as well as the party's overwhelming strength in densely populated urban areas, Democrats win 80-90% of the presidential vote in many congressional districts, which means they are quite safe. But it also means that to find 218 seats, they have to carry districts where their presidential candidates win less than 50%. Thus, you get a phenomenon like the current one: Heath Shuler (D-NC) and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) make the difference between majority and minority status, but Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Barney Frank (D-MA) gavel the key committees once the majority has been achieved.

Representatives like Shuler and Herseth gave the Democrats their majority, but because of their lack of seniority (due to the lack of security of their seats) they don't have much influence in the House. It's no surprise that these chairmen craft leftist bills that the Representatives their majority depends on cannot vote for.

Side note: that "fringe" party members have little effect on policy is generally an under-appreciated benefit of the two-party system. Many multi-party parliamentary systems end up seating tiny delegations from the, e.g., Communist or Nazi parties which, despite their minuscule sizes, end up being instrumental in breaking ties when the larger parties disagree.

(HT: The Corner.)

Nebraska may join the chorus of states asserting their sovereignty by passing bills reminding the Federal Government of the 10th Amendment, but they and all the rest would do better to begin a nationwide initiative to repeal the 17th Amendment.

Senators were originally chosen by state legislatures instead of by direct election by the populations of the various states, and the point of this process was to give the states a voice in the federal Congress. Senators were expected to protect the individual sovereignty of the various states against the vagaries of the more-democratic House of Representatives. Unfortunately the states disarmed themselves when they ratified the 17th Amendment, and things have been downhill ever since.

(HT: BT.)

The fundamental deception underlying the President's health care reform pitch is that health care should be getting cheaper even as it continues to get better.

He never detailed his own plan or named a single victim of America’s broken system, and he spoke largely in the abstractions of blue pills, red pills and legislative processes. It’s not easy to turn delivery system reform into a rallying cry for change, but at times, it was as if Obama wasn’t even trying. ...

He added in a puzzling abstraction about cost containment: “If there’s a blue pill and a red pill, and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well, why not pay half price for the thing that’s going to make you well?” he asked.

Americans have grown used to products that get better and cheaper at the same time, largely because of the infusion of electronics and computers into many of the industries that touch our lives. However, labor-intensive products like automobiles and health care have gotten significantly better over the past decades without getting cheaper -- or even increasing in price. These industries have benefited from information technology, but because of their heavy dependency on labor they haven't gotten cheaper as they've gotten better.

If there were many inefficiencies to be wrung from the system, why wouldn't health insurance companies do it? The health insurance industry has a profit margin of around 3% which is about average for other industries as well. They aren't rolling in dough with no need to scrape up more. Profits are modest, and if they could be increased by simple gains of efficiency it would already be happening. There's no reason to think that the government will be able to find these mythical efficiency gains if the industry can't.

The fact is that the only way to reduce health care costs is to reduce health care quality. The idea that you can cover more people at the same level of quality for less money is absurd and betrays an ignorance of basic economics.

Are Arabs and Israelis starting to work together against Iran?

There's continued talk of an Israeli air raid on Iranian nuclear weapons facilities, but no action. Israel does appear to have formed an informal alliance with several Arab states (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc.) against Iran. The Arabs cannot officially admit to an alliance with Israel, because of decades of state sponsored anti-Israel (and anti-Semitic) propaganda. Some of this propaganda is being shut down, quietly. Something is going on here.

Reality trumps rhetoric.

Sure it's purely aesthetic, but with all the trillions we're throwing around I think it would be nice to fix up the National Mall.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Crumbling sidewalks near the Jefferson Memorial are sinking into the Tidal Basin. Reflecting pools are filled with green, smelly water. And millions of visitors have trampled the soil into virtual concrete where grass can't grow.

The National Mall is in danger of becoming a national disgrace. ...

The Obama Administration recently steered $55 million in economic stimulus money toward repairs, but Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says that's only a down payment on the nearly $400 million needed to fix up a national park that draws more visitors than Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite combined.

An Associated Press analysis of congressional spending since 2005 found the mall has been at a disadvantage in competing for extra funds doled out by lawmakers, compared with sites that are represented by powerful members of Congress. The mall is in Washington, D.C., which has no vote in the House or Senate.

DC absolutely should not get representation in Congress, but the National Mall should be properly maintained. I've visited it dozens of times and have always enjoyed it, but yeah, it's a bit run-down.

Illinois has cut its education budget by a whole two percent and, of course, the sky is falling.

State education officials Tuesday slashed millions of dollars from dozens of initiatives -- ranging from preschool to after-school to gifted programs -- and warned of a "catastrophic'' year ahead, when $2 billion in federal stimulus dollars will dry up.

Acting in emergency session, State Board of Education members faced with shrunken state revenues approved a $7.26 billion budget for this coming school year, down $146 million, or 2 percent, from fiscal year 2009.

You'd think it would be easy to absorb a 2% decrease in spending by simply reducing spending across the board. But no! Thanks to unions the cuts will exclusively affect students and their education rather than teachers or administrators.

Taking the biggest hit was early childhood education, which lost $123 million. The action "rolls back about five years of progress'' and means an estimated 30,000 children will lose preschool services this fall, said Sean Noble of Voices for Illinois Children.

All state money for gifted education was "zeroed out,'' along with dollars for two after-school programs -- one of them started by the wife of Mayor Daley.

Efforts to help the blind and dyslexic, teacher recruitment in hard-to-staff schools, high school students taking Advanced Placement classes and teachers who earn rigorous national certification all took whacks.

Well, ok, I'm not sure what kind of "whacks" are in store for teachers with "rigorous national certification".

But look: the total cut is $146 million, $123 million of which was going towards public preschools. That means the remaining $23 million was sufficient to fully fund gifted education, various after-school programs, blind and dyslexic education, teacher recruitment, Advanced Placement classes, and so forth. Something doesn't add up.

First off, if all those programs can be funded for a mere $23 million, where the heck is the other $7.26 billion in the education budget being spent?

Second, why aren't leftists pushing for student to unionize? Students are being oppressed by their organized teachers and their demands for ever-increasing, never-decreasing salaries, pensions, and benefits. When times are good, teachers' unions lock in exorbitant contracts that cannot be revisited when times are lean. Students, on the other hand, have no "contract" to prevent their education from being eviscerated for the benefit of their teachers. It's For The Children! (IFTC!)

IFTC is conveniently used to argue for more teachers, higher pay for teachers, more benefits for teachers, more "certifications" for teachers, and all manner of spending that benefits teachers and their union bosses. But God forbid that IFTC ever be deployed to argue that teachers should take a hit when the economy gets bad. Oh no! Teachers are altruistic saints! Why do you hate children?

The monkeys are at it again, this time burglarizing a local plant nursery.

"Definitely never been robbed by a monkey before," says store co-owner Jerry Duncan.

Yes, a primate is the prime suspect in the latest break-in at this Richardson, Texas nursery.

"I said no way until I look at it and said this is crazy," said store co-owner Shelley Rosenfeld.

The owners of "Plants and Planters" are convinced that's a monkey in the bottom left hand corner of the security camera tape.

"You can see the back legs the front arms and the white head," observes Duncan.

They must be stopped.

I wonder if the guy who invented the wheel ever got into a fight with the guy who invented stairs?

If you enjoy statistical analysis and being pissed off at our government, read about how "stimulus" money is being directed to states that have suffered the least from the recession.

The stimulus bill "includes help for those hardest hit by our economic crisis," President Obama promised when he signed the bill into law on Feb. 17. "As a whole, this plan will help poor and working Americans."

But FOXNews.com has analyzed data tracking how the stimulus money is being given out across the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and it has found a perverse pattern: the states hardest hit by the recession received the least money. States with higher bankruptcy, foreclosure and unemployment rates got less money. And higher income states received more.

The transfers to the states having the least problems are large. Even after accounting for other factors, each $1,000 in a state's per capita income means that the state got $21 more per capita in stimulus funds. With a spread of almost $38,000 in per-person income between the top and bottom states, this has a sizable impact. High-income states get considerably more stimulus money.

States with higher bankruptcy rates got a lot less, not more, money — roughly $86 less per person for each percentage point increase in the state's bankruptcy rate. States with higher foreclosure rates were treated very similarly, losing $82 per person for each one percentage point more of the people suffering foreclosures.

There are charts at the link!

It should be obvious to any observer that the "stimulus" money is being used to reward political allies rather than to actually spur the economy.

Politico reported on June 5 that the “Stimulus tour” — visits by Mr. Obama and other administration officials “across the country to tout the massive spending program or hand out stimulus cash to grateful local officials” — overwhelmingly took place in states that voted for Obama: “52 of the 66 events were in states that backed Obama.” The other 14 events were in states that Obama lost only narrowly. A new study released by USA Today also finds that counties that voted for Obama received about twice as much stimulus money per capita as those that voted for McCain.

Hope and change!

President Obama has delayed releasing budget and economic updates for more than a month in an effort to prevent the total evaporation of support for government takeover of the health care industry.

The White House is being forced to acknowledge the wide gap between its once-upbeat predictions about the economy and today's bleak landscape.

The administration's annual midsummer budget update is sure to show higher deficits and unemployment and slower growth than projected in President Barack Obama's budget in February and update in May, and that could complicate his efforts to get his signature health care and global-warming proposals through Congress.

The release of the update - usually scheduled for mid-July - has been put off until the middle of next month, giving rise to speculation the White House is delaying the bad news at least until Congress leaves town on its August 7 summer recess.

The administration is pressing for votes before then on its $1 trillion health care initiative, which lawmakers are arguing over how to finance.

I'm sure independent voters will love this sleight-of-hand.

(HT: Gateway Pundit.)

Yes, that's right: man defeats lion with chain saw.

CODY, Wyoming — A Colorado man used a chain saw to fight off a mountain lion that attacked him during a camping trip with his wife and two toddlers in northwestern Wyoming. ...

Dustin Britton, a 32-year-old mechanic and ex-Marine from Windsor, Colo., said he was alone cutting firewood about 100 feet from his campsite in the Shoshone National Forest when he saw the 100-pound lion staring at him from some bushes.

The 6-foot, 170-pound Britton said he raised his 18-inch chain saw and met the lion head-on as it pounced — a collision he described as feeling like a grown man running directly into him.

"It batted me three or four times with its front paws, and as quick as I hit it with that saw, it just turned away," he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. ...

The wounded animal retreated after Britton inflicted a six- to eight-inch gash on the lion's shoulder, leaving him with only a small puncture wound on his forearm.

"You would think if you hit an animal with a chain saw it would dig right in," he said. "I might as well have hit it with a hockey stick."

(HT: JW.)

Since Republicans are somewhat hesitant to completely betray the American people, President Obama has decided to redefine "bipartisanship".

White House officials said they had a new standard for bipartisanship: the number of Republican ideas incorporated in the legislation, rather than the number of Republican votes for a Democratic bill. Mr. Obama said the health committee bill “includes 160 Republican amendments,” and he said that was “a hopeful sign of bipartisan support for the final product.”

Republicans said many of those amendments were technical, and they were scathing in their criticism of the bill approved by the health committee.

Yes, we're living in "1984".

The Lodge-On-Wheels looks cool, but it seems like it would have some disadvantages over a traditional RV.

This flow chart illustrates the Dems' health care plan. Seems like a mess.

(HT: RB.)

Despite the poor camera angle (intentionally chosen by the local Fox affiliate, no doubt) the pitch was a ball.

(HT: Gateway Pundit.)

This is too good to be true: zombie robots powered by dead bodies.

A Maryland company under contract to the Pentagon is working on a steam-powered robot that would fuel itself by gobbling up whatever organic material it can find — grass, wood, old furniture, even dead bodies.

Robotic Technology Inc.'s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot — that's right, "EATR" — "can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable," reads the company's Web site.

That "biomass" and "other organically-based energy sources" wouldn't necessarily be limited to plant material — animal and human corpses contain plenty of energy, and they'd be plentiful in a war zone.

Awesome. Let's give them weapons and an instinct for self-preservation.

(HT: RB.)

Here are some great pictures from last weekend's Hands Off Our Healthcare rally in suburban St. Louis.

On the morning of Saturday, July 11th, the St.Louis region was engulfed with more soggy weather, much like July 4th, but again this did not deter Tea Party protesters from making their voices heard. The St.Louis "Show Us the Bill - Hands Off Our Healthcare" Rally took place in downtown Clayton, Missouri, a suburb of St.Louis, in Memorial Park by the courthouse. Many of the frustration for this rally has been driven by many issues with Congress and the current Administration but the major one's in these protester's eyes have been the lack of Congress reading the bills before they pass them and the impending passing of a universal healthcare plan.

Naturally there was very little coverage by the dino-media, despite the hundreds in attendance.

This is a few days old but it's still worth noting: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Democrat) admits that no one would vote for ObamaCare if they had to read the bill first.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that the health-care reform bill now pending in Congress would garner very few votes if lawmakers actually had to read the entire bill before voting on it.

“If every member pledged to not vote for it if they hadn’t read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes,” Hoyer told CNSNews.com at his regular weekly news conference.

Hoyer was responding to a question from CNSNews.com on whether he supported a pledge that asks members of the Congress to read the entire bill before voting on it and also make the full text of the bill available to the public for 72 hours before a vote.

In fact, Hoyer found the idea of the pledge humorous, laughing as he responded to the question. “I’m laughing because a) I don’t know how long this bill is going to be, but it’s going to be a very long bill,” he said.

If a bill is too long and complex for our elected representatives to read and understand it, that's a good indication that the bill should not become a law. If the people creating the laws can't be bothered to read and comprehend them, how can the rest of us? It's their full-time job to do this Congress thing.

(HT: Hot Air.)

The video is more ambiguous than the still picture. Decide for yourself!

Contra my earlier assumption, the girl is Brazilian not French.

I expect Michelle will be upset, especially since the President recently forgot where he met his wife. That's two strikes on one trip.

In an astonishing admission, Justice Ginsburg says that abortion "rights" are intended to limit the population of "undesirables":

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Reproductive choice has to be straightened out. There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to me so obvious. The states that had changed their abortion laws before Roe [to make abortion legal] are not going to change back. So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don’t know why this hasn’t been said more often.

Q: Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae — in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong.

Which begs the question: what people does Justice Ginsburg not "want too many of"?

Here's one possible answer: Planned Parenthood was created to reduce the black population.

Planned Parenthood’s founder and matriarch, Margaret Sanger in the 1930s ingeniously promoted her ideology that the "unfit" should be prevented from reproducing, "by force if necessary." Since the economic plight of many Blacks placed them and their families in the position of living in an environment that Sanger believed breed "unfit" individuals, her organization zeroed in on the "Negro" population. Establishing the "Negro Project," Sanger and her cohorts set out to push their birth control agenda which as she writes "is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives" (The Pivot of Civilization written by M. Sanger)

In November 1939 a "Negro Project" leader feared that the project would be in "a great danger" of failing because "the Negroes think it a plan for extermination." Therefore, "let’s appear to let the colored run it ...." (Gamble memo "Suggestions for Negro Project" excerpted from pamphlet issued by the African American Committee, A.L.L.) Sanger later wrote him back saying, "We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population ..." She goes on saying that use of the Negro minister would effectively "straighten ... any rebellious members." (Letter from Sanger to Gamble, excerpted from pamphlet issued by the African American Committee, A.L.L.) "With social service backgrounds, and engaging personalities" the "hired ... Colored Ministers" would "propagandized for birth control ... "through a religious appeal." To help maintain control, the colored ministerial staff would be carefully controlled. "A project director lamented ‘I wonder if Southern Darkies can ever be entrusted with ... a clinic. Our experience causes us to doubt their ability to work except under White supervision’." Through her Negro Advisory Council, Sanger’s dream of discouraging "the defective and diseased elements of humanity" from their "reckless and irresponsible swarming and spawning" has been successful. (Excerpts from Grand Illusions: The Legacy of Planned Parenthood)

It would be nice for the New York Times to present some historical context, but I guess you'll have to come here for that.

See also: Selwyn Duke, Live Site News, Advance Indiana.

This is my kind of fishing.

Lots of people are wondering about the posthumous glorification of Michael Jackson by a host of people who would never let their children spend the night at his house, but the explanation is simple: America is Michael Jackson.

  • We live the lavish lifestyle of the rich, but we're horribly in debt.
  • Our lives are run by yes-men parasites who build up our egos while sucking us dry.
  • We've got no moral bearings and prefer a twisted pop-culture fantasyland over reality.
  • We live off the glories of our past but fail to recognize that we can never recapture if until we purge ourselves of the previously mentioned maladies.

We glorify Michael Jackson to comfort ourselves.

Even more rare than odd and even days are sequential days like today! What makes today particularly special is that you can sequence the date right into the time and get a nice long run. Early this afternoon it will be 12:34:56 7/8/9. Won't see that again till the kids move away in a millennium.

(HT: CC for reminding me.)

Ten Ton Hammer has a great discussion of progression via levels and skills in MMORPGs, including a discussion of whether these two paradigms will ever be replaced with something new.

President Obama says he met his wife in class at Harvard:

Too bad the Obamas didn't overlap as students at Harvard:

Though both Barack and Michelle went to Harvard Law, they didn't overlap — she got her degree in '88 and he graduated in '91. They actually met in Chicago when he was a summer associate at a law firm in Chicago.

Tell us more about this "chicago law firm" where the Obamas met!

Actually, Barack Obama landed this amazing summer job while in school at the Sidley Austin Law Firm where terrorist Bernadine Dohrn, the wife of terrorist Bill Ayers, just happened to be working. Bill Ayers' father had pull at the firm.

Barack met his future wife Michelle at that law firm.

I.e., President Obama met his wife at a terrorist training camp. I can see why he conveniently "forgot" this factoid, but I'm still not sure his wife will be pleased.

Left-wing smear merchants should be embarrassed that their efforts to deceitfully undermine the Tea Party movement has led to hundreds of poor families going hungry.

On April 15th of this year, we collected 3000 lbs of food and $600 dollars (enough for another 3000 lbs) at Kiener Plaza. Volunteers, led by Rich and Mimi, collected the food onsite, and used the CoC [Circle Of Concern] van to transport the food back to the Food Bank. It was a smashing success, and CoC thanked them in the June newsletter. After the Tea Party, reports from the Southern Law Poverty Center, Charles Jaco, the Post-Dispatch, and FiredUpMissouri convinced members of the board that the Tea Parties were too political. Two photographs were referenced, one stating that Russ Carnahan should be hanged, and the other with a picture of a Swastika. Both pictures were found at FiredUp, in one of their attempts to smear any and all Tea Party activists. ...

Here's the problem. The first photo was staged by a leftwing comedian, and the other was a takeoff on a best-selling book called Liberal Fascism, which addresses the similarity between the progressivism of Woodrow Wilson and FDR, and the socialist/fascist movements of Europe. We explained to CofC that staged photos and the photos most likely to offend were reprinted in an effort to discredit the Tea Parties. Throw in Charles Jaco's innaccurate and corrected report on hate groups at the Tea Parties (as defined by the SLPC), and it was clear the Tea Parties were maligned by far left wing groups.

As a result of these lies Circle Of Concern has decided to sever ties with the Tea Partiers. Their charity does important work and simply can't afford to be tied to even the perception extremism. The fact that this perception is a lie manufactured by statist spoilers doesn't change their position.

6000 lbs of food feed almost a hundred families for one month. Left wing activists worked to libel the Tea Parties and who cares if some people go hungry? There's nothing more important than political power, even if it means charities and those they serve are impacted.

The left-wingers behind these deceptions should be ashamed, but I'm sure they aren't.

Michael Jackson is being buried without his brain, which is being held back for further examination into the cause of death. Fine. But is it necessary to end the article with this bit of trivia?

- MICHAEL Jackson starred as the Scarecrow in The Wiz, the 1978 musical version of The Wizard of Oz – playing the character without a brain opposite Diana Ross as Dorothy.

Ok, see if you keep up because it took me a few minutes to figure out what's going on. Missouri utilities are poised to charge consumers extra in order to fund promotions that encourage conservation.

Though it might seem illogical, the new energy efficiency charge has support from utilities, most lawmakers, the governor, environmentalists and even the state’s official utility consumer advocate. The charge covers the cost of utilities’ efforts to promote energy efficiency and cut power use.

The assumption is that charging consumers for those initiatives ultimately will cost less than charging them to build the new power plants that will be needed if electricity use isn’t curtailed.

If the efforts to promote conservation actually lead to reduced use, that may be true. However, what's really happening is more subtle. Most businesses don't encourage their customers to buy less of their product, but utility companies in America have been forced into this awkward position by environmental extremists. The more effective these conservation promotions are, the less demand there will be for the products these utility companies sell. Less demand equals lower volume and lower prices, the combination of which will eventually make a business unprofitable.

Of course, most of these utilities are natural monopolies that enjoy implicit government subsidies by the nature of their monopoly. That's why there are public utility boards that regulate the prices the utilities can charge. That these boards (and the state legislature) are now going to allow utilities to charge extra for non-production costs is quite a sea change. This new permission is an extension of the implicit subsidy the utilities already enjoy and is intended to offset the revenue that is lost as the utilities companies pressure their customers to buy less.

Legislation pending before Gov. Jay Nixon would set the criteria for state utility regulators to approve the energy-savings charges. If he signs the bill, the new law would take effect Aug. 28. ...

“To save power is the equivalent of making power,” Nixon said, “and it’s a pretty seismic shift” in Missouri’s energy strategy.

This statement by Nixon may sound wise on the surface ("a penny saved is a penny earned") but a little contemplation will reveal the underlying absurdity. In a free market, every bit of energy that is consumed is paid for by the consumer, which means that the consumer believes that the use he is putting the energy towards is more valuable than the price he pays for the energy itself (i.e., energy use is profitable to the consumer). Reducing energy use in this scenario means the loss of that profit. The more we "conserve", the more profit we lose. Producing more energy and then consuming it would lead to more profit; producing and consuming less energy would lead to a reduction in profit. (I.e., a reduced quality-of-life.)

(Our energy market is not free. The prices are regulated in such a way that many people pay artificially low prices. (This is done to ensure that poor people aren't priced out of the energy market entirely, despite the fact that the uses they put energy to are worth less then the energy they consume and therefore a net loss.) Unless we're willing to let the poor live in the dark there's no real way to avoid this market manipulation. Even with this inefficiency, however, a net increase in energy production and consumption will almost certainly create wealth.)

Unfortunately our public officials seem to be completely clueless, as usual.

“Any tool we can give a consumer to reduce their usage is a good thing,” [Public Service Commission Chairman Robert M. Clayton III] said, adding: “The trick is making sure the expenditure (by the utility) is a prudent expenditure and it’s going to achieve results.”

Haiti uses far less energy per capita than we do, maybe we can learn from them? The only way to make a significant dent in energy use is to significantly reduce our quality of life. Everything else is fiddling around the margins.

(Cross-posted to 24th State.)

Living with First-Person-Shooter disease. It's tragic.

(HT: RB.)

Here's the best article I've read so far about Michael Jackson's chronic pain and drug addictions:

Those body image problems aside, Pinsky said the most serious problem with opiate addiction is that the drugs themselves can cause pain when the patient begins to feel that if they cease taking the medication they will be in even worse agony. "With chronic pain, once you start taking these medications, you are in constant pain," Pinsky said. "And when you have enablers around you who help provide the drugs, it makes it almost impossible to get off of them. It's like a crack addict living in a crackhouse." ...

"You get to the point where you build up such a high tolerance to the opiates that you can't take enough to get the desired effect, or enough to keep you from painful withdrawal," said Dr. Arnold M. Washton, a New York-based psychologist with more than 30 years of expertise in treating addiction. "And chronic use makes it impossible to go to sleep, so the person using these drugs may use double or triple the dose, hoping to go to sleep, but no matter how much they use, they can't. So they need to switch to a drug that affects a different part of the brain, which are the sedative drugs."

Scary stuff. These kinds of stories are why I'm so hesitant to follow the libertarian road to total drug deregulation.

Congratulations America on 233 years of independence!

Note to future self: do not fire mortars from hand.

I know posting has been slow recently, but I'll be back in a few days. As my guitar teacher always said, "don't fret".

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