December 2012 Archives

I'll give up my guns not one second sooner than all the leftists calling for gun bans give up their armed security, body guards, Secret Service, Capitol Police, doorman buildings, walled compounds, and armored limousines.

Walter Russell Mead explains how the fiscal cliff is just another battle in the war between generations.

We see this as yet another sign of the Baby Boom's unrelenting war on the young. Geezers are so tightly organized to defend their pet programs that they are willing to sacrifice everything and everyone else to ensure that not a penny is cut from Medicare or Social Security. Discretionary programs are the things the actually keep the country running, yet they will be the first things to be cut when the government scales back.

It's the national version of the fight we see being waged in many states and cities where public sector unions demand either sky high tax increases or savage cuts in services -- anything so that unrealistic pensions be paid to a generation which collectively failed to create the wealth or invest the assets which could cover those liabilities at a reasonable social cost. It is the Boomer determination to ensure that future generations pay the price of its planning and social policy mistakes -- and it is both shameful and wrong.

Rich boomers don't want to be taxed to pay their share of the collective generational failure; less wealthy ones don't want to lose a penny of the benefits they claim to have earned. It's reasonable for some kind of political compromise to distribute the pain between different wings of this generation, but the generation as a whole needs to pay its fair share of the bill.

A tipping point will come when the oldest members of the Baby Boomer cohort die and the generation eventually loses its electoral power. The middling and younger members of the cohort will be stripped of their benefits faster than you can blink.

House Republicans may have kept their majority in November but they seem incapable of out-maneuvering President Obama.

Speaker John A. Boehner's effort to pass fallback legislation to avert a fiscal crisis in less than two weeks collapsed Thursday night in an embarrassing defeat after conservative Republicans refused to support legislation that would allow taxes to rise on the most affluent households in the country.

House Republican leaders abruptly canceled a vote on the bill after they failed to rally enough votes for passage in an emergency meeting about 8 p.m. Within minutes, dejected Republicans filed out of the basement meeting room and declared there would be no votes to avert the "fiscal cliff" until after Christmas. With his "Plan B" all but dead, the speaker was left with the choice to find a new Republican way forward or to try to get a broad deficit reduction deal with President Obama that could win passage with Republican and Democratic votes.

However the primary reason that Boehner appears to be failing is that the media mostly ignores that fact that the House has already passed numerous bills that would avert the fiscal cliff by reducing spending without increasing taxes, and the Democrats have continuously refused to consider those proposals. Instead of negotiating against himself and proffering ever-more-taxy proposals Boehner should have stood pat. Now the Republicans all look like fools.

I have never visited a developing country but this account of Haitian bureaucracy blew my mind.

It has proven hard for me to appreciate exactly how confused the Haitians are about some things. Gail, our program director, explained that she has a lot of trouble with her Haitian office staff because they don't understand the concept of sorting numerically. Not just "they don't want to do it" or "it never occurred to them", but after months and months of attempted explanation they don't understand that sorting alphabetically or numerically is even a thing. Not only has this messed up her office work, but it makes dealing with the Haitian bureaucracy - harrowing at the best of times - positively unbearable.

Gail told the story of the time she asked a city office for some paperwork regarding Doctors Without Borders. The local official took out a drawer full of paperwork and looked through every single paper individually to see if it was the one she wanted. Then he started looking for the next drawer. After five hours, the official finally said that the paper wasn't in his office.

Without concepts like "sorting" I don't see how you can build functioning institutions. Can this problem even be solved by aid, or is it deeper?

As politicians begin debating whether or not we subjects citizens should be stripped of our right to self-defense let's notice that the official gun-wielding government representatives didn't get to Sandy Brook Elementary School until 20 minutes after they learned about the shooting. I'm sure the police did their best, but 20 minutes is a long time no matter what kind of guns a shooter has.

The school staff was there right when the shooting started, but of course they were unarmed. We trust them with our kids every single day, and yet we balk at arming them. At least one teacher gave her life attempting to shield her students from a hail of bullets... why shouldn't she have had a gun if she was willing to carry it? We don't need to put police in every school, we just need to train and equip the adults we've already got to protect our kids.

I hope this doesn't come across as sexist, but it seems to me that our primary education system has become very feminized. I'm sure that many people will be shocked that I would even suggest arming school staff and training them to defend students. If the staff is supposed to act in loco parentis then they need to be able to protect our kids while they're at school.

The blue states just re-elected President Obama, and the one concrete point that he campaigned on was to raise taxes on "the rich". So, let's raise some revenue!

But suddenly liberals are having second thoughts, and our guess is that this is because residents of high-tax Democratic-run states are about twice as likely to take advantage of tax loopholes as taxpayers in low-tax states. For example, 44% of Connecticut filers itemize their deductions, but only some 21% of North and South Dakota residents do.

One tax writeoff in particular illustrates the point: the deduction for state and local income taxes. This allows a high-income tax filer who pays, say, $20,000 in state and local income taxes to deduct those payments from his federal taxable income.

Because the highest federal tax rate is 35%, the value of the state and local deduction is enormous for high-tax states. If President Obama succeeds in raising the federal tax rate to 39.6%, the value of those deductions rises to nearly 40 cents on the dollar. This deduction certainly eases the pain of New Jersey's 8.97% top tax rate, or Hawaii's 11%.

Cry me a river. The Left wants tax increases and they won the election, so let's do it. Close the "loopholes" all those "fat-cat" blue-staters use to avoid paying their "fair share".

Some great tips for editing your own writing. You may not follow this whole process for everything you write, but when the piece is important then you'll find it worthwhile to spend the time to do it right. My favorite tips:

Read it Out Loud

The best writing sounds smooth--almost like you're speaking, without getting colloquial. So actually listening to your written syntax is one of the best ways you can catch areas with jangling phrasing. Read your work out loud and change anything that doesn't make sense or that you stumble over. And don't be afraid to use contractions-that's how us non-robots talk, isn't it? (Imagine that last sentence without contractions. Now you see what I mean.)

Prose should flow when you read it. If you stumble over the words or phrasing when you read it out loud, then your readers will stumble in their brains.

Be Ruthless

The final step is to edit your work down. Yes, chop some of those words, sentences, and paragraphs. Like crazy. But this will help make sure that the true meat of your piece is what shines.

If you need a little help with this, here are some tips:

Keep paragraphs short: Three to four sentences is more than enough to get to the point quickly and succinctly.

Reduce each sentence to its essential parts: A well-defined subject, strong verb, and object.

Avoid the overuse of subordinate clauses: Quick little grammar refresher: A subordinate clause (also known as a dependent clause) has a subject and verb but can't stand alone as a sentence. ...

Nix adverbs and adjectives as often as possible: On your printout, mark through every adjective and adverb you see, and then add back the ones that you think are absolutely necessary. When in doubt, find a verb that says it better.

Infuse opinionated language with authority: During my freshman year of college, I got a B on a kick-ass paper. Upset, I asked my professor to explain his (obviously flawed) grading system. He said I was downgraded because I repeatedly used phrases like "seems to be" and "it appears." When you make a point, he said, throw yourself behind it. Don't give the impression that you're not sure you fully support your own argument.

I'll add another: never use the passive voice! Ever ever, like ever.

Glenn Reynolds points out that "gun-free zones" only disarm law-abiding citizens.

One of the interesting characteristics of mass shootings is that they generally occur in places where firearms are banned: malls, schools, etc. That was the finding of a famous 1999 study by John Lott of the University of Maryland and William Landes of the University of Chicago, and it appears to have been borne out by experience since then as well.

In a way, this is no surprise. If there's someone present with a gun when a mass shooting begins, the shooter is likely to be shot himself. And, in fact, many mass shootings -- from the high school shooting by Luke Woodham in Pearl, Miss., to the New Life Church shooting in Colorado Springs, Colo., where an armed volunteer shot the attacker -- have been terminated when someone retrieved a gun from a car or elsewhere and confronted the shooter.

Policies making areas "gun free" provide a sense of safety to those who engage in magical thinking, but in practice, of course, killers aren't stopped by gun-free zones. As always, it's the honest people -- the very ones you want to be armed -- who tend to obey the law.

One of the best ways to protect society is to put more guns into the hands of law-abiding adults.

Glenn Reynolds argues that GOP supporters should quit spending hundreds of millions of dollars on unwatched ads and instead buy media enterprises that target low-information voters.

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson alone donated $150 million. But Romney lost anyway, especially among unmarried women.

Which is why I think that rich people wanting to support the Republican Party might want to direct their money somewhere besides TV ads that copy, poorly, what Lee Atwater did decades ago.

My suggestion: Buy some women's magazines. No, really. Or at least some women's Web sites.

One of the groups with whom Romney did worst was female "low-information voters." Those are women who don't really follow politics, and vote based on a vague sense of who's mean and who's nice, who's cool and who's uncool.

Since, by definition, they don't pay much attention to political news, they get this sense from what they do read. And for many, that's traditional women's magazines -- Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, the Ladies Home Journal, etc. -- and the newer women's sites like YourTango, The Frisky, Yahoo! Shine, and the like.

The thing is, those magazines and Web sites see themselves, pretty consciously, as a propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. So while nine out of 10 articles may be the usual stuff on sex, diet and shopping, the 10th will always be either soft p.r. for the Democrats or soft -- or sometimes not-so-soft -- hits on Republicans.

Hey, the Los Angeles Times might be for sale soon! Or how about The New York Times?

The old adage goes, "Don't get mad, get even." For a select few Americans, that principle could be amended to "Don't get mad at your enemies, buy them." I have sometimes thought that if I were Charles Koch, instead of trying to influence American politics honestly, I would do it the way the Democrats do: I would buy the New York Times. With a current market capitalization of $1.23 billion, the New York Times Co. would hardly put a dent in Koch's net worth.

Dr. Reynolds is spot-on with his prescription. Conservatives lose elections because we've ceded the cultural space to leftists. There's no reason we have to let that continue!

Michigan workers now have the right to join a labor union or not at their own discretion, and the rent-seeking union barons aren't happy.

As thousands of angry union members shouted their opposition outside the state Capitol in Lansing, the Republican-controlled legislature completed work on two measures to ban unions from requiring workers to pay membership dues. Gov. Rick Snyder (R) then signed them into law Tuesday evening.

The "right to work" effort illustrates the power of Republicans to use state legislative majorities won in 2010 to pursue their policy preferences, even after losing a bitter presidential election.

The defeat is devastating for organized labor, which for decades has been waging an uphill battle against declining membership and dwindling influence.

But it also strikes at the roots of a Democratic Party that relied on unions for financial support and to marshal voters for President Obama's reelection.

Right-to-work laws are a clear enhancement to liberty: workers can choose to join or not. Democrats are angry because unions are used to forcefully extract money from workers which is then funneled to Democrat campaigns. President Obama understands the stakes.

"You know, these so-called right-to-work laws, they don't have to do with economics. They have everything to do with politics," Obama said.

If your political power depends on limiting others' freedom then maybe you're on the wrong side. No one should be forced to join a union against their will.

Unfortunately it appears that the Republicans don't think Missouri can follow suit despite their supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature.

Missouri House Republican Speaker Tim Jones, of Eureka, says passing a similar law would require strong leadership from the governor and the support of the business community. Republican Senate leader Tom Dempsey, of St. Charles, says numerous senators support a right-to-work law but not enough to overcome a veto.

Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon previously has called the idea a backward step.

Houzz has pics of four Hobbit-style houses. Here's my favorite interior:


I'm not sure how practical and safe these houses would be, but they look cool in the pictures. I wonder if they look shoddy in person?

(HT: SW.)

We live in amazing times. This is the first I've heard of it, but doctors are using deactivated HIV to treat cancer by reprogramming immune systems.

Doctors suggested they sign Emily up to a clinical trial that would use a disabled form of HIV to carry cancer-fighting genes into her T-cells (disease fighting cells). The hope was that this would re-programme her immune system to recognise the cancer cells and start killing them. ...

Several weeks after her T-cell infusion, they were able to conduct a bone marrow test to find out if the therapy had worked.
'Three weeks after receiving the treatment, she was in remission,' said Dr Grupp.

'Emily completely responded to her T-cell therapy. We checked her bone marrow for the possibility of disease again at three months and six months out from her treatment, and she still has no disease whatsoever. The cancer-fighting T-cells are still there in her body.'

He added that they need to see the remission go on for a couple of years before they can think about whether she is cured or not.

But, after spending years in treatment, Emily went home in June and now enjoys going to school, playing football and walking her dog Lucy.

What a wonder that a horrible plague like HIV could be turned into something good.

I agree with Glenn Reynolds who writes:

The video shows numerous union representatives engaging in violent, illegal conduct. Their faces are clearly identifiable. I hope they will be prosecuted, and sued.

A great piece from Lifehacker on how to use psychological tricks to avoid gaining weight during the holidays. My favorite is this plate trick:

One study conducted by researchers Brian Wansink and Koert van Ittersum, revealed that a shift from 12-inch plates to 10-inch plates resulted in a 22% decrease in calories. Assuming the average dinner is 800 calories, this simple change would result in an estimated weight loss between 10 to 20 pounds over the course of one year. Smaller plates lead to fewer calories thanks to a powerful optical illusion known as the Delboeuf Illusion.

The illusion works because we think things are smaller when we compare them to things that are larger. So if you put a piece of food on a large plate, your mind will tell you it's a small portion and thus you put more food on the plate. However, if you put that same piece of food on a small plate, your mind will tell you it's a large portion. The image below describes the Delboeuf Illusion and how it applies to food.


I'm definitely going to try using the small plates for meals for a while!

A skyscraper in Dubai that will rotate and move.

I'm skeptical that it will get built. Building developers are notorious for over-promising and under-delivering. Plus, the accelerations look like they'd make the building uninhabitable.

(HT: JK.)

Rand Simberg is my favorite space policy expert and blogger and he has create a (small!) Kickstarter project to get his book edited and illustrated: Safe Is Not An Option: Our Futile Obsession In Spaceflight. I gave $5 and I encourage you to also.

I've written about how our safety-obsessed culture is crippling space exploration before, so I'm excited to read Simberg's book.

(HT: GeekPress.)

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