Blogging will be slow for another week.

bored bored bored… I'm off today, which is why I'm writing this from work…

Yes, I had an Office Space moment, where I took a day off with a week and a half's notice, only to have it more or less revoked at 4 pm the day before.
But on the bright side, we need foundation work and a new roof.

Anyway, I'll be in Michigan at the medieval conference through the first week of May, so, marginal political analysis and crude "oooh, cool" science news will be yours in another ten days.

The Re-alignment is on. Sorta.

So, as the RNC continues to blithely ignore its constituents' concerns (appointing Snow was maybe a good move, but an overblown one: after all, he certainly didn't achieve anything notable working for the Bush Sr. machine), its foreign policy remains tightly wedded to neo-conservatism.

In other words, the Republicans have, to the dismay of a portion of their base, realigned themselves as Kennedy Democrats, neither faux-pacifist like the Progressives, nor Goldwaterian small-government. In other words, Bush, Lott, Frist, et. al., have said to the conservatives and small-l libertarians, "we own you. Where you gonna go?" As my new byline states, the response is likely to be "out to dinner, chump."

In other words, the Reagan Coalition is dead. Not at the constituent level of the voters, but clearly so in terms of the actual Party. I haven't heard squat to suggest that Sessions, my guy in Texas 32, has exactly covered himself in glory, either.

The Democrats, on the other hand, have two problems. As summed up in the American Prospect, it's not a bad idea to say that they dither between mobilize and inoculate. The "inoculate" solution, where the Democrats actually push small-gov solutions, and, –gasp!– listen to voters, sounds pretty good. But the analysis at the Prospect fails pretty badly, because while it notes the damage that has happened to the Democratic Party since Clinton, it hasn't noted smething significant: Clinton pushed NAFTA and got on with welfare reform, but also pushed singificantly greater government intervention in several areas: socialized medicine, drastic restrictions on gun ownership, etcetera. Had Clinton played to what is described in the "inoculation" handbook, "stealing issues" from the Repubs, chances are that the 1994 Republican takeover wouldn't have stood a chance. As it was, outright alarm at having Hillary push a medical-reform bill that would send doctors to jail resulted in something very different.

Notice that the "inoculate" provision can be seen as another version of the "small-l" libertarian program, aka the "leave us alone" program. (The actual LP remaining safe in ideologically pure irrelevance based on their foreign-policy failures.)

This suggests that there's some hot air lifting up my theory that the Democrats are essentially going to try to steal the small-l libertarian votes. With 39% of the electorate saying that earmarks and wasteful spending are their most serious concern, and Reid outperforming the Elephants on the issue…

we're not quite to "game on" yet. But Realignment is coming on fast.

The brave new world only a central planner could love.

Here's an excellent intro-blurb in Wired. Much of it is fine on its face, albeit lovingly flocked with fashionable buzzwords — certainly somebody has to take on the insanity of an environmental movement that seems like it would prefer to send us hurtling back to the 18th century. But… that doesn't mean the author and his buddies are ready for prime-time, either.

"Cities beat suburbs. Manhattanites use less energy than most people in North America. Sprawl eats land and snarls traffic. Building homes close together is a more efficient use of space and infrastructure. It also encourages walking, promotes public transit, and fosters community."

Currently, cities do NOT beat suburbs. If they did, everybody in exurbia would be pining for downtowns, rather than fleeing the idea like extras in a B movie. Manhattanites may use less energy, but quite a bit of that is because other people are using energy to bring things to Manhattanites.

1. What is sprawl, except houses out in the country, built closely together?
2. Encouraging walking is fine in theory… to which purpose?
3. Is public transit an end good in and of itself?
4. Fosters community? How? Every city I've lived in was characterized by people generally ignoring each other, the only exceptions being those areas which are effectively suburbs-built-small.

In contrast, in my sixth-acre stereotypical suburban lot, I can:

1. Shoot arrows in my back yard.
2. Create a rose garden in my front yard.
3. Grow fruit and nut trees which I can then use to make brandy and tasty breads.
4. See the stars at night (not a lot of them, but a hell of a lot more than in the city).
5. Sleep without the constant noise of city buses and drunks.
6. Forget to lock my doors, car or otherwise, without expecting to be robbed on the spot.
7. Create a sense of community that has nothing to do with a top-down urban planner's vision.

And #7 is really the rub, isn't it? Over at worldchanging.com, they've got guys talking about planning communities "that actually work…" when the history of the 20th century tells me everything I need to know about people who assume that me and mine are dysfunctional and in need of change brought about from the outside.

Redesigning civilization along these lines would bring a quality of life few of us can imagine. That's because a fully functioning ecology is tantamount to tangible wealth. Clean air and water, a diversity of animal and plant species, soil and mineral resources, and predictable weather are annuities that will pay dividends for as long as the human race survives – and may even extend our stay on Earth.

It may seem impossibly far away, but on days when the smog blows off, you can already see it: a society built on radically green design, sustainable energy, and closed-loop cities; a civilization afloat on a cloud of efficient, nontoxic, recyclable technology. That's a future we can live with.

Annuities? Dividends? So, tell me again how the imputed value of this vision, which is "tantamount to wealth" (whatever that means — it clearly doesn't mean "equal to wealth" in any economic sense you can actually falsify) adds quality to my life, rather than simply satisfying a tiny minority's ideology? Of course "few" can imagine it — for starters, those "closed loop cities" aren't going to get anywhere, in an urban landscape which scorns industry and shuns agriculture, and increasingly prices out all but the fashionable rich few. Manhattanites may use less energy than most North Americans… (why not, let's assume that's true) but so do most Nigerians, and I don't exactly see a massive line at the consulate for would-be emigrants to Lagos. Currently Manhattan is a playground for the wealthy, where it is economically irrational for anybody in the middle class to try to raise a family and retire. Who do these people think are going to do the real work, while Cindy Freaking Lauper, downtrodden working-class janitor that she is, is in court fighting to keep her apartment at a ridiculously-low rent-controlled price? (real-life example from last year) What precisely do these people think "closed-loop" urbanites are going to eat?

It's not that "few can imagine it…" but rather that "few" are so utterly-disconnected from reality that they could take it seriously. Clearly only the clueless leaded-gasoline-huffing mouth-breathers can comprehend economics 101? Once again, we see the classic ideological overreach and handy condescension of those who envision themselves running the system and calling the shots, rather than having to squeeze their lives into the petty boxes of somebody else's utopian vision.

Redesigning civilization? Holy cow, and here I thought I was arrogant…

People who anger me, for various reasons.

1. The asshats calling themselves "Islamic Thinkers" parading around in New York City with "da Jooooooooos are gonna get nuked for Allah" bullshit. Now, granted, you know, they're demon-infested nutbags…. but do they have to be so freaking STUPID about it? Aren't we supposed to have diabolical, clever evil? I mean, hell, all Bin Laden could come up with was ripping off the plot of a Tom Clancy novel… it's like these guys are under Rovian mind-control purposefully demonstrating in order to rescucitate the Republicans in time for the mid-term elections.

2. Some buttheads in Dallas tortured a sweetheart of a pit bull to death this weak. I know some of you have tender stomachs, so no link. I have no way of finding out who these people are. Good thing, too, because I doubt the ten grand award would cover my legal bills after introducing the perps to a few of the better ideas by the Dukes of Chin.

3. Some political hack leaks classified info. I have one question: why ain't she in jail?

Oh well. Gotta go kick people in the head…

Once more into the Legislature…

and find some way to cap this blatantly-corrupt property-appraisal tax farming.

We're in special session again to find some other way of funding the public schools besides property taxes. I hope they come up with something, because currently they're using property taxes, and rather than having to actually pass tax increases and suffer the political consequences, they just have their appraisors decide that your house is more valuable. And they can get away with mandating extra value for your house, because they do it all the way across the area.

Five years ago when I moved back into the country, you could get a house in my area and comparable to mine for somewhere in the 90s. Probably high 90s as mine has a finished room in back that slightly pops the square footage, but still nineties. Now my house is worth 142.

This is the Dallas suburbs, not Boston or Fairfax county. The region has had mild house-price increases… but I can tell you right here and now, it's only partially because of demand. There's no way the market here, however healthy it is, justifies the average house in my area appreciating in value by roughly a third in less than five years. From high-90s at the turn of the millenium, you now can't get into a house around here for less than 110-115, and we're not talking comparable properties, but instead houses that need an awful lot of work, like the house down the street we used to call the "crab shack."

It's a mess.

Bill Frist — a Republican reformer? Nope.

This is a guy who can honestly crank out stuff like this on his issues pages:

"There's something fundamentally wrong when more young Americans believe in the existence of UFOs than believe that their Social Security benefits will be there for them when they retire"

And then turn around and heavily endorse Santorum for his involvement with the medicare drug entitlement, yet another fiscal-nightmare nail in the coffin of the Social Security Ponzi scheme.

And the sad part is, I don't think he even gets the irony.
All this is taken off his Volpac.org site. But the blog apparently has the comments disabled except for folks who've stood up to be grassroots volunteers.

Well, that's blogging for you. At least, for the Republican majority leader.

Lord, does Bank of America suck.

Got another one of those lovely Bank of America emails, to all of their associates, blathering on and on about what they're doing to make this place a great place in which to work.

But, as an admin, I'm not actually an associate…

  • I am when it's convenient, such as taking various forms of compliance training, and conforming to six different kinds of makework bullshit.
  • I'm not when it's inconvenient… when that would involve performance reviews, cost of living adjustments, that sort of thing. And they're definitely not associates when they try to get training or engage in career-dev-education. My manager stabbed me in the back on that one, and so far as I can tell, every other admin I've spoken to who's tried has ended up the same way.

Which is why I'm the only admin left on my floor who hasn't either relocated or quit — again.

It's not that the work environment is all that terrible, so long as you don't mind having your nose constantly rubbed in the fact that you're a second-class employee. Basically like working in a law firm, where the human race divides into lawyers and menials. Of course, that's why I don't work at a law firm.

However, this is not merely grousing: I have a plan… to start adjuncting at the community college level this fall, and get enough hours under my belt that I can apply full-time. That's right, college, not junior high. Turns out that there is far too much supply for historians in the local public school market compared to the demand (since many positions are still dual-taught by coaches). But the community college level apparently isn't attracting a lot of interest, perhaps because of the degree requirements and greater responsibility.

That means three-to-four months of twiddling thumbs while starting the adjuncting process, and a longer time before I'm finally able to boost out, which can basically be summed up as "wouldn't it be nice if they laid me off so I could work both local districts as an adjunct time." But, it's a plan, and a solid one, that will continue to support both wife and scholarship in the mean time.

Fever Dreams

No, it's not the quest for libertarian utopia.

Had to stay home last night piled up with blankets and the like. It must have been tied to sinuses somehow, because I lay on the couch intensely aware of the spaces beneath my cheekbones.

Wish I could remember the jokes that the orange plastic teapot and the rest of the tea set were telling. Although I have a sinking suspicion that it was composed of nothing except the nonverbal equivalent of "wheeeeeee!"

Not that I'd recommend it to just anybody, but that was WAY more fun than anybody's ever told me drugs were…

For those of you who aren’t afraid to step into

the dark amorphous world of foreign policy debate, Winds of Change has had a completely stellar discussion, complete with straw men, explosions thereof, rehabilitations of same, etcetera, of what precisely constitutes our options regarding Iran.

Certain of you who think I'm a cold-blooded bastard will probably shudder to see an array of heartless facts martialed in favor of pre-emptive nuclear war… but as a debate, if you're up on the issue (and you should be), it's well worth your time, even if you tend towards the squishy and squeamish.

Read this and TELL ME science fiction isn’t here today.

BRITISH doctors have revived a 12-year-old girl's dormant heart and removed a donor heart which she had started to reject, hospital officials said late today.

….

Hannah had enjoyed good health until November when a cardiologist found during a routine examination that her body was rejecting the organ which Sir Yacoub had transplanted 10 years ago in a life-saving operation.

….

"We are delighted that Hannah is doing so well," said a spokesman for the cardiac team at Great Street Ormond Hospital.

(link)

Call it the Singularity, call it Sci-Fi, call it God sending Monkeys down on a rope to fill our heads with the blessings of biology… but whatever it is, call it Good.

Blog-ripping utility?

I need to back up all these blog posts, as my faith in Blogspot diminishes by the week. Is there a can-opener utility out there that’ll let you slice and dice web pages for content, rather than hacking all the code out manually?

Well, *there’s* a 2008 contender for you…

Think Mike Gravel's bid will be turned into a FairTax referendum, or a rehashing of Vietnam-era anti-war and anti-draft activism?

He's an interesting guy, that's for certain. Here's an old op-ed, in addition to the stuff hitting Drudge.

In terms of the referendum process, that's a two-edged sword… it can be a self-defense mechanism for the little guys to defend themselves from the political class, or else an oligarch's best friend and demogogue's shield.

Suddenly, politics on the Democratic side of the aisle has just gotten interesting.

UPDATE: I've been peeking at his site, and you know, when it comes to the bio or parts of the basic ideas… there's stuff I don't like, but I've seen much, much worse, especially from Democratic candidates. I suspect that this guy is basically a left-libertarian… his idea would basically be a means of using an alternate legislative attempt to give the people back something resembling the old jury nullification, but on a massive scale. The critical issue would be in whether it was explicitly democratic or republican in nature — if the former, it would potentially allow the hive cities to run roughshod over the countryside, with the latter having effectively no remedy. But if the former, a multiplicity of factions would do its own work. Like I said, I've seen much, much worse.

Okay Mr. President, it’s leadership time.

I'm assuming that if you haven't been living under a rock offline all night, you're aware that Iran can theoretically have a weapon in time for May Day.

The world is fundamentally different than the 18th century. Isolationism makes no sense when it is feasible to pay a hundred men to effect an operation that will put a dozen or two on the sharp end of a spear capable of infliciting megadeath. Ahmadinejad has threatened Israel's existence, not that I give a rat's ass about Israel right now, since they're still betraying us and selling our secrets to the PLA), and openly funds the people who talk, in public, about invading the west from within in order to force sharia (spit) upon the world.

We won the Cold War. We made messes in the process. It's time to clean up the messes — now. Much as I'd rather focus on cleaning up domestic trouble, there are mad dogs in the street: we do not have the luxury of allowing enough time to pass for Iran and any other descendents of AQ Khan to gain plausible deniability for an attack.

UPDATE: and now it gets curiouser. Comments over on WoC (link in sidebar) suggest that Natanz may not already possess that many centrifuges, but will need to build them. In which case… once again, only the players know the score, and the rest of us are wondering whether it's all-clear and the Iranians are playing their traditional two-step, or whether we're already on the express-elevator.

The insanity of modern libertarianism

Libertarians are politically inept and fundamentally insane. We resent being associated with conservatives, especially when they claim to own libertarian ideals while talking smack about libertarian amorality… because the Reagan coalition welding libertarians and conservatives together was so successful that it could concentrate sufficient political firepower to win the Cold War. We resent being tied at the hip to liberals, because it gets us associated with civil rights groups who often overshoot the mark, yet have occasionally risen far above politics to cry foul at abuses in the system we'd never even have heard about on our own. We're nuts. (more…)

Republican Crackup in Progress?

I’ve been watching and waiting for this one. Here’s some WSJ-online interview material, and the folks talking generally seem to have it nailed: the President’s approval ratings are in the toilet, and Congress’ is getting even worse, because the fiscal conservatives (aka, the “small-l” libertarians) are in open revolt.

If the Reagan Coalition cracks up and lets the leftists across the aisle take over Congress, that’s bad. But would gridlock necessarily be so? I don’t know — with legislation repeatedly crossing party lines, and Kennedy involved in the process, one can make the argument that there wouldn’t be an appreciable difference. If Feingold wants to move to impeach: let him. We need the Dems to go away until they can discover an actual set of principles anyway.

Frankly, if the Libertarian Party can lose some of its shrill rhetoric, with the explosion of domestic spending under this administration, there’s never been such a good time to paint themselves as an alternative to the Republicrats. With only the tiniest of exceptions, it certainly hasn’t been Congressmen leading the anti-earmark charges. But the LP isn’t going to do that because of the war, and because right now you can’t be an LP candidate if you’re a libertarian hawk like yours truly (not neocon, not isolationist, but “speak softly while hefting a pile of sledgehammers”).

It’s going to be interesting: much of the crackup has happened because the voters hold power in their hands that has never been held before. This isn’t merely blogosphere triumphalism — when’s the last time any Congresscritter was so frustrated with the public casting a magnifying glass over pork that they’d lash out the way Trent Lott did last week? If the social conservatives stay on board b/c of the new Supremes, and the fiscal conservatives are willing to jump ship…then the Coalition is dead. What’ll replace it?

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