December 31, 2012
HAPPY NEW YEAR to all the Insta-Readers out there. May your 2013 be magnificent.
HAPPY NEW YEAR to all the Insta-Readers out there. May your 2013 be magnificent.
ROD DREHER: It’s Different With Kids. Which is why the country is changing now that fewer and fewer people have them.
TRAFFIC AT THE SANTA MONICA CIVIC CENTER: Dear Mr. Fantasy.
JUST WAIT UNTIL OBAMACARE HAS FULLY KICKED IN: Where Have All The Primary Care Doctors Gone? It’s all about incentives: “General practitioners work as many hours as, or more, than their subspecialty colleagues. Yet they have among the lowest reimbursement rates. They also shoulder disproportionate responsibility for the bureaucratic aspects of patient care, spending more time and money obtaining treatment authorization from insurance companies, navigating insurers’ ever changing drug formularies and filling out health and disability forms.” Well, I’m sure the paperwork will improve under ObamaCare, right? . . . .
MY USA TODAY COLUMN FOR TOMORROW ON WASHINGTON AND INEQUALITY: In a town that has more people per square mile talking about income inequality than probably any other — you also find really striking examples of, well, income inequality.
ROGER KIMBALL: Lefts tend to be dour people with no laughter in their hearts. “Why do they tend to be dour people with no laughter in their hearts? Because they regard life as a zero-sum game. . . . It’s a curious thing. Leftists are supposed to be the caring, sharing part of the political fraternity. In point of historical fact, it is an easy thing to demonstrate that their caring has always been more a rhetorical than an actual strategy and that their sharing has been accomplished overwhelmingly with other people’s goods. That said, however, there is still the fact that Leftists are hailed by their enablers as the non-crabby politicians, the people who come into office promising two things: More and Free. How odd it is, then, that they should also be the folks who harbor an unshakeable belief that the universe is a stingy, scarcity driven machine whose iron law is that if A does well, B must do poorly.”
SIGNS AND PORTENTS: Massive comet will shine brighter than the moon, say astronomers.
STAYING INDEPENDENT IN OLD AGE, with a little help. This area seems ripe for a mix of technical and social progress.
BYRON YORK: Obama’s ‘messianism’ makes economy a secondary concern. Obama always comes first.
So we’ve clearly got hubris well established. It only remains to be seen what form nemesis will take. (Related item here.)
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ON HILLARY’S BRAIN: “The illness has kept her out of the public view since Dec. 7, and has started to raise a host of questions as her team keeps typically tightlipped about the details: Where is the clot located? How severe is her condition? How soon will she recover? And, as Democrats are privately if not publicly speculating, how might her illness affect a decision about running for president in 2016? . . . Not that Democrats are willing to talk openly about the political implications of a long illness, choosing to keep any discussions about her condition behind closed doors. Publicly, Democrats reject the notion that a blood clot could hinder her political prospects.”
UPDATE: A reader emails that it’s lucky Hillary is a Democrat. If she were a Republican, we’d be hearing jokes like “Good news: They X-rayed Hillary’s brain and didn’t find anything!”
AT AMAZON, up to 50% off in TV & Video.
JAMES TARANTO: Long Walks, Short Piers: The media’s attacks on the Second Amendment–and on the First. “It must be hard living in a country whose very constitution you loathe. Piers Morgan is lucky in that he is a foreign national and has the option to self-deport. Perhaps as a humanitarian gesture Britain’s Parliament could enact a law offering asylum to Americans who attest that they wish to give up on the Constitution. It would also be a way of tweaking the rebellious former colonies, but we doubt anybody would mind.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE: Turn Your Laptop Into A Spectrometer.
CALL THEIR DISTRICT OFFICES: Are Congressional Republicans Getting Ready To Cave On Gun Control? “Any Republicans entertaining ideas of going along with any Democrat ban should realize that they’re being played by the Democrats and the media, again. . . . Republicans should realize that caving in to the Democrats’ ban demand amounts to party suicide. By that point they have have already caved on tax hikes and may have taken part in slashing our national defense. If they also cave on the Second Amendment, what’s left for them to stand on?”
UPDATE: Reader Ray Conatser writes: “I have heard some talk that passage of new gun control would be a good thing for the Republicans, as it would lead to a repeat of the 1994 midterm elections. I am of the mind that it will only cause more voters that should rightly be in the GOP column to disengage. Reference the voters that stayed home instead of voting for Romney. If the Republicans don’t want to spend another 30 years wandering in the desert on a national level, they need to stand for something other than tax cuts. Maybe they could start with individual liberty and protecting the rights of law abiding Americans.” Yes, it would be a good way to jumpstart a third party, which might be the end of the GOP.
ANOTHER UPDATE: On, 1994, a reader emails: “What happened in 1994? The voters *punished those who had voted against gun rights*. So if the House votes against gun rights, what can we expect to happen? I mean, really, what are these people thinking?”
MORE: Another reader writes:
The Republicans need to understand if they allow something like a mag ban (or worse) to come to a vote, they are dead as a party. This will either make the Tea Party a real third party or cause massive defection to the Libertarian Party.
We know they control the Judicary Committee and they can easily keep anything of this nature bottled-up indefinitely. IN FACT, WE EXPECT THEM TO DO EXACTLY THAT!!! Protecting the Second Amendment is all they have to distinguish themselves right now and if they throw it away, they will pay a terrible price for that disloyalty.
I agree. With control of the House they can’t do a lot to score, but they can be the goalie. If not, what’s the point?
AN ANSWER TO THE FERMI PARADOX: Humans May Be The First Generation of Advanced Life In The Milky Way.
That would actually be good, since if aliens exist, they probably want to destroy us.
I recommend this piece by Gregg Easterbrook. Key bit:
James Trefil, of George Mason University, has cautioned that if evolution functions approximately the same way on other worlds that it has functioned here — conferring survival upon the fittest — advanced extraterrestrials might still be aggressive, territorial, and quick to reach for the sword. In that case, counting on poor alien marksmanship might not be prudent. Even if a message arrived from a great distance, we might for defensive reasons be compelled to assume that the senders knew something about the speed-of-light barrier that we didn’t, and withhold our reply.
The most disquieting aspect of natural selection as observed on Earth is that it channels intellect to predators. Most bright animals are carnivores: stalking requires tactics, pattern recognition, and, for social animals, coordinated action, all incubators of brainpower. Though the martial heritage of mankind has been exaggerated in popular fiction (there’s no proof, for example, that our Cro Magnon ancestors waged war against the vanished Neanderthals), it’s reasonably certain that the forebears of modern Homo sapiens were hunters, and it’s definite that man has been savage during the historical era. This isn’t much of a testimonial to “intelligence.”
Well, not as tending to nonviolence. On alien invasions generally, a good fictional treatment is in Greg Bear’s The Forge Of God, For the more technically-inclined, there’s Ernst Fasan’s Relations With Extraterrestrial Intelligences, or some chapters in McDougal, Lasswell, and Vlasic’s Law and Public Order In Space. Kind of old, but still good. A more recent popular treatment that’s worth your time is Ben Bova and Byron Preiss’s Are We Alone in the Cosmos? The Search for Alien Contact in the New Millenium.
if aliens just don’t like us, there’s no need to invade. They could send a half-pound of deadly nanodevices on a stealthed probe. We probably wouldn’t even recognize what was happening as an alien attack.
NANOTECHNOLOGY UPDATE: Single-molecule motor sits on a single-atom ball bearing.
GLAD TO BE OF HELP: Reader Shari Hastings emailed last night:
Just made your chicken recipe for our Sunday dinner today. Was very easy to make and deee-lish! I used potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes and onions. Great flavor and enough left over chicken for chicken salad sandwiches for the work week (only 2 of us). The dogs got the skin. They thought it was deee-lish, too.
It’s easy and yummy. Leave out the potatoes and sweet potatoes and it can be pretty low-carb, too. Here’s the recipe again, if you want to try it.
REMINDER: Asparagus Can Prevent Hangovers. But, really, try not to drink so much that it matters.
AMUSING CUSTOMER REVIEWS for the Playmobil Security Checkpoint.
“PERVERSE:” A history lesson from Professor Jacobson.
Just remember, if you’ve seen someone violate DC gun laws you can file a police report online.
SO IF YOU’RE ANTI-CLIMATE-CHANGE, ARE YOU ANTI-EVOLUTION? Climate change may have driven evolution, scientists believe.
NOW IF THEY WERE TEA PARTIERS, THIS WOULD BE NEWS: Greenwich Village couple busted with cache of weapons, bombmaking explosives: sources. “The privileged daughter of a prominent city doctor, and her boyfriend — a Harvard grad and Occupy Wall Street activist — have been busted for allegedly having a cache of weapons and a bombmaking explosive in their Greenwich Village apartment.” At least they weren’t drawing comic books.
HOW TO TICKET a driverless vehicle. “Under Nevada law, the person who tells a self-driving vehicle to drive becomes its driver. Unlike the driver of an ordinary vehicle, that person may send text messages. However, they may not ‘drive’ drunk—even if sitting in a bar while the car is self-parking. Broadening the practical and economic appeal of self-driving vehicles may require releasing their human users from many of the current legal duties of driving.”
MICHAEL BARONE: Health Care, Housing, Education Worse When Government Helps.
IN THE MAIL: From Sarah Hoyt, Darkship Renegades. Not to be missed.
• Declare the NRA a terrorist organization and make membership illegal. Hey! We did it to the Communist Party, and the NRA has led to the deaths of more of us than American Commies ever did. (I would also raze the organization’s headquarters, clear the rubble and salt the earth, but that’s optional.) Make ownership of unlicensed assault rifles a felony. If some people refused to give up their guns, that “prying the guns from their cold, dead hands” thing works for me.
• Then I would tie Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, our esteemed Republican leaders, to the back of a Chevy pickup truck and drag them around a parking lot until they saw the light on gun control.
This kind of talk makes me want to buy an assault rifle. Or twelve. And really, dude, the fact that you’re angry doesn’t give you some sort of a pass from the norms of civil society. Or, if it does, be prepared to tolerate a lot of things that you’ll find intolerable. Because, you know, a lot of people are angry.
NOW THERE’S A SURPRISE: Obama lists those to blame for the fiscal cliff and he’s not one of them. “The Democrat also didn’t have time, apparently, to mention that the distasteful automatic budget cuts called sequestration were the idea of his White House.”
Australia has designs on becoming the leading natural gas supplier for not only Asia, but the entire world. Indeed, the country has the offshore resources and the thirsty markets nearby in Asia to pass Qatar as the world’s top supplier of LNG.
However, Australia’s march towards energy superpowerdom is beginning to run into domestic problems—and new competition. Rising labor costs and high prices in Australia’s booming economy are making it unexpectedly difficult for the Aussies to export their gas and now energy-hungry Asian countries like China and Japan are starting to eye alternative and equally cheap gas from North America. . . .
Whether it’s Australian, American, or Canadian gas that wins the race to the Asian market (and most likely, there is plenty of demand for all three), a few things seem clear:
(1) The long era in which the Middle East was the global supplier of hydrocarbons is coming to an end.
(2) A global switch from coal to natural gas is one of the most practical ways available for civilization to begin the transition to a new kind of energy market. Greens take note.
(3) Asia is not going to be self sufficient in either energy or food in the 21st century, which, from the standpoint of those who hope to see the world becoming a more peaceful and economically integrated place, is a very good thing. The rising Asian powers will need a healthy, stable and secure global system to feed their people and run their economies.
BENGHAZI: What’s Happening to Hillary? Only a clod would say the clot is a plot! “The suppression of information — the site of the clot — suggests 2 radically different theories: 1. fakery/exaggeration to evade testimony, or 2. something horribly serious. I read Sepkowitz to exclude the middle ground.”
The greatest fiscal challenge to the U.S. government is not just its annual deficit but its total liabilities. Our federal balance sheet does not include the unfunded social insurance obligations of Medicare, Social Security, and the future retirement benefits of federal employees. Only in the small print of the financial statements do you get some idea of the enormous size of the unfunded commitments. Today the estimated unfunded total is more than $87 trillion, or 550 percent of our GDP. And the debt per household is more than 10 times the median family income.
Something that can’t go on forever, won’t. Debts that can’t be repaid, won’t be. Promises that can’t be kept, won’t be. Make your plans accordingly.
ANDREW KLAVAN LIKED ZERO DARK THIRTY.
The two and a half hour film does contain one scene in which a White House official says, in effect, “The president is a thoughtful, analytical man who won’t pull the trigger quickly because he doesn’t want to make the same mistake George W. Bush made with the WMD in Iraq.” That’s the sort of political reading we expect from Hollywood, and Bigelow and Boal make sure to get it in.
But the rest of the movie is a deadpan tribute to the intelligence agents and Navy Seals who slow by slow tracked this bad man down and sent him to meet a Maker very unlike the one he was expecting. Indeed, some could see the overall film as a reprimand to a president who took so much credit for what was clearly the work of men and women laboring through two administrations. Plus the movie graphically depicts how that work involved interrogation techniques that Obama ultimately prohibited — a prohibition which clearly hobbled the search.
Read the whole thing.
JEFF SOYER: Old Time Radio: New Year’s Edition. “Here’s a collection of Old Time Radio shows themed around the New Year. There were many choices but I try to use ones with at least decent to very good audio and a good story.”
TWO OLD GERMANS, drinking coffee.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE COURTROOM: The Big Top beats an abusive lawsuit by the ASPCA. “The case is an example of how the ASPCA has become increasingly politicized and much different from the nice outfit that looks out for the well-being of homeless and lovable dogs and cats.” This is true of many ostensibly warm-and-fuzzy do-gooding nonprofits.
UPDATE: Reader Alan Cole writes: “After recent news broke about the big judgment against ACPCA in the circus elephant case, I have been noticing lots more TV commercials soliciting contributions to ASPCA — to rescue poor abused doggies & kitties & horsies, etc., from harm. By me, Truth In Advertising would dictate that ASPCA disclose that what it really needs the money for is to pay $9,300,000 to Ringling Bros.” Heh. I’ve noticed those ads too.
BEST GUN SALESMAN IN HISTORY: Obama Promises 2013 Gun-Grab Bill; Warns ‘There Will Be Resistance.’ You don’t know the half of it, Barry.
But of course, he can count on grassroots support like this: Lone Picketer Protests Gun Show In Denver.
UPDATE: Perhaps this is all a head-fake, designed to get as many Americans armed as possible as part of the secret preparations for alien attack. Sadly, that would make more sense than what they’re actually doing . . . .
ANOTHER UPDATE: More here.
WELL, THERE’S AN ADMISSION IN HERE SOMEWHERE: Mike Seidman: Let’s Give Up On The Constitution. “Imagine that after careful study a government official — say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress — reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?”
I dunno. Does this mean we should ignore Roe? Or Miranda? And Baker v. Carr? And if the Constitution is this obsolete and “evil,” then maybe secession isn’t off the table after all? . . . .
UPDATE: I have some more concrete suggestions for constitutional improvement here. You can see me talk about them in this keynote speech from last year’s Harvard Law conference on constitutional reform here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Paul Berger writes: “The reason a politician or any public official shouldn’t just act in opposition to the Constitution whenever they feel like it? How about because they took an oath not to! If you don’t want to play by the long established rules – find a different game. But I’m just a regular guy in the real world and he’s a Georgetown professor writing in the NY Times, which I suppose speaks volumes about both of us.”
It’s beyond even that. Their entire authority comes from the Constitution, and is the only reason we aren’t entitled simply to ignore them, or hang them from a tree for their insolence. Take away that source of authority because you don’t like the constraints it involves, and you’re a lot closer to the tree. Those who think themselves above the law are not in a position to hide behind it.
MORE: On Facebook, Randy Barnett snarks: “I suppose this means the income tax could now be unconstitutional if we can just get 5 votes.”
MORE STILL: Reader Bill Bacon writes: “If, after all, the Constitution isn’t to be followed then doesn’t that mean we default to the Articles of Confederation? Don’t know about you, but I personally like the idea of having to get unanimous consent of the states to raise taxes….” Heh.
Related: New York Sun: The Times Gives Up. “It will be illuminating to see how far the Times takes its latest lament, particularly because these days the Left generally seems to see the Constitution as a threat more to the liberal than the conservative cause.” As I say, that’s an admission of sorts.
STILL MORE: Inevitably.
NEWS YOU CAN USE: What I Learned About Beauty From My 56 Hours In Jail.
MODERN SCIENCE WRITING leaves science behind. “Anyone who is willing to take off his partisan glasses will quickly come to the conclusion that both sides of the political spectrum—conservatives and progressives—are willing to throw science under the bus whenever it is politically expedient. It’s too bad that some members of the allegedly ‘watchdog’ media are too blinded by their own partisan affiliations to do their jobs properly.”
POOR CHOICE OF METAPHORS: Sen. Feinstein: US has to ‘bite the bullet’ and enact new gun-control restrictions.
Dianne, honey, when you “bite the bullet” and slash entitlements enough to balance the budget, we’ll talk.
EMILY MILLER: David Gregory’s Legal Jeopardy.
P.J. O’ROURKE: Dear Mr. President, Zero-Sum Doesn’t Add Up.
The worst thing that you’ve done internationally is what you’ve done domestically. You sent a message to America in your re-election campaign. Therefore you sent a message to the world. The message is that we live in a zero-sum universe.
There is a fixed amount of good things. Life is a pizza. If some people have too many slices, other people have to eat the pizza box. You had no answer to Mitt Romney’s argument for more pizza parlors baking more pizzas. The solution to our problems, you said, is redistribution of the pizzas we’ve got—with low-cost, government-subsidized pepperoni somehow materializing as the result of higher taxes on pizza-parlor owners.
In this zero-sum universe there is only so much happiness. The idea is that if we wipe the smile off the faces of people with prosperous businesses and successful careers, that will make the rest of us grin.
There is only so much money. The people who have money are hogging it. The way for the rest of us to get money is to turn the hogs into bacon.
Mr. President, your entire campaign platform was redistribution. Take from the rich and give to the . . . Well, actually, you didn’t mention the poor. What you talked and talked about was the middle class, something most well-off Americans consider themselves to be members of. So your plan is to take from the more rich and the more or less rich and give to the less rich, more or less. It is as if Robin Hood stole treasure from the Sheriff of Nottingham and bestowed it on the Deputy Sheriff.
But never mind. The evil of zero-sum thinking and redistributive politics has nothing to do with which things are taken or to whom those things are given or what the sum of zero things is supposed to be. The evil lies in denying people the right, the means, and, indeed, the duty to make more things.
Read the whole thing. Just remember: In a zero-sum society, the redistributors are a lot more important. . . .
UPDATE: Related: Playing the long game on the Fiscal Cliff.
TOM MAGUIRE ON FULL-CAPACITY MAGAZINE BANS: “My goodness – the drug cartels can make mini-subs. Will we really be able to stop determined criminals from buying steel boxes with springs?”
VIDEO MOCKS CELEBRITIES BY MIXING THEIR DEMANDS FOR GUN CONTROL WITH VIOLENT FILM FOOTAGE.