Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Are the same people who criticized some of Ron Paul's supporters...

going to be the same people who will now take aim at Mike Huckabee? Via Cato-at-Liberty:

I read in Robert Novak’s column this morning that Mike Huckabee held a fundraiser earlier this week at the Houston home of Dr. Steven Hotze. As Novak notes, Hotze is “a leader in the highly conservative Christian Reconstruction movement.”

Christian Reconstructionists, for those unfamiliar with the term, are Religious Right radicals who believe that America, and the rest of the world besides, should be governed in accordance with strict Biblical law. And yes, that includes stoning adulterers. Here’s a snippet from “A Manifesto for the Christian Church,” a 1986 document from an outfit called the Coalition on Revival that was signed by, among others, Steven Hotze:

We affirm that the Bible is not only God’s statements to us regarding religion, salvation, eternity, and righteousness, but also the final measurement and depository of certain fundamental facts of reality and basic principles that God wants all mankind to know in the sphere of law, government, economics, business, education, arts and communication, medicine, psychology, and science. All theories and practices of these spheres of life are only true, right, and realistic to the degree that they agree with the Bible.

For more, check out this audio clip of Hotze from back in 1990. Over the years, Hotze has achieved some prominence for his anti-abortion and anti-gay activism. Also, the good doctor appears to be a total quack.

Frankly, I have as much concern about the Christian Reconstructionists supporting Huckabee as I do fringe neo-Nazi groups supporting Ron Paul. The very odds of either of these groups having any influence are next to nothing. I'd also rather spend my time focusing on issues than wasting my time worrying about who is giving money to who, especially at this stage in the process.

For those who want to make fodder out of campaign contributors, consistency would suggest that it is time to send the nutjob police after Huckabee, although I doubt I'll see open letters anytime soon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Favorite Things

I hear this during the holiday season quite a bit so why not post a version with the master himself playing it (that would be John Coltrane):


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My One and Only Post on NIE and Iran

It is a nice little quote from Richard Fernandez's post on the matter at Pajamas Media (with my added emphasis):

Whether we like it or not, there are limits to what intelligence can know at any one time. The inescapable uncertainties may make it impossible to decide the status of Iran’s nuclear program “once and for all”. As in the case of the Soviet Union changes in the situation and leadership happen all the time. Honest analysts must keep revising the picture as new information comes to light. While Washington politics describes any change in intelligence estimates as examples of ‘lying’ or incompetence the plain fact is that altering assessments is endemic to the process. An unchanging intelligence picture is a wrong picture. Changing your mind is a natural thing to do.

Think of all the time and headaches that could have been spared with a little common sense thinking, but common sense thinking, and in some cases just the act of thinking, is asking quite a lot of people. After all, it's certainly more fun to use the report to paint President Bush as some sort of criminal or to spin wild-ass conspiracy theories about the use of the report to deliberately undermine The Bush Administration. That crap gives me a headache. All of it.

Yes, a military option may be off the table today. It may be back on the table tomorrow given a different set of circumstances and facts. We must always keep our eyes open to the possibility of changing circumstances.

That was my view before the NIE came out. That is my view now. It's common sense to me, but I was already wrong on something today so I could be going 0 for 2 for all I know.


Via Instapundit.

The only reason I am blogging about this is because I am surprised it did not happen several years ago. Best Buy is far better in terms of selection for both computer hardware and software and the financing terms via the store credit cards are more competitive.

Moreso, for PC parts, the online retailers like Newegg, ZipZoomFly and Tiger Direct are far more competitive in terms of purchasing parts.

As an example, in 2005, I upgraded my gaming PC by purchasing 2 gigabytes of high-end gaming memory and a near (at the time) top-of-the line video card that in total cost me somewhere close to $600. It would have cost me $250 more had COMPUSA gotten the parts for me. Heck, COMPUSA's prices on "value" memory was close to twice what it was (is) at Newegg. How they made any money selling PC parts I do not know.

Imagine the price difference if one had to build a PC from scratch, as I did in 2004 (ok, someone built it for me).

A couple of thoughts on topics related to Austrian economic theory

Via Cafe Hayek, EconTalk hosts George Mason University's Pete Boettke in a discussion about Austrian economic theory. The snippets I have listened to seem very interesting and it is something that I will certainly download for my iPod.

This is good timing because the book I am currently reading, After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy, a book that analyzes the complexities of nation building from the perspective of economics, was written by Chris Coyne, an Austrian School economist and is, among other things, chock full of these ideas. One critical idea is the role incentives play in determining whether or not informal institutions can complement the establishment of formal institutions such as central government.

For a discussion of incentives, we can look at the Page 99 Test that was done, which discusses the incentive problems amongst different agencies within the U.S. Government (coincidentally, it happens to cover this topic). The paragraph discussing David Phillips' observations, as brief as it is, is particularly revealing of the sort of pitfalls of central planning that get so widely overlooked. However, the fact that central planners can and do disagree is not an original idea (Hayek discusses this in The Road to Serfdom).

I am about 75 pages into the book (out of 180), and because the material is rather dense with heavy analytical content, it is something that will take me some time to finish. I am still working through some of the theoretical implications as they are applied to the two nation building "successes" we have had (West Germany and Japan). Iraq and Afghanistan are discussed later in the book.

In a political environment of supposed pre-surge, post-surge mentalities, the need for people (on both the Left and Right) to attempt to validate their views using the worst source available (public opinion) and the overall pisspoor practice of pointing to short-term situations as some reliable indicator of the actual long-term outcome (which could take years to figure out), it is refreshing to see an economist take on this project and lay out the framework for why these projects are far from a cakewalk.

The downside here, thus far, is that the book is rather dense and the indepth discussions of economic theory, game theory (i.e. the Prisoner's Dilemma), neighborhood effects, etc. could turn a lot of readers off who do not have an economics background. I do hope I am wrong about that.

The Cato Institute Book Forum can be found here (another addition to my iPod library)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Does Hollywood Have it Wrong?

Via Instapundit, a reader writes an email wondering how Hollywood can claim the public does not want Iraqi War movies when Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, an excellent first-person-shooter video game set in the environment of modern combat, has sold over 3 million copies?

So, if as Hollywood whines that the public doesn' t want Iraqi War movies, why is this selling so well, top of the rental lists, and ever so popular? At this rate it'll be the successful game companies, that gives the pubic what they want, who'll buy out the studios for their IP and name. Hollywood appears to have missed the impact of the technological shift as badly as MSM has. The public is getting the entertainment they crave, just not in the form that the old gatekeepers dispense.

I would bet a gamer didn't write this. Please do not get me wrong, there are kernels of truth to what he is writing, but any gamer who was playing Battlefield 1942 circa 2003 would have noticed the immense popularity of Desert Combat, the (free) modern combat mod to Battlefield 1942 and the follow up to BF1942, Battlefield 2, a modern combat shooter with U.S. Forces battling the Middle Eastern Coalition and a Chinese Army. If I recall, the bad guys in Counterstrike are terrorists as well.

Call of Duty 4's success does not surprise me. The Call of Duty series is probably the gold standard (at least on PC) as far as infantry-only first person shooters are concerned (albeit not perfect) ever since the first one came out (although it took several months of fixes to get it right IMO). The cinematic quality of the single player campaigns are nearly unparalleled, and the multiplayer is a blast. The franchise delivers in its most recent version as well, as I hear from people who have played it (I have not).

I would also guess that the immersive nature of the game, being involved in the storyline and the countless hours of single player and, especially, multiplayer gaming is what makes games like this popular, not any political message. Most people I know play for the enjoyment of the entertainment experience. It does not necessarily follow that one can translate that experience into a theatrical experience. It can happen, but I doubt video game sales have much to do with it.

I have a sinking suspicion that people play games not to get in touch with their inner patriot, but to blow s--t up. I know I loved doing the latter.

After all, there was nothing like getting people really upset in BF2 with my impeccable technique with what is known as the "Jihad Jeep". If you did not play Battlefield 2, you probably will not appreciate the clip because you would not appreciate the talent of loading a vehicle with C4 and propelling it towards enemy tanks:

P.S.: When was the last time a movie based on a video game was anything worth writing home about? Doom, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter (yes, I saw them all) were awful. Anyone have any ideas?

Too Good to Pass Up

Today's Poem - From CrunchyCon:

Sorry guys. As scandals go,
Torture beats fellatio.


At least I think it's funny.

Rediscovering an Old Love - Jazz Guitar

I've slowed down a bit on the blogging, part of being the holiday and the other part being that I rediscovered my love for learning jazz guitar so I spend very little time on blogging or commenting on other blogs in the evenings. The two hours or so I do have are better spent practicing chops, learning new licks, listening to music or studying music theory. I haven't decided how much, if any, I will blog about this subject, as it will probably be a bunch of YouTube clips of people I like with little substance to add. Also, it's not like discussing tritone substitutions will generate a whole lot of traffic.

Any fans of jazz guitar, or people looking to get into jazz guitar should seriously look into this box set. Four CDs with over 70 songs from just about jazz guitar giant imaginable. I damn near fainted when I saw this at the store. The box set spans from the more traditional jazz (bop, modal, swing), takes us into fusion, a few rock tunes (a la Jimi Hendrix's Manic Depression) and then into the more most modern/post-modern styles.

As an aspiring guitar player, it is a treasure trove of musical ideas, phrases and influences. Many of the people on the box set I've heard in the past but it has opened several more doors.

I can only say I regret not listening to Allan Holdsworth any sooner. His solo starts around 4:30 (although I put this up more for me than anyone else LOL).

The GOP and "Freedom"

Hat tip: KipEsquire and Crossed Pond

Mitt Romney: “Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.”

Rudy Giuliani: “Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.”

Certainly a far cry from this GOP candidate:

We see in the sanctity of private property the only durable foundation for constitutional government in a free society. And beyond that, we see, in cherished diversity of ways, diversity of thoughts, of motives and accomplishments. We do not seek to lead anyone's life for him - we seek only to secure his rights and to guarantee him opportunity to strive, with government performing only those needed and constitutionally sanctioned tasks which cannot otherwise be performed.

Find me a GOP candidate who believes the latter and I may begin to take the GOP seriously. Of course, I have a better chance of getting struck my lightning in my own home before we see another Barry Goldwater so I suppose we'll have to suffer through more painful rhetorical masturbation from politicians who need to pander to the morally authoritarian and liberty-challenged social conservatives.

There is a silver lining in this. No longer do I have to link to Hayek's "Why I am not a Conservative" as a supporting document when describing my own views. I can use these two nice little quotes as my own version of it. Besides, as I understand it, my neoconservative readers may not know who Hayek is anyway so this will make it easier on them. ;)

Last point and a good one:

As one of the commenters at Crossed Pond mentioned, if we put Romney and Giuliani together, we get Iran. What a beacon of freedom that country is.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

74 Years Ago Today...

Prohibition ended.

May this message serve as a friendly reminder to all social engineers and central planners that reality usually tempers their ambitions and can often lead to dismal failure, which is what alcohol prohibition was in its time and what drug prohibition is today.

Thank You - The Management

More at Cafe Hayek

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Nanny Stater Responds to Andrew Sullivan and ECL Gets Annoyed

Per the Daily Dish:

A reader writes:

You asked:

"Since when did the federal Congress have the right to micro-manage what school-kids get from snack machines?"

Answer: Since childhood obesity has led to such an explosion in life-long healthcare costs which have become an enormous (no pun intended) strain on the U.S. health system, economy, and, yes, the tax-payers. As long as the American people have to pay the bills for children who aren't provided any healthy eating options, they have a right to try to lessen the burden.


Phrased another way using another situation, the possiblity of gun violence in schools potentially threatens the quality of education that children receive. In turn, this means they are less-prepared for the challenges of the real world once they leave the educational system. Therefore, there is a suggestion that these people could become a burden on our economy (which threatens interstate commerce) as opposed to being productive citizens. So long as the American people have to shoulder this burden, they have a right to lessen the burden. Federal legislation prohibiting guns within a certain distance of a school zone is representative of the American people's right to lessen this burden.

Now, I may not be 100% accurate on the arguments made regarding the Guns Free School Zone Act, which was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in United States v Lopez in 1995, but I think it generally shows how the same sort of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" reasoning that leads people to believe that federal intervention can be justified on any possible grounds (the courts have done us no favors by buying into this (see Wickard v Filburn).

Also of note is that the woefully positivistic view of "rights", where left-wing nanny-staters, like their right-wing nanny-staters believe in a "right" to use "powers" wherever and whenever they see fit.

It would not be so annoying if it was not a dominant strain of thought amongst the American populace.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Welfare Receipients and the Fourth Amendment - Revisited*

Radley Balko asks whether or not welfare applicants should forfeit their Fourth Amendment protections against searches and seizures:

That seems to be the conclusion to draw from the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear a case from San Diego, where the D.A.’s office has been sending agents to conduct suspicionless, warrantless searches on the private homes of welfare applicants.

Yes, applicants were free to refuse the searches, though I suspect that refusing a search would itself be (unofficially) enough to trigger further investigation. Refusing a search also means forfeiting welfare benefits.

Setting aside the standard libertarian discontent for welfare, I have two big problems with this: 1) the idea of "consent" is a joke, because, as I understand it, no consent is equal to no benefit, but even worse: 2) the government, in no, way, shape or form, should be allowed to use fundamental constitutional liberties as bargaining chips in exchange for government programs. One would think that the unconstitutional conditions doctrine would apply, especially in a situation where government lacks a compelling interest.

I almost blogged about this several months when this was brought to my attention via A Stitch in Haste. A quote that he used from the dissent in the relevant case, Sanchez v. County of San Diego, is posted below (my emphasis added):

The intrusion here is the unannounced search of the home of a person under no suspicion whatsoever by fraud investigators, who are required not only to question the applicant but to pry into the applicant's most private spaces -- to look through drawers, medicine cabinets, closets, garbage, and the like....

The government does not search through the closets and medicine cabinets of farmers receiving subsidies. They do not dig through the laundry baskets and garbage pails of real estate developers or radio broadcasters. The overwhelming majority of recipients of government benefits are not the poor, and yet this is the group we require to sacrifice their dignity and their right to privacy. This situation is shameful.

Fraud may be a problem, as one of the commenters at A Stitch in Haste suggests. Fair enough. No one has a right to engage in fraud. However, if fraud is a sufficient enough reason to stand the Fourth Amendment on its head for one group, why would this principle not apply to Social Security recipients or farmers or the families of college students who are looking to get government loans? Is combating fraud in any other entitlement program any less important than it is in San Bernandino County?

The solution is a simple one. As Kip stated in his original post (and worth quoting since I can't explain it better myself):

Here's a better jurisprudence: Innocent until proven guilty. If and when San Diego authorities have probable cause to suspect welfare fraud, then let them proceed to investigate, by way of a warrant issued by a neutral magistrate -- just as they would with any other crime.

It should never be any other way - ever.

* For what it's worth, the reason this is "revisited" is because, although I ultimately did not blog about it, via the post at A Stitch in Haste, I did spend some time reading the Ninth Circuit opinion, some of the opinions of the cases cited and other relevant text. It did pique my interest in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and the unconstitutional conditions doctrine. Sadly, I was hoping to write a follow-up post on an announcement that the Supreme Court would take this case, but as that is not happening, I can only voice my discontent.