October 4, 2010

Reason TV’s “Fiscal House of Horrors”

Filed under: Economics, Government, Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 16:26

The moral blindness of the 10:10 campaign

Filed under: Environment, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:20

Eric S. Raymond watched the eye-opening propaganda piece from the 10:10 campaign:

I believe it was the historian Robert Conquest who said that every organization eventually behaves as though it is run by a secret cabal of its enemies. I have seldom seen any more convincing evidence of this than the “No Pressure” video released by the anti-global-warming activist campaign 10:10.

[. . .]

The reaction from AGW skeptics was no surprise; many fulminated that the mask had slipped, and this video is the agenda of environmental fascism writ large. Thoughtcrime brings death! Conform! Obey! Or die . . . and the survivors get pieces of their friends spattered all over them as a warning. I think we open a more interesting inquiry by taking the 10:10 campaign at their word. They thought they were being funny.

[. . .]

There’s a mind-boggling disconnect from the feelings of ordinary human beings implied here, a kind of moral and emotional incompetence. It’s as though the 10:10 campaigners were so anesthetized by the secretions of their own zealotry that they became incapable of understanding how anyone not living deep inside their reality-tunnel would react.

[. . .]

To update Lewis, your garden-variety power-mad monster might commit the atrocities in this video, but only because they are not funny — because they spread fear or demonstrate power and ruthlessness. The kind of idealism that aims to be “tormenting us for our own good” may be what is required before you think blowing up schoolchildren with the push of a button is funny.

As many have commented, how could this video possibly have been professionally written, directed, acted, filmed, and edited with nobody actually noticing how awful it was? Were they all so morally sure of the righteousness of their cause that the didn’t recognize (or care) how most people would react to their casual — even cheerful — butchery?

A cameo economic round-up by Monty

Filed under: Economics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 13:11

One of the most interesting features over at Ace of Spades HQ used to be the daily economic round-ups by Monty. Unfortunately, he had to take a breather, but we’re able to get an occasional update like this one:

[In which Monty, long away from the neighborhood, returns to save the local mom-n-pop bank from a hostile takeover through a stylish melange of breakdancing, infectious urban beats, and the rap music that all the youngsters seem to be so fond of. Thrill to the parachute pants, Jheri curls, and mirrored wraparound sunglasses! (The soundtrack, “Monty Raps! Funky Accordion and Theremin Music For These Troubled Modern Times”, now available in fine discout outlets nationwide!)]

[. . .]

I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t point out that gold is now $1314/oz as I write this. I bought some gold five years back at about $500/oz; that’s a pretty damned good rate of return for something that’s just supposed to be an inflation hedge. The naysayers can continue mumbling that I can’t eat gold, that I will be crucified on a cross of gold, the gold is just metal and has no innate value — I will simply point to the fact that it has outperformed every other investment in my portfolio, and by quite a large margin. And as a long-term store of value, I trust it a hell of a lot more than Treasuries. (Silver has done even better in absolute terms.)

Ah, but what about those safe-haven darlings of investors, municipal bonds? The romance may be on the rocks. I’ve thought for a long time that municipal debt is the next big shoe to drop in this recession/depression/worker’s paradise that we’re living in. Harrisburg, PA made the news recently when they barely escaped having to declare bankruptcy, but Harrisburg is only one of tens or even hundreds of muncipalities in the nation in dire financial straits. There seems to be a belief that the feds will bail them out before things get too grim, but this ignores two facts: a) the appetite for another trillion-dollar bailout is at subzero levels, and b) it’s not clear that taxpayers of one state will be willing to bail out the profligate citizenry of another. Prudent residents of Lincoln, NE or Minot, ND may not wish to fund the rather more lavish lifestyles of a San Diego or Miami. However much we “feel” the federal and state debt, we’d feel a municipal crash a lot harder because it hits us right where we live (literally): trash collection, sewer, water, road repair, snow removal, all the rest. You pay more and more and get less and less from it. (Oh, and guess what the major financial burden on municipal governments is these days? If you said “public-employee pension and health benefits”, give yourself a gold star and then a smack upside the head for being an insufferable know-it-all.)

Winning the media war

Filed under: Asia, Media, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:03

Strategypage reports on the ongoing struggle by both the Taliban and the NATO/US forces to influence media coverage, both inside Afghanistan and in the outside world:

In Afghanistan, the Taliban have been very successful with the media, mainly because they give the media what they want, or an offer they can’t refuse. The Taliban know that the media loves stories where the underdog prevails, or where the powers-that-be screw up. Put out the right kind of disinformation, and the media will take it and run it as the truth. Or at least something that could, might or ought to be true somewhere.

The Taliban media people know what the Western and regional media want, and this is provided. For example, the Taliban have invented the idea that Western troops are causing most of the civilian deaths in the Taliban effort to regain control of Afghanistan. But the truth, which is published but not emphasized much, is that most of the civilians are killed by the Taliban, and the Western troops have been killing fewer and fewer civilians, even at the risk of more Western casualties. The Taliban regularly use civilians as human shields. Again, the media mentions that, but it’s something for the back pages. The headlines stress what the Taliban wants, mainly that they are winning, even when they are losing.

For a backwards, almost medieval group, the Taliban (or their non-Afghani advisors) have developed a talent for manipulating the international media coverage:

But you don’t have to bribe or threaten Western media. Just package your lies in an acceptable manner, and your message will be delivered. The Taliban are smart enough to constantly recast their press releases to suit the perceived needs of Western and regional media. All they have to do is note what stories editors are running, and work up new stuff with a Taliban angle. Thus while corruption has been an Afghan cultural problem for centuries, the Western media will swallow whole a Taliban press release suggesting that the Taliban are less corrupt (they aren’t) and this more attractive to the average Afghan (not according to opinion polls, or reports from American troops who deal with local Afghans every day.) But in the Western media, you survive by pushing what will sell, not what is actually happening.

Jared Allen needs a new post-sack celebration routine

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:57

Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins report that the new head of NFL officiating wants the “calf roping” routine stopped:

An NFL spokesman confirmed Sunday that the league has informed Allen and the Vikings that the All-Pro defensive end will be penalized and possibly fined if he performs his “calf roping” celebration after a sack. FOX Sports first reported the story.

The league prohibits players from going to the ground in celebrations. After sacks, Allen takes a knee, pretends to rope a calf and then throws his arms in the air. Allen presumably can still perform his celebration as long as he’s standing on his feet.

Allen has performed his post-sack celebration for years so it’s curious the league is threatening punishment now. Asked about the new stance, a league spokesman wrote in an e-mail: “That is how the new head of officiating wants it enforced.”

It is odd that something that’s been okay for Allen’s entire career is suddenly singled out as having been in violation of the rules for all this time. If this trend continues, how long will it be before any celebration by the players will draw an unsportsmanlike penalty?

The war heckler’s latest book

Filed under: Books, Economics, Government, Liberty, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:39

P.J. O’Rourke has a new book coming out soon:

O’Rourke, the reformed ex-radical, editor of National Lampoon during the “Animal House” era, war correspondent and, lately, target of what he calls “ass cancer,” continues the anti-statist argument in his new book, “Don’t Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards” (Atlantic Monthly Press). References to Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek and Adam Smith (to whose “Wealth of Nations” he once devoted an entire volume) prove O’Rourke can do the philosophical heavy lifting — yet make it all float on a fluffy cloud of wit. Among his best one-liners:

* “The free market is a bathroom scale. We may not like what we see when we step on the bathroom scale, but we can’t pass a law making ourselves weigh 165. Liberals and leftists think we can.”

* “We’re individuals — unique, disparate, and willful, as anyone raising a household of little individuals knows. And not one of those children has ever written a letter to Santa Claus saying, ‘Please bring me and a bunch of kids I don’t know a pony and we’ll share.’ “

* “The most sensible request of government we make is not, ‘Do something!’ But ‘Quit it!’ “

* “Conservatism is a flight from ideas. As in, ‘Don’t get any ideas,’ ‘What’s the big idea?’ and ‘Whose idea was that?’ “

O’Rourke, 62, is a cool Republican. It’s a lonely job. What can the rest of the party do to join him?

“I don’t think Republicans have ever been cool,” he says. “Abraham Lincoln tried growing a beard.”

Yes, and look what happened to him.

“It’s always going to be cooler to have wild visionary ideas for society and the future. All we can really do is see that we’ve got a society where as many people grow out of cool as fast as they possibly can.”

H/T to Paul Davis for the link.

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