Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Preparing for life in the twenty-first century. Uh, and a half.

Parliament of Whores—Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

This P. J. O’Rourke book is subtitled “A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government” and it includes many things I’ve heard about and had no idea how to look up.

To begin with, there is the concept of parity—the deep thought behind all of the USDA’s price- and income-support measures. Parity is the idea that the price farm goods bring ought to be the same, now and forever, in inflation-adjusted dollars, as the price farm goods brought in the years 1910 through 1914.…

If we applied the logic of parity to automobiles instead of feed and grain, a typical economy car would cost forty grand. $43,987.,50 is what a 1910 Nash Rambler cost in 1990 dollars. And for that you got a car with thirty-four horsepower, no heat, no A/C, no tape deck or radio and no windows around the front seat. If farm parity were a guiding principle of human existence, we’d not only have lousy, high-priced economy cars, we’d have a total lack of civilization. Cheap, plentiful food is the precondition for human advancement. When there isn’t enough food, everybody has to spend all his time getting fed and nobody has a minute to invent law, architecture or big clubs to hit cave bears on the head with.

If you follow this blog, you might remember parity from the Li’l Abner musical number, The Country’s in the Very Best of Hands. Now I have a better idea of what “no one understands”. Despite the complexities of reform in DC, which, he writes, are very real, reforming the USDA and parity is the only “straightforward” issue he has seen: “a simple problem with a simple solution. Drag the omnibus farm bill behind the barn, and kill it with an ax.”

And while the USDA is spending $10 billion a year to increase farm income [by destroying food, not growing food, and otherwise increasing the cost of food], the same government agency is spending $20 billion to make food available to poor people through the Food Stamp program. A moron, an imbecile, an American high-school student can see there’s something wrong with this equation. Just give the $10 billion to the poor people, and let them buy their own damn food from the farmers.

He starts the book by saying,

I thought I’d observe the 1988 presidential race and then go to Washington for the first six months of the new administration, learn everything there is to know about government and write a book. But the six months turned into two years. I’m not sure I learned anything except that giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

The colorful mirror of the anointed—Saturday, April 12th, 2014
Bull elephant at Addo Elephant Park

Is that an African elephant coming up behind you? (Brian Snelson, CC-BY 2.0)

In the latest New York magazine, Jonathan Chait writes ostensibly about the character of racism during the Obama presidency. It’s generated a minor firestorm because it’s a presented as a sort of apologia for conservative racism—the left doesn’t like the apologia, and conservatives don’t agree with the implied racism. Despite claiming to be about “not the way anyone imagined” it is still the same old stuff, the usual falsehoods that have made it into the liberal worldview:

That the tea party was a reaction to Obama; the only question is how race played into it. This ignores that the first tea party target was TARP. The movement began—before it was named—against the program that President Bush signed. The protests continued against President Obama’s pork-barrel “stimulus”, but they started as protests against TARP.

Joe Wilson’s “you lie” outburst is discussed solely through the question of how racist it was, and without any discussion of whether or not it was true; merely an assertion that it was not. However, states implementing the ACA are basically promising that the information submitted will not be checked, and the ACA does not appear to require proof of citizenship even though it says citizenship is required. This doesn’t guarantee that illegal immigrants will have their health care covered under the ACA—but it doesn’t make for much of a block, either.

When he talks about the new media myth that excludes Republicans and how that makes Republicans angry, his pantheon includes Martin Luther King—without mentioning that King was a Republican, and that the reason he was a Republican is that Republicans were instrumental in passing civil rights legislation against the filibusters of Democrats. In other words, there’s a good reason that Republicans are angry at the new media myth: it’s wrong.

And to back it up, he puts forward an old misleading quote from Lee Atwater.

However, the most telling line in the opinion piece is this:

…the Obama years have been defined by a bitter disagreement over the size of government, which quickly reduces to an argument over whether the recipients of big-government largesse deserve it. There is no separating this discussion from one’s sympathies or prejudices toward, and identification with, black America.

Churchill’s good earth—Thursday, April 10th, 2014

In Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King, Aragorn makes a speech at the end, to rally the troops at the Black Gates of Mordor. This speech isn’t in the book; in Tolkien’s telling, “Little time was left to Aragorn for the ordering of his battle.” In Tolkien’s telling it is left to the hobbit Pippin to grant himself courage.

I was reading through Cigar Aficionado’s web page a while back, and ran across an article on Winston Churchill and his cigars. In it, Churchill says about food, “Whatever the Good Earth offers, I am willing to take.” I wondered if this was a phrase that Churchill ever used during the war. He did, during his hush over Europe speech:

They are defending the soil, the good earth, that has been theirs since the dawn of time against cruel and unprovoked aggression.

So this may be another case of Jackson pulling from Churchill for his movie; but it could also be just a standard phrase in the British Commonwealth. Interestingly, Churchill’s “they” were the Chinese; he may have in that particular speech been referencing Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, a novel that, at the time, was only about eight years old. She had just won the Nobel Prize in Literature for her “rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China”. If it sounds odd that he’d quote an American author, remember that this speech was meant to convince America to aid them.

Texas open carry Senate hearing—Monday, April 7th, 2014
Open carry map April 2014

It looks like 44 states allow some form of open carry—and Texas isn’t one of them.

I recently read P.J. O’Rourke’s Parliament of Whores, and in it he makes the point that we rarely thank our elected officials for what is in fact an often thankless job.

I just listened to a public hearing of the Texas Senate’s Agriculture, Rural Affairs & Homeland Security Committee. The hearing began at 9 AM. I woke up about 11:30 AM and started listening at about noon after leisurely making breakfast. The hearing continued until 5:36 PM. Most of the legislators appear1 to have left by 3 or so, but the chairman, Senator Craig Estes, remained to the end.

So, Senator Craig Estes, thank you very much. You did a great job.

There were three purposes of today’s hearing, which is probably why it went so long. The third (Interim Charge 5), and why I was interested, was

Study and make recommendations on removing barriers to Second Amendment Rights, including but not limited to open carry legislation. Consider other state laws related to open carry.

Open carry, believe it or not, is illegal in Texas. Despite our reputation, we’re one of only six states that has no open carry.2

Most of the people at the hearing were in favor of joining the majority of states that allow open carry. Some of the Senators are still arguing the last war: they’re using the same arguments used against concealed carry, that it’s going to result in more arguments escalating to murder, that people are not going to be able to trust their neighbor if they think their neighbor might be carrying, and what will the children think?

All of the failed arguments against concealed carry, without regard to the fact that none of these things happen in other states that allow concealed—or open—carry.

Texas 2014—Monday, April 7th, 2014

My girlfriend and I moved to Texas in December—about which I’ll have more to say later. So I expect I’ll be writing more about Texan issues than about California issues from now on. That’s part of why I added the last California update to California 2013 instead of making a new one (also because they referenced things that happened in 2013).

No One Left to Lie To—Sunday, April 6th, 2014

As an evil conservative, Clinton must also bear the conservative’s evil clothing. Clinton is not just a failed conservative, he is also provincial and racist.

Hitchens starts off—all of chapter two—skewering that most blatant of political triangulations, that Clinton was the “first black president”. In Hitchens’s telling, Clinton was the most racist president of recent times, overseeing the execution of black children, deserting political allies and close friends at the drop of a pin if those allies were black, and pandering to the worst of southern culture throughout his political career.

I’m not sure I’ve read an honest to god screed before. This is well-researched, but not well-thought. Hitchens is the kind of leftist intellectual smart enough to recognize that leftist policies implemented by other leftists always fail—but vain enough to think that if they just listened to him and implemented them his way leftism would suddenly succeed.

For example, in the section on the Clintons’ failed health insurance takeover, he writes:

The “triangulation” went like this. Harry and Louise sob-story ads were paid for by the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA), a group made up of the smaller insurance providers. The five major insurance corporations spent even more money to support “managed competition”… The Clinton's demagogic ally campaigned against the “insurance industry,” while backing—and with the backing of—those large fish that were preparing to swallow the minnows.

It’s cronyism. Hitchens doesn’t seem to recognize that this is the inevitable result of government taking over or threatening a takeover, regardless of the form the takeover takes. Large companies can afford to buy influence; smaller companies have to band together to buy enough influence to survive.

He has a lot to say about Hillary Clinton as well. She’s totally devoid of substance, for example, he quotes her as saying this while running for the Senate in New York:

I think it’s appropriate to take a few minutes to reflect on some of the issues that people of faith have in common, and from my perspective, as I have traveled extensively through New York and been in the company of New Yorkers from so many different walks of life, I agree that the challenges before us, as individuals, as members and leaders of the community of faith, as those who already hold positions of public responsibility and those who seek them, that we do all share and should be committed to an understanding of how we make progress, but we define that progress, deeply and profoundly.

He also suggests that she tried to woo the Puerto Rican vote by convincing her husband to pardon some Puerto Rican nationalists who were in prison for placing “bombs in lower Manhattan.” When the ploy turned out to be less favorable among the rest of New Yorkers, she pivoted to oppose her husband’s pardons, saying she knew nothing about it and had nothing to do with it. Hitchens doesn’t believe it for a second.

Chris Christie’s Doomsday Gap—Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

The New Jersey “Bridgegate” scandal is back in the news. To be honest, I don’t trust New Jersey’s internal investigation any more than I trust anyone else’s internal investigation. We’ve seen far too many internal investigations turn up nothing wrong at the top in the last several years, from Fast and Furious targeting the whistleblower to the IRS exonerating itself over targeting conservative groups.

That said, I still haven’t figured out how the political conspiracy to cause a traffic jam was supposed to work. It’s like a cross between the How I Learned to Love the Bomb doomsday machine and South Park’s underpants gnomes.

The doomsday machine, if you’ll recall, was the highly-secret Soviet computerized nuclear response; if we bombed the Soviet Union, their computers would automatically blanket the United States with nuclear missiles, too. It was the perfect deterrent to nuclear attack… except that they kept it a secret. If your enemies don’t know about it, it can’t affect their decision-making.

For the Fort Lee lane closings to be political retribution, at some point they needed to make it public. New Jersey has traffic jams all the time. It has lane closings all the time. It’s not punishment if nobody knows it’s punishment.

Further, what was the payback supposed to be? Political retribution is usually intended to change behavior. Whose behavior was going to be changed, here? Was Fort Lee’s Democrat mayor going to become a Republican? Were the Fort Lee voters expected to start voting for Christie’s mayoral choice now that they experienced traffic delays?

Wikipedia says merely,

The disruption was apparently created for political retribution, but the precise target or motivation is unclear.

My emphasis on the part that’s putting it mildly.

In South Park, the underpants gnomes stole people’s underpants as part of a dot-com-like business plan:

  1. Collect underpants
  2. ?
  3. Profit!

In the current media reports, we’ve got:

  1. Cause traffic jam in Ft. Lee
  2. ?
  3. Chris Christie wins!
Leland Yee’s weaponry—Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

“The wide-ranging criminal complaint against California State Sen. Leland Yee and many others describes a dark world of deceit and intrigue with high-powered weapons at its core.”

If you’re wondering what the outrage is over what Leland Yee was offering to get for mobsters and terrorists, Joe Pappalardo at Popular Mechanics covers the major weapons in this slideshow feature.

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