Saturday, April 26, 2008

An Armed Society Is A Polite Society

Here's an interesting piece of info on the benefits of gun ownership....from the BBC News, of all people:

....Why is it then that so many Americans - and foreigners who come here - feel that the place is so, well, safe?

I have met incredulous British tourists who have been shocked to the core by the peacefulness of the place
(the USA)
A British man I met in Colorado recently told me he used to live in Kent but he moved to the American state of New Jersey and will not go home because it is, as he put it, "a gentler environment for bringing the kids up."
This is New Jersey. Home of the Sopranos.
Brits arriving in New York, hoping to avoid being slaughtered on day one of their shopping mission to Manhattan are, by day two, beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. By day three they have had had the scales lifted from their eyes.
I have met incredulous British tourists who have been shocked to the core by the peacefulness of the place, the lack of the violent undercurrent so ubiquitous in British cities, even British market towns.
"It seems so nice here," they quaver.
Well, it is!

Violent paradox

Ten or 20 years ago, it was a different story, but things have changed.
And this is Manhattan.
Wait till you get to London Texas, or Glasgow Montana, or Oxford Mississippi or Virgin Utah, for that matter, where every household is required by local ordinance to possess a gun.
Folks will have guns in all of these places and if you break into their homes they will probably kill you.
They will occasionally kill each other in anger or by mistake, but you never feel as unsafe as you can feel in south London.
It is a paradox. Along with the guns there is a tranquillity and civility about American life of which most British people can only dream.

I've copied the whole article here, just in case the BBC takes down the original. Worth reading.
Hat Tip to Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit for the post title.

Kay Bailey Hutchison, Undoing America's Ethanol Mistake, One Decade At A Time

You can't imagine my joy at seeing Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison leading off an Investor's Business Daily editorial with a quotation from the great Milton Friedman.

Undoing America's Ethanol Mistake
By SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON Posted Friday, April 25, 2008 4:20 PM PT

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman once said, "One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results."

So far, so good. That's what is so irritating about campaign ads claiming that "My opponent voted against helping starving gay orphans in Darfur." Chances are that the policy or program in question would've done nothing for the starving gay orphans in Darfur except create more of them.

When Congress passed legislation to greatly expand America's commitment to biofuels, it intended to create energy independence and protect the environment.

No, we're already going off the rails in this editorial. Congress intended to take care of corn farmers in Iowa, where the first Presidential primaries are held. Then they intended to take care of other giant agribusinesses scattered throughout a lot of congressional districts. All other considerations were secondary.

But the results have been quite different. America remains equally dependent on foreign sources of energy, and new evidence suggests that ethanol is causing great harm to the environment.

In recent weeks, the correlation between government biofuel mandates and rapidly rising food prices has become undeniable.

Yep. It's like what would happen if the Government paid lots of money for people to kill weiner dogs. The supply of weiner dogs would go down, but the value of weiner dogs, as they become scarce, would go up. Weiner dogs would have to be brought in from elsewhere. Especially if the Government insisted on paying people to kill weiner dogs long after the supply had diminished.
We would be creating a supply of weiner dogs to support the weinerdog killing industry.
If you think this is the dumbest analogy you've ever heard, you're probably correct. I just happen to be looking at three weiner dogs diggin up my back yard....

Wait a minute.... read this Time magazine article about Iowa becoming a net IMPORTER of corn to convert into ethanol. IOWA no longer has enough corn to make ethanol, so they're bringing in corn from other places.
My weiner dog analogy is dead-on, and borderline brilliant.

At a time when the U.S. economy is facing recession, Congress needs to reform its "food-to-fuel" policies and look at alternatives to strengthen energy security.

Good. How about letting us build some nuclear power plants?

On Dec. 19, 2007, President Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act. This legislation had several positive features, including higher fuel standards for cars and greater investment in renewable energies such as solar power.

Good. But the legislation exempted certain trophy vehicles like Hummers and other Neo-Fascist Military Limousines. Your legislation only applies to the little people. But solar power is good. How about some nuclear power plants?

However, the bill required a huge spike in the biofuel production requirement, from 7.5 billion gallons in 2012 to 36 billion in 2022.

This was a well-intentioned measure, but it was also impractical. Nearly all our domestic corn and grain supply is needed to meet this mandate, robbing the world of one of its most important sources of food.

So what results were we expecting ? ? ? Did anyone think that food prices would remain stable? ? ?

We are already seeing the ill effects of this measure. Last year, 25% of America's corn crop was diverted to produce ethanol. In 2008, that number will grow to 30%-35%, and it will soar even higher in the years to come.

Unless we end the mandates and the subsidies. Senator, you know, you could simply end the mandates, quotas, and subsidies. Let the market determine the price for all of this stuff, and the Invisible Hand will take care of the rest far better than you and Trent Lott and Nancy Pelosi could dream of doing.

Furthermore, the trend of farmers supplanting other grains with corn is decreasing the supply of numerous agricultural products. When the supply of those products goes down, the price inevitably goes up.

Subsequently, the cost of feeding farm and ranch animals increases and the cost is passed to consumers of beef, poultry and pork products.

If Ashley and Jason use all the corn to drive the Volvo to Whole Foods to buy groceries for Dylan and Joplin, that doesn't leave much corn for the hog farmer, does it?

Since February 2006, the price of corn, wheat and soybeans has increased by more than 240%. Rising food prices are hitting the pockets of lower-income Americans and people who live on fixed incomes.

While the blame for higher costs shouldn't rest exclusively with biofuels — drought and rising oil costs are contributing factors — the expansion of biofuels has been a major source of the problem.

Wow. Someone has beaten her about the head and shoulders with a Clue Stick.

The International Food Policy Research Institute estimates that biofuel production accounts for between one-quarter and one-third of the recent spike in global commodity prices.

I did a little reading on The International Food Policy Research Institute. They seem to be a pretty decent left-wing organization. But they see policies and programs as the solution, not the leading cause of the problem. Therefore, if they're going out on a limb and suggesting that biofuel mandates are responsible for one-third of the problem, you can safely double that number.

For the first time in 30 years, food riots are breaking out in many parts of the globe, including major countries such as Mexico, Pakistan and Indonesia.

The fact that America's energy policies are creating global instability should concern the leaders of both political parties.

Restraining the dangerous effects of artificially inflated demand for ethanol should be an issue that unites both conservatives and progressives.

OMG, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is now calling them "progressives" ! ! ! What are they "progressing" toward, starvation and riots? A proper phrasing of that sentence would be "Restraining the dangerous effects of blah blah blah Getting out of the price-fixing business should be an issue that unites both conservatives and progressives that causes both Republicans and Democrats to look at the Free Market Libertarian concept of leaving things alone."

As a recent Time cover story pointed out, biofuel mandates increase greenhouse gasses and create incentives for global deforestation.

In the Amazon basin, huge swaths of forest are being cleared to meet the growing hunger for biofuels.

Kind of like weiner dog breeding farms would spring up if the Government paid people to kill them. Got to meet that quota.

In addition, relief organizations are facing gaping shortfalls as the cost of food outpaces their ability to provide aid for the 800 million people who lack food security.

The recent food crisis does not mean we should entirely abandon biofuels.

The best way to lower energy prices, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, is to accelerate production of all forms of domestic energy.

But we're going to get rid of the quotas and subsidies, right? There's no way an intelligent human could write this article and NOT advocate ending the quotas and subsidies. We're causing chaos and upheaval all over the world with this insane mess. Please, please, please, tell me you advocate making this all stop. Please, Senator, please....

Expanding biofuels while refusing to take other measures, such as lifting the ban on oil and natural gas production in Alaska and the Outer Continental Shelf, is counterproductive. We should be tapping into a broad portfolio of energy options, including clean coal, nuclear power and wave energy.

O yes, yes, yes. So we're going to go drill in Alaska, AND the mandates and subsidies are going to end? You now understand that we're digging a hole that's getting deeper and deeper, and we're not going to pay people to shovel any longer???

The key is increasing energy supply. By taking these measures, we can enable biofuels to be part of the energy solution, instead of contributing to the energy problem.

Good, good, good. Our Senator sees where the problem lies. Subsidies of biofuels are the energy problem. If someone wants to grow corn and biofuel manufacturers pay more for it than anyone else, great. But no more quotas, mandates, or subsidies. People are gonna start dying at an even greater rate if that stupidity continues.

Congress must take action. I am introducing legislation that will freeze the biofuel mandate at current levels, instead of steadily increasing it through 2022.


Congress must take action. I am introducing legislation that will freeze the biofuel mandate at current levels, instead of steadily increasing it through 2022.

Wait a freakin' minute. You call that "taking action"? Leaving an acknowledged financial, ethical, environmental and moral disaster like the one you just outlined in place? That's "taking action"? Let's look at that amazing sentence one more time.

Congress must take action. I am introducing legislation that will freeze the biofuel mandate at current levels, instead of steadily increasing it through 2022.

Good Lord have mercy, she really said it.

This is a common-sense measure that will reduce pressure on global food prices and restore balance to America's energy policy.

I've seen more common sense in the "Dumb and Dumber" movies.

As the Senate debates this issue, we must remain focused on the facts.

Yeah, the fact that you people have wealthy contributors who want the current system to remain intact.

At one point, expanding biofuels made sense for America's energy security. But the recent surge in food prices has forced us to adapt. The global demand for energy and food is expected to rise about 50% in the next 20 years, and the U.S. is well-positioned to be a leader in both areas.

That will require a careful, finely tuned approach to America's farm products.

Senator, you people couldn't carefully fine-tune a banjo, much less something as delicate as food production and pricing. No one can fine-tune something like this. You should leave it to the Market.

By freezing the biofuel mandate at current levels, we will go a long way to achieving that goal.

So we're going to leave everything at "Bad", instead of putting out a decree moving us to "Worse". And we call that an improvement.
There are days when I just don't think I can stand it.

Still More People That I Think You'll Like

A couple more British Libertarian sites for your consideration:

Helen and Richard at The EU Referendum have an insanely popular site devoted to the general goofiness associated with the European Union. You can spend days in there, reading Comment Threads, following links, and learning the cast of characters who now make up European government.

It's almost enough to make you grateful for Nancy Pelosi.

My favorite post is one that Dr. (they all have doctorates) Richard did on a missing 900,000 tons of government subsidized Italian tobacco. Ghost tobacco, they're calling it. He asks my usual question....Why in the world do we subsidize the stuff when we spend an equal amount encouraging people not to use the stuff?

We get into a similar embarrasment when we continue paying dead farmers not to farm. Are the dead any worse at not farming? What disqualifies them from participating in the program?

It's called Anarchic Hand Syndrome.

First runner-up goes to this one, about the disastrous consequences of using Food for Fuel in an effort to appear "Greener Than Thou".

Dr. Richard is also co-author of "Scared To Death", a book about Global Warming, Y2K, Bird Flu, Second-hand smoke, and other boogeymen. I've been looking for it for almost a year, but it's only published in England.

Then there's the Nation Of Shopkeepers blog. (Hitler derisively referred to Britain as "a nation of shopkeepers.) Where to begin, where to begin.....

There's this one, where he vents his frustration over the term "relative poverty". I have many of the same frustrations, but have never thought to combine Marxist terminology with old episodes of The Simpsons.


Friday, April 25, 2008

"Shut Up And Sing", Natalie Maines, Radio Censorship

I watched a DVD of "Shut Up And Sing" this afternoon. It's a documentary about the Dixie Chicks' popularity meltdown following lead singer Natalie Maines' criticism of George Bush.

Two observations I'd like to make:
1) All rock, pop, and country music documentaries now remind me of Spinal Tap.
2) Natalie Maines was right.

And now for some full disclosure....

My daughter The Future Aggie has always been a huge Dixie Chicks fan. She started a Dixie Chicks tribute band in the sixth grade. (You haven't lived until you've heard 12-year-old girls sing "Goodbye Earl" with their own instruments....) We've been to two Chicks concerts, and own the $90 Dixie Chicks baseball jersey. We own all the CD's, the songbooks, the concert DVD's, and some random Dixie Chicks jewelry.

Charlie Robison (see the About Me column, at right) is married to Dixie Chicks banjo/guitar/dobro utlity infielder Emily Robison. Charlie Robison puts on the best shows of anyone now alive. I've been to either 10 or 11 of them. If anyone wants to join me at Billy Bob's or 8.0's next time he comes to town, my email is also in the "About Me" link.

Charlie's brother Bruce Robison is the best songwriter in country music. "Angry All The Time" "Travelin' Soldier" "Wrapped Around Your Pretty Little Finger" etc etc etc.... If he were to record his laundry lists, I'd buy them.

Bruce's wife, Kelly Willis, is greatness. I own everything she's ever recorded. If you follow the link to her site, you'll learn that she's no longer touring. Something about trying to raise four kids.

Let's keep wandering around the family trees.... Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines has one of the most perfect voices on this or any other planet. Her father, Lloyd Maines, is possibly the best steel guitar maestro in existence. I've heard him 4 or 5 times with Terri Hendrix.

My next door neighbors, Amy and Cheryl, are good friends with Susan Gibson. Susan wrote the song "Wide Open Spaces", which became a mega-hit for none other than....the Dixie Chicks. Whenever Susan is playing in town, she usually comes to Amy and Cheryl's place afterwards and we sit around the backyard campfire and play guitars and sing. (Note: having Susan Gibson play along with my puny little 3-chord stuff makes me sound GOOD....)

My point is that the Dixie Chicks and their extended families are a favorite "brand" at my house. What with recordings, concerts, and other purchases, we've probably invested a thousand bucks in that extended family over the years.
I think the government has intentionally set out to harm the brand.

When Natalie went to London and said "We're ashamed that the President Of The United States is from Texas", it was a throwaway remark, and it was a cheap applause line. The video of the statement shows her looking very proud of herself. It got a huge ovation in London, but the negative response in the U.S. was overwhelming. It has cost them millions of dollars in recording and concert revenue. Perhaps that's as it should be.


She had every right to say what she said.
Country music fans have every right to avoid their concerts and avoid their CD's.

But radio stations, in my opinion, despite being privately owned entities, do not have a right to suddenly stop playing Dixie Chicks' music.

Here's why. Radio frequencies are a government controlled monopoly. There are a limited number of broadcast frequencies, and the rights to those frequencies are tightly controlled. That's why you may have read editorials concerning Clear Channel's purchase of multiple stations in the same market. Not only are the broadcast frequencies a scarce commodity, but one organization (Clear Channel) is purchasing multiples of them in some areas.

Because of that glorious privilege (a monopoly of the airwaves), radio stations are in effect acting as government censors if they suddenly drop an artist from their playlists after the artist in question criticizes the government.

If Kanye West or Amy Winehouse or NWA or Lawrence Welk has the #1 selling CD, I'm not required to purchase their music and play it in my back yard. Backyard jamboxes aren't a monopoly.

But if Kanye, Amy, NWA, or Lawrence have the #1 CD in a particular format, and the government-controlled monopolies don't EVER play the CD ? Something's wrong. That's excatly what happened in the Dallas/Fort Worth market with the Chicks' CD "Taking The Long Way". I didn't hear a single tune from that CD on the radio.
And it won a Grammy, fer heaven's sake....

If an otherwise popular artist can only access a particular audience through a group of Clear Channel radio stations, then everything changes. Unless I'm missing something, the government has given these radio stations a unique privilege and the Clear Channel stations are returning the favor by stifling dissent. I don't think we'd put up with this from The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
I heartily recommend this documentary, although I think going into Iraq was a necessity. Saddam had wiped out 90,000 Kurds with poison gas. The world is better with him out of the picture. We coulda woulda shoulda done a better job of the aftermath.
Here's the trailer for the documentary. I think it's worth a rental.

Look for Charlie Robison and Emily on their ranch in San Antonio. Lloyd Maines puts in an appearance about halfway through. John McCain is shown at a congressional hearing, gleefully grilling some corporate flak-catcher.

Don't watch this if you've seen "Spinal Tap" recently. You'll get the giggles.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Gun Control Bumpersticker

The Future Aggie came home laughing about this bumpersticker today:

You can purchase them here, if you are so inclined.

Just in case you're wondering why Rosie was singled out for this honor on a bumpersticker....She's the one who spoke out against gun ownership, but had armed bodyguards for herself and her kid. She's not popular among the 2nd amendment crowd.

Paul Verhoeven, The Jesus Seminar, and "Jesus of Nazareth: A Realistic Portrait"

Film Director Paul Verhoeven, who brought the "Robocop" and "Basic Instinct" movies into the world, happens to be a member of the controversial Jesus Seminar group. They're also known as the Westar Institute. (See Blogroll to your right.)

Verhoeven is making a movie called "Jesus of Nazareth: A Realistic Portrait". Among the many ideas resurrected by the movie will be some anti-early church propaganda that Mary was raped by a Roman soldier. This soldier, instead of Joseph, was the father of Jesus.

That should get 'em fired up.

There will be a swarm of publicity about the Jesus Seminar as a result of this film. The group is comprised of top-notch Biblical scholars whose major work concentrates, not on What Would Jesus Do, but on What DID Jesus Do. What did he really say.

For instance, if you look at the last half of the last chapter of the Gospel of Mark, you'll notice that there is usually a page break of a few lines before the last eight or nine verses. The footnotes (in the newer Bibles) claim that these last verses aren't in the oldest manuscripts, but are of a more recent vintage.

The Jesus Seminar scholars believe that these additions to ancient texts were a widespread practice.
Please allow me to recommend the following: The Five Gospels: What did Jesus really say? The search for the authentic words of Jesus, by seminar member (and founder, I think) Robert Funk. Interesting stuff. The passages that they believe are most authentic are printed in a darker color, the least authentic are another color. Various shades are used to show the ones in between. Detailed reasons are given for these choices.

Or don't read the book. Don't see the movie. Remain fiercely loyal to your current beliefs, and refuse to have them challenged.

By the way, a good friend of mine has loaned me an actual Geneva Bible. Printed in 1610. Fascinating book. People risked their lives to get this book printed and distributed.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Let Them Eat Ethanol, With A Side Dish Of Biofuels

The Chicago Tribune has decided that maybe the current rice shortage might be caused by the rising cost of biofuels.
And rain might be caused by those fluffy white things called clouds.

"We feel that the developed countries should seriously rethink the whole issue of biofuel, particularly the biofuel subsidies," (Asian Development Bank Director General Rajat) Nag said. "Giving subsidies for biofuels ... basically acts as an implicit tax on staple foods."

Yep. You can look it up. The great Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics states that Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources which have multiple uses.

Rice has multiple uses. It can feed Filipinos, or it can be converted into fuel for your Volvo so you can go to Whole Foods Market. If our government gets a wild hair up its ass and decides to provide price supports for the rice grown for fuel, that action raises the price of rice everywhere.

So if you Greenies are still feeling that warm virtuous glow when you see the "this fuel contains 10% ethanol" sticker on the gas pump, get over it. Your ethanol mandates have been hit with The Law Of Unintended Consequences.

Here's more from the Tribune, quoting Mr. Bank Director Nag:

He urged governments faced with rising food prices not to impose price caps or export bans, as the measures could prove counterproductive.

Excellent advice from Mr. Nag. He's obviously studied President Nixon's disastrous venture into price controls.

Price controls are disincentives for farmers amid the rising costs, he said."The cost of production is going up, so the obvious, rational reaction (to price caps) of the farmer is to reduce planting, which is exactly the opposite of what we want. We want production to increase, not decrease," he said.

I'm copying the entire article here, just in case the Tribune takes it down because of pressure from the Rodham administration.
The chart at the top is from the always useful Cato Institute.

Lopez Obrador, Hitler, Mussolini, Pinochet, and the rest of the guys

Here's Perry De Havilland of Samizdata, explaining that Mexican politician Lopez Obrador is a Hugo Chavez Wannabe:

People opposed to Obrador have made a very effective advertisement likening him to sundry totalitarian thugs. However Obrador has demanded this advertisement be ordered off the air by Mexico's federal electoral authority, indicating as well as disliking democratic processes he cannot control, he also does not believe in freedom of expression.

Obrador's opponents "go negative in the political ad below.
You don't have to be fluent in Spanish to follow the commercial....
I thought our politicians could go over the top.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pennsylvania Primary Results

For those of you coming here for early info on Pennsylvania Exit Polls, or Googling the PA Primary, the PA Election Results, or perhaps the Penn Primary, or information on the Pennsylvania Election, facts on the Pennsylvania Primary Election 2008, the Pennsylvania Vote results, the Democratic Primary process, the PA Polls, what happens when the Penn Primary Polls Close, PA Primary Exit Polls, or Pennsylvania Returns....(that should cover it)

Hillary Clinton has won Pennsylvania. Big Deal.

Now, stop obsessing over the percentage. She's not going to gain enough in Pennsylvania to catch Obama in the regular delegate count. She can beat him by 15% in Pennsylvania, and it's not going to make a difference in the regular delegate count.
Regular voters like you don't count in a Democratic primary election that's this close. The wise old men of the Democratic party have put a system in place that will allow party hacks (superdelegates) to overrule you if you try to nominate a black man. This allows the hacks to remain in control, and it allows more money and political favors to change hands.

The war is over. Go back to your farms, your families, and your crops. Turn off your laptops. Turn off CNN and Fox.
A friend of mine sent this bit of brilliant bit of Photoshopping to me today. I think this guy is a Democratic Superdelegate....

Monday, April 21, 2008

Baracky, The Movie

Hat Tip to the Food and Fort Worth Blog

More On The Tarrant County Libertarians

I made it to the Tarrant County Libertarians meetup last Saturday afternoon.

The tables were full of laid-back people throwing around names like Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, and Thomas Sowell, in addition to discussing getting their candidates elected in November.

I instantly geeked out. These people were speaking my language. Compared to the usual Democrat and Republican bilge in the newspaper and on TV, this was heaven. It was poetry. Imagine finding a King James Bible after spending twenty years all alone with nothing but a copy of Good News for Modern Man.

They knew all about Angelina Jolie's interest in making a movie of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged". And they were pumped about it !

These are my people.

Then my dang cell phone started ringing. Every truckload that I'd brokered for pickup that afternoon was either late, missing, or lost. I had drivers in Dallas who couldn't find Texas. Future phone records will show that I made or received 20 phone calls in 40 minutes. Libertarians are a very tolerant bunch, but I was stretching their patience, constantly getting up from the table, leaving the coffee bar, coming back to the table, and trying to catch up on the agenda.

The offending freight companies know who they are, and they WILL atone....

Here's a plug for one of the guys I met there.... Stephen M. Smith is running for Texas State Representative, District 98. He's a very smart, extremely committed person. Look here for his priorities. And I thought I favored limited government....

According to his web page, which I hope you'll check out, Smith also works in shipping and logistics. mostly with shipments going to, from, and within Latin America. His cell phone was silent throughout the entire meeting.

If he's that effective with Latin America, just imagine what he could do with Austin.

Our next meetup will be held at Fort Worth's Rahr Brewery, May 17, 1:00 p.m.

They also put out the word about a new blog for the Libertarian Party of Texas: Lone Star Liberty.

If you don't think these guys are for real, look at what George Will had to say in the latest issue of Newsweek. There just might be a Libertarian surge.