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Government

Richard Epstein & Federalist Society Panel on Direct Democracy

Government of the People, by the People, and for the People?

The second Showcase Panel at the the Federalist Society’s 2010 National Lawyers Convention. November 19, 2010.

Prof. Epstein, as usual, has some thoughts on practicalities. (He’s wrong about the V-N War, though. What can I say, he’s a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn. And among other things he did time at Berkeley.)

Very interesting discussion, and the gentlemen all are. :>)

From the description:

Direct democracy is feasible today to an extent that it was not feasible in 1787. Does that change the calculus in choosing between direct democracy and representation? What lessons, positive or negative, can be learned from the state experience with initiatives and referenda? Should Congress set up a system of national initiatives and referenda? Can Congress delegate its legislative power to the American people without violating the nondelegation doctrine? Should national initiatives and referenda be binding or merely advisory? Would it be acceptable for a national referendum to alter a law so as to effectively reverse a Supreme Court decision? Should the health care law be subject to such a referendum? Should increases in the national debt or in taxes be subject to voter approval?

In order of appearance:

Steven G. Calabresi — Moderator (Introduction, 6:32)

Panelists, speaking roughly 15 min. each:

William N. Eskridge, Jr. — Yale
Richard A. Epstein (at ~19:40) — NYU, U. of Chicago
Robert D. Cooter — Berkeley
Thomas W. Merrill — Columbia

Then the moderator puts a few questions, and finally there’s Q&A from the audience.

The Miller’s Tail…

So Maria Miller, Sec State for Culture has fallen on her sword (for I am slain iDave!) due to her diddling expenses.

What the flying fuck do we have such a position for, apart from some croney of iDave diddling expenses, obviously?

Have you been to the National Gallery (it’s free by the way – and my favourite art gallery in the World*). Did Turner need a Department of Culture to paint his piccies? Did Francis Bacon? I recently saw some of his in Amsterdam recently**. Did Tolkien need one to write Britain’s favourite books? Did Elgar? Did the Beatles? The Stones? Does Adele? Do you or me? God help us Shakespeare managed to make it without the state!

Culture is simply what we do. In a sense it is what we are. We just do it. From posting video of a cat doing something amusing on Youtube to the Elgar violin concerto we just do it. In this case “we” is Kyung-wha Chung. She is my fave fiddler ever -do listen to the rest – it’s great***. And I have a weakness for the violin concerto. And that is her with the LSO conducted by Solti. Neither are Brits but Elgar was. And in a real sense that kind of sums up “culture” for me in the sense that here we have a piece of music played by a Korean/American with the orchestra conducted by a Hungarian/mainly American with an honorary British knighthood. What I mean is Elgar has “stretch”. All true culture has. Elgar is quintessentially English and not from a rich background (at one point he was employed to conduct an orchestra in the local lunatic asylum) but that his music can reach from Seoul to Budapest to Chicago and touch people enough to play it that well says something.

I have been to a folk festival (for my sins). It was curious. Apart from getting Brahms und Liszt (it was a stag do) it struck me how parochial (and in extreme cases nationalistic – not in a good way****). True culture is in a sense beyond borders. God help me I am English but I can’t stand the Tory club Little-Englander with his G&T any more than I can stick the “shop local, think global” lot with faux tribal tattoos. I was going to get one if I’d completed my PhD – my equation. Alas for me and an inker this did not come to pass. Folk is shite anyway. But what I was really trying to say is… I once came across in Georgia (USA – not entering the Putindoom) a fellow who expressed surprise at my mere existence. He declared a desire (and he was well adult) not only to never leave the USA (for there be dragons elsewhere ) but to never leave the state of Georgia. I’d just done a 2,500 mile road trip round the SE USA. I guess I just like globalization and that Huge Furnished Shitting-Stall can get his locally-sourced onions off behind his organic arras.

Anyway, that is getting seriously off the point (if there ever was one*****). This I like. (Aside – there is a shop in central Amsterdam that sells Brit stuff called “Arkwrights”).

Yes there was. Culture. It is universal and natural. It should be allowed to just happen but it is intrinsically global (and that scares people). Now don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against “local colour” but our culture is increasingly self generating and global. That does not mean it is less diverse. Gods no! You can get decent sushi in Manchester******. If that means the Eccles cake is heading the way of the sauropods then so be it. Mind, in Porthmadog you can get excellent fish and chips (but fuck all else). And they all speak Welsh! But that is not my point. You expect good fish of whatever sort in a fishing port. And good chips anywhere (apart from Amsterdam).

Culture happens. It can be global. It can be local. It can be both. Concentrating on the local is absurd in the age of jet planes and youtube in my eyes. The more it goes global the better I think. I have God knows how many channels off my Sky dish. I can watch a Nigerian soap opera if I want – I don’t because they are piss-poor but… Why do we need a culture secretary at all? Why when we have Easyjet? Why when we have the internet? Why when within walking distance I have have Chinese, Italian,Spanish and Indian take-aways/restaurants? Why have a culture secretary?

*I’ve been to quite a few of the greats.
**See, I’m not uncultured. I could have gone to the ‘Dam and spent my time bombed out of my box sucking dope from bongs shaped like penises. I went to the maritime museum, the Jewish history museum and… Mind the food over there ain’t great. I did eat kangaroo mind (a first for me) but it was bloody awful. Having said that it might be just due to the Dutch tendency to serve Flintsonian portions and bugger the quality. And chips with everything.
***But not as great.
****Not that that was anything like that.
*****There wasn’t really.
******My brother would disagree because he’s lived for several years in Japan.

The “Victimology” lens

Nigel Evans

As lurid details spilled out about the MP’s struggles with alcohol and his sexuality, his accusers – five of whom were friends – played down the incidents to the point of levity. “It was like we were out one night and the shadow secretary of state for Wales put his hand down my trousers. Crazy, crazy Westminster. It seemed so funny,” said the first alleged victim.

How the case against Nigel Evans fell apart

Speaking as a representative of Team Pink, I’ve never tried this particular approach on anyone, no matter how drunk I might have been, because I’ve found that a punch in the face often offends.

If every rugby club prank or drunken fumble of the sexually curious was to be brought to trial then the courts would be overflowing.

I think the men reluctantly dragged into this by the Palace of Westminster Police, who categorically refused to be victims and said so on the stand were quite correct, but their refusal to be victims undermined the main allegation of rape and made both the police and CPS appear foolish – correctly and understandably in my view, although not in the view of the execrable Alison Saunders, Head of the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service.

Alison Saunders: CPS ‘was right to take Evans case to court’

Time for this rape hysteria to be brought to an end as it undermines the genuine cases. The fact that these matters were escalated from bar room gossip to sexual assault charges by Sarah Wollaston MP (a “GP with 20 years’ experience including a spell working as a police forensic examiner where she dealt with victims of sexual and domestic violence”) does not surprise me. If, like Wollaston you go around viewing every aspect of life through a lens of “victimology” then you will find victims everywhere you look.

This is not to suggest that the rape charge against Evans should have been ignored, but by bundling it along with these other spurious and largely inconsequential events, presumably to establish Evans as a sexual predator in the years prior to the rape allegation then the CPS and police have undermined their case rather than enhanced it.

After all, juries live in the real world rather than that defined by the “Rape Culture” viewpoint of Alison Saunders.

Prof. David Bernstein discusses the 1905 Supreme Court case “Lochner vs. New York”

Prof. David Bernstein of George Mason Univ. published in 2011 his book Rehabilitating Lochner. So vass ist ziss case Lochner, anyvay?

The Foot of All Knowledge explains:

Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that held that “liberty of contract” was implicit in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case involved a New York law that limited the number of hours that a baker could work each day to ten, and limited the number of hours that a baker could work each week to 60. By a 5–4 vote, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the law was necessary to protect the health of bakers, deciding it was a labor law attempting to regulate the terms of employment, and calling it an “unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right and liberty of the individual to contract.”

Lochner is one of the most controversial decisions in the Supreme Court’s history….[SNIP]

…and has until recently enjoyed a lousy reputation among the right-thinking (that is, the librul-Progressive, which is to say, not at all right-thinking) legal professoriate.

Professor Bernstein, along with Profs. Randy Barnett and Richard Epstein (as we inferred from his remarks in his last appearance on CCiZ) disagree on that, stout fellows that they are. They talk about legal esoterica such as Freedom of Contract and other stuff that is not for the tender and innocent ears of the Elite (or of various Union leaders or members and their legbreakers and enforcers).

David Bernstein is one of the contributors to Prof. Eugene Volokh’s law weblog The Volokh Conspiracy. (The Volokh Archives going back to 2002 are now found here.) Interviewer Josh Blackman is also an attorney and an Assistant Law Professor at the U. of South Texas. You can read his short summary of the interview at his website. You can also download the interview as a podcast there, watch the video there, click on over to Vimeo and watch it or download it as an mp4 there, or stay here and listen to the audio.

Epstein Thrashes Rubenfeld on Natural Law; Panel on Redistribution of Wealth

I would swear that I saw, for the first time ever, outright anger in Prof. Epstein’s face the first time I watched this clip. Never mind, you can hear it in his voice as he gives Yale Law School’s Prof. Jed Rubenfeld a concise and pithy jolly what-for for a**-hattery.

This is the final 5:48 of a panel discussion described as below. The whole thing is quite interesting. Steve Forbes also seems to have some understanding of what’s what. Andy Stern of the infamous SEIU brings along his flag and his violin. And the odious Prof Rubenfeld is…well, odious. Although his question in Part 11 is one we all get asked a lot, and I’m glad to have Prof. E.’s response.

Best part first. The series begins with Part 1, below Part 11 here. I think you can just click through the segments from there.

–J.

Uploaded on Nov 17, 2009

The Federalist Society presented this panel discussion on Redistribution of Wealth at the 2009 National Lawyers Convention on Thursday, November 12, 2009. Panelists included Prof. Richard A. Epstein of New York University Law School; Mr. Steve Forbes, Chairman and CEO of Forbes Inc. and Editor of Forbes Magazine; Prof. Jed Rubenfeld of Yale Law School; Mr. Andrew L. Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union; and Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit as the moderator. Part 11 of 11

The whole thing is very much worth seeing, highly recommended, and be sure you have your kidney basin at the ready for Prof. Rubenfeld’s first appearance:

Libertarianism and Conservativism – foes or friends?

F.A. Hayek at the end of his “Constitution of Liberty” (1960) wrote “Why I am not a Conservative” – which is odd as Hayek had (perhaps without knowing it) a good grasp of what actually is a positive conception of conservatism, and a poor grasp of libertarianism.

Hayek rejected the word “libertarian” as “artificial” which is just as well as he was not a libertarian – philosophically or politically.

Philosophically Hayek was a determinist (like so many 19th century and early 20th century thinkers, he assumed that “science” mandated determinism). Hayek took David Hume literally (whether Hume should really be taken literally is a hotly contested issue), the “I” (the human person) is an illusion, as is human choice – a thought does NOT mean a thinker (a reasoning “I”) and as there is no agent (no human being – no reasoning “I”) there is no agency (no free will), actions are predetermined by a series of causes and effects that go back to the start of the universe – and humans (who are not beings) can do no other than we do (we could not have done otherwise – as choice is an illusion).

Politically Hayek claimed to an “Old Whig”, but is hard to see how his philosophical views are compatible with the Whig point of view – which was based on the MORAL value of human free will (it is not an accident that David Hume was not a Whig) . The determinist (such as the Thomas Hobbes) holds that “freedom” is just an absence of external restraint – for example when a dam fails the water is “free” to rush out and destroy towns and so on. “Freedom” (in the determinist view) is not a matter of moral choice (remember choice is an “illusion”) so “freedom” is like taking one’s hand off a clockwork mouse and letting this clockwork mouse go around on the floor. It is hard to see how this “freedom” can be of any moral importance at all – if any view of politics can be based upon it would be a politics of tyranny (exactly the politics that Hobbes did base upon it), after all walls of water from broken dams (and so on) does not sound very nice.

Still does Hayek say anything else about his politics? Yes he does – again in the “Constitution of Liberty” we are told that he supports the “limited state” not the “minimal state”, because (according to Hayek) the minimal state can not be defined and the limited state can be defined.

Hayek is just wrong – the minimal state is easy to define (although very hard to achieve or maintain – an anarchist would argue impossible to maintain or achieve). The definition of a minimal state is one that just uses force only against the violation of the non aggression principle (attacks on the bodies or goods of people or groups of people). It is actually the “limited state” that is hard to define. Limited to what?

Hayek does make some vague efforts to define the “limited state” – for example he says that such a state applies “general rules” that apply to everyone.

O.K. then – everyone is to have their head cut off. Is that a good example of a “limited state”?

Hayek also says that a limited state does not seek to have a monopoly of any service.

O.K. then – everyone but the children of Mr Smith of 25 Silver Street to go to a state school?

Unfair example? O.K. – how about the state hands education and healthcare “free” (at the expense of the taxpayers), but you are free to pay twice (i.e. pay again on top of taxation) to go private? Is this the limited state?

How about you can go to any doctor you like and send your children to any school you like, but the state pays the bill (no matter how big it is), is that the limited state?

Such a state (one that seeks to provide or pay for education, healthcare, old age provision and on and on) will end up spending half the entire economy (and still fail). That does not sound very limited or sustainable – and Hayek (in his attack on the Welfare State) shows he understands this. However, his “limited state” is not defined in a way that prevents it.

Oh dear this post seems to have turned into “why Hayek is crap” which is unfair as anyone (even the best of us) looks terrible if one just concentrates on errors and weaknesses. I will leave the above out if I ever give a talk on this subject (because it sounds terribly negative) – but it needed to be put on record.

So why is Hayek (perhaps without knowing it) insightful about Conservatism?

Hayek’s own definition of Conservatism (given in “Why I am Not a Conservative”) is not good. He just defines it as being opposed to change – so (for example) a North Korean conservative now would be a socialist (or that is the system they have) and a British conservative I (say) 1870 would be a free market person – as this was the system of the time.

Whatever Hayek may have believed that is not a serious definition of Conservatism. But Hayek (again perhaps without knowing it) does give a description of Conservatism – in “Constitution of Liberty”, “Law. Legislation and Liberty” (and other works).

Cosmos not Taxis – spontaneous order (evolved over time) not top down planning. What Hayek called the results of “human action not human design” (it would be have been better to say the results of voluntary action not forced action – but Hayek had philosophical problems with even voluntary design).

Or (in the language of the conservative writer M.J. Oakeshott) a Civil Association not Enterprise Association, a Societas not a Universitas.

Institutions and customs that evolve over time often without people knowing the reasons they are useful – till they are broken.

As Tolkien’s (Tolkien being a Catholic Conservative) character “Gandalf” puts it in the “Lord of the Rings” – “he who breaks a thing to find out what it is, has left the path of wisdom”.

This is what Conservatism is about – a preference for evolved custom and ways of doing things (ways of living) over imposed “rational” planning by the state.

The state (in the Conservative view) is like the Thrain of the Shire (Tolkien’s) and the Mayor.

The Thrain does nothing in peacetime (in war it is different) – he just farms his estate. And the Mayor is the leading figure at formal dinners (like those of the old Closed Corporations that were the only “urban local government” before the Act of 1835 in England and Wales), he does not order folk about. Families govern their own affairs and do not attack each other (police forces were not compulsory on the counties of England and Wales till 1856). There is plenty of (moral – traditional) authority, but little naked “power”.

I think it is obvious show this view of Conservatism is close to libertarianism (hence “Tory Anarchist”) – a friend not a foe. But is it tied to Hayek and his philosophical opinions?

No it is not – which is why I mentioned Oakeshott and Tolkien (two Conservatives with very different philosophical opinions to Hayek). Both Oakeshott and Tolkien believed in free will (agency – moral responsibility, the ability to choose to do otherwise).

Even in the 18th century Conservatives did not follow the philosophical opinions of David Hume (again IF they were his opinions – I repeat this is hotly contested). Neither the Tory Conservative Dr Johnson or the Old Whig Conservative Edmund Burke (a real Old Whig – unlike Hayek) accepted determinism and the denial of human personhood (moral choice – the ability to choose to do otherwise). Edmund Burke and Dr Johnson (the Whig and the Tory) both believed in free will (agency – moral responsibility, the ability to choose to do otherwise) and were moral universalists (not just Dr Johnson – but Edmund Burke also, for the T. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson view of his is totally wrong, to Burke it did not matter if something happened in the Middle Ages or right now, in India or America – right was right and wrong was wrong).

Is this the only view of Conservatism?

Of course not – there are other views of Conservatism. For example the statism of Disraeli (with his life long commitment to “social reform” – yuk).

However, that is hardly “doing nothing” (against those who do not themselves aggress against others). The Tauist Old King Log sitting in the shade – rather than Young King Stork “helping” his subjects by eating them.

Recipe for Spoiled Brat Nation

Rachel Canning

Changes to the child neglect laws will make “emotional cruelty” a crime for the first time, alongside physical or sexual abuse. The Government will introduce the change in the Queen’s Speech in early June to enforce the protection of children’s emotional, social and behavioural well-being. Parents who deliberately starve children of love face jail under new Cinderella Law

The biblical proverb (Proverbs 13:24) from which we get the more punchy aphorism “spare the rod and spoil the child” may be a bit dated in an era where all but the mildest of parental chastisement is potentially subject to intervention by agents of the state and the criminal sanctions for being found guilty, not only the incarceration of the parent concerned, but the force seizure and adoption of the children of such a parent.

Such laws are brought about due to a handful of cases each year, usually where children have died due to parental abuse (quite often the boyfriend of the mother rather than an actual parent) and often exacerbated by woefully inadequate child / social services.

So to make matters worse, the UK now intends to expand the boundaries of the state to allow child / social services to intervene and prosecute “mental cruelty”.

So what is “mental cruelty”?

Certainly water boarding little Esme seems to be covered by existing laws, so it’s obviously not that.

Sending her up to bed without any pudding because she was cruel to young Tarquin? possibly.

Telling Tarquin he should play with his toy cars rather than dressing up Esme’s Bratz dolls and having an impromptu tea-party? Absolutely! - Gender stereotyping, lock ‘em up, throw away the key and snatch the kids into the state sanctioned redistribution programme, known as adoption.

Expect the legislation to be so broadly and nebulously written that it can be interpreted as meaning whatever the hell the agents of child / social services want it to mean.

So next time little Esme asks for that pony, you’d better start thinking about stables and hay suppliers rather than committing an act of mental cruelty on her by saying “No” you CHILD ABUSER!

What do you mean you can’t afford it? You need to be asking yourself a different question – “Can you afford the financial, legal and emotional costs of NOT buying her a pony?”

Billary 2016 – The World’s worst kept secret

Billary 2016

Another day, another press conference, another “hint” about the worlds worst kept secret. Will she or won’t she?

Hillary Clinton again hinted that she may run for president in 2016 on Saturday night, telling an audience in Arizona she was “very much concerned” about the direction of the country and was considering “all kinds of decisions” about her future.

Hillary Clinton hints at second presidential run in 2016

The suspense is killing me. NOT. If Hillary seriously thinks that she can just brush all of the dirt she has done over the years under the carpet, especially the truth about Benghazi then she is as delusional as Ted Kennedy was over Chappaquiddick.

Shit sticks and the intervening years don’t make it glitter.

I sincerely hope that Billary does go for the presidency in 2016 and that her opponents, both Republican and Democrat alike rub her nose in all the shit she has done and the lies she has told over the years, from Little Rock to the White House to the State Department and back.

I will enjoy seeing the truth about this misandrous harpy writ large, especially how her incompetence in previous high office left blood on her hands. I want to see her weeping in a corner when she receives the bill for her arrogance, hubris and pride, either during the nomination proceedings or the election itself.

I will certainly be keeping a copy of the speech announcing her withdrawal / defeat as a treasured memory – to watch for the lulz in years to come, not because of hatred, but rather as a reminder of karma. To paraphrase the bible, she has sown the wind, and now she shall reap the whirlwind.

Even if by some miracle, or more likely the weakness / incompetence of her opponents she does become POTUS in 2016, she will only accelerate the decline. The Marxist quisling currently in office has already commenced or completed most of the main items on the collectivist playlist, Billary would just carry them forward with her usual vicious feminist twist that has become her trademark, along with a dash of venality and incompetence for flavour.

The petrels of Muscovy are alive and well and finding the climate bracing. I certainly wouldn’t want to be male there during or after a Billary presidency. I suspect it would make the height of Mccarthyism seem like a walk in the park.

 Alternately, I can just sit back and enjoy the decline, because as a non-US citizen, I am not a part of that demos*, for which I am eternally grateful. Unlike the 314 million Americans who are on the Road to Hell, I am only watching.

“Sancerre anyone?”

* Actually it was a bloody close run thing as I lived in the US on an L1 Visa during 1994 through 1996 and would have foolishly accepted “the worlds most expensive passport” at that time if it had been offered.

Fortunately my stay there disabused me of my old-world delusions of “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.

Americans in general are decent, genuine and nice people especially in the mid-West, but their government bureaucracy bleeds them dry; their interstate banking is a 1950′s style joke and their law enforcement agents are thugs, especially the TSA.

Bill Clinton is right – the U.N. will prove to be a lot worse than the NSA.

Bill Clinton may be a crook (well forget the “may be” – he is a crook), but that does not mean he is not right – indeed it gives him an insight into corrupt minds. And not being in the service of a political ideology (being an “honest thief” rather than a “bitch” [a servant of the Soviets] – in the language of GULAG) he has no reason not to say what it is going on.

We now see what the Edward Snowden thing was really about (as well as giving the FSB some tips in the cyber war – stuff they most likely guessed at anyway). It was about discrediting United States control of the internet – thus giving Mr Obama an excuse to do what he always wanted to do. Hand over control of the internet to the United Nations international telecommunications union (read Russia, China and the Islamic powers). The NSA just wants to know what you are saying – the new masters of the internet (with no pesky First Amendment) will want to stop you saying it.

Was Mr Snowden just a useful idiot – or an FSB agent all along? I do not know – but the censorship of the internet (not practical under American control of the internet) is now a real possibility. Barack Obama may get his dream (control of speech – by P.C. doctrine) by the back door of the “international community”.

The young people (the ones who nod their heads at the “libertarians” on Mr Putin’s “Russia Today” television station) will not (yet) believe me. But the NSA (and yes the CIA also – people such as Mike Baker who risked his life so many times for young people who think he is a “Fascist”) were not the enemy (they never were). They (the NSA and the CIA) were not out to censor you. It is your “saviours” (the people you hero worship) who want to censor you.

“We are techno people, no censorship will work on us” – oh you silly people, that is not what censorship is about. Censorship is about the average person not seeing something.

Richard A. Epstein: When, How Should Courts Override Legislatures?

Please, do not miss this 1:26:33 of Prof. Epstein’s inimitable and marvellous discourse. Indescribably educational, and, of course, fascinating; and this one is particularly wide-ranging. My quibble-quotient here is tiny and is swamped by the education effect. The UT description:

Published on May 21, 2012

Richard A. Epstein, legal scholar and author, visits the Dole Institute to discuss courts grounds to invalidate the constitution.

Filmed on October 19, 2006 at the Dole Institute of Politics.

Where does it all go? (or come from?)

Penis pumps cost U.S. government millions, watchdog cries waste

(Reuters) – Penis pumps cost the U.S. government’s Medicare program $172 million between 2006 and 2011, about twice as much as the consumer would have paid at the retail level, according to a government watchdog’s report released on Monday.

Just a minor point but how much does the “government watchdog” that surveys the price of penis pumps cost? Just a thought.

A minor thought. Two major ones spring to mind. The first is of course to do with economies of scale (oh, err missus!). Surely Medicare could get more bang for buck (so to speak) than an individual due to greater economies of scale? That is the real scandal here but more on that later.

Now, I did a 5s Google and lovehoney.co.uk is knocking them out at from about GBP14.99 (that’s, what, 20 bucks a throw. Does anyone seriously believe the average yank on the sans a wank can’t afford 20 bucks for sex?) So this is the second point – why? Well, I guess it could be argued that sex is a right and Medicare ought to pay. But why pay twice the odds? That’s back to the first point. This is deeply inefficient.

So where does it all go? How much isn’t stealth planes or Obamacare but sheer waste? And buying an item for twice the retail rate is waste in spades. It is reckoned that the 21 B-2 Bombers built by Northrop-Grumman cost over USD2 billion a throw (and the operating costs are astronomic) but nobody really expected an intercontinental range bomber to be bought from the penny-jar (even with the Slovak 50 Eurocent that always finds a way in there). Penis pumps though are something I can find on Google in seconds. Is the US Department of Cock (and indeed Bull) lacking a computer? If they are they can speak to me and I’ll quote them an interesting price.

I mean it is sometimes worth looking at the small ticket items too because there are so many and a million here and a million there and soon it is billions and then it’s a billion here or there and then rapidly you are talking serious money.

So, apart from offering a service no one needs because anyone can get it off their own bat and doing this in a deeply inefficient way we come to the real er… meat. I can best sum this with a quote from the article…

“Considering the strain retiring baby boomers will soon be placing on Medicare’s budget, shouldn’t we be focusing this entitlement program on real, life-saving treatment and equipment to serve the health needs of seniors – instead of subsidizing penis pump purchases?

Why did I make that strong (I watched too many “Carry On” movies as a kid). Well, that and who is being subsidised? Not the seniors for sure. Just think who. This happens all the time. Look at the F-35 programme. Would it be interesting to suggest that the F-35 is a farce* on a trillion+ dollar budget which oddly enough (I think) has contracts in 48 states (and abroad). God knows what the congress-types from a pair of states were doing that afternoon. Manning Ted Kennedy’s penis pump (now deployed in Somerset?).

Anyway, it’s all er… pork barrels.

*A late block F-16 knocks it into a cocked hat for half (less?) the money. Possibly less than half the money.

The War against Eastasia: Theatre: The Paranoid Style in Libertarianism

Single Acts of Tyranny proposes to tyrannize us by destroying our fondest dream, which is that hell is the creation of the Devil which takes the form of bringing to Humanity that most desirable of conditions, happiness and joy — O hell, World PEACE, happiness and joy — by denying us everything that any human being could possibly need or want. In this case, the sense of physical sweetness that sugar brings us.

Now along comes Perfesser “Nudge” Sunstein, who says, “No such thing”: It’s all the woolly-minded Paranoid Libertarians, who broadcast to us the Sirens’ wail in the form of warnings against such things as slippery-slope arguments, plus four more dreadful paranoid ploys.

On the other hand, the Comments to the articule (what an apt typo! think I’ll leave it) seem to be running rather heavily against what they see as the Prof’s muddying of the waters.

Actually, it’s my observation that as soon as you let the meaning of words (that is, their meaning in Standard English, since there does have to be a standard for interpretation somewhere or “it’s deuces wild”) — as soon as you let the meaning of words become unmoored from their core meaning in Standard English, you are deep into the territory of the Slippery Slope and worse. Mr. Whittle did a wonderful illustration of how this works, on a Trifecta a few years back. If you have a “standard” as opposed to “basic” (but still paid) membership, I think it is, you can still watch it.

But I’m O/T there. The point is that ANY argument can, in my experience, be stretched to prove anything whatsoever, if you have just the teensiest bit of imagination. And Lefties are loaded with it, as long it informs them that their plans will work so well that they should just naturally have the final say.

Go, read — including the Comments, until you get bored: there are 288 of them so far, some meaty — and be Enlightened.

PS: Acts, no offense. That first line is my idea of humor. I do like your idea of putting 5 kg. of sugar in jail, though. Maybe it work to help me lose a little around the hips. :>)

The Overhead.

The Internet c.1800s...

That was the semaphore system built by Claude Chappe in France around the time of the French Revolution. If the idea of big semaphore machines connecting a nation (indeed internationally) reminds you of the “Clacks” on Discworld then you are in the right ball-park – almost. There is a key difference which we shall come to though and it is a biggy.

Anyway, this is the size of the network…

... and its reach.

Now here is the big difference. What is the modern, electronic, internet as we know it used for? It is a chaos of chatter and (in)sanity, logic and weirdness, bank transactions, Christmas greetings, pornography, blogging, tweeting, facebook, gaming, terrorist plots and how to build a bomb or how to cook a risotto. It can be anything from an interview with One Direction or a seminar on quantum entanglement. It is humanity in toto.

The French clacks wasn’t (that is the “biggy” I mentioned) and neither could it technically be nor was intended to be. The inventor had this rather disingenuous thing to say,

“Chappe once claimed that a signal could go from Toulon to Paris – 120 stations across 475 miles – in just ten or twelve minutes. But he could not make that claim for a full message, even a relatively short one. Three signals per minute was the most that could be expected of even the fastest telegraph operator.”

In modern terms that is 1/20 bit per second (roughly – the Chappe code had a signal space of 98 symbols (2 beam positions and 7 positions each for the “arms” = 2x7x7=98) which is near enough the size of the standard 7 bit ASCII code – 128 symbols – to compare with allowing a bit of wiggle on human factors). Difference is the first common(ish) home modems worked at like 2000 bps or 40,000 times that speed. Sending a signal as simple as, “Advance at noon, reinforcements will meet on your left flank by 1pm.” would be nightmarish. And that is assuming absolute accuracy in transcription at all stations along the way. It need not be said that 2000bps is dismal. A slow ADSL line is over a thousand times faster and if BT Reach-Around has deemed fit to bother with laying fibre even ADSL on Cu is laughable. Sky (my broadband, TV and landline provider keep on trying to get BT to get us into the C21st – to no avail so far). There are always BT vans prowling and doing nowt. I’m not surprised. I used to work for BT and trying to get them to do anything to the porpoise is like assaulting Broadmoor with soft fruit. They might technically be private but they still behave like a state monopoly. Utterly complacent Bertram Blunts plus ultra.

Anyhoo, back to those old French folk. Not only was the system technically very limited (in that it was fast but with abysmal bandwidth) and therefore unsuitable for general communication but it was never intended for such use. Chappe again,

“…took it for granted that the telegraph network of which he dreamed would be a department of the state, government owned and operated. He saw it not as an instrument of knowledge or of riches, but as an instrument of power. ‘The day will come,” he wrote, ‘when the Government will be able to achieve the grandest idea we can possibly have of power, by using the telegraph system in order to spread directly, every day, every hour, and simultaneously, its influence over the whole republic.”

Chilling but not a million miles away from how our Lords and Masters see the internet. Fortunately they don’t really understand TCP/IP and all that jazz and I don’t think they understand the importance of a technology they simply don’t understand (they don’t understand much tech stuff). But they try, hence such things as the unbelievably poorly thought out violent and extreme pornography bill or assorted attempts around the globe to make pornography an “opt-in” service (for the sake of the children, naturally). And will it stop at porn? Does it ever stop? No, of course not!

Now obviously, there is a difference here – almost an inversion. The old French mechanical “clacks” was a way to govern and the modern internet is a way to keep tabs on the governed. This morning for the first time ever I used my bank card contactless (I’ve forgotten my PIN!!!). Some bugger at the NSA or GCHQ now knows what toilet paper I buy, the brand of ciggies I smoke and that I drink semi-skimmed milk. And yeah, I know they could harvest that from the chip anyway but… as a true believing physicist I find action at a distance, “spooky” ;-) That’s a quote from Einstein by the way though Newton himself was not 100% happy with gravity working like that. General Relativity is at least a locally realistic theory. It may be (usually) more mathematically complicated but Relativity makes far fewer metaphysical assumptions than did Newton. Newton has a fair few mad old dears stashed in the attic clad in their wedding dresses. But I digress…

The simple truth is that by hook or by crook any advance in comms will be seen by our Lords and Masters as a potential means of control. Whether it is owning the entire shooting match or just spying on it is a mere matter of tech to the L&M. Tech they will, thankfully, cock-up profoundly but they do try, bless ‘em.

All quotes from “The Information” by James Glieck.

On the worship of little tin gods

St. Edward of Snowden, patron saint of whistleblowers

In part this comes down to SAoT’s recent post on the death of Nelson Mandela, but mainly from an argument with Perry de Havilland over at Samizdata who appears to be so utterly blinded by the “what” of St. Edward of Snowden’s revelations that he is unable to ask the fundamental question of “why” did he do what he did.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that the truth has come out about the NSA’s activities and if Snowden honestly felt that the way he did it was the only way that it could have been done then fair enough.

The problem is I find that the way that Snowden has gone about his revelations has been distinctly dubious.

This may be just the capricious nature of fate ruining the best laid plans of mice and men, but I consider that Snowden’s deliberately outing himself on the front page of the Guardian (when he could have revealed the necessary information without doing so), to be somewhat questionable.

I am uncomfortable with the fact that he is hiding under the coat tails of a country which would probably have killed him if he had committed the same offence there (as they did with Alexander Litvinenko)

I am uncomfortable that he has potentially carried US state secrets into Russia and, if so,  potentially revealed them to their state security apparatus in return for asylum in Russia.

I am uncomfortable about the sheer volume of information that he has in his possession, which he now appears to be either releasing in dribs-and-drabs to keep himself newsworthy or alternately holding back in some vain attempt to keep out of the clutches of the US Government by blackmailing the NSA from a safe haven in Russia.

Now I am, as some of you will know, a paranoid and suspicious son-of-a-bitch by nature and so it is entirely possible that my natural scepticism is preventing me from seeing the inherent beatitude of our glorious brother Snowden who shines his light of truth into the dark corners of the world.

If the general consensus is that I am being unreasonable, I promise to make amends by wearing a tinfoil hat and sitting in the corner murmuring quietly for a week (as if! Can you imagine…? :-) )

Proposed new regulatory state will do regulatory state type things. Film at 11.

I’ve just overheard a BBC trailer announcing an hour-long Reporting Scotland special on today’s publication of the “independence” manifesto white paper, which, they say, “covers everything from the economy to sports teams and TV programmes”. Reason enough to vote against the thing, I’d say.

And yeah, I’m posting this rather than watching it.

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