Friday, March 28, 2003

I hate to say this, but the Onion is mailing it in these days -- and losing that willingness to mock both sides equally that made it great.

Too bad.
I've been thinking about this very point. Of course, as it appears that both The New Republic and Ramesh Ponnuru have been thinking about it too, there seems to be no point in commenting on it, except to note this:

Ramesh notes:

It also seems to be true that even where an oil-heavy economy has co-existed with some form of democracy, the oil has weakened the democracy. Consider the example of Venezuela (to go beyond Judis's article): There oil appears to have encouraged an illiberal politics based on the economics of fantasy.
That, however, is only half the story. Venezuela is one of the oldest democracies in South America, and up until its oil reserves were found, and exploited, it was a healthy civil and economic society. Oil does not merely corrupt the government and separate it from the people; it allows the government to offer bread and circuses to the citizenry -- to reduce, in other words, the economic incentives to small-scale social and economic activity that are vital to capital formation in particular, and macroeconomic health in general, through enormous, cushy state welfare handouts -- which thereby removes the citizenry from its proper place in relationship to the government.

By way of simplification, think of it like this: Initially, to make $45,000 a year (a decent, if not incredible, salary in most parts of this country), you had to work hard, save over time, and socially and economically interact with your neighbors on a near-daily basis. Then, the American government came across and sold some fantastic resource, keeping all of the profits to itself. Those profits were then used, in large part, to establish and fund a government arm entirely dedicated to giving everyone in the country $42,000, for doing precisely nothing. (Yes, I know, this is the welfare argument again, but it's on a much larger scale.) Your incentive for all of that hard work and socio-economic interaction is now $3,000, assuming you wanted to be where you were before.

Ah ha, you say. No one wants only $45,000! People would work as hard, so they could get a total of $87,000.

Not so. The value of each dollar, in opportunity costs, decreases as you pass a certain threshold of comfort -- where you can eat, live, and clothe yourself and your family comfortably. You have less incentive to "waste" your time working for each extra (marginal) dollar, and more incentive (or less disincentive) to spend your time with your friends and family, or playing Space Harrier II, or just plain ol' foolin' around.

And anyway, assume a lot of people are inclined to work hard for each additional dollar. Not everyone will be. If you lose just 15% of your workforce to sloth, I assure you, there will be economic ramifications.

That's most of what happened in Venezuela. State oil led an otherwise impressive group of people down a path to, well, Hugo Chavez. You don't engage in an "illiberal politics based on the economics of fantasy" unless either (a) there's no cost to do so, (b) there is a cost attached to not doing so, or (c) some combination of the two. Venezuela is case (c). And it's heading down the crapper for it.

Like I said, I've been dreading this happening to Iraq for a little while, now.
Found this over at Jimmy Z28:

So apparently the Beastie Boys are pissy about the upcoming completion of the Gulf War.

Following a recording hiatus of nearly three years, the Beastie Boys have been driven out of hiding by the need to comment on the scary state of the world.

"We all got to a point where we felt like, we’re in this room in New York, we’re looking at each other every day, and we really felt compelled to speak our minds on what exactly we see happening right now," Mike D said.
The idiocy -- the simple, sheer absurdity of coming to this conclusion in New York of all places -- staggers the mind. But, sadly, there's more:

The up-tempo song, which features a simple rhythm and rudimentary samples, has the old-school feel of a Run-DMC track. The buoyancy of the beats contrasts with the lyrics, which criticize the Bush administration's eagerness to attack Iraq: "You build more bombs as you get more bold/ As your mid-life crisis war unfolds/ All you wanna do is take control/ Now put that Axis of Evil bullsh-- on hold."
Now there's an argument for you, kids. It's not about disarming a mortal threat, it's not about saving thousands of lives, it's not about making sure the U.S. is safe. It's about "taking control." Wow. Well, this man clearly deserves dual Ph.D.s in philosophy and political science. Maybe an M.D. in clinical psychiatry?

"None of us feels very comfortable with what Bush is putting forward and the way that Bush is representing the United States, and I don’t think he represents us," MCA said.
The last is not technically true; the solution to the former is simple: Vote against him in 2004. In the mean time, might I suggest resigning yourself to a little thing we call democracy? He's the President, and his party just won a crushing midterm on the issue of Iraq. Maybe -- just maybe -- the American people have spoken?

"We just felt like if we do have an opportunity to put some ideas out there that a few people might hear, then we should do that. I mean, you just look at the TV and see this guy who’s supposed to be representing us and it just feels ridiculous."
Well, while we're on the subject of ridiculousness, might we speak of your half-decade old "Free Tibet" campaign? How's that coming? 'Cuz peaceful protest, cruddy psuedo-cultural wailing, and pot-laced concerts have stopped ethnic cleansing in Tibet, right? Smug moral superiority has won over the PRC, and the Tibetans are once again a fabled, free, religious kingdom of knights, priest-kings, and a happy, shiny citizenry. Han extermination of the Tibetans is over due to your massive accrual of positive karma, right?


The Beasties may have been driven to create "In a World Gone Mad" because they felt like Bush was turning a deaf ear to the screaming voices of anti-war protesters, but they said they were also motivated after hearing rumors that artists were discouraged from mentioning the Middle East conflict during the Grammy Awards. After so much disinformation, the Boys decided some old-school learnin' was in order.
Two notes: First, I'm impressed with the writer who felt no need to put quotation marks around the word "disinformation." And this guy only works for MTV? Get him a professorship at the Columbia School of Journalism! Second, do we really care why these kooks brave souls chose to "speak out"?

"The majority of people out there seem to link September 11 and Iraq," Mike D said. "It seems to me that the government hasn’t really put any evidence out there. There hasn’t been a compelling case linking the two, so I think it’s really important to separate them."
Agreed. Exactly. Remember, when you have a high fever, swollen black lumps under your arms, and a hacking cough that brings up blood, it's not "Pnuemonic Plague." That's disinformation. It's actually three things that need to be separated, so they can be treated better, right? The fever you tag with aspirin. The swelling under the arms: Calamine lotion! The wheezing cough: Positive karma and some Ricola! Anyone who tells you differently is crushing dissent.

Sounds to me like someone needs a more advanced version of one of this -- for the prefrontal lobe.

I never liked the Beastie Boys, never got into them. Their last pile of shit artistic offering struck me as a bad combination of lazy white boy rap (heavy on those synths, baby!) and bad techno (which is to say, sorry Jimmy, techno). So this isn't exactly gonna wound my musical soul to its core.

But what got me really, really cheesed about this article isn't the typical leftist pap. Ok, well, yes, that irritated the crap out of me. But the reason I was in the right mood for this to set me off is the resurgance of this irritating song.

Wanna know why it sucks? Let's examine the lyrics:

War. huh! Yeah!
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin'! Uh huh uh hu-uh.
Oh, right. Nothing at all. Except maybe stopping things like this:




and, some day, God willing, this:

But hey, those dirty dark skinned people (and Jews, and Gypsies, and...) aren't really worth it. Sing it again:

War. huh! Yeah!
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin'! Say it again y'all.

War. huh! Look out!
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin'! Listen to me.
God, the Sixties were a deeply messed up time.

Ahhh war.
I despise, cause it means destruction of innocent life.
War means tears to thousands of mothers' eyes,
when their sons go off to fight and lose their lives.
Like Anne Frank, right? I mean, good thing someone didn't kill some soldiers and save her life, huh?

What's that? Collateral damage? Dead civilians? War is never worth it?

What a morally cretinous position.

I said, war. huh! Good God y'all.
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin'! Say it again.

War. huh! Whoa whoa whoa Lord.
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin'! Listen to me.

It ain't nothin' but a heart breaker.
Friend only, to the undertaker.
Because remember, peace always means love and life.

Ahhh war.
is an enemy to all mankind.
The thought of war blows my mind.
War has caused unrest within the younger generation.
Induction, then destruction. Who wants to die?
In order:

Actually, no: War is an enemy of the losing side. Get a grip.

I have the lurking feeling that a lot of things blow your mind.

Hormones cause unrest within the younger generation. So do shiny colors. War is no different in this regard than anything else.

No one wants to die, moron. But wait! I know the solution! Don't want to die? Don't live! After all, no one gets out of life alive!

Ahhh war. huh! Good God y'all.
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin'! Say it, say it, say it.

War. huh! Uh huh yeah, huh!
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin'! Listen to me.

It ain't nothin' but a heart breaker.
Its got one friend, that's the undertaker.

Ahhh war.
has shattered, many a young man's dreams.
Made him disabled, bitter and mean.
Life is but too short and precious,
it's been fighting wars each day.
War can't give life, it can only take it away.
Scroll back up to those pictures. Read an account of the liberation of Bergen Belsen. Then tell me that war can't save lives.

Ahhh war. huh! Good God y'all.
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin'! Say it again.

War. huh! Whoa whoa whoa Lord.
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothin'! Listen to me.

It ain't nothin' but a heart breaker.
Friend only, to the undertaker.

Someone wanna tell me why exactly this song is still popular? (I mean, I know folks did a lot of drugs back in the Sixties, but it's scaled back since then. We have no excuse now.)

Peace, love and understanding, tell me
Is there no place for them today?
They say we must fight, to keep our freedom,
but Lord knows there's got to be a better way.
Yes, there is. And there shall come a day when the Lion lies down with the Lamb, and the golden bowl will have poured its last, and human frailty shall be wiped away, and the Kingdom of God will be born, and there shall be no more suffering or iniquity.

In the meantime, we're stuck in a miserable, dirty, savage world, where folks will stab you in the liver just to get one step closer to the ATM. No, not Hollywood. Earth. We have to deal with this wretched world until the Eschaton, and sometimes that means, Huh! War!

Put differently, until that Last Day, I'd rather be the lion than the lamb, if only to save the other lambs.

Ahhh war. huh! Good God y'all.
What is it good for?
You tell 'em. nothin'! Say it, say it, say it, say it.

War. huh! Good God now, huh!
What is it good for?
Stand up and shout it. nothin'!
See why I got angry?

One last question, for Mike D: Would it be OK to go to war to stop China from ethnically cleansing Tibet? Just wondering.
Nice, if long.
Had to:

Republican - You believe that the free market will
take care of most things, but that the
government should be there with moderate
taxation to provide for national defense and
enforcing morality. Your historical role model
is Ronald Reagan.

Which political sterotype are you?
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More from MedPundit: Abortionist vivisects his patients while killing their children. So is this a good answer to the tort reformers?

(That's only a partially rhetorical question.)
Great. Chris Rock just entered Sid Blumenthal land.

You know, I really like Rock, but this kinda thing wears on you. Suck it up, guy.
Via the ever-helpful Medpundit, I give you this to brighten your day: Sex tips from Donald Rumsfeld.
Ooh! Looks like Blogger's having another meltdown!
Tort reform post coming up.
Why the Indians are hypocrites:

"The US President George Bush has spoken to me three times saying that India must help the USA as Sadaam Hussein had left him with no option but to go for the attack," he told journalists after a dedication programme of the Chakara Nala Patni Watershed Management Plan prepared by the Deendayal Research Institute run by Nanaji Deshmukh here.

Vajpayee told Bush that India believed war was not a solution to any problem and so could not help. India is also trying to consolidate the support of many countries to prevent escalation of the battle between US and Iraq, Vajpayee said.
Putting aside that bit about "trying to consolidate the support of many countries to prevent escalation of the battle between US and Iraq," let's savor the irony in this choice of words:

Vajpayee told Bush that India believed war was not a solution to any problem and so could not help.

Hm. Not a solution. Not a solution.

Oh! How about several wars with Pakistan? Kashmir? A war with China? Semi-regular nuclear standoffs?

Nope. Not a solution.

Why Tacitus rocks, Volume I, Episode I (first in an ongoing series).
So it's things like this that make me wonder why so many people want to be like the Europeans.

Negative birthrates mean a shrinking population. As any student of history knows, the trick to increasing economic, military, and social power lies in birthrates: The British Empire was born (and borne) on the backs of a massive baby boom. (Insert joke about who else's back was bearing it here.) The Roman Republic dominated the Mediterranean on the strength of some very fertile Roman matrons. The baby boom in this country helped provide us the economic and military power to hold off, and defeat, the Soviet Union.

The flip side is rarer, but conveniently, we have a model to work off of: Europe after World War I. The loss of millions of young men in Britain, France, and Germany altered the calculus of those nations for decades. Indeed, I'd say the British Empire was lost in World War I, not because of the cost of the war in pounds, but because a million young, healthy men who could have (and largely did) administer the Empire, fight its wars, and, at least as importantly, take part in the millions of tiny economic interactions that make an Empire possible. Britain still hasn't recovered. France had another revolution (or whatever it is they have every forty years), and the old social and economic order was smashed. And, yes, they still haven't recovered. Germany... well, you know what happened to them.

And we want to be like them why? To lose our economic pull? Our strength? Our will to fight the good fight?

Thursday, March 27, 2003

I don't want to talk about tort reform any more, and yet I'll probably do exactly that tomorrow.
Even better than the Onion, and with some sort of indication of freshness!

HT: InstaPundit.
I used to be able to keep up with the Brothers Judd back when it was only Orrin posting.

It's not just Orrin any more. God help us all.

This is a long way of saying that if something here copies an article the gang over at the Brothers by Various Mothers has brought to the world's attention, without the appropriate tip o' the hat, please don't think I'm stealing source material -- I just haven't seen it on their site yet.

For reference, I steal source material for a living, so to speak. I don't steal for fun.
So I'm a big sexist; fine. But I can't stand to see more things like this.

No more women in war. Period.
Insofar as this wasn't true before, it is now: Paul Krugman is completely and utterly barking mad. Arguably the best part is when he compares smashing Dixie Chicks CDs to ... well, here:

By and large, recent pro-war rallies haven't drawn nearly as many people as antiwar rallies, but they have certainly been vehement. One of the most striking took place after Natalie Maines, lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, criticized President Bush: a crowd gathered in Louisiana to watch a 33,000-pound tractor smash a collection of Dixie Chicks CD's, tapes and other paraphernalia. To those familiar with 20th-century European history it seemed eerily reminiscent of. . . . But as Sinclair Lewis said, it can't happen here.
Yes, smashing Dixie Chicks CDs is the equivalent of Krystallnacht. Of course! Now let's round up ... um, the cute female country-western singers!

First, they came for the Cute Female Country-Western Singers, and I didn't do anything because I wasn't a cute, female Country-Western singer. Then, they came for the Country-Western record executives, and I didn't do anything because I wasn't a Country-Western record executive...

It says something deeply troubling about the modern Left that this man (and Michael Moore!) are virtually gods among them.

One question: As Krugman is Jewish, wouldn't you think he'd be a little more careful tossing allusions like this around? Just wondering.

(Hat tip: LGF, who points out that the end of that paragraph was more explicit just a few hours ago.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Ladies and gentlemen, our word for the day: Suicide.
MedPundit has posted an article about "medical malpractice insurance" -- that patients pay.

Put to the side my suggestion below (and I still maintain that would stop 40% of the suits -- even extremely valid ones -- because people tend to trust their doctors), I think this is a fine idea -- so long as it doesn't let doctors who are seriously negligent off the hook. I don't see why one shouldn't be able to insure oneself from a careless doctor; what I oppose is shifting the burden off a doctor who deeply messes up, onto the person upon whom the [expletive]-up was worked. I also view medical malpractice law, like most aspects of our law, from a certain punitive angle: If the doctor messes up often enough, badly enough, and no one will yank his license, then maybe he should be forced out of business? Just a thought.

I know all of the arguments for tort reform, and I'm sympathetic to them. I'm not against minimum damage limits for medical malpractice cases (i.e., there must be a certain, grievous level of damage before a suit can be brought). I'm not against capping punitive damages, so long as there's an inflation adjustment built in ($250,000 is a big deal now; in thirty years, that'll be the cost of a cab ride). But the idea that runaway juries destroy the careers of doctors who did nothing wrong, on frivolous claims -- well, let's just say there's more myth than truth to it (although there's undoubtedly some truth, too). Trust me on this, I know: Plaintiff's lawyers cannot afford to take medical malpractice cases unless they're good ones, by which I mean there's something deeply wrong, the client got badly injured, and it really looks like the doctor screwed up, big-time. I know of one litigation -- that settled just before trial! -- where the costs, not including attorney fees, exceeded $150K. That's photocopies, depositions, postage, FedEx... Point is, I think some of the call for tort reform is overblown.

Which is why (to get back to my original point) I'm leery of burden shifting. If it's a real med-mal case, someone got badly hurt, and I want the doctor who did it to pay.

Tip: VodkaPundit.
I have never been more abivalent about any Senator than I was about Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. I hated him one day, and idolized him the next; cheered him and booed him; and regretted, through it all, that even great minds can go astray.

May he rest in peace.
A bonus cigar to anyone who can name the parallel to this story a scant thirty years ago.
Harsh as it is, Orrin's right.
I was wondering how long it would take for this to flare up.
I'd like to make a note about the blogs listed on the left: I like them all. Berry much. I read them. Hence, they're listed there.

There are some whom I added, then removed.

Let's start with Mr. Oliver Willis. He was under the now obviously oxymoronic label of "Rational Liberals." I have chosen not to link to him because, quite frankly, though I started off with a pretty good-sized chunk of respect for him, he managed to destroy it, bit by bit. (Examples? Oh, endorsing ANSWER, accusing all Southern/red state boys of being racist hicks, letting irritation over his boy losing the 2000 election warp his mind, rhetorical degeneration, etc., etc.) He will not be linked on this blog. Ever.

InstaPundit, because... Um, because... well, ok, because he doesn't need my paltry two referrals a day, and as Orrin Judd likes to put it, I know where I stand in the great chain of being. And because he's got something against the Catholic Church.

Andrew Sullivan: See InstaPundit, supra. Brilliant when he's on, cold when he's off. Note to Mr. Sullivan: Please use the word "purge" when referring to the Catholic Church and gay priests, especially in light of what the world takes it to mean today, only if you mean the Church is going to put gay priests through show trials, then execute them out back.

Disgusted Liberal: To a lesser extent, see Willis, Oliver, supra. I might link him, though.

Josh Marshall: Hack. See Willis, Oliver, supra; then double it.

May get linked in the future:

Patrick Ruffini: Every time I think he's not offering anything new, I watch him put together some truly awesome work.

VodkaPundit: The guy can be boring about once every week, then he's on fire the rest of the time.

Little Green Footballs: Gracious. Only exception: See InstaPundit, supra, about the Great Chain of Being.

Lileks: Love him, but see LGF, supra.

The Volokh Cabal: See LGF, supra.
No, seriously.

T. Crown is a white collar worker somewhere in these United States. He stole a template idea from someone (who didn't seem to be using it much anyway) and decided to spout off a little. He's deliberately psuedonymous because, first, he doesn't want to offend any clients, and, second, because if he ever has to look for a job, he doesn't want to have his political opinions held against him before the resume even lands on an H.R. idiot's desk. T. Crown is tall, good looking, and has a slight Irish brogue... No, wait, that's the real T. Crown.

Read on. You might like what you see.

A note to doctors who are worried about medical malpractice insurance premiums, and indeed about lawsuits in general:

If your patient, or former patient, asks you why you did something, answer it. Forty percent of our cases -- yes, I'm keeping track -- come from people who wouldn't've bothered, except the doctor replies to questions like that with (I'm not making this up): "I don't have to answer that," or "You wouldn't understand."

Look, I know that your patients won't understand most of what you tell them. Trust me; they end up in my office with some regularity. But you can stop a lot of them before they go anywhere near the "Attorneys" section of the Yellow Pages by tamping down the God Complex just a bit.
I think this doesn't upset me as much as the alternatives (especially given what appears to be the consolation prize included with the result):

You are Irish
You are a Dubliner.

What's your Inner European?
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Holy gracious, I remember this. I mean, I really remember it.

I also remember really wanting a copy.
This blogging thing looks worth a try.
Who is T. Crown?

Good question.