Friday, May 05, 2006

Verity and EG, sitting in a tree ...

It's a bit odd, when you haven't a clue what either one looks like. But I had to put a comment in on a Samizdata post about comment control which brought up the question of the appropriateness of comments by the varied weirdos who show up there:
We invite comments but that does not mean we relinquish control over our property, just as when you invite people into your house, you do not relinquish the right to subsequently un-invite them if they act inappropriately or if you just want them out for whatever reason.

I have always relished the to-and-fro on Samizdata. The boundaries of comment style and substance fit my inclinations. I'm aware, though, that some Samizdata commenters might think I was over the edge and should be banned, just as I dislike some of them. But it's the house that makes the rules. So I thought I'd comment on the commenting of two of the edgiest commenters:
The great thing about the blogosphere in general is that every blog has a slightly different definition of who is a "racist" or an "Islamofascist" or just a "troll". So those who really want to profit from their blogiversations gravitate toward those sites with whose definitions they tend to agree. Kos's definition of a "right-winger" is about as far from Samizdata's as Protein Wisdom's definition of a "communist" is from that of the Idiotarian Rottweiler. And many Samizdatistas reject the whole right-left thing entirely. You guys do a good job of maintaining a balance while keeping an edge on the discussions. If Verity and EG can comment interestingly on the same post without dissolving into flames, anything is possible!

Note: Of course, that should be the "ANTI-Idiotarian Rottweiler"! My humblest apologies, Emperor Misha!
Marginal Revolution had an interesting post on the "forever stamp":
The forever stamp

The post office is planning a ''forever" stamp for letters, good no matter how many times postal rates increase. That means people could say goodbye to those annoying 2- or 3-cent stamps that have to be added to letters every time rates go up. The idea for the special stamps, which would be sold at the same price as other first-class stamps, was included in proposals announced yesterday that would also raise stamp prices 3 cents -- to 42 cents -- next year.

Here is the story. Yes this is a hedging device, but it also represents an attempt to peg a real rate of return.

So I had to extend the idea:
Maybe Wal-mart should guarantee people interest equal to gasoline price inflation (which is essentially what the Post Office is doing with stamps) when they put money on those cards that get you 3 cents a gallon off the gas price at their stations. So you would be guaranteed the same price for gas for as long as the money lasted. The problem there might be that the price of gas could (I wish!) come down. What if you put sixty dollars on the card and the price of gas was cut in half? Would you then only be able to buy thirty dollars worth of gas?
The viability of the scheme would appear to depend on the size of the float and the interest the seller could get on the float money.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Putting this comment in at Samizdata:
Some ideas just die of their own idiocy, like the "ozone hole", although that cost billions before it exposed itself as an illusion. "Acid rain" was another myth that was used until it no longer cut any ice. I don't think it will be too long before HIV=AIDS goes the same way. And "Oil comes from dinosaurs" is another. As is "Immigrants take jobs Americans won't do." It's often best to just let stupidity run its course. Attempts at debunking may actually stimulate opposition and lead to stubborn re-assertion of the received wisdom. If in fifty years it's no warmer than it is today, who will believe in global warming?

I found myself thinking, hey these would give me enough material for quite a lengthy treatise. Reminds me of a book I ran across long ago in the stacks at the University of New Hampshire Library, "The History of Human Stupidity". It was an enormous book.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Spengler and Lincoln

That iconoclast Spengler has posted some interesting speculation here and here about the causes of the US Civil War and the alternatives to war. This bit is especially intriguing:
Was it coincidence that France, England and Spain determined to invade Mexico after Benito Juarez suspended debt-service payment to Mexico's European creditors in 1861, just as the American Civil War began? French, English and Spanish forces landed in Mexico in December 1861, after the South's early victories in the Civil War convinced European governments that the slaveholders would prevail. By 1862, after Stonewall Jackson's success in the Shenandoah Valley, England came close to recognizing the Confederacy. In October of that year, William Gladstone, then chancellor of the exchequer, stated, "We may anticipate with certainty the success of the Southern States so far as regards their separation from the North." The Union half-victory at the Battle of Antietam in September came just in time to abort British recognition of the South.

Had the war broken out two years later, the European powers already would have been entrenched in Mexico, providing the South with a natural ally against the Lincoln government, and a base with which to expand the slave system southward. America would have split in two (at least), and the history of the world would have been radically different, and radically worse.

I'm skeptical if Lincoln really saw all this coming. But such speculation is truly stimulating. The Cinco de Mayo, representing the defeat of the French by the Mexican Army in 1864, may be more fateful and important than we've ever realized. The higher-level point about the timing of a war being even more important than the execution of the campaign also resonates. What if Bush 41 had gone on to Baghdad in '91? Would Iran now be threatening the peace of the world and the existence of Israel? As Spengler says elsewhere, the Chinese say it best: "Kill the chicken and let the monkey watch." And no, I don't really know what that means. But it sounds great.

Monday, May 01, 2006

As I was saying ...

Puerto Rico is the laboratory example of Hispanic culture in a modern North American democratic setting. The island has had numerous opportunities over the past fifty-plus years to become independent, to reclaim its territory from the oppressive Gringos. But they'd rather remain attached to the American taxpayer's nipple. And here's where they stand:
Many basic functions of Puerto Rico's government were unavailable Monday as the U.S. commonwealth ran out of money and imposed a partial public-sector shutdown _ putting nearly 100,000 people _ including 40,000 teachers _ out of work and granting an unscheduled holiday to 500,000 public school students.
The government is Puerto Rico's largest employer, with some 200,000 workers. Salaries make up about 80 percent of the government's operational costs.

And as the article doesn't tell you, more than half the island is on USDA food stamps. The US taxpayer has ponied up for countless tax breaks to convince industry to locate there. Looks like most of those who do work, "work" for the government. Imagine. They might have to have a 5.9% sales tax! In Tallahassee it's 7.5%. This is the future for California, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, etc., if low-cognitive-skills, high-crime Hispanic and MesoAmerican immigration is allowed to continue unabated.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Back from Paris and blogging away

Finally got commenting to work on Captain's Quarters. An article on Zarqawi made me think about the fact that the war in Iraq is progressing quite differently from the way the Vietnam war did:

I have been thinking about all those Monday-morning quarterbacking retired generals and State Department pundits who say we should have used many more troops in Iraq. That's exactly what got LBJ into trouble in Vietnam. He kept increasing the numbers, up over 500,000 at one point, in a country smaller than Iraq. And that increased casualties to the point that the politics turned sour, even though LBJ was a Dem.
The anti-war front today wants Bush to escalate, because they can't think in any terms other than Vietnam, and they know significant escalation would doom the effort. They are traitors. Bush has done a great job by keeping troop levels down, using technology and training the Iraqi army. Zarqawi is in the situation of the Japanese after they started running out of kamikaze pilots and the American fleet was within range of the homeland. Main force efforts and occupying territory is suicide for Z. I believe Zarqawi will flee to Iran, if he's not there already, and start talking about how Iraq isn't really important, that Palestine is the critical front.