Saturday, April 30, 2005
I wonder when print news and TV news is going to pick this up and run with this? Trial starts May 3.
Of course, I don't mean the whole press will deal with this.
I mean only those worthy members of the press whose entire limited attention isn't fully occupied by Michael Jackson. If there are any.
What other explanation could there be for the sparse coverage so far?
That's just great.
I think we should have a United Nations.
I think the U.S. should be a member.
I think it is urgently needed that some other country host the U.N. for a while. Effective immediately.
Some of those who got their way and got us out of Viet Nam are still around, and one of them ran for President recently. Here in Portland, he did well.
Also, here in Portland, the city was part of a federal arrangement to investigate possible threats from terrorists. The city contributes two cops to the effort. Those two cops are supervised by the chief of police of course. The cops and the chief, all have security clearances appropriate to their assignments. And this is serious. There may be some reason to think that Oregon, for some unimaginable reason, could be an attractive place for would-be terrorists or jihadists to assemble. They've done it before and some of them pleaded guilty and were convicted.
Our mayor wants us out of that federal task force, altogether. Oh, the authorities hasten to assure us, we will still get the full benefit of federal protective efforts. We just won't contribute anything. It's free. And the feds will still keep the chief of police advised of any possible threats they may come across. After all, the chief has the appropriate security clearance to receive the information and is unlikely to blow any investigation, as some politicians have been known to do to polish their own images in their own psychic mirrors. So, it's gonna be okay for us.
But you might ask, why would the mayor do such a thing? Well, what he says is that he needs to personally supervise the two police officers, just to make sure that they don't stomp on anybody's rights in the process of investigation. (Isn't that what the police chief is for?) And the mayor just cannot do his job of supervising these two lonely police officers because the feds won't tell him things. And they reason they won't tell him things is because he doesn't have the security clearance necessary to receive the information. And they won't give him one!
In my mind, I wonder why not? The cops have the security clearance. Why, it's as if the feds made a judgment that the mayor couldn't be trusted to know what to do with sensitive security information. And in my mind, the mayor's conduct with reference to this issue would confirm such a judgment.
Basically, those mean federales hurt our mayor's feelings by declining to treat him with the same high regard he accords himself.
What does the mayor want? He wants what he wants, which is to insert himself into matters where he has no legal right to be. Legally, he doesn't have the clearance. But he wants what he wants, so if he can't have his way, he wants the whole city out of the task force, without concern for the consequences.
And this, as I mentioned, is Portland. He is going to get his way, I betcha, and oodles and piles of Portland's politically astute citizens are going to line up to congratulate him all over the place for taking a principled stand in favor of, I mean, against, or is it . . . well, anyway, there's some kind of principle involved and we approve ot it.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
You have to ask yourself, why would a country need to develop nuclear power when it has so much oil? Google around. You'll find that Iran has 9% or 10%, at least, of the world's proven oil reserves, and is OPEC's second largest producer of crude.
And how will Iran fight to save its nuclear program? Wretchard at The Belmont Club has published a link to the American Thinker, which translated and republished Iran's bellicose response. Here.
The threat is to detonate a nuclear bomb high in the atmosphere above us, to completely disrupt all electro-magnetic activity. That, folks, is a big deal.
Well, let's see now. What have we done to make the mad mullahs of Iran mad at us? Have we attacked Iran? No, actually I think we got along just fine with Iran, until they trashed our embassy and held a bunch of American hostages through the balance of President Carter's stewardship of United States national security. (I think he was of the opinion that war was not the answer.) Even then, we've pretty much left the mad mullahs alone, except to say bad things about them.
I'd say we are at war, and I think they'd say we are at war. Not that war is the answer, mind you.
Monday, April 25, 2005
This is from USA Today
"First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century," Putin said. "As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory.
Sounds like this guy would like to bring back the KGB. I think he plans on staying in charge for a long time to come, one way or another.
But look on the bright side. When we and the U.S.S.R. were locked in the cold war, Hollywood had some great stuff for thriller movies and even comedies. What do we have now? Well, we can't make movies about the bad guys now because to do so would tend to make Pres. Bush look like a leader, and Hollywood is unwilling to concede the point. But Hollywood knows that if they make movies glorifying the other side, you know, the terrorists, people would pay to see the movie only on the east and west coasts. That's why Hollywood keeps remaking old movies. They don't have to be responsible for the content, and they don't have to figure out if there's a story they can tell that we will buy.
So, maybe, just maybe, Mr. Putin might be helping us out a little by becoming a much needed Iconic Implacable Foe. Doing so would let Hollywood start writing spy thrillers again.
Or maybe I'm just trying way too hard to find a bright side to Mr. Putin's statement.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
One interesting point is that some of the Iraqis are disappointed with the United States because we did not take over and supply a sane power in charge, replacing the insane power in charge.
Our decision not to replace an old despot with us as a new despot, means that the Iraqi people have to ask questions to learn more, to find out things, in order to make the decisions about their own destiny. And finding out things is not a Muslim value, seeing as how everything is already known. It's not that long and you could read it all.
I expect that bankruptcy attorneys might experience a rush of new business in the next few months, as people decide to file for Chapter 7 now, while they still can.
Of course, even without the reform, the judges presently have the power to dismiss a Chapter 7 filing for substantial abuse. But what do they know; they just have been seeing all the actual bankrupty filings and don't have access to the zeal and lore of the credit card companies.
I'm not actually against the stricter procedures for the debtors. I just would like to see the credit card companies' excessive interest and penalty charges, and targeting of desperate and unsophisticated debtors, brought under a little control so that they look a little more like the other lenders, credit-wise. I figure that all the add-ons to credit card accounts, and the excessive interest charged in the months just before the bankruptcy filing, to the degree that any payments on the account were actually made by the debtor, are preferences to the credit card companies as compared to the other creditors. At least they should be. I'd like to see some reform in that area.
And if people are looking for a playground for debtors abusing the system, take a look at Chapter 11 filings. Recognize that nobody ever files for bankruptcy unless they have something to protect. But individual debtors don't usually have the sophistication to "game" the system, and lots of bankruptcy attorneys representing individuals actually walk on the path of righteousness themselves. The "gaming" of the system, I suspect, occurs much more frequently and effectively in the case the large corporations that have the sophistication to see all the possibilities in debtor-in-possession status.
And when it comes to "gaming" the system, I also suspect the lobbying effort to get this issue before Congress, and passed into law, is a lesson on how to get your way by working the United States Congress. After all. It took years. The fact that it took years tells me that Congress was not all that eager to pass this legislation and has only done so when the pressure to pass became irresistable. And the fact the credit industry lobbyists spent all those years and created this much pressure over the years, doesn't exactly say much good about the credit industry's zeal to protect what is a pretty sad and snarky business, at depth.
Finally, I suspect that the number of Chapter 13 filings is not going to increase all that much and except for the expense of bankruptcy on the debtors, and on the public purse that has to support the increased workload on the bankruptcy courts, I don't think in the long run that the reform is going to enrich the credit card companies all that much.
But there is still such a strong odor about this whole thing.
Friday, April 22, 2005
The expression, "axis of weasels" once again comes to mind.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
When you put your money into any financial institution, bank or corporation, wonder of wonders, they don't actually keep it for you. The institution either spends it frivolously or loans it to some moron who can dress well enough to impress a lending officer. The institution frequently makes some money in spite of itself and sometimes distributes some of the money to you in the form of dividends or interest -- always first assuring that its officers get big bonuses at year end. You, of course, would frequently not approve of how your money gets spent. And when you invest, you are betting that both the money and the institution you put it into will be there when you need it to be, despite observing one institution after another bite the big one over your lifetime. It requires a great deal of blind, unreasoning faith to make this bet. I think this faith used to be called patriotism.
Nowadays, we have a new economic system. It seems mere handsful of shamelessly exploited foreigners can manufacture all the products that are actually needed, and a very great deal more besides. So in response we've turned ourselves into developers and marketers of unneeded goods and services -- just kinda to keep our hand in. Many of us basically get paid for peddling something unnecessary, but if it doesn't sell, we don't eat, so we keep at it anyway. Many more of us, not wishing to peddle garbage, have become what is called -- with a straight face, mind you -- knowledge workers. We collect data and reassemble bits and pieces of it into new and exciting configurations so as to support the making of predominately inconsequential decisions, which in turn mostly have to do with how to sell more shoddy goods and unneeded services. Finally, if we are good at peddling garbage or mining data we get to supervise others in the same sad trades, whether or not we are good at supervising.
But each and every worthless trinket that gets manufactured, bought and soon thereafter pitched into a landfill ( a whole 'nother issue ) contributes, even if only slightly, to keeping some poor desperate drone alive and secure in the knowledge that somehow he matters.
That drone may be you or it may be me. So spend while you can and don't be stingy. It all counts.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Of course, I'm still waiting for the promise of the Dead Sea Scrolls to be fulfilled. You know. The part where they find the lost or suppressed Eleventh Commandment. The one that said, "Thou shalt not tithe; neither shall thou suffer thy purse to be lightened by taxes."
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Friday, April 15, 2005
I think that maybe we grew to see that just because someone does not believe as we believe, we are not obliged to do anything of a drastic nature to them. If I find that you are a member of some filthy, profane cult that believes in secretly transporting a potato around in your underwear (in the back, not the front), I am not compelled to torch you and your house by the light of the moon. I am willing to leave you to fester in your ignorant state, provided you will do me the courtesy of not interrupting while I worship the great and merciful Chlorox. (And if I should happen to say that you could use a little more Chlorox in your gene pool, think of it as mere words of blessing. Okay?)
We have developed cultural tolerance.
Of course, tolerance in our culture is not not practiced perfectly. Just recently I got stuck playing golf with a couple of -- well, they called themselves pastors -- who felt obliged to encourage me repeatedly to repent and be reborn in the blood of the Lamb. This is something I might even have been willing to do as a seven foot putt for a birdie was at risk, but I felt it might be wrong somehow to bargain with the almighty over the matter. I didn't want to think as they did, and they certainly thought I was a sinner. They told me so. Nevertheless, none of us felt obliged to take a divot out of anybody's forehead with a pitching wedge. We were tolerant. Nobody came to harm. (And I made the putt.)
And if you think about it, much of our world is like that. We constantly find ourselves confronted with others whose notions of proper conduct are just wrong -- like wearing a baseball hat backwards for example, or voting stupidly, or having loud children, or driving like a maniac. Or cursing in public. Or being fat. Or smoking. Or tatoos. Or protesting -- well, anything. We don't approve. We are annoyed, offended, and we don't approve. We wish they would stop doing what they shouldn't be doing, or start doing what they aren't. But we don't, by and large, start blowing things up. Well, nearly all of us don't. Some do. But we have a cultural and legal bias forbidding such conduct, and so Eric Rudolph, our most recent example of a home-grown terrorist, is going to spend the rest of his days sitting alone for about 23 hours a day, thinking thoughts about how great a hero he is for fighting for the unborn by killing somebody, anybody, just killing it doesn't matter who.
Our cultural and legal bias against the agressively narrow-minded comes from experience. We've figured out that it's dangerous being around such people. For the safety of all, we encourage and enforce a social contract that says, I get to putt my putts in safety, and you get to watch naked ladies dancing in bars, if you want to. I get to drive a sedan, and you can continue to drive a slow, loud, and above-all stinky diesel truck (invariably referred to as a "rig" by its owner, a mighty hairdresser or social worker by trade.) And you can drive it in front of me and I won't shoot at you.
See how this works? Western culture has gone beyond the narrow strictures of its religious cultural inheritance. Tolerance.
And that's where the problem with Islamic terrorism is rooted. What I would call intolerance, is idealized as a virtue. What do you get? You get places where, if anything identifiable as female about a person shows in public, the female person showing it must be punished -- and so the only safe public female posture is to do one's best to look like a shapeless black shadow. You get, rape is invariably the woman's fault and she must die for having caused a man to rape her. You get, sexual conduct not approved by the mullah must be punished, and the punishment amounts to being tied in a sack which will be turned into an unhuman-shaped bloody mass after a frenzied mob throws fist sized stones at it until -- too long later -- the sack stops moving. You get, leaving Islam is apostasy, punishable by death. You get jihad.
I know there's a question about whether jihad is an intellectual matter, or if it really requires actual subjugation of the world. I know there's a question of whether Islam means peace, or submission. I know there's a question about whether the sword of Islam is metaphoric or literal. But I don't see, on either end of the spectrum, where tolerance is much valued. Sure, I know that many Muslims all over the world are not blowing people up, and don't much want to. But my understanding is that Islam is all about becoming universal. To the faithful in Islam, it isn't a matter of whether we will convert to Islam, it's a matter of when. Or if we will live that long. There remains, even if un-bloody, the jihad.
So, I think we are involved in a holy war. I don't think we want it, and we certainly don't want it to be a religious war. But I think we are in it and it is a religious war, at least on their side. And I think much of the 21st century is going to be taken up in fighting this war. One part of the reason the war will take up so much time is that we haven't committed ourselves to winning the war. A war is not won after a certain percentage of people die. A war is won when one side is beaten, conquered, vanquished. Just killing a bunch of people isn't the same thing. And until we have won this war, the radical Islamists are going to keep blowing us up.
I also think we will win the war, for two reasons.
First, all the effective weaponry comes from the west. That's not a matter of luck. Our culture is such that innovation is encouraged by wide adoption and proliferation and financial reward, and the complete infrastructure is in place to support innovation. For example, it took just about twenty-five years for personal computers to go from idea to what we have now. It wasn't a fluke; the idealists at the beginning envisioned and intended the wide-spread distribution of personal computers - and I'll bet even they are astonished at how rapidly the idea was deployed. More importantly, we haven't yet even mobilized for war. The vast majority of us westerners, American and European, are contentedly going about our happy civilian chores, entertaining ourselves and our friends by sticking superfically clever bumble (like this) stickers on our vehicles.
We could be much more lethal. In WWII, we stopped producing civilian automobiles and tires, altogether, just so we could build tanks. We rationed food, so that more labor efforts could be spent winning a war. We fire-bombed whole civilian cities to eliminate the enemies' ability to manufacture weaponry. We drafted an entire generation. We dropped a couple atomic bombs. We, today, are nowhere near as pi--ed-off as they were back then. Think what could happen if we were.
Second, I think that in the long run, "regular" Muslims are going to marginalize the radical Islamists. I think that Muslims are coming to recognize, as most westerners do, that it is just dangerous being around the radical, aggressive, militantly narrow-minded killers. (I suspect that, in the last thirty years, the radicals have killed more Muslims than westerners, anyhow.) I think that there will be a growing awareness that us "regular people," both westerners and Muslims, have need to join in common cause to protect one another from terrorists, some few of whom are western, and a whole bunch are, at least for now, Islamic.
I think that the notion of tolerance is already infecting the Muslim world. Why? Take a look at Iraqi blogging. Iraq the Model is one of the old blogs in English - which has improved over the months. But notice what he is saying -- there's a lot of blogging going on, and exchanges of views. Blogging is crossing the borders and people are communicating with one another as neighbors, without regard to the borders or the authorities.
I think it is a matter of patience, persistence, and time.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Now would be a good time for Kofi to receive the congratulations of all of his sticky-fingered peers, and retire to write his autobiography.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
For everybody else, here's something that is worth reading. Sometimes we speak of the culture war, meaning the nasty food fight between the hooligans of the left and the mouth-breathers of the right. But that's just part of it. I think there's some insight here. And be sure to check out the commentary.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
I know. Government needs the money. That's because politicians, most of whom are otherwise unemployable, need jobs and have to get re-elected to keep their jobs. So, they buy their jobs by supporting programs to buy votes.
With my money.
But I look on the bright side. There aren't that many years left before I can get social security. That's when I officially become a socialist. And I might even have to stop saying bad things about the A.A.R.P, as well. And I'm going to get a little change purse, and count out nickles and dimes to pay for things in the check out lane. Things are going to be just fine for us socialists as long as the worker bees keep buzzing around in the field.
Yea, worker bees.
Monday, April 11, 2005
Also, whomping* up new set of class notes for bankruptcy class to start next term, to stick up on the site. Not to name names, but somebody sure outsmarted himself when he got the notion to break things up into many pages with lots of links instead of a few long pages. Got so many links that I now can see the back of my head without the use of a mirror and have to put one foot up on a chair to tie a necktie.
*to whomp, whomping, whomping up: Doing any job in a sloppy fashion based on insufficient or ineffective planning, all while assuring oneself that speed of completion trumps accuracy any day, and is a more manly quality besides.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
- 23.99 APR for purchases.
- same interest for cash advances
- 29.99 APR for late pay
- Grace period? NONE
- variable rate: may go up, depending on prime rate, but will never be lower than the above!
- one time fee: $50.00
- every month fee in addition to anything else: $10.00
- "This Offer to establish a credit card account is made by XXXX of Wilmington, DE("we", "us", "our")." . . .[Name withheld to protect Those Who Should Feel Ashamed. But I could supply the name if I had to. I kept the offer.]
Understand. I'm not against means testing. I'm against credit card companies with terms such as these. In my opinion - not the bakruptcy code's opinion but my opinion - if a creditor with credit terms such as these gets one crusty dime out of a Chapter 13 administration, that dime is fraudulent as to "straight" creditors, like unpaid doctors' bills, the landlord, the cable bill, and the paperboy.
There are usury laws, of course. Just you try, as a citizen who isn't a bank, to loan money to your neighbor for a new business start-up on terms such as the above, and then sue in court to collect. Why, it would be against the law.
But not for credit card companies.
The old mob, you know, the stereotypes with the bent noses, used to charge 6 for 5. That is, pay back $6 for a $5 loan. Work it out and figure it out. But for heavens sake don't mention the word, "racketeering." This isn't crime; it's business. I mean, bidness.
And now, this. I instantly thought of the credit card offer I'd recently received. (I had kept the offer, thinking I might write to my congress critters about it.) The credit card companies want protection from even the possibility of class action suits, for when they improperly charge extra charges. Understand, contrary to impressions left by carefully planted press releases, it isn't easy to get a class certified. I'm not in love with class actions; they should be hard to certify. And judges should look carefully at class attorney fees - maybe even submit the question of plaintiff class attorney fees to the jury. But, for heavens sake, keep the possibility of a class action in place because there is no other practical means of protecting a consumer who feels he got screwed - once again - out of thirty bucks. (But, hey, thirty bucks, each, against all the customers, starts looking like real money, right?)
The problem isn't, of course, the banks. It's the politicians of both parties, state and federal, who have rolled over with their paws in the air, hoping to have their bellies scratched.
Our forefathers wouldn't have stood for this. Neither would our foremothers, our forebrothers and foresisters. And if there were forepets, them, too. They'd all be getting together to dump tea into the harbor, or to organize a million foreperson march, or something.
So, how about a change in the usury laws? No court judgment to any creditors on any obligations of any kind that include any amount more than 12% a year over the principal. Oh, hell, even 15% interest would be okay.
And, as you probably figured, I didn't accept the credit card offer.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Update: Nevermind, the captain is in. He was just jammed with an Instalanche.
Update #2: Michelle Malkin has a roundup of sources on muzzling the Canadians
Update #3: San Francisco is similarly inclined.
Monday, April 04, 2005
Kofi may survive the U.N. Who thinks that would be a good thing?