By What Standard Indeed?

Quite fortunately for Kim du Toit, he happens to be more disposed to conduct his voluntary and consensual affairs in ways that happen to be legal in Texas, and more generally, the U.S. Although, with all the traveling around he does for his gun shows, I just wonder if he edges across the legal line in any of the states he must traverse to get from one place to the other. Not that I mind, of course. But there are sure plenty of "concerned citizens" who'd be perfectly happy to see him locked up for a good long time in order to "protect" the rest of us. Equally, of course, others who conduct their own voluntary and consensual affairs are not so fortunate. All the while, the irony and hypocrisy seems to completely allude good ol' Kim: The U.S.A. leads the way with 2.2 million prisoners out of a population of 300 million (0.73%, or over 4.5 times the world average). Excellent. So we stick our lawbreakers in jail, rama lama ding dong. He goes on to question the idea that prison is not efficacious in dealing with crime, asking: "Efficacy by what standard?" By which he means: a standard...


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Hillary in 2008

These people have no earthly idea what they're seeing when they look at her. This is like being able to see through to the drooling alien mesmerizing children from inside the Santa-suit. I'd have to chalk that up as one of the most apt descriptions of what I perceive about her. I'm still pretty skeptical about her being able to win; but then again, it's difficult to predict anything in this upside-down, politicized world -- a world where second-hand smoke, for instance, is widely believed to be more dangerous and risky than actually smoking. ...A world where, for instance, organized groups of whiny people are seen to have a greater moral claim on a company's affairs than that company's own customers, employees, officers, directors, and shareholders put together. I've long said that when the day comes that America elects a woman to be president, it will be a Margaret Thatcher type -- someone clearly conservative and uncompromising, and not just for politics' sake, but because that's what she is in her bones. Then again, worlds change. Of course, as a fall back, her opponents can just make sure that there's lots of sound clips of Hillary being indignant in that...


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Blurring Distinctions

I have been on record here, many times, in support of killing terrorists (those who vow to kill us and are to be taken seriously), and by that, I mean them and their material support network. I also allow that because of the nature of this reality in which we live, it is wholly impractical to hold as a prerequisite for such self-defense that innocents can't be caught in the crossfire. Indeed, it is primarily because of the left's political exploitation of the fact of innocent casualties that the real villains ensure that there are civilian casualties in abundance. The proper moral position is to morally condemn them even further for purposefully involving civilians, and not abdicating our moral duty to defend ourselves against cunning aggression that seeks to hamstring us through political manipulations. So, this is categorized as a Kim du Toit post, and longer-term readers will recall my mini campaign which has really sort of fizzled. In truth, I can't keep up with the guy; I have a life that's substantially lived apart from this blog. It was only last night that I decided to scan through the 178 posts of his, sitting in my RSS reader, having...


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The Noblest Project I Can Imagine

Can you think of anything nobler than this? I sure can't. Every weekday, a truck pulls up to the Cecil H. Green Library, on the campus of Stanford University, and collects at least a thousand books, which are taken to an undisclosed location and scanned, page by page, into an enormous database being created by Google. The company is also retrieving books from libraries at several other leading universities, including Harvard and Oxford, as well as the New York Public Library. At the University of Michigan, Google’s original partner in Google Book Search, tens of thousands of books are processed each week on the company’s custom-made scanning equipment. Google intends to scan every book ever published, and to make the full texts searchable, in the same way that Web sites can be searched on the company’s engine at google.com. [...] No one really knows how many books there are. The most volumes listed in any catalogue is thirty-two million, the number in WorldCat, a database of titles from more than twenty-five thousand libraries around the world. Google aims to scan at least that many. “We think that we can do it all inside of ten years,” Marissa Mayer, a vice-president...


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The 2007 Declaration of Independence

Hard to resist not just posting this in its entirely. I agree with George Reisman: a bucket of pearls. In addition to his complaint that the author wishes you to cast them before swine, I do have to say that the need to write another Declaration of Independence ought to to at least imply some reason to check a premise or two. I'm referring to the "Constitutional" nonsense, as well as the "Governments are instituted among men" balderdash. Nonetheless, it's a rather comprehensive look at the band of thieves you call your representatives and governors. Read on. With a new Congress convening, it’s time to recall the ideals of America as expressed by Thomas Jefferson in our Declaration of Independence. The following is a new version of the Declaration, updated to reflect the current usurpations and threats we face. It is an urgent call for our newly elected representatives to fulfill the promise of America envisioned by our Founders and for We, The People, to insist that they do. When in the course of human events, a people find it necessary to rid themselves of a government that has abandoned the sound principles upon which it was founded and that...


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Oh, Great!

My wife just informs me that I share my birthday with Oprah Winfrey. Great. I think I could have gone an entire 46 more years free of that knowledge. Just kidding. Oprah's Ok, and even I find some interest in some of her stuff that my wife saves on the DVR for me. I think what I respect most about her is her self-honesty, which is clearly apparent if you watch her any length of time. Sure, she's wrong, in my view, about a lot of things, but I note that a large part of what she's about is demonstrating her own errors throughout her life, learning, and correcting them as best she can. At the end of the day, that's really all you can expect from people. Alright then. Happy birthday, Oprah.


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Elegant Business Leadership

As a follow-on to my most recent entry on the subject of business, I post the following article in its entirely, with the permission of the author. Mr. Kimura operates the Vision in Action website. Elegant Business Leadership by Yasuhiko Genku Kimura Bill Gates, when he announced his impending retirement and intention to turn to full-time philanthropy, stated that he “needs to give back to the community.” This begs the question, as, for instance, renowned philosopher Tibor R. Machan asked in his article for Free-Market News Network(1): Why and what does he need to give back to the community? Has he taken something from the community? Have people lent him something which he needs to return? Mr. Gates has already given immensely to the world community through his business. Very few individuals in history have ever given as much and in such a magnitude. In the process he has taken nothing from the community nor has he been lent anything from others. Just as a great architect such as Christopher Alexander builds magnificent buildings, so has Mr. Gates built a majestic business. Just as the architect deserves and receives payment for his creative work, so does Mr. Gates deserve and...


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BMOC

One of the blogs I link to from time-to-time is that of Warren Meyer, Coyote Blog. Warren has written a novel that I'd characterize it as part political and business intrigue, combined with organized crime (other than the government) and a murder mystery. Frankly, I wasn't going to bother with it. The title did nothing to really interest me, and besides, 95% of what I read is non-fiction. I enjoy good fiction, but I just haven't the time for it. Unless a novel can grab me within about 20 pages, I'll usually set it aside, never to return. Then I read some of the reviews of others, including the one by my friend Kyle Bennett, and I decided to give it a go. I cracked it open last Saturday afternoon and was finished on Monday. In the interim, it occupied my attention even when I wasn't actually reading. I always particularly like it when I can "take refuge" in a story for a few days. Knowing Warren's blog and his academic and business background (Princeton, Harvard, Executive positions, entrepreneur), I had a pretty good idea what to expect. I just didn't know whether the story could hold my interest. It...


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Unintended Consequences?

Quite naturally, if there was a market demand for ethanol in large quantity at the gas pumps, such would have existed for so long as such demand has existed. Nothing at a political level would have had to make it so. Now, I'm not up to speed on the various legislative and regulator mandates regarding ethanol and whatnot, but it would certainly be interesting if it turns out that our force-backed demand for corn-based ethanol is what's got millions of Mexicans wringing hands over how they're going to pay for their next tortilla. Didn't take "free-trade" Calderón long to cave, did it? Not when you have to "do something" and political futures are at stake. On Thursday morning, Mr. Calderón, a fierce advocate of free trade in last year’s campaign, let the hammer fall. He announced that he had reached an agreement with the major businesses involved in corn products to stabilize the price of tortillas at a maximum of about 35 cents a pound. Oh, I see. He "reached an agreement;" and so, naturally... He also fixed the price of cornmeal sold to mom-and-pop tortilla shops at 14 cents a pound and announced that government-owned shops in rural areas...


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When Ears Deceive

In this day and age, I could just see someone putting something like this together with a dubbed soundtrack to create a humorous fiction. In this case, however, the truth is stranger. That's a DoobleBug harness with its Radne engine replaced with a small jet. It's just a demonstration, and not something that will ever be for sale anytime soon. Powered hang-gliders have been conceived and produced for a while, in various configurations, but I've never been attracted to the idea of a prone harness like the Mosquito and others. Even though I'm quite used to flying prone (Superman) and have endured for up to nearly four hours, there's an uncomfortable aspect to it. Of course, we fly that way only partly because it offers a unique viewing perspective; mostly it's to greatly diminish drag. But if you're under power, that much drag is simply not a concern, so flying upright is the way to go. I've sat in that harness in a static display and it feels just right. I happen to have a large-surface-area hang-glider with a low aspect ratio that would be perfectly suited to a DoodleBug, so I've definitely thought about it. (Straub) Update: Ah, here's...


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Four Easy Steps

Step One: Step Two: Step Three: Step Four: It's the Aeros AL-12M, from the Ukranian company that's been making excellent and very price-competitive hang-gliders for better than a decade, now. (Straub)


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Agitated, But Cool

I've very often wondered how Radley Balko does it. I don't feel like digging it up, but if you read regularly, you know I've called him the world's most important blogger, and that's because of the way he tirelessly finds (originally, not just always linking to other blogs) and documents the shame and disgrace represented by the forces of "justice" here in Amerika. That's just the start of all the good he does. But he keeps his cool about it. And he's pretty young, too. While I sometimes get "agitated" that he doesn't get more agitated himself, I get it. He shouldn't have to have that hanging about him at all times. Every now and then, however, I can see the rage seeping through.


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Guiltlessness

Nanuka ("Nuke") demonstrates, while catching her several-times-daily dose of radiation. If she appears lazy and lethargic, she's fooling you.


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The Principle at Work?

Balko points to a summary of why and how government grants and guaranteed student loans increase the cost of college education. Well, duh! It's easy to spend other people's money. In all the myriad permutations -- whether you're talking about outright grants, or loans that you would otherwise be unable to obtain -- the underlying principle is all the same. But it's not just in education. Health care is another example. I'm not all that nit-picky about prices for things. They are what they are, and you just factor it into whatever you're doing and if it works, it works. But even I am regularly just dumbfounded by the cost of health care. We recently had a young man at my company do a couple of days in the hospital -- nothing really fancy -- and the bill was $40,000. Paid by the medical insurance I provide, of course. So it's no wonder that for only about a dozen of my employees on our plan (others are on their spouse's plans), mostly young, I pay around $100,000 per year in insurance premiums. Yea. But do you know why costs are so high? It's because we've developed a culture where multitudes...


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Indeed

Well, that was a fun exercise. Now we can wait for some "brilliant legal mind" to explain in a mountain of non-essentials why the original breakup and destruction of 70% of shareholder value was "necessary," other than, of course, the piles and piles of attorney fees generated; as well as the crucial self-importance felt by -- I will note -- people who had no hand in creating AT&T, or anything remotely like it. In a rational society, people wouldn't even need to think about the essential difference between value creation and value destruction.


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Your Soul, for the Price of a DVD

I had heard of The Blasphemy Challenge somewhere, recently, but had set it aside without looking into it until being reminded of it while reading Daniel C. Dennett's response to this year's Edge question. The Evaporation of the Powerful Mystique of Religion [...] Why am I confident that this will happen? Mainly because of the asymmetry in the information explosion. With the worldwide spread of information technology (not just the internet, but cell phones and portable radios and television), it is no longer feasible for guardians of religious traditions to protect their young from exposure to the kinds of facts (and, yes, of course, misinformation and junk of every genre) that gently, irresistibly undermine the mindsets requisite for religious fanaticism and intolerance. The religious fervor of today is a last, desperate attempt by our generation to block the eyes and ears of the coming generations, and it isn’t working. For every well-publicized victory–the inundation of the Bush administration with evangelicals, the growing number of home schoolers in the USA, the rise of radical Islam, the much exaggerated “rebound” of religion in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union, to take the most obvious cases–there are many less dramatic defeats,...


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