Posted by Lexington Green on 5th June 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
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Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd May 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
America 3.0 will not have Federal income tax. Or so we hope.
The recent disclosures regarding the despicable malfeasance of the Internal Revenue Service provide support for a specific argument we make in America 3.0.
In a recent WSJ article entitled A Brief History of IRS Political Targeting, James Bovard provides a damning quote the book A Law Unto Itself: The IRS and the Abuse of Power (1990) “In almost every administration since the IRS’s inception the information and power of the tax agency have been mobilized for explicitly political purposes.”
The assertion that IRS employees in Cincinnati embarked on a localized rogue operation was preposterous on its face. The IRS employees did what their bosses told them to do. There is no incentive for a low level bureaucrat to do anything innovative and spontaneous, ever, for any reason. This case is no exception.
The problem here is not personnel. It is not whether the directive to harass Tea Party groups originated in the White House. It is not whether firing someone as a ritual sacrifice will assuage the public.
It is much bigger than that.
The IRS is structurally and inevitably a pathological organization that is destructive of our liberty. The people who work there, without regard to their personal morals, face pernicious incentives. That is one of the most poisonous things about bureaucracy. Ordinary, decent people end up participating in destructive policies and processes with no personal malice and even with little or no personal fault.
The power the IRS possesses, like every power granted to government, will be abused. And the IRS possesses enormous power, and the temptation to abuse that power will prevail, inevitably and frequently and destructively.
That is why, in our book, we argue for the abolition of the IRS.
The information routinely gathered by the IRS on law-abiding citizens is abusive and out of step with liberty and privacy. The routine gathering of personal information on every taxpayer is an affront to the letter and spirit of the Fourth Amendment. Yet we have come to accept this as normal and tolerable.
It isn’t, and we shouldn’t.
The required disclosure of personal economic information required in filing tax forms constitutes perhaps the largest single invasion of civil liberties in America, violating the spirit of the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against search and seizure of personal information without a judicial warrant. … Ending income taxation will end this circumvention of the Bill of Rights, one which has been used again and again to political advantage by unscrupulous presidential administrations.
Repealing the 16th Amendment, ending the income tax, and abolishing the IRS are indeed ambitious goals. At the moment, they appear to be impossible goals. Americans are not yet ready to think this big. But these are goals worth pursuing, and what is possible is not set in stone. Today’s impossible can become tomorrow’s inevitable.
Destroying the files of the Internal Revenue Service would be the largest restoration of privacy since the destruction of the records of the East German Stasi and other Eastern European secret police services, possibly more so since the Stasi spied only on part of its population but the IRS is interested in everyone who makes any money at all.
Replacing the existing code with a VAT or sales tax would require different rules and procedures, and eliminating the existing IRS and creating a new organization from scratch would be a step in the right direction.
We should begin thinking and planning today for a successor method of Federal taxation, and a new organization with no track record to fund the smaller, more focused, more transparent federal government we will need for the 21st Century, the era of America 3.0.
Over the week end of May 18-19 2013 the Obama Administration official Dan Pfeiffer went out and spun the IRS scandal saying “The law is irrelevant”. On the contrary, the law is very much relevant to the IRS scandal, including prohibitions against specific acts by IRS personnel and more general laws of which the ones to watch concern private civil actions for damages under the federal Racketeering, Influence and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act (18 USC 1961, et seq.) and Civil Rights Act (42 USC 1983, et seq.). There is every possibility that the victims of the IRS’s suppression of Obama political opponent free speech rights will sue the IRS and individual IRS employees under the civil rights and civil RICO laws for a $150-to-$650 million legal payday.
Remember, _THE IRS CONFESSED_. There is no argument that it admitted some of its actions concerning Tea Party organization tax-exempt applications were unlawful, i.e.., illegal. It is obvious that the IRS and its staff engaged in an organized multi-work unit, multi-state, plus Washington DC Headquarters, wide conspiracy to suppress the Tea Party. The IRS unlawfully applied special rules to Tea Party applicants that it did not to others and that conspiracy prevented them from exercising their free speech rights for the 2010 and 2012 election cycles.
It also is very clear that the IRS — via the questions it was asking the Tea Party and other religious non-profits — was busy creating a quite extensive Nixonian/Ailinskyite ENEMIES LIST for future use in intimidation and the depriving Obama Administration political opponents of their Constitutional Rights.
Those are classic CONSPIRACY AGAINST RIGHTS (18 USC 241) and DEPRIVATION RIGHTS UNDER COLOR OF LAW (18 USC 242) violations.
See these criminal federal civil rights statutes, whose violation gives rise to civil liability for damages too:
“Conspiracy Against Rights (18 USC 241)
If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or
If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured—
They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.”
“Deprivation Rights Under Color of Law (18 USC 242)
Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both;
and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.”
That is the criminal side of things.
The problem AG Holder is going to suffer obstructing discovery in civil rights and civil RICO lawsuits against the IRS is that criminal prosecutions and civil suits for damages proceed in tandem. The civil suits aren’t stayed by criminal prosecutions on the same subject, let alone by criminal “investigations” short of prosecutions.
The IRS “Special Group’s” delay of tax exempt status prevented Tea Party NGO’s from fund raising and participating in two political cycles (2010 and 2012) by educating “low information voters” as to the political issues of the day, like the National Rifle Association does. The NGO’s whose applications for tax-exempt status were slow-rolled can claim “trade and business” damages under Civil RICO provisions of Federal law. And the Supreme Court of the USA decided decades ago that criminal acts by the Federal government “under the color of law” do not qualify for sovereign immunity under the Federal supremacy clause of the constitution.
To quote a lawyer I know –
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We are swiftly coming up on another “mugged by reality moment” regards firearms similar to the one that was created with the Clinton era gun magazine ban.
Few remember today that the “next big thing” in civilian pistol market in the early 1990′s was how many bullets a pistol magazine could handle. Post Clinton magazine ban, the civilian shooter market wanted the _smallest_ semi-automatic pistol that could hold 10-rounds. And the gun manufacturers responded to the market demand with a host of pistol makes and models that effectively replaced the “.38 Special” as the little hide out gun of choice. Now police across America are under greater threat, from much wider base of stolen, small, concealable, semi-autos in criminal hands, than they ever were prior to the Clinton magazine ban.
We are again in much the same situation with the Obama gun control executive orders.
See this July 28, 2012 Forbes piece titled “The End of Gun Control?” on the arrival of metal material vat 3-D printers that are capable of making functional AR-15 receivers. Now consider the implications of the much more widely installed base of plastic material vat 3-D printers for making _gun magazines_. In a few months we are going to see lots of designs for plastic gun magazines, of many sorts, with maybe a spring and a cheap stamped metal lip to fit available firearms. People will soon be selling spring and lip kits for 3-D printed plastic magazines at gun shows and “off the books” person to person gun trading networks. Hell, manufacturers will be redesigning guns to more effectively use 3-D printed magazines before the year is out.
In the end we will have a much larger base of high capacity magazines in this country, because the price of them is about to drop an order of magnitude, all thanks to Obama’s E.O. Regulations creating a market opportunity for a disruptive technology.
All of this is easily foreseeable and the people about to cause this turn of events just don’t care. This is not about the safety of ordinary people. The answer to the violent mentally unstable is to identify them by their pattern of behavior and involuntarily drug them to non-violence.
The fact that gun control is on the table as “The Solution” is because the people in favor of it, these “2nd Prohibitionists”, would rather have the power to oppress ordinary people than the authority to medicate the violent mentally unstable. They get more ego boo from oppressing ordinary people — just like the original Alcohol Prohibitionists — with the added bonus of leaving the violent mentally ill on the streets to give them the chance to go there again and again.
You cannot hope to bribe or twist (thank God!) the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there’s no occasion to.
The English visitor, a lawyer and pamphleteer named Nicholas Doran Maillard landed up in Texas early in 1840, when the Republic of Texas had just achieved four years of perilous existence . . . and inadvertently provided the means for an exception to Humbert Wolfe’s stinging epigram. In that year, Texas was perennially cash-broke but land rich, somewhat quarrelsome, and continually scourged by Comanche depredations from the north and west, and the threat of re-occupation by Mexico from the south. Texans had first seen immediate annexation by the United States as their sure and certain refuge. But alas, that slavery was permitted and practiced within Texas – so and annexation was blocked by abolitionists.
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It isn’t often that a book utterly alters my understanding of the past, but the book “ECHOES OVER THE PACIFIC — An overview of Allied Air Warning Radar in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines Campaign” by Ed Simmonds and Norm Smith has done just that for me regards for both WW2 in general, and for today, Pearl Harbor.
ECHOS is the story of Australian and wider Aglosphere efforts to field radar in the Pacific during WW2. I am still reading it at page 60 of under 300 pages — but it has these passages regards Pearl Harbor:
Page 18 –
The following is summarised from Radar in WWII by Henry E Guerlac and an article ‘The
Air Warning Service and The Signal Company, Aircraft Warning, Hawaii’ by Stephen L
The strategic importance of Oahu was recognised in late 1939 and the Air Warning Service
(AWS) was to provide warning of approaching enemy aircraft using the newly developed
Extensive negotiations were needed as the sites, for the three SCR271s received in Hawaii on
3 June 1941, were located on land owned by either the Department of Interior National Parks
Service or the Territory of Hawaii. In addition access roads, power supply, water supply,
buildings et cetera had to be constructed – which occasioned even further delay. The net
result was that none of the SCR271s had been installed by 7 December 1941 !
Six mobile SCR270Bs arrived in Hawaii on 1 August 1941 and were shortly thereafter put
into operation because very little site preparation was required. Extensive testing of the sets
was carried out in the next few months on installations at Kaaawa, Kawailoa, Waianae and
Koko Head, Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter.
On 27 September 1941 the SCR270Bs were tested in an exercise which, in retrospect,
resembled to a remarkable degree the actual attack of 7 December. The exercise began at
0430 hours. Attacking planes were detected by the equipment at Waianae and Koko Head as
they assembled near the carrier from which they had taken off 85 miles away. When they had
assembled, the planes headed for Hawaii. The ‘enemy’ were clearly seen on the cathode ray
tube and fighter aircraft were notified within about six minutes. They took off and intercepted
the incoming bombers at about 25 miles from Pearl Harbour.
Under the control of the Signal Corps, Air Warning, Hawaii, the Schofield training SCR270B
was moved to the site at Opana about two weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbour. The
construction of a temporary Combat Information Centre (CIC) was in progress and training
of the personnel at the centre was under way with reporting coming from six mobiles
SCR270Bs. Ironically the program was to hand the CIC over to the Air Corps when the
installation had been completed and the personnel had been properly trained – scheduled for
about two weeks after Pearl Harbour.
Seems to assume you can’t be a fugitive and still blog. I don’t think they know how this internet thing works, especially for a computer millionaire.
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With California circling the drain and the rest of us no doubt on the hook for all their idiocy, I think we should all expect to be crying over California a lot over the next few years.
So, I suggest learning this Austin Lounge Lizards song from the early 80s by heart. (Lyrics below video)
HOT TUBS OF TEARS
(By Austin Lounge Lizards, circa 1983)
Those California girls are best, they say,
That West Coast lifestyle steals your heart away,
But surfer girl, our love wiped out,
And now I’m so blue,
I cry hot tubs of tears over you.
I cry hot tubs of tears over you,
I can’t eat a bite of tofu;
I’ve given up tai chi and group therapy too,
I cry hot tubs of tears over you.
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The brain is highly associative. It’s interesting how you suddenly make a connection.
So, I’m listening to my “Minnie the Moocher” channel on Pandora and up popped a Cab Calloway song I had never heard before, “Reefer man.” I was only listening with half an ear but the first verse triggered a connection.
“Man, what’s the matter with that cat there?”
“Must be full of reefer”
“Full of reefer?!”
“You mean that cat’s high?”
“Get away from here!”
“Man is that the reefer man?”
“That’s the reefer man.”
When the call and reply got to “you mean that cat’s high…sailing, ” it clicked that in the days of sail that sails were “reefed” by pulling them into rolls. It was also sailor slang for a midshipmen or other novice.
The Online Etymology Dictionary confirmed that the marijuana “reefer” is probably related to the appearance of a reefed sail. It seems that way back in the day (1930s at least) the association with sailing was strong enough for “sailing” to be a synonym for “high”. I’m pretty sure “high” itself, as a term for doing or feeling well, most likely originated from the higher pay and status received by that sailers who worked as toppers high up on the masts. When a sailor was doing well professionally, he was “high.”
I’d never thought about the origin of the term “reefer” as slang for a marijuana joint. Knowing as many stoners as I have, I just assumed it was, like everything else stoners do, somehow related to bong making.
Robert Schwartz posted some relevant excerpts from De Tocqueville in the comments to my previous post but for brevities sake in the comments, I decided to move them here.
Besides, they deserve a higher profile.
I am going to set out here a few paragraphs from the most famous and most perceptive student of America — Alexis De Tocqueville, in which explains how democracy can become tyranny. I ask you to read them with the utmost care. They could have been written today:
“Democracy in America” by Alexis de Tocqueville Vol. 2 Sec. 4 Chapter 6
“What Sort Of Despotism Democratic Nations Have To Fear”
* * *
No sovereign ever lived in former ages so absolute or so powerful as to undertake to administer by his own agency, and without the assistance of intermediate powers, all the parts of a great empire; none ever attempted to subject all his subjects indiscriminately to strict uniformity of regulation and personally to tutor and direct every member of the community. The notion of such an undertaking never occurred to the human mind; and if any man had conceived it, the want of information, the imperfection of the administrative system, and, above all, the natural obstacles caused by the inequality of conditions would speedily have checked the execution of so vast a design.
A snapshot taken today at the local phone bank in St. John, Indiana. The handsome fellow up front? My son. The guy in the back working hard? Greg Zoeller, the Indiana Attorney General. He came in, sat down, and started calling, a very down to earth fellow and a real mensch. Who knows who’s going to show up tomorrow?
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After watching the 2012 Presidential Debates, I’ve come to the conclusion we are now seeing a new branch of “President Debate Forensics” being established that is utterly different in objective than traditional one concerned with scorning points. Instead, it is concerned with communicating the candidate’s PRESIDENTIAL demeanor through visual media.
That it has been successful in communicating that demeanor can be seen in this Michael Barone piece. Barone says the public’s break towards Romney is happening with affluent suburban voters and particularly college educated women.
It looks like my thought of Romney’s last debate performance being a “intimate performance for women” was spot-on, and his intended audience is responding –
That tends to validate my alternative scenario that Mitt Romney would fare much better in affluent suburbs than Republican nominees since 1992, running more like George Bush did in 1988. The only way Pennsylvania and Michigan can be close is if Obama’s support in affluent Philadelphia and Detroit suburbs has melted away.
This also helps explain why Romney still narrowly trails in Ohio polls. Affluent suburban counties cast about one-quarter of the votes in Pennsylvania and Michigan but only one-eighth in Ohio.
A pro-Romney affluent swing is confirmed by the internals of some national polls. The 2008 exit poll showed Obama narrowly carrying voters with incomes over $75,000. Post-debate Pew Research and Battleground polls have shown affluent suburbanite Romney carrying them by statistically significant margins.
In particular, college-educated women seem to have swung toward Romney since Oct. 3. He surely had them in mind in the foreign policy debate when he kept emphasizing his hopes for peace and pledged no more wars like Iraq and Afghanistan.
At this point, my gut says that the Romney campaign bet it all on the debates to get past the Pro-Obama media filters to voters and prepared accordingly.
Romney’s debate performances moved the focus groups so consistently. I have to think that his debate preparation firm was coaching him through his debate preparation with multiple primary and general election focus groups. Focus groups that were providing video performance feed back to Romney through out both the Republican Primary and General Election campaigns.
Romney just set a new and very high bar in American Presidential campaigning by founding a new “Presidential forensics” branch of debate. One that isn’t intended to “win” debates in the traditional debate forensics sense of “scoring points.”
“Presidential forensics” Romney-style is intended to showcase the candidate’s ability to project a PRESIDENTIAL demeanor to a visual media audience past media gatekeepers, whatever the debate format or moderator bias.
It worked. It will be copied.
Presidential debates are public demonstrations of leadership ability, not policy, and are THE place where the arguable majority of voters who rely on “non-verbal intelligence” decide who to vote for. The more PRESIDENTIAL a candidate looks, the better he does. As I did with the 2nd Debate, I watched this one with the sound off and a text crawl line to try and understand what the debate was communicating to those “non-verbal intelligence” voters.
General impression — This was Obama’s best debate. The CBS moderator Bob Schieffer played it straight. Romney looked Presidential, which was both his goal and his outstanding success.
These are my notes in rough time order.
1. The visuals with Obama and Romney have been more of the same from the previous debates. Romney is more polished and Obama lectures and glares. Romney smiles and engages. Obama seems angry, but has less head up, nostrils showing, arrogance in his visuals. Rinse and repeat.
2. The visuals on Romney as he speaks of serious issues is a engaged, serious face. He is talking to the moderator and through him to the American people. Obama’s posture is more hunched over than Romney. Obama points _at_ the moderator where as Romney points in another direction. It is a subtle thing, but is makes the point for Romney without the…threat?…Obama seems to have with his pointing gestures.
3. Ohhh… There is Romney’s constipated smile. That has to be the worse TV angle he has had. This seated format limits his playing the camera angles like the first two debates. If this seated format had been the first one, Romney would not have scored as big a win.
4. Romney seems to have a conscious effort going to keep his chin tucked when speaking to avoid even a hint of the head up head pose Obama had in the previous two debates. The seated format gives Obama and the camera men more lee way to video Obama in a less visually arrogant pose while seated or speaking.
5. There are the Obama death glares and the Romney constipated smiles going back and forth.
6. Now Romney talking to the moderator. Chin tucked. Romney’s gestures seem smaller and less expressive than the last two debates while his facial expressions have grown more intimate. This will play VERY STRONGLY with women voters. Obama just lost the election by 7% or more. I can see a practiced before the television screen expression for “Q” rating effect and Romney is doing it well, over and over again!!!
7. Both candidates are wearing American flag pins. The red-blue visuals of the ties from the first two debates between the two men have changed. Romney went for a Red tie with Blue stripes…again subtle, but powerful imagery. Romney is also using expressive hand gestures, those in the intimate close up are not seen, but the pull back they provide exclamation points.
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Posted by Lexington Green on 21st October 2012 (All posts by Lexington Green)
“From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”
When I was deep in the midst of researching and writing the Adelsverein Trilogy, of course I wound up reading a great towering pile of books about the Civil War. I had to do that – even though my trilogy isn’t really about the Civil War, per se. It’s about the German settlements in mid-19th century Texas. But for the final volume, I had to put myself into the mind of a character who has come home from it all; weary, maimed and heartsick – to find upon arriving (on foot and with no fanfare) that everything has changed. His mother and stepfather are dead, his brothers have all fallen on various battlefields and his sister-in-law is a bitter last-stand Confederate. He isn’t fit enough to get work as a laborer, and being attainted as an ex-rebel soldier, can’t do the work he was schooled for, before the war began. This was all in the service of advancing my story, of how great cattle baronies came to be established in Texas and in the West, after the war and before the spread of barbed wire, rail transport to practically every little town and several years of atrociously bad winters. So are legends born, but to me a close look at the real basis for the legends was totally fascinating and much more nuanced – the Civil War and the cattle ranching empires, both.
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A long while ago, I kicked off a discussion about the military in movies, which resulted in uncorking a raging stream of opinion among blog commenters about movies, and how the military was generally portrayed therein—and lest anyone in Tinseltown be patting themselves on the back on their sterling record, let me break it gently to them that if I could figure out a way to distill and bottle most of the feedback, I’d have a dandy product on sale at Home Depot or Lowe’s, suitable for peeling varnish or paint off furniture. Generally, movies dealing with the military were derided for gross improbabilities in military practice or custom, faulted for violations of uniform regulations, general appearance and grooming standards, the presence (or absence) of inventory items in a movie represented to be set in a certain historical period, and over-egging the pudding, so to speak, when it came to explosions, ricochets, gunfire and engine sound effects.
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Clint Eastwood claims his speech is Mission Accomplished and lists three goals he wanted to accomplish “That not everybody in Hollywood is on the left, that Obama has broken a lot of the promises he made when he took office, and that the people should feel free to get rid of any politician who’s not doing a good job”. But on his first point he’s still got a long road to go with one of the big guns of the right-wing blogosphere, Instapundit. Prof. Glenn Reynolds, post speech, is still fairly busy blogging about raising Hollywood taxes as punishment for Hollywood’s massive and decades long support for the left. In fact he shows no sign of slacking off on his anti-Hollywood agenda pushing for a Hollywood tax increase, the one tax increase most likely to pass a GOP Congress as well as movie accounting reform, both issues that would hurt Eastwood’s professional colleagues and him personally in his career as a producer and director.
A tax increase message right now would muddle the GOP’s anti-tax credentials and not be good optics for the campaign. But raising the issue now sets a very different post-election battlefield. Democrats and their media allies will seek to put Republicans in a corner in order to force them to raise taxes. This is an old play, set many times in Washington DC. But Prof. Reynolds has set up a devastating attack line from the right. Any Republicans signing onto a grand tax compromise that doesn’t include Hollywood as a special subject is inevitably going to get asked “why are you protecting liberal Hollywood”? They will not have a credible answer. Even the most dense of GOP lawmakers will not step in the trap. Instead they will force the Democrats to explain why Hollywood doesn’t get to handle its fair share of the burden.
Eastwood may realize this and picked this time to shed his longtime dislike for directly getting into the political fray. But he and his allies are going to have to do a lot more to convince the rest of the conservative movement that Hollywood isn’t their enemy, and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Posted by Margaret on 17th July 2012 (All posts by Margaret)
My husband is presently attempting to wind down his software business and is suddenly discovering vast chunks of free time. Recently he heard that the Blanton Museum, at UT Austin, was looking for volunteer docents. So he volunteered, took the sample tour, blew through the training materials over the weekend, and went over there today expecting to pass the test and get assigned hours.
He didn’t get as far as the test.
First there was another tour, composed (I think) entirely of volunteer docents, who were encouraged to ask intelligent questions and add to the discussion.
Well, they’re having an exhibition of Western art right now. So they’re looking at a picture of a buffalo, and somebody says, “Didn’t we exterminate the buffalo in order to deprive the Indians of food?” and the official docent says yes, yes, that’s right. And Steve pipes up and says there are a few other factors to be considered, such as the fact that the Comanche horse herds seriously overgrazed Texas and deprived the buffalo herds of food.
Come the end of the tour, a snippy Museum Lady takes Steve aside and essentially tells him not to bother taking the test, they don’t need his kind around there.
Steve came home saying, “I don’t get it. What did I do?”
See, he’s spent the last 30 years buried in map label placement and gridding algorithms, and had not been exposed to the total smothering effect of extreme Political Correctness. He knows not to say anything bad about Obama at neighborhood get-togethers, but that’s about it.
I had to explain to him: “You said something negative. About American Indians. At an art museum. On a college campus!”
A neighbor of ours has a fig tree – an insanely prolific fig tree, to which we have been going regularly and with permission – to harvest the bounty. And a bounty there is; so much that we came and took about six or seven pounds yesterday morning and today when we went past their house with the dogs on morning walkies, the senior lady of the house called out to us, and said that we should come by and pick some figs. There is a point in fruit-tree production, when energetic picking of the ripe barely makes a dent. I learned this early on, when we had an orange tree at Hilltop House, an orange tree which produced and produced and produced so much that the ground underneath it was redolent with the smell of rotting oranges. One very hot and dry summer, my sister and I quixotically decided that we ought not to let all of this go to waste, so we went up one morning, picked several large brown paper shopping bags of those that were ripe (and that was barely a fraction of the fruit on the darned thing!) and worked until nearly midday, halving and squeezing the oranges … which gave us too many gallons of orange juice to fit into the freezer.
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Stephen Vincent Benet nailed down the type, in his poem epic John Brown’s Body, in a phrase that has resonated with me ever since I read it so long ago that I don’t recall when I read it – the quintessential southern belle, who propped up the South on a swansdown fan:
Mary Lou Wingate, as slightly made
And as hard to break as a rapier-blade.
Bristol’s daughter and Wingate’s bride,
Never well since the last child died
But staring at pain with courteous eyes.
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Embrace and extend is a proprietary software company strategy that was made famous by Microsoft’s use of the practice. The idea was to embrace an open standard, create the best implementation of that standard in part by adding proprietary extensions, and get everybody to use your version and become addicted to the proprietary goodness which was not released as an addition to the standard. Everybody buys your commercial software that includes the enhanced standard feature and you gain an extra dollop of lock-in profits for several product cycles.
The challenges of moving beyond current unionization efforts to a true workers movement is a bit like a photo negative of Microsoft’s strategy. What’s desired in this case isn’t to create something proprietary to extend a standard for advantage but to identify the jewels in the proprietary 1st generation unions, standardize and spread their benefits to all workers, and create efficient methods to achieve legitimate worker ends without the violence and without the contribution to crony capitalism that present day unions participate in.
Jewel #1 – Education
US vocational education is generally a mess. Union vocational education is generally considered a viable, quality system.
Jewel #2 – Benefits provider
According to the US tax code ( 501(c) 5 ) Unions have the ability to provide benefits consistent with their purpose. That makes them natural health insurance and pension providers that are financially distinct from the company. Union provided benefits are associational and allow increased worker mobility between firms covered by the same union which is both good for workers and good for capitalism.
Jewel #3 – Worker Protection
This one’s a very flawed jewel, but in a dysfunctional organization that has not yet gone broke, the union might be all that is between you and bearing the cost of changing jobs in a sticky economy when you’ve been done an injustice or have even been asked to do something dangerous or illegal.
Adaptation #1 – The open badging movement in education needs extension into the vocational education sphere. This isn’t really a technical challenge, that part is being handled by the technical crowd admirably. Instead the major unaddressed issues are social and organizational ones. People need to know about the badges both in HR departments and in the job seeking population. Badges need to be something that can give you an edge in finding a job. Badges need to be something that lets you find more good employees and filter out more duds. This is a major work in progress and nobody’s really cracked the code yet though there are a lot of entrepreneurial initiatives trying to work out the issues including big names like MIT and Harvard.
Adaptation #2 – Unions are a ready made association that can stay with workers throughout their working lives and provide benefits no matter what happens to a particular employer. This is a very valuable service, one that could use as many entrants into this market as possible in order to prevent membership gouging If you’re a Catholic, scout master, and bricklayer, picking your benefits among your three major associations gets you better possibilities if all of them are participating as benefits provider associations. This is going to require a sea change in legislation so that cross-state associations can provide benefits packages. President Bush proposed this early in his 2nd term and had his head handed to him. President Obama is obviously not interested. Would our next President do better? On the first day President Romney says he would work to replace Obamacare with a more common sense set of reforms. Would this qualify as part of the solution?
Adaptation #3 – Ultimately, this is the most difficult of adaptations because here is where threat and intimidation get applied in a form of street justice to handle situations that are ill suited to the formal justice system. If management behaves badly, unionized workers impose costs is generally how it works. But the ultimate expression of this tactic in current unions, the strike, is disruptive without being very effective. An entire industry has grown up around making it ineffective. Either formal justice needs to be radically reduced in costs to make these situations solvable by the courts or street justice needs to move into the 21st century so that it has lower dead weight loss, lower overhead, and higher effectiveness.
Eighteen minutes, by the clock – in that furious eighteen minutes, a strategic battle was won. Eventually it would prove that more than just an errant and rebellious state had been lost to a central governing authority – and worse yet, lost under the personal supervision of a charismatic and able leader. In an open meadow with a slight rise across the middle of it, fringed with tall trees, bounded on two sides by a river and a third by a swampy lake (or a lakey swamp – descriptions are elastic) the dreams of one nation-state died and another was born.
The dreams of one of those nation-states died along with a fair number of its soldiers; ironically, the long-term political career of the man who had led them there was not one of them. He was the prototypical general on a white horse, following a willow-the-wisp of his enemy. He would not die in the swamp around Peggy’s Lake, or in the waters where Vince’s Bridge had been cut down. He would – like his adversary – die of old age, in bed of more or less natural causes, after a lifetime of scheming, treachery and showmanship. This probably came as a great surprise to everyone who had taken part on either side of the 1835-36 Texas War of Independence; that General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna would live a long and erratically prosperous life –and his cause of death did not involve a hangman’s rope, a firing squad or an outraged husband. Which, given his career of double-cross, astounding brutality and corruption, should give confidence and inspiration to prospective caudillos everywhere. That is the end of the story, however – the beginning was in Texas, in the mid 1830s.
Which beginning is more tangled than anyone could imagine, from just knowing of it through the medium of pop-culture. For most people, Americans and foreigners alike, that is pretty well limited to movies about the Alamo, and the Disney version of Davy Crockett. Act One – American settlers take over Texas; Act Two – many of them hole up in the Alamo; Act Three – a lot of swarthy and nattily-dressed Mexican soldiers kill them all; Act Four – somehow, the Americans win Texas after all, and in spite of that. Garnish with any number of fashionable intellectual flourishes, conceits and concepts and salt to taste.
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Posted by Charles Cameron on 6th April 2012 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
[ by Charles Cameron -- devotional, Good Friday - cross-posted from Zenpundit ]
The Word is
You could fold Christ up, once he’s dead
and you’ve taken him down from the cross:
he bends at the knees, the painter
knew this, his head droops to one side,
he weighs as much as he did when
still alive but he’s gone now, what remains
are the remains, he folds at the knees,
this is not unlike lifting furniture, don’t
let him drop. The painter caught you
while you were holding — is anything more
precious, can you even believe who,
what you are carrying? — his dead body,
damp with water, sweat, grievous blood.
And the Word is — he was who he always is.
When gold was discovered in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in 1848, it seemed as if most of the world rushed in to California – which, until then had been a sparsely-settled outpost of Mexico, dreaming the decades away. The climate was enchantingly mild, Mediterranean – warm enough for groves of olive trees and citrus to thrive, and the old missions crumbled away as if nothing had or would ever change. The old, proud Californio families with names like Verdugo, Vasquez, Pico and Vallejo kept vast cattle herds and lived in extensive but rather Spartan-plain estates. There were a few handfuls of American settlers who had come overland, or by sea; they tended to what little trade there was, and an energetic and slightly shady Swiss entrepreneur named Johann Sutter had a vast agricultural and establishment centered around a fortified holding in present-day Sacramento. It was on his property, and in the course of building a saw-mill that gold was discovered. And change came upon the enchanted land – and the place called Yerba Buena turned almost overnight from a hamlet of eight hundred souls on the shore of San Francisco Bay into a ramshackle metropolis of 25,000 and more in the space of two years.
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