Lena Horne

May 10th, 2010

Lena Horne was a talented singer and actress who would have benefited more if she were born 60 years later. She was black; growing up kids teased her (as I’ve been incorrectly teased) for having a “white daddy”. Racism ain’t just a thing for white folks.

Oh, and she was a babe:

Black and White picture of a young Lena Horne looking very cute

Lena Horne summons the cuteness

More infoz here:



Update: yeah the links aren’t working. I’m out of the country atm and not sure I can deal with it. I hope you can. -w

Cannot be seen or even touched

May 3rd, 2010

Well that would be Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I have to confess… I grew up as a child in the 70’s and early 80’s listening to them. And then they struck it big in 1985 with Paul Simon’s Graceland and all the latte liberals listened.

But I liked them before and after.
Inkanyezi nezazi


March 25th, 2010

Nancy Pelosi is the most powerful speaker of modern times.

And no, I don’t think that’s a good thing. But it is to be acknowledged.



December 2nd, 2009

It’s usually wrong to call the President of the United States a traitor. Especially in a time of war.

Hello, Dick Cheney. Yes, we grasp it. Aid and comfort, though, is a well-understood concept:

“One of their top people will be given the opportunity — courtesy of the United States government and the Obama administration — to have a platform from which they can espouse this hateful ideology that they adhere to,” he said. “I think it’s likely to give encouragement — aid and comfort — to the enemy.”

Cheney is not only making a reasonable argument; I happen to think he is correct. It will help our enemies, or so I think. But.

“Aid and comfort” has a very specific historical root. Constitutionally, this is treason.

No sane person would suggest that Barack Obama is committing treason. So why the loaded language?

It’s wrong. Deeply, direly, wrong.

Cheney could have phrased it differently. “Doing so provides the enemy with disturbing advantages”. That would be a respectable opinion (and one with which I agree). Instead he used constitutional language to suggest that Barack Obama is a traitor.


Indeed, only Al Gore manages to capture the sweepstakes in “nasty smears by an ex-VP of a sitting President in a time of war”.

Try Al Gore’s directly accusing George W. Bush of treason. This was deeply wrong.

Strangely, few people back in the day complained about Al Gore’s grotesque assertions re: George W. Bush. A lot of people are complaining, today, about Dick Cheney’s slimey assertions about Barack Obama. Interesting.

Both men are wrong. Suggesting that Dick Cheney’s abuse is somehow unprecedented is, however, ludicrously ahistorical.

Barack Obama is my President, and yours, if you are an American. If not, well, you’re stuck with him!


CRU emails: Global Warming and You

November 24th, 2009

Yeah, I can’t keep up with the spam, and don’t currently have time to filter the spam manually. I’m getting hundreds a day. You don’t see them simply because I’ve disabled comments without approval. If I continue I will develop a solution.

A few thoughts. This sucks.

On to the main show. The CRU “hack”. More likely a whistle-blower or placing the FOI corpus on an open server. Indeed reading the CRU’s press release carefully, I conclude the latter. Pro-AGW (people asserting mankind is primarily responsible for global warming, mostly via CO2 emissions) researchers are revealed to be… well… not very decent people. Certainly not scientists.

I used to be roughly of the same view as the IPCC in the ’90’s; I thought that there was about a 50-70% chance that global warming was occurring, and about a 50% chance that humans were largely responsible for it.


The AGW crowd is producing garbage like this:

Climate Alarmism Horrible Propaganda

This makes me want to vomit. What kind of people produce this? What kind of sick human being thinks this is appropriate?

The following is obviously my opinion.

Reading the emails and supporting corpus, it’s clear to me that there is significant scientific fraud. It’s clear that tens of millions of dollars in grants to individual scientists such as Dr. Phil Jones have been at stake.

There’s more; conspiracy to violate Freedom Of Information Acts in at least the UK and USA; conspiracy to subvert the vaunted peer-review process. “Gentle gloating” at the death of those who oppose you.

At the very heart, there are three problems with the AGW people.

1. They have hidden/destroyed/lost data and torqued the resulting models in ways that are simply not scientific or rational.

For example, they wanted to prove that we are in a period of unprecedented warming. Historians know that there was a Medieval Warm Period (MWP) where, for example, England was known for vineyards. The AGW researchers developed a set of tree core data that they said proxied temperatures. This dataset “proved” the MWP didn’t exist. Err… as a historian, I beg respectfully to differ, but so be it.

The problem with their dataset is that it doesn’t model modern temperatures accurately. A true scientist would say “Gosh, it seems tree core data is not a very good proxy for temperature”. The AGW researchers response? They simply inserted the actual temperatures into their models for everything post 1960.

I know this is a technical and irritating point, but if you are trying to prove something with a mathematical model, you have to be consistent. You can’t simply say “Well, the model is perfect up til 1960, but then it fails.” If the model shows temperatures as being way too low from 1960 on… then maybe it shows temperatures as being way too low in the past. And your model’s vaunted disproving of the MWP is then … well… nonsense.

Whatever it is, this is not science.

2. They’ve worked to destroy the reputations of those who oppose them. This is classic ad-hominem, or playing the man, not the ball.

3. The subversion of the peer-review process.

I’ve deliberately not talked much about most of these; I don’t have time, nor, probably do you.

But I’m happy to discuss it in greater depth when I can.

What’s the biggest tragedy in all this?

The AGW theory could at least be partially correct, if not completely correct. Yet these clownish loons have annihilated their credibility, and that of anyone else promoting the same theory for the time being.

At this stage my view is simply this:
Coal power is very bad. It releases radioactives and all kinds of crap into the atmosphere. Oil from the middle east destabilizes the world. Unless we intend to invade and occupy Saudi Arabia and terminate the virulence of Wahhabism over a multi-generational period that’s at least a 100 years [I don’t recommend this and don’t think we have the stomach for this].

So let’s drastically reduce coal and oil use. Go nuclear, continue to push for breakthrough technologies in everything from space elevators to solar power. Use North American/Russian natural gas, though recognize this also adds CO2.

But no giant subsidies to corporations seeking to feed off the green teat.


No Islamic Landmarks, please

November 4th, 2009

Cinematical reports on the “disaster porn” destroying major world religious symbols in 2012:

[I]t’s religion that gets the brunt of Emmerich’s digital pounding: A Buddhist temple gets hit by a tidal wave. The Sistine Chapel crumbles to pieces as a split tears right down the middle of Michelangeo’s painting of God touching Adam’s finger. St. Peter’s Basilica rolls over onto a crowd of devoted worshipers. Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Christ the Reedemer statue falls to earth as its wracked by shockwaves… eagle eyed fans of watching organized religion get its disaster porn comeuppance will have noticed that there are no Islamic landmarks on the CGI chopping block.

That wasn’t always the plan, however. Emmerich explained to SCI FI Wire that he had originally hoped the Kaaba, one of the holiest sites in the Islamic religion, would join the visual wrath of 2012, but that his co-screenwriter Harald Kloser talked him out of it:

“Well, I wanted to do that, I have to admit … but my co-writer Harald said I will not have a fatwa on my head because of a movie. And he was right. … We have to all … in the Western world … think about this. You can actually … let … Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol, you would have … a fatwa, and that sounds a little bit like what the state of this world is. So it’s just something which I kind of didn’t [think] was [an] important element anyway in the film, so I kind of left it out.”

Ah. Nice to have that clarified.



November 3rd, 2009

UK Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid has died, serving in Afghanistan, on the final active day of his tour. A very good and decent man.

A very fine and honorable man.


Sympathies for and with his wife Christina.



October 15th, 2009

As you can see from “The wolfe Plan“, I’m no big fan of the role that insurance companies and their teeming bureaucracies play in our health system.

But I do believe, perhaps very naively, in being at least basically honest about the world that confronts us.

For example, I’m embarrassed to admit, I was completely wrong about the probity and propensity to engage in rational enlightened self-interest of major Wall Street players. I’ve not remotely changed my views about the merits of the free market (Capitalism, baby!), but I have changed my views about a dysfunctional managerial class that seems intent on plundering the wealth of both shareholders and taxpayers in order to feather their own nests.

So much for enlightened long-term self-interest.

But my point is that I admit this. I recognize the lacunae in my thinking, and I adjust. I examine what elements of my world-view need to be changed. (For example, George W. Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security would have been an unmitigated short-term disaster had he succeeded along the lines he planned).

Smart people do this. Honest people do this.

No one ever accused most politicians of being smart. Or honest.

Case in point, one Senator Harry Reid.

Here’s Harry Reid talking about the evil insurance companies:

As for insurance companies, “There isn’t anything we could do to satisfy them in this health care bill. Nothing,” Reid said. “They are so anti-competitive. Why? Because they make more money than any other business in America today. . . .What a sweet deal they have.”

Now the nice thing is, this is a statement that is either true or false. It’s easy enough to fact check Senator Reid. And this is a claim he’s repeated again and again.

Clearly he can’t possibly mean what he literally says: that they make more money than any other business in America today. They don’t. Not remotely. You can look it up, but oil, gas, telecoms… they all make hundreds of billions more a year than the health insurance companies which are way, way, way down on the list. (Probably in the top 50, definitely in the top 100, but that’s not exactly anywhere near number 1. You can extract it from the link below, but you need to strip off the trailing “B” in market cap in order to be able to divide market cap by P/E to get nominal industry earnings. I’m too lazy).

I did try a few; FWIW, soft drinks ring in at 7.1 bn, health care plans at 9.2 bn, breweries at 26.2 bn, and foreign telecom services at 209 bn. So, a little more profit than sugared water.

OK, Senator Reid can’t be a total idiot or liar, he must have meant something different. Like maybe their profit margin is the highest. In other words, they make a lot more money on every dollar than any other industry in the US!

That makes sense!

Where are they? Here, thanks to Yahoo Finance (hat tip Professor Mark Perry), we see that they are … number 86.

Behind … well behind just about everyone. A third the profit margin of breweries.  Less than half the margin of soft-drinks, encumbered by insane marketing costs. (The gross margin on soft drinks is very high, but once you’ve factored in marketing, sales, and distribution overheads, it’s no longer as excitingly rapacious a business).

I’ve looked closely at the numbers, and there is no possible way that Senator Reid can be telling the truth.

Worse, he’s been saying this for months. He has to know he is not telling the truth.

Why does he do it?

Why does he tell such an obvious lie?

I wish I knew. But in this instance it seems clear that Harry Reid does not seem to be attempting to deal honestly with the world as it exists. A zealot, of any stripe, that refuses to deal with the truth, is a very dangerous man.


The wolfe Health Care Plan: An Outline

October 15th, 2009

Here’s the wolfe plan. I make no pretence that it’s the best plan in the universe, and I’m sure it has flaws and holes. But that said, here goes:

  • universal coverage for all citizens.
  • tax-free medical savings accounts (MSA’s) available for all citizens, including non-resident ones. (funds put into MSA’s deducted directly from taxable income. Must be invested in certain pre-approved ways, may not withdraw for non-medical reasons except in the event of death. In the event of death, a positive balance may be inherited by whomever you wish, tax free).
  • all citizens are required to deposit a certain amount, varying with age, into their MSA’s and those of their dependents each year. Failure to do so results in very substantial tax liability. Citizens who cannot afford to do so, see below.
  • all citizens are required to purchase special catastrophic insurance coverage. Failure to do so results in substantial tax liability. As the name implies, this covers catastrophes which would wipe out a normally funded MSA, and, seemingly bizarrely, one free check-up every two years.
  • Medicaid will transition to a government-funded MSA’s program. While qualifying for medicaid, the government will deposit funds into your MSA and cover catastrophic insurance. This encourages those on medicaid to be prudent with what is suddenly a resource that has apparent costs to them.
  • Citizens may form whatever combines they wish to purchase medical services (via MSA’s or cash), including across state lines. Non-profit co-op combines will get an anti-trust exemption. (I’m not sure about for profit combines).
  • Insurance companies may sell across state lines provided they meet the requirements of the states they are selling in.
  • Citizens who wish to may use the entire amount of their MSA’s annual deposit to purchase conventional medical insurance if they so wish, but it’s my bet that this will fade over time as a desired option.
  • Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions.
  • Massive tort reform, including effective immunity for physicians employing “best current practices”.
  • All the magical savings we will supposedly get out of reform that both parties are touting, sure, but I’m not counting on much there.

That’s a whole bunch of detail. I’m sure I’ve lost all but the wonkiest. The basic concept is to bring the consumer of medical services much closer to the provider, to make the decision-maker the patient (to the greatest degree possible), and to reduce incentive for needless use of medical services, including in the case of medicaid recipients.

Why do I make it effectively mandatory? It’s the pre-existing condition removal. If people can get insurance regardless of their health, then anyone healthy won’t buy insurance.

Why universality? Because I think it’s the right thing to do. Period. Yep, Glenn Beck would hate me, and denounce me as a communist, ditto for the taxes I’d impose on those who don’t comply. A pre-New Deal Supreme Court might well vote down my plan as unconstitutional. I’m sure Clarence Thomas would.

Why mandate the inclusion of a “free” checkup periodically? Because logic suggests that if this is left to people to fund solely from their MSA’s many might just avoid it. There is a genuine public good in having people get regular checkups.

Why do I outline this? Basically, I want to show what effect my proposal will have on one segment, the insurance companies.

Insurance companies gain:

  • About 10% more customers
  • Ability to sell across state lines.

Insurance companies lose:

  • At a guess, at least 50% of their revenue. Perhaps more like 75%.
  • pre-existing condition exemption.
  • Possibly their anti-trust exemption. I don’t know for sure.

So you can see I’m no great fan of the insurance companies, nor does my plan involve masses of wealth for them. Indeed it involves a big drop in their revenues and significant downsizing of their bureaucracies. Ironically, though, a well-run insurance company might become somewhat more profitable under my plan. If nothing else, catastrophic coverage tends to be higher margin events.

I readily admit my plan is technocratic, free-market-oriented and that first is definitely not a great thing. Contribution amounts would have to be set by a board at arm’s length from any government (and any insurance company!).

Would my plan work? I think so. But it’d be easy enough to test. Try it out in 1-5 states. See how it flies. We should, of course, do the same with whatever mess the Democrats eventually cobble together: try it out in a few states. See what happens. Don’t plunge the entire country into the disaster that is currently taking shape on the Hill.


Snowed Under

October 15th, 2009

Work, fatigue, spam. Trying to make some time to give a more substantive response, and get this blog cleaned up a bit. You may have noticed the spam volume is crazy. Some comments I have for both Female and Sam on why we build roads in countries like Afghanistan, my views on corporatism vs capitalism, Conservative vs. Liberal on a left right spectrum.

Moving forward, if you want your posts to appear reliably, you’ll need to register and have one previous post approved. Sorry that sucks. I’m working on a better system. Otherwise your comments get held in moderation until I get to them. (24hours to 1week).