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We All Lost, ...

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... but the More Important Battle Was Won

The good news and the bad news is that Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court over the weekend. The very bad news is that the change in the composition of the court puts in danger continued federal protection of women's reproductive rights.

The worst news is that the Democrats, who (I thought) favor continuing protecting those rights, abandoned the moral high ground that came with that position. Instead of articulating this concern and making a solid case to their Republican colleagues and the American people in favor of the right to an abortion, they chose the desperate tactics of character assassination and delay. As Robert Tracinski of The Federalist argued, this created a situation in which the hearings became about something even more fundamental than our government's inconsistent protection of all individual rights:
Based on reason and evidence alone, you would have to conclude that we have gotten no farther in the case and are not likely to get any farther. What is an FBI investigation supposed to so, other than to serve as a delaying tactic? Federal investigators would simply go out and interview all the same people who have already testified or given sworn statements. Given that the claim against Kavanaugh remains uncorroborated, I think the Senate has no choice but to confirm him. Not to do so would eliminate any standard of evidence and invite politically motivated false accusations against future nominees. [bold added]
This reminds me of the remarks Senator Susan Collins of Maine made -- a Republican who might have been persuaded to vote against Kavanaugh -- regarding her decision to cast a vote for confirmation. At least the GOP had enough backbone to not allow that very dangerous precedent to be set.

That said, the Democrats not only made a major contribution to the serious recent deterioration of our political discourse, they even further set their own cause back with this display.
What went missing when we needed it most. (Image via Pixabay.)
When a setback to a just cause appears inevitable -- as when a Republican President gets to replace a more secular judge with a more religious one -- it is time to make a moral case for that cause in as clear a manner as possible. (Within the hearings opportunities to do this might be limited, but they aren't nonexistent.) This makes it clear to voters and any persuadable politicians that what is about to happen is wrong, and could perhaps cause defections. At worst, it makes it easier to appeal to voters, say in future elections, why they should not vote for theocrats. Or it can help build support for what we really need, which is a change in the law to make abortion legal. This was a very serious issue, and what did we get instead? Nonstop dissection of a frat boy's high school antics and a grasping-at-straws that was obvious to anyone on the other side of the nomination debate and, more important, to anyone who was undecided for any reason.

I usually find myself appalled by the GOP's cowardice in standing up for those issues they should be proudly supporting, rather than trying to sneak in or even only pretending to support in order to get votes at election time. But this takes the cake. The Democrats' vicious attacks on Kavanaugh were simultaneously dangerous attacks on the very foundation of our republic -- and at a time when they should have been standing up for a woman's ownership of her own body. That the latter is now collateral damage of the first really says something.

-- CAV
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lousyd
9 days ago
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If a nominee's judicial and legal philosophies are unsound, it doesn't matter what his character is. He can be a swell guy and you'd be morally obligated to oppose his nomination. Character is important, but it's really secondary to jurisprudence.

So by choosing to argue over Kavanaugh's past actions it feels a little bit like the Senators were saying, "we have nothing to say about his outlook on matters of law, so let's talk about his character".

His moral views are contrary to American values of civil liberties and human rights. That should have been the conversation.
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Yes. We Should Privatize the Post Office.

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Over at Hot Air, Jazz Shaw closes his comments on bipartisan opposition to a plan by President Trump to privatize the Post Office as follows:
The USPS has problems. There's no question about that. But they have been making progress in terms of efficiency and covering their own costs. And they still have an important role to play in our society. There's plenty of room for improvement, but there's simply no significant upside to trying to privatize it in my opinion. [bold added]
The health of this organization and whether it should be privatized are separate issues. (Image via Pixabay.)
This cut-rate selling-of-the-farm culminates a tepid cost-benefit analysis typical of far too many allegedly pro-free market economists and pundits. At times, Shaw sounds like he thinks the Post Office can stand on its own two feet, but he basically agrees with Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) that: (1) There would be no way for rural people to receive mail and parcels without the government backing the Post Office; and (2) This somehow entitles rural residents to benefit from whatever arm-twisting or back-door loot the government-created postal monopoly provides the post office.

In other words, he wants his government-backed postal monopoly both ways. In his mind, it's cheap, so it's really not a big deal -- and it's important, so it's mandatory. This, incidentally is the same reasoning used to excuse new intrusions of government onto liberty all the time. (Shaw tries to hide behind the Constitution on this, while conveniently forgetting that the document was (also) mistaken on the issue of slavery.)

The "significant upside" Jazz Shaw can't see or won't discuss would require dropping the altruist-collectivist premise that one man's need is another man's indenture. Even little concessions -- like a government postal service that doesn't cost all that much -- set moral and political precedents for the government to make more numerous and more meddlesome demands and prescriptions all the time. That's what makes them so dangerous. So, the "significant upside" of privatizing the post office, done properly, is that it would be a small step towards once again securing our liberty as Americans, regardless of what any analysis of the current viability of the postal service might have to say. The postal service can find a way to survive or something(s) better can replace it. (FedEx? The phone? Occasional drives into town? More rural stores? Email? There is no one way to receive packages or information.) What shouldn't happen is for the government to force Jack to pay directly or indirectly to solve Fred's problems.

It is past time for those of us who value our individual rights to ask whether to privatize the post office (among many other illegitimate government agencies), and move on to the questions of when and how. Whatever the merits of Trump's plan (including whether it truly is a privitazation), it does at least bring this issue to light. Along with it, we can see that perhaps the biggest obstacle will come from unprincipled or cowardly "allies" on the right -- who can't or won't make a stand against those who would chip away at our freedom.

-- CAV
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lousyd
26 days ago
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When people say America should socialize health care in order to "be more like other countries", I wanna ask them if we should also privatize the post office for the same reason?
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The oral history of OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

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On Sunday, September 23, OutKast’s double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below will be fifteen years old. About ready for a learner’s permit. Damn.

Okayplayer assembled an short oral history of both albums, with fresh input from contributors like Cee-Lo Green and engineer Neal Pogue as well as digging into the archives for commentary from Andre 3000 and Big Boi. Just like the albums, it’s a lot of fun.

Cee-Lo Green: They don’t make physical copies of physical CDs anymore. So basically, streaming is just like, “We like this a lot” It’s like analytics. I don’t know what else actually did Diamond or better. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below will probably be one of the last albums in history that will have moved physically over 10 million copies. That ain’t never gonna happen again.

Khujo Goodie: That was the biggest thing it Atlanta, man, because along with Goodie Mob, those guys are the pioneers of Atlanta, Georgia music! They’re the pillars. Just to have some guys representing where you stay, it wasn’t nothing but love when Speakerboxxx/The Love Below dropped, man. And you got a double album, that was just icing on the cake right there!

Big Boi [via MTV News, 2017]: When you’re inside of [the creative process], you don’t know [the impact], you know what I mean? You just go in and try to create something new. One thing that we do is never revisit what we’ve done, although we stand on it and we know it’s there.

I would never go back and try to create a song like “The Rooster”, or “Unhappy”, or “The Way You Move” — That’s too easy, you know what I’m saying? That’s what I could dig about the younger generation. I like to see who’s gonna play it safe and who’s gonna evolve into that other thing.

We really could use a full documentary about OutKast, digging into each of their albums, both principals, and the development of the scene/family around them. Someone should make that happen.

Tags: hip-hop   music   OutKast
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lousyd
29 days ago
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Amen!
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Offering a more progressive definition of freedom

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Pete Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He is a progressive Democrat, Rhodes scholar, served a tour of duty in Afghanistan during his time as mayor, and is openly gay. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Buttigieg talked about the need for progressives to recast concepts that conservatives have traditionally “owned” — like freedom, family, and patriotism — in more progressive terms.

You’ll hear me talk all the time about freedom. Because I think there is a failure on our side if we allow conservatives to monopolize the idea of freedom — especially now that they’ve produced an authoritarian president. But what actually gives people freedom in their lives? The most profound freedoms of my everyday existence have been safeguarded by progressive policies, mostly. The freedom to marry who I choose, for one, but also the freedom that comes with paved roads and stop lights. Freedom from some obscure regulation is so much more abstract. But that’s the freedom that conservatism has now come down to.

Or think about the idea of family, in the context of everyday life. It’s one thing to talk about family values as a theme, or a wedge — but what’s it actually like to have a family? Your family does better if you get a fair wage, if there’s good public education, if there’s good health care when you need it. These things intuitively make sense, but we’re out of practice talking about them.

I also think we need to talk about a different kind of patriotism: a fidelity to American greatness in its truest sense. You think about this as a local official, of course, but a truly great country is made of great communities. What makes a country great isn’t chauvinism. It’s the kinds of lives you enable people to lead. I think about wastewater management as freedom. If a resident of our city doesn’t have to give it a second thought, she’s freer.

Clean drinking water is freedom. Good public education is freedom. Universal healthcare is freedom. Fair wages are freedom. Policing by consent is freedom. Gun control is freedom. Fighting climate change is freedom. A non-punitive criminal justice system is freedom. Affirmative action is freedom. Decriminalizing poverty is freedom. Easy & secure voting is freedom. This is an idea of freedom I can get behind.

Tags: language   Pete Buttigieg   politics
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lousyd
50 days ago
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Some of that stuff isn't freedom. And the word freedom is being used in multiple conflicting ways.
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3 public comments
satadru
45 days ago
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FDR talked about this in his "Four Freedoms" speech. And let's not forget that "freedoms" and "rights" have long been interchangeable. The problem with discussing rights & freedoms is that they're just aspirational without enabling legislation and structures.

And yes, freedoms and rights in this context have LONG been owned by progressives. Look at the UDHR, or at the various human rights conventions thereafter. Look at what they cover, and what they do NOT cover. For instance, the convention on women doesn't include talking about violence against women...
New York, NY
jhamill
50 days ago
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I endorse this idea of freedom.
California
WorldMaker
51 days ago
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Don't Think of an Elephant. Words have power and progressives do need to stop ceding them.
Louisville, Kentucky

Not Even a Good First Half-Step

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The Washington Examiner makes a couple of good points about President Trump's energy policy as it pertains to recent pronouncements concerning the coal industry:
Image via Pixabay.
Where Obama wanted to obliterate coal, Trump's response has often been no better. He has actually proposed bailing out the coal industry, whose chief advantage as a fuel until now had been its economy. His idea is to somehow use national security as an excuse for mandating above-market prices for coal.

This is every bit as bad as similar schemes for so-called green energy, by which ratepayers are fleeced so that politically correct but unfeasible sources of energy are used. Coal, like all other fuel sources, must be allowed to sink or swim on its own economic strength. If it cannot survive in the market, it deserves to be replaced, just like anything else. [bold added]
Well said, although I wish the folks at the Examiner would have mentioned why products should sink or swim on their own merits. That would be because the millions of individuals in our semi-free market have the inalienable right to evaluate and use (or not) any given source of energy. Government measures to promote or discourage any product can only be effective when it forces us to act against whatever verdict our own minds reach -- the exact opposite of the proper purpose of government.

Having said that, my problems with the next passage might be clearer. The Examiner continues:
There are still ways to help the coal industry today and yet respect this basic principle. That begins with the repeal of unreasonable regulations that Obama created in order to kill the industry as fast as possible.

The abandonment of the Clean Power Plan is a good start in this regard. Trump announces today from West Virginia his intention to let states make their own decisions about carbon regulation... [bold added]
This might have been a good start were there evidence that Trump understood all such regulation to be wrong, at whatever level of government -- and Trump expressed an intention to rein in those states that regulated (i.e., forcibly interfered with) the energy decisions of those within their borders. None of this is the case and, although there will be economic benefits to the loosening of regulations Trump has promised, the principle that government can meddle remains completely unchallenged. And the regulatory apparatus remains firmly in place for the next Obama to start a new vendetta against whatever fashionable target he wishes.

On those occasions I have the chance to mention that I left my ballot for President unmarked, I also state that I didn't see a dime's worth of difference among Trump, Clinton, or Sanders; and that no other candidate did a decent job of differentiating himself from them. This is a good example: Trump thinks his job is to run the economy -- just like his predecessor and his two major opponents.

-- CAV
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lousyd
58 days ago
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To say that no other candidate did a decent job of differentiating himself from Trump, Clinton, or Sanders is disingenuous.
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Solving the spaghetti problem

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If you’ve ever tried to snap dried pasta in half, you know that it’s hard to get just two even pieces; what you usually get instead is macaroni shrapnel everywhere. It turns out this is due to fundamental physical forces of the universe when applied to a straight rod. The initial break creates a snap-back effect that creates additional fractures.

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Apparently, this used to drive Richard Feynman nuts. Here’s an excerpt from No Ordinary Genius: The Illustrated Richard Feynman, where computer scientist Danny Hills describes Feynman’s obsession:

Once we were making spaghetti, which was our favorite thing to eat together. Nobody else seemed to like it. Anyway, if you get a spaghetti stick and you break it, it turns out that instead of breaking it in half, it will almost always break into three pieces. Why is this true — why does it break into three pieces? We spent the next two hours coming up with crazy theories. We thought up experiments, like breaking it underwater because we thought that might dampen the sound, the vibrations. Well, we ended up at the end of a couple of hours with broken spaghetti all over the kitchen and no real good theory about why spaghetti breaks in three. A lot of fun, but I could have blackmailed him with some of his spaghetti theories, which turned out to be dead wrong!

It turns out that controlling the vibrations does have something to do with controlling the breakage, although putting the rod underwater won’t help. Two young physicists, Ronald Heisser and Vishal Patil, found that the key to breaking spaghetti rods into two pieces is to give them a good twist:

If a 10-inch-long spaghetti stick is first twisted by about 270 degrees and then bent, it will snap in two, mainly due to two effects. The snap-back, in which the stick will spring back in the opposite direction from which it was bent, is weakened in the presence of twist. And, the twist-back, where the stick will essentially unwind to its original straightened configuration, releases energy from the rod, preventing additional fractures.

“Once it breaks, you still have a snap-back because the rod wants to be straight,” Dunkel explains. “But it also doesn’t want to be twisted.”

Just as the snap-back will create a bending wave, in which the stick will wobble back and forth, the unwinding generates a “twist wave,” where the stick essentially corkscrews back and forth until it comes to rest. The twist wave travels faster than the bending wave, dissipating energy so that additional critical stress accumulations, which might cause subsequent fractures, do not occur.

“That’s why you never get this second break when you twist hard enough,” Dunkel says.

crack-control-2.gif

It’s not exactly practical to twist spaghetti 270 degrees before you break it in half, just to end up with a shorter noodle. And linguini, fettucine, etc., have a different physics altogether, because they deviate more strongly from the cylindrical rod shape of spaghetti. But it’s cool to have one of these everyday physics problems apparently solved through a relatively simple trick.

Tags: food   pasta   physics   Richard Feynman
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lousyd
64 days ago
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The FSM has many contradictory qualities. Ours is not to question why!
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