Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Penthouse Proletariat

One thing I've always been annoyed by is the tendency for liberals who are rich to promote policies that are completely contradictory with their lifestyles. While I understand that everyone has failings and elements of hypocrisy, if you believe that excessive consumption is harming the environment, you should reduce your excessive consumption. The lifestyle of a Hollywood star is not compatible with being an economic liberal or critic of conspicuous consumption, but no one seems to notice.

John Nolte's article hits the nail on the head:
Here is how McCarthy describes the world and plot of what is likely another box-office bomb from star Matt Damon:
"Blomkamp sets the dystopian juices flowing with images of future sprawling slums and urban ruin that one might initially take to be Mexico City or Sao Paulo but that are soon identified as belonging to Los Angeles in 2154. Most of the beleaguered inhabitants seem to speak Spanish and do menial labor if they do anything at all, while good health care is very difficult to come by.
By contrast, hovering far above Earth and appearing like a five-spoked wheel in the sky is Elysium, an enormous space station where the rich live in a stress-free country club environment enhanced by marvelous technology that can cure any ailment, meaning that life can theoretically go on indefinitely."
Dude, if McCarthy's description is accurate (I haven't seen the movie) that is not Los Angeles in the year 2154, that is Los Angeles today.
The only difference is that the "five-spoked wheel in the sky" called Elysium is really -- wait for it -- the Hollywood Hills.
While I have no doubt Blokamp and Damon snickered wildly as they went over the script (probably in the thousand-dollar-a-night Caligula Suite at the W on Sunset Boulevard), what these two left-wing rocket scientists probably missed is that their lofty metaphor (likely aimed at America and Republicans), isn't really a metaphor. The place in which they currently work, snicker, frolic, and make millions, is in fact Elysium.
If you want to experience "Elysium" today, just drive down Wilshire or Melrose. In just a couple of miles those famous boulevards turn from a gorgeous, mile-high, palm tree-lined gilded city where the Matt Damons shop, dine, exercise, enema, valet, facelift, chant, and enjoy the greatest healthcare in the world -- to shit-hole city: urban sprawl, graffiti, crime, filth, and grinding poverty. But no matter where you are -- even if you're hip-deep in the homeless -- all you need do is look up and there it is; that bright, shiny, magic gated place known as Elysi-- er, the Hollywood Hills.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Liberal Vision

Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution always comes up with trenchant observations, and this article in National Review Online was no exception. One point in particular resonated with me:

I suspect that even most conservatives would prefer to live in the kind of world conjured up in the liberals’ imagination rather than in the kind of world we are in fact stuck with.

Who wouldn't want to live in such a place? Problems can be solved with the application of money, the economy can be safely managed by experts, and evil is a sickness that can be eliminated with therapy. It's a veritable heaven compared to the real world. It's also similar to the world I remember imagining as a child. Unfortunately, it has almost no relation to the real world.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Raw Deal

Much of life is based on compromises and balancing acts. In the safety industry, we balance the gain life expectancy and reduced incidence of health problems associated with eliminating a problem chemical with the negative effects of eliminating a chemical. It is the same in national security. There is a tradeoff between allowing our national security professionals access to communications without tipping our hand to terrorists, and keeping the government out of our private life. Ever since 9-11 changed how I look at terrorism, I have leaned toward national security. I have no interest in surrendering to Islamic Supremacists, and I am willing to let the military and spies fight the war to win it.

What if the government isn't interested in fighting the war? What if the administration likes the powers that were granted to achieve victory, but views Islamic Supremacism as a distraction from its agenda? I had been planning to make this argument here, but David French got it precisely with his most recent columns. Intelligence assets and military might are only useful as long as the leadership has the will to use them:

Those of us in the “national-security Right” (to borrow Mr. McCarthy’s excellent phrase) seek a national defense that is both constitutional and effective, but a defense establishment that lacks the strength of will to act even on the best of intelligence will be utterly ineffective no matter the metadata.
Read the whole thing.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I've mentioned Derek Lowe's amazing writing on obnoxious chemicals before, and his articles have continued while my humble blog was on hiatus.

Take this gem, for instance. I'm not going to bother excerpting this one - read it all. The whole category of things I won't work with is worth a read.

As hilarious as these articles are, he also takes aim more serious subjects, such as a recent post demolishing a Buzzfeed posting on 8 toxic foods. I've run across that kind of crazy before, and some of the claims are so ridiculous that they boggle the mind. For example, claiming bromine being present in a compound somehow gives it the unpleasant properties of the pure element is silly. Next they will be calling table salt (Sodium Chloride) a toxic chemical weapon (Chlorine) that explodes on contact with water (Sodium), or worrying about how water is flammable and explosive, because the H in H2O is Hydrogen. I should keep this around in case I ever teach chemistry again - listening in chemistry class will prevent you being taken in by people like the Buzzfeed author.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Justice for All (including Trayvon Martin)

I've been following the story of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin for over a year on Stately McDaniel Manor. Mike McDaniel has been quite diligent in covering the case. Lawyers William Jacobson and Andrew Branca presented live coverage of the trial with legal analysis. While they take a pro-defense slant, they present factual arguments for their case. I followed this case in more detail than I have any other trial, because I have a teenage nephew who is multiracial and identifies as black, and I am interested in issues of self-defense. My heart goes out to the victim's family - I can only imagine the pain they feel. If George Zimmerman had committed murder or in any way acted unlawfully, he should have been punished.
With that in mind, I found myself growing more convinced that George Zimmerman acted fully within the bounds of the law, and was in fact a decent guy facing a nightmare situation. I would feel safer with George Zimmerman meeting my nephew in a dark alley than a randomly selected American. This is based on the evidence I have read, not on a pre-conceived notion. I first thought Zimmerman was a cocky guy with a twitchy trigger finger, but I changed my mind. Read on to see why.
Based on the evidence, there is no reason to believe Zimmerman made the first unlawful act. He was walking in a place where he had every legal right to be. I walk down sidewalks behind people and with people behind me all the time. If Martin felt threatened, he could have headed home or called the police. I know some people have difficulty working with the police, but at the least being at home would have Martin the home-ground advantage if he felt threatened. If he wanted to confront Zimmerman and get him to back off, he could have aggressively told Zimmerman to get lost and even insulted him. That's a legal response to being followed.
Instead, according to both the evidence and his friend Rachel Jeantel, Martin threw the first punch, and started beating on Zimmerman. It's the kind of bad judgement that is all too common among teenagers - I was certainly not immune to that when I was 17. Unfortunately, Martin chose an act that would have given him a stay in jail if police had ended the fight instead Zimmerman's gun. Not only that, but he continued the beating after Zimmerman was clearly defeated. Martin had practiced street fighting before this, and some of his friends were trying to get him to stop before he got into worse trouble. If he had let Zimmerman tap out, he would have probably done jail time, but would probably been out on the streets by now.
Zimmerman cooperated with the police fully, and the initial investigators thought there was not enough evidence to charge him. That was not the only investigation to exonerate Zimmerman - the FBI found no evidence of racism in Zimmerman's actions. He tutored black children, called police to report an 7-year old black kid wandering around without any adult looking after him, opened an insurance business with a black partner, was himself part African American in origin, and even led an effort to get justice for a homeless black man beaten up by a white kid when the police were refusing to act. If George Zimmerman is racist, every white person is racist.
Our legal system is designed to equally apply the law to all people. Justice is for all people, regardless of how they are viewed by the media. Before you judge George Zimmerman, do what the 6 women of the jury did, and carefully consider the evidence before delivering your verdict.
As an aside, there's something I’ve seen a lot from more “establishment”-type conservatives – Zimmerman was found not guilty according to the law, but he was a moron with a hero complex or whatever, and is certainly a person to despise.
That response really gets under my skin. We hear all about Kitty Genovese and people taking action on their own in an emergency. In Chicago, one of the key determinants of how dangerous a neighborhood actually is happens to be the community’s role in addressing crime. People are encouraged to take responsibility and take action.
But the problem with untrained responders is that they will make mistakes. That’s why we have Good Samaritan laws. If you place people at risk for getting out their car and helping, they will drive on by, and not risk it. You can’t have it both ways, unless everyone is given the training to be a first responder.
George Zimmerman actually gives a damn about people, unlike the people pushing the “not guilty but stupid” claim, who would rather see everyone take the safe course and avoid any heroics. It is utterly craven politically-driven cowardice.