By mcoppock | June 26, 2010
This is the most disturbing account I’ve read in some time regarding America’s rules of engagements in the on-going conflict in Afghanistan. From the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights:
I’ve argued in Winning the Unwinnable War and in talks around the country that this policy is self-crippling and morally perverse. And the policy is still in full-effect, as the experiences of soldiers on the ground can attest to.
“Several infantrymen have also said that the rules are so restrictive that pilots are often not allowed to attack fixed targets — say, a building or tree line from which troops are taking fire — unless they can personally see the insurgents doing the firing.
This has lead to situations many soldiers describe as absurd, including decisions by patrol leaders to have fellow soldiers move briefly out into the open to draw fire once aircraft arrive, so the pilots might be cleared to participate in the fight. [emphasis added]”
The image of an American soldier unnecessarily exposing himself to enemy fire in order to gain air support is so appalling that I it’s hard to accept the truthfulness of such an account. The fact that I’m ready to accept it so readily speaks volumes about how the Obama administration—and the Bush administration before it—have perverted America’s willingness and ultimately our ability to defend ourselves from our enemies.
By mcoppock | June 16, 2010
I didn’t find the video funny in the first place, so I guess I’m off the hook on this one. But The Crucible explains why the Internet video parodying BP attempts to plug the oil leak isn’t funny for those who might have chuckled after their first viewing.
Essentially, The Crucible points out that the underlying premise—that the spill could be somehow easily plugged, but BP’s incompetence is getting in their way—is fundamentally wrong. And it’s a valid point, important even, because it cuts to the heart of what’s wrong with how most people seem to be looking at this issue:
The video portrays BP executives spilling coffee and then attempting to clean up that spill unsuccessfully. Obviously a metaphor for BP’s handling of the recent Gulf spill caused by the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. The executives try all sorts of bizarre and overly complex solutions to mitigate the spill, ultimately ending in a failed attempt under the direction of movie actor Kevin Costner.
The essence of the humor here is the executives myriad of failed attempts in the face our own knowledge of a remedy that is simple, commonly known by all, and virtually guaranteed of success. One could simply use a paper towel to wipe up the spill (an irony made more concrete by the use of such a paper towel, not for its obvious use, but instead to draw a schematic for another overly complex failed mechanical attempt). The video is funny because the executives are portrayed as buffoons. If we laugh at those things we find insignificant, then it is the executives status as incompetent clowns that forms the basis of the humor in this case.
But does this metaphor actually hold? A simple question reveals the problem with the metaphor. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon incident, what is represented by the metaphorical paper towel? What is the solution to this incident that is obvious even to you, simple, and has an almost 100% guarantee of success? Do you know? You must know if the metaphor is to hold. But you don’t. I’m certainly not a petroleum engineer or deepwater geologist. I don’t know what it is. This is because the metaphor doesn’t hold, not in the least.
Drilling oil in a mile of water is a complex engineering feat, similar as The Crucible post points out, to farming on the moon. And why are companies like BP “farming on the moon” rather than in easily accessible Midwest soil? Of course, it’s because environmental policy prohibits doing what’s easy and makes necessary doing what’s very, very difficult. And it only makes sense that if drilling for oil in such deep waters is difficult, than plugging a leak down there must be difficult, as well.
Read The Crucible post. It lays things out clearly and, really, if you laughed the first time you saw the video, then maybe you should take a moment to review your basic premises.
By mcoppock | June 8, 2010
I use a Barnes & Noble nook as my primary reading “device” (in quotes because it’s almost completely replaced physical books as well), and have been since the beginning of this year. I’ve found it to be very easy on the eyes with its E Ink screen, sufficient in terms of features and capabilities (although lacking in some basic e-reader functionality), and an overall joy to use. I highly recommend it, over other E Ink-based devices given the nook’s great support of so many different ebook formats.
What I’ve noticed most about it, though, is how much I enjoy its mainly unitasking nature. B&N have added some silly features (to try to compete with Apple’s iPad?), such as a Web browser and games, but they’re just hard enough to get to and just intrusive enough on the overall experience that I don’t find myself drawn to them as I am on my other gadgets. In short, I use my nook exclusively for reading simply because it doesn’t tempt me with other functionality, and that provides me with a respite from my usual multitasking nature.
Read this story on a guy who multitasks using a variety of gadgets, likely to the detriment of his overall productivity and quality of life. The nook helps me avoid becoming quite this bad:
When one of the most important e-mail messages of his life landed in his in-box a few years ago, Kord Campbell overlooked it.
Not just for a day or two, but 12 days. He finally saw it while sifting through old messages: a big company wanted to buy his Internet start-up.
“I stood up from my desk and said, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,’ ” Mr. Campbell said. “It’s kind of hard to miss an e-mail like that, but I did.”
The message had slipped by him amid an electronic flood: two computer screens alive with e-mail, instant messages, online chats, a Web browser and the computer code he was writing.
While he managed to salvage the $1.3 million deal after apologizing to his suitor, Mr. Campbell continues to struggle with the effects of the deluge of data. Even after he unplugs, he craves the stimulation he gets from his electronic gadgets. He forgets things like dinner plans, and he has trouble focusing on his family.
By mcoppock | June 7, 2010
Greece, once the cradle of modern civilization, has stumbled lately with an economic fiasco brought about largely by a failing welfare (read: altruist/collectivist) state. It appears that they want the rest of the world to pay for their mistakes.
As Voices for Reason has reported, the Greeks are attacking a pharmaceutical company for refusing to sacrifice themselves:
“Brutal blackmail” and “a violation of corporate social responsibility.” That’s how some diabetics in Greece are describing the recent decision by Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical company, to stop selling certain insulin products in Greece.
Novo Nordisk manufactures easy-to-use insulin delivery devices that resemble fountain pens. More than 50,000 Greek diabetics use them. But not for long. The company has withdrawn the products from the market.
Why? Because the government of Greece is trying to mitigate its financial crisis at pharmaceutical companies’ expense by unilaterally ordering a 25% reduction in the price of all medicines. According to a Novo Nordisk spokesperson, “the price cut would force its business in Greece to run at a loss.” Oh yes, there’s also a little matter of $36 million that Greece already owes the company, with no certainty of payment in sight.
Read the whole thing. The saddest part is, we’ll soon likely see the same sorts of demands here in the United States—that is, if there are any pharmaceutical companies left anywhere in the world of which to make such demands.
By mcoppock | June 5, 2010
I haven’t followed this story as I should, but a milestone was reached and surpassed yesterday with the launching of the Falcon 9 rocket. By placing a payload into orbit at 155 miles high, SpaceX has demonstrated the ability for a private company to build a delivery system that can replace the government-dominated space industry.
In short, this is very good news, and bodes well for the future of space exploration. Here’s the video:
By mcoppock | June 1, 2010
Memorial Day was yesterday, and it’s always caused me to reflect on how best to honor those men and women who have fought and died for their country. It’s important to get this kind of thing right—we don’t honor them for what they did for us, we honor them for what they did for themselves. Every soldier who has fought and died should have done so not as a sacrifice, but in their own effort to maintain for themselves and their loved ones a nation that represents their highest values.
I’m saved from the need to go into details by a piece at Capitalism Magazine, which says mainly the right things. In summary:
If we wish to truly honor the men and women who are selfishly risking their lives to protect their (and our) freedoms, those of us who are able to speak out should.
We can demand that our government pursue a rational foreign policy based on defending American self-interest. We can demand that our leaders explicitly identify Islamic Totalitarianism as the enemy and explicitly pursue the goal of overwhelming victory over that enemy. And we can demand that our military be allowed to achieve that victory by all necessary means.
In short, we must exercise the precious freedoms (such as freedom of speech) that prior generations of soldiers have fought and died for, and use those freedoms to defend the ability of the current generation of soldiers who are now fighting (and dying) to preserve them. That’s in our self-interest as Americans — and a matter of simple justice towards those serving in our military.
All I would say differently is to stress that fighting and dying in war is a very selfish thing to do. And for that, I would like to pay tribute here to the men and women who have done so.
By mcoppock | May 31, 2010
It’s not just the beast of a bill that defines ObamaCare, it’s also a general approach to destroying the individual rights of medical practitioners and customers. Consider a recent case in Idaho, as reported by the Christian Science Monitor:
As I’ve long suspected, “health care reform” has emboldened the Justice Department to take a more active role in enforcing government price controls against physicians. Today the Antitrust Division, joined by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, forced a a group of Boise orthopedists to accept price controls for worker’s compensation and HMO contracts as part of a settlement accusing the doctors of “price fixing”:
According to the complaint, the conspiring orthopedists engaged in two antitrust conspiracies, which took place from 2006 to 2008. In the first conspiracy, through a series of meetings and other communications, the orthopedists agreed not to treat most patients covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
This is just the beginning, I’m guessing, and the Justice Department’s first shot across the bow of the nation’s physicians. As the Monitor identifies, the FTC usually brings such complaints, which means they’re civil and administrative. The Justice Department bringing them means that charges can bring criminal consequences. Also:
The second reason this is a landmark case is that the Justice Department has unambiguously stated that refusal to accept government price controls is a form of illegal “price fixing.”
The Monitor goes on to discuss some of the ramifications of the case, and it’s worth a read, although the article does inappropriately defend the notion of “anticompetitive activity.” What that anti-concept means is that people can’t really compete to win, but rather that the market works “best” when all competitors are essentially in an effective stalemate. That notion has been rebutted many times, and so I won’t do that here.
What’s most important about this case is that it proposes that physicians have no right to associate freely and to utilize those associations to give them enhanced bargaining power against the force of government. It’s really inevitable, of course: once government force is injected into a market, ever more force is necessary to maintain government’s control as the market responds.
In this case, doctors chose as a group to refuse to perform services for the government-mandated prices. That is, they exercised their only remaining aspect of their individual rights: to simply refuse to act in the face of government force. This means that now, under the guise of “antitrust,” those doctors are being forced to provide services for whatever price the government chooses to pay.
Look for more of this kind of thing as medical professional continue to respond to the use of force against them. Sooner rather than later, should ObamaCare survive, we’ll see all healthcare workers simply become mandatory state employees as the only way that government can enforce the bill’s provisions. Ultimately, ObamaCare will be shown to be what it’s really been from the beginning: a mere (and very calculated) step toward the nationalization of the healthcare industry.
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