Knight Of The Mind

I'll do my best to present a philosophical and generally conservative look at current events and life, the universe and everything. Readers are invited to take all that's posted herein with a grain of salt. or if they prefer, a grain of salt, a slice of lime and a shot of tequila.

Name:
Location: Alexandria, Virginia, United States

Greetings and welcome. My name is Steve, I'm 35 years old and I work for the US Army as an Operations Research Analyst. Hence my blog title Knight Of The Mind.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Quality Vs. Sanctity - Why Should I Get To Live?

It didn't used to require a PhD in Philosophy to tell whether Peter Singer was a nutcase or a genius. The Associated Press reported Singer's comments:

"I do think that it is sometimes appropriate to kill a human infant," he said, adding that he does not believe a newborn has a right to life until it reaches some minimum level of consciousness."

"For me, the relevant question is, what makes it so seriously wrong to take a life?" Singer asked."Those of you who are not vegetarians are responsible for taking a life every time you eat. Species is no more relevant than race in making these judgments."

I won't persume credentials I haven't earned, but this humble man opines that Peter Singer is niether. He is evil. As evil as evil gets and meaner than the Balrog, who nearly dispatched Gandolf, deep underground, in The Mines of Moria.

Now that wasn't a particularly nuanced statement. In fact it was downright judgemental, if you ask me. That's also OK in my book. God issued me judgement, I use it. That makes me judgemental.

Not judgemental in the sense that Judge Greer was judgemental. I didn't just yank a feeding tube out of anyone's throat and let them dry out and expire like a beached suckerfish on La Playa Del Rio. That's not only judgemental, that's flat-out cold.

It also involves making a decision based on crappy information that is itself based on a graveman that does not stand the test of truth. Judge Greer has assumed away the sanctity of life. He's based his decision on the faulty assumption that he can scientifically determine the value of a human life and thereby terminate said life if it imposes a cost to society greater than it's benefit.

I'll proceed from a more fundamentally honest premise. I'd never just chuck the sanctity of life ona lark. I like the idea of other people holding my life sacred. After being stretchered off a rugby pitch and taken in for surgery once, I'm really fond of my life having sanctity and having doctors treat it with such. I appreciate those guys wholeheartedly.

People will say that I'm in favor of the sanctity of life because I'm in fear for my own skin. I'd answer the way Robert Dinero's character Sam did in the movie Ronin. I'd look at the guy like he was an idiot and state the obvious.

"It covers my body."

That's one objection to abolishing sanctity of life in favor of quality of life, now here's another one. Judge Greer attempts to convince us that he can measure the quality of Terri Schiavo's life. Again, I'll be more honest with you. I can't tell you the true, intrinsic value of a can of green beans.

If a were a dialectical materialist, I would add the value of the intrinsic materials to the skill of the labor endowed. If I were Milton Friedman, I'd ask what my nieghbor logically perceives this can of beans to be worth. If I were Confuscious, I'd take Beano first so that I wouldn't offend the others at the dinner table.

There you have it. Niether I, nor Hegel, nor Kierkagaard nor Judge Greer can tell you what a can of green beans should really be worth. We, as fallable human beings, are in no position whatsoever to stick a price tag on Terri Schiavo's forehead.

It really is that simple. I'm not a good enough Christian to claim God told me to protect Terri Schiavo. I'm not even close to being smart enough to tell you objectively that Terri Schiavo's life or even a can of green beans had a positive intrinsic value that does not depend a certain leap of faith.

But on this one, I'll swallow my agnosticism and the egoism that it entails. I want life to have a certain, inviolate sanctity. I want this because I want my life to be treated like it has an intrinsic value, and because, as an analyst and a person who spends his professional life calculating values, this is one analysis I'm utterly underqualified to perform and hope that I never have to pull the trigger on.

I'm not sure what scares me and p-ss-s me off more. Judge Greer deciding that Terri Schiavo should have been killed, someone deciding that Judge Greer was qualified to decide such a thing, or Judge Greer believing he had the normative prowess to make this decision.

Whether you live a life that is the perfect imitation of Christ or whether you behave like I used to on Saturday Night, monotheism is an excellent principal to leave intact. Let God evaluate the value of Terri Schiavo and hope that others will let him do the same in terms of the value of your existence as well.

Update I: Wizbang posts a picture gallery in memory of Terri Schiavo.

Update II: I don't totally buy into VodkaPundit's take on this, but I must admit, he really says it well.

Update III: Judge Birch not only represents everything I'm afraid of in a judiciary, he's also a sadistic little creep. If he didn't believe The Schiavos had a legal leg to stand on, he should have just rejected their appeal and called it a day.

Update IV: Sue Bob's Diary comments on the cruel and oppertunistic behavior of Judge Birch.

Update V: Chris "Meatwad" Matthews shows us why he's one of a kind. His brain stopped working long ago, Judge Greer, may we please stop feeding him?

LAPD Gets A Wake-Up Call (Thank MS-13)

Just when I convince myself that it really is all going to heck in a handbasket. Just when it looks like no one has an ounce of sanity left in them at all. Something surprising happens that completely knocks me off kilter and forces me to reevaluate.

Today, finally, the LAPD has received a wake-up call on illegal immigration. Today, they finally realized that allowing a gang like MS-13 to operate out of the barrios of East LA could not coexist with their mission of upholding the law and protecting the peace.

Against a stark backdrop of growing violence and audacity from members of Mara Salvatruca - 13, the LAPD finally has woken up to the problem on their doorstep.

"The LAPD is working on language that would direct officers who see suspects they believe to be felons in the U.S. illegally to call their supervisors for a check with immigration officials, Assistant Police Chief George Gascon said. If a person is determined to be here illegally, federal authorities would seek an arrest warrant from a judge. At that point, LAPD officers could arrest the suspect.

The move comes several months after the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department changed its policy and began checking the immigration status of foreign-born inmates in County Jail and turning illegal immigrants over to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Additionally, the LAPD's Rampart Division has been working with immigration officials on a special task force designed to crack down on violent gangs whose members go back and forth from the U.S. to Central America." - LA Times

The spread of MS-13 to every corner of the US and throughout Central and South America particularly embarasses the LAPD. The first American outpost for these drug and weapon smugglers was 13th Street, which runs near Rampart Station. LA has become home to one of the first immigrant street gangs to legitimately become a terrorist organization since La Cosa Nostra.

While the LAPD has been under executive order not to cooperate with Federal Immigration Officials, MS-13 grew wealthy, grew strong, grew audacious and grew in stature. It even had business meetings with representatives from Al Quaida. When the local drug selling operation negotiates with Al Quaida, this problem cannot remain solely under local jurisdiction.



MS-13 elevated its profile even further in the ongoing issue over what is being done or not done to secure the US border between Mexico and Arizona. A group of US activists calling themselves "The Minuteman Project" recently announced it would assist the Border Patrol by standing watch over the border and calling in the police any time they spotted illegals.

The leadership of MS-13 resented their border being appropriated in this fashion and threatened them with violence. This led the Department of Homeland Security to send in 500 agents. MS-13's arrogance and shamelessly brazen contempt for the law have finally brought the immigration issue out of the dark.

It was a leader of MS-13 in LA who finally got the LAPD to take action.

"Senior LAPD officials have been talking about creating clearer guidelines for Special Order 40 for years. But the issue came to a head several months ago in Hollywood.A group of officers came face to face with a Mara Salvatrucha gang leader walking down the street, Capt. Mike Downing said.

The officers believed that the man had been deported after being convicted in a string of violent crimes a few years ago.There was a debate over what the officers could do. In the end, the LAPD decided to get immigration officials involved. Immigration and Customs Enforcement determined the man had reentered the United States illegally and received a federal warrant for his arrest." - LA Times.

Sometimes people get drunk on power and totally overplay their hand. MS-13 had gotten away with murder and everything else for decades. They treated the US Border with open contempt and laughed at any concept of it as a deterrent to their evil. Now they've laughed too loudly, and maybe the law will finally begin to get enforced.

Whither North Korea? Nowhere good either way.

Even the official name of North Korea suggests that things have gone badly off track and are mired in the ditch. On a really good day, I can spell Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Even on a great day, I'd never want to live there.

If a country's official name gets any longer or more bureaucratic than say, Los Estados Unidos de Mexico, a lot of things have probably gone terribly wrong in the State of Denmark, or anywhere else that happens to call itself a People's Republic. As if there was some other kind...

North Korea's problems begin with its climate and geography. According to the US Library of Congress,

"Topography: Approximately 80 percent of land area mountain ranges and uplands. All mountains on peninsula over 2,000 meters high are in North Korea.

Climate: Long, cold, dry winters; short, hot, humid summers. Approximately 60 percent of rainfall falls in June through September. "

To make a long analysis get to the point, the place is an agricultural failure waiting to happen. It takes good, competent managers to prevent this. Which brings us, regrettably, to the cretinous moorlocks currently in charge.

The US Library of Congress works for a bunch of congressmen. This requires them to develop the use of nuance and euphemism to the point where they can technically describe the North Korean government without resorting to profanity.

"Political System: Communist state under leadership of Kim Il Sung, general secretary of ruling Korean Workers' Party (KWP)and president of state, elected May 1990. Power centralized in hands of Kim Il Sung ("great leader"), son Kim Jong Il ("dear leader"), and select few holding positions on three-member Standing Committee of twenty-member Political Bureau (elected to five-year terms under 1992 revision of 1972 constitution; as of September 1992, thirteen full members; seven candidate members), inner council of 303-member KWP Central Committee (as of September 1992, 160 full members, 143 alternate members). Preeminence of party control (estimated 3 million members) unchallenged and as of mid-1993 no discernible signs of internal opposition to Kim Il Sung's absolute authority. Members of Supreme People's Assembly, unicameral legislature, also elected to five-year terms (as revision to 1972 constitution) in May 1990, with power to elect and recall authority of chairman, National Defense Commission, on president's recommendation; universal suffrage age seventeen. Constitution revised April 1992 at Supreme People's Assembly; text released in November 1992 by South Korean press. Nominally Marxist-Leninist in doctrine, but since mid-1970s, chuch'e, indigenous doctrine, promotes ideology of national self-reliance."

Or to put things more accurately and less euphemistically, they have a dictatorship that does not dictate well, quashes dissent after they screw up, fails to share anything with anyone in the country and then tells the nation's people to go practice an "ideology of national self-reliance." You'd think they were People's Republicans or something.

They are not. They are insane idiots. Their subjects eat less than 50% of what the World Health Organization suggests a healthy adult should. These people serve a government that hates The United States, and wishes us nothing but rampant colon cancer.

Perhaps, on a primal, carniverous level, this is a good thing. Except that it isn't, unless you're Judge Greer and find these people extraneous anyhow. North Korea's suffering will become a major problem for us.

Why? Because everyone's suffering becomes a major problem for us. We are the world, we always get stuck feeding the children. The rest of the planet despises us for that, but that will never stop them from begging.

Another reason why? 39% of the North Korean population undergoes at least semi-regular military training. Out of 22 million people, that equals lots of them. To put this less flippantly, they are a potential juggernaut, commanded by a leadership, that would expend their lives like a dot.com business enterprise would blow through its petty cash fund.

To make this situation even less pleasant, we're technically at war with this nation. It's the hairball in East Asia's digestive tract and it's stubborn and determined in a way that only the truly fanatic can be.

So how will this mess probably end? Not well. There are no winners. It's the ultimate sucker bet for anybody involved. So I rank what I perceive as probably outcomes in order of least pestilent to most tragic.

  1. The North Korea government falls victim to it's own irrational stupidity. It fails and it's fuedalistic primates all purge one another. This is good because the hellfire never rains on Seoul and the Koreans can begin the awful rebuilding project. This is bad because China and South Korea end becoming the primary care givers for over 20 million people who haven't had a good, juicy Big Mac in over a decade. This is also bad because the US, Russia, Japan, S. Korea and China have a jump ball over who gets to play with North Korea's nukes. This, of course, assumes they find those nukes before they show up on E-Bay.
  2. The South Koreans get tired of the US Army and kick us out with KIJ still running The Nuthouse to the North. According to a Pew Survey, 58% of South Koreans regretted the fact that the Iraquis didn't put up a better fight against the US Army. It's not like these people still consider us an ally. The immediate result would probably be massive military and diplomatic pressure from both North Korea and China on South Korea to fold its tent and join the Worker's Revolution. Pyongyang would come to rapidly rule a united Korea and the South Korean economy would work about as well as Cuba's or North Korea's. That is to say, the world would then have to feed 60 or so starving, miserable Koreans with over a 12 million man military and nuclear weapons, or else.
  3. The North Koreans get desperate, hungry and invade S. Korea to steal what they can't grow. The carnage is awful. The entire Korean Peninsula gets returned to the 4th Century AD. China and Russia deploy millions of soldiers and tanks to seal their borders and stop refugees from crossing. The US and ROK Army probably win an exhaustive war that grinds about 3 or 4 million people into fertilizer. Maybe, a nuclear weapon gets used on Seoul or on a US base.

So the Korean Peninsula is the ultimate no win situation. Everyone plays what Coach Dean Smith termed "The Carolina Four-Corners" and hopes the other side runs out of time and fresh players off the bench. The entire fiasco perhaps lends credence to General MacArthur's poignant assertion. "There is no substitute for victory."

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Mythology And Health Care Costs. Prices Don't Just Go Up.

No one really likes it when a product increases at a price that's twice the rate of inflation. This quickly puts that product out of the reach of the average consumer. Predictably, the mourners will sing about how it is all unfair. This has been especially true in the case of health care costs.

Health care costs in this nation are going up at double the rate of inflation and now cost $600 billion a year or a debilitating 11.5% of our gross national product. By comparison, Canada spends 8.5% of its gross national product on health care; Japan 6.7% and Britain 6.2%.

By the year 2,000 it is estimated that if health care costs continue to rise at today's rates that we will be spend-ing 15% of our gross national product on health care and at that point even our big auto companies will break under the cost burden. If America's premier manufacturing companies will not be able to afford employee health care - who will? - Mike Westfall (1990)

Who can afford employee health care? The government. And that, Ladies and Germs, is the graveman of the problem. Health care is no longer retailed in this country, it's auctioned. Even worse than that, it's not just auctioned, it's auctioned via a rigged scheme. As long as that remains the case, you'd better look twice before crossing the busy thoroughfare.

Here's how health care came to be auctioned, rather than retailed. The people who paid for health care started out being, by and large, individual consumers. This put a ceiling on how much the drug companies, hospitals and physicians could bill. My vastly empty wallet was a sure fire cost control mechanism.

People then began to recognize that they could manage risk and pool funds. Several people with a small likelihood of requiring a procedure could gang up and easily pay for the cost of the one poor unlucky soul who needed it. The insurance policy and health plan were born.

Doctors and drug inventors, by their professional nature, are not stupid people. They quickly realized that if people had more money to buy a product, they could afford it even if it cost a whole bunch more. This happened in short order, and people once more became highly concerned that they could not afford the services of medical professionals, even with a health plan.

This situation became exacerbated further, because insurers and health plan coordinators could also manage risk by controlling who was allowed to kick into the pool. People who exhibited health characteristics that led to frequent or expensive demands on the money pool had to pay in more to join or were banned outright. They were still charged for health care as if they were part of a unified money pool. At this point, the health care market was now an auction market.

When a consumer could no longer afford to bid high enough for a scarce MRI or HIV drug, they lost. This is how auction markets work at Southerby's or anywhere else in the world in which they occur. This is not a problem at Southerby's, because no one is going to die if they don't have an original Renoir to hang in the drawing room. They may very well die soon if they don't have a check for colon cancer. Hence, a lot of people felt intense pain at having to participate in an auction to get health care.

Members of the government looked at this situation and saw that the people who would need certain health care services the most would not have them made available unless they were wealthy dillitantes. They then proceeded to pave the road to Stygian health care costs with the finest and most noble of intentions.

When the government entered the health care market, they became a unique consumer for two important reasons.


  1. They could outbid anyone who moved. Their pot of money was The Federal Budget. The Federal Budget is profoundly resourced and has a level of credit that far outstrips the actual cash account that the IRS brings in each year. No matter how badly we bloat our deficit, it's still going to be a long, long time before The Federal Reserve actually issues a junk Treasury Bond.
  2. The people setting the prices had the ability to collude via there lobbyists and convince this bidder to actually inflate it's bid. The AMA lobbied assiduously for the US Government to spend more on health care because of the high costs. The government bid higher, the medical professionals then jacked up the prices.
  3. The recursion here doesn't take Einstein to figure out. You can see a very similar regression line with college tuitions and Pell Grants. What's the only humane solution? More Pell Grants. What happens when the government pumps in more liquidity? Higher tuition.

So what do many advocates of fixing this problem reccommend? National Health Care plans. Letting the government be the only payer for health care. This would constitute an unmitigated disaster on several levels.

The government would price health care where ever a lobbyist told them to. This would bear no legitimate relation to what the services cost. If they made health care too cheap, everyone would demand it at a larger level than necessary. This would flood hospitals with claims that at least quasi-hypochondriatic. Drugs, vaccinations and the time of highly skilled doctors would become too scarce.

The average patient would son have little or no chance of getting these services. This is why Canadian patients wait for months to get an MRI. Sure, it's a cheap MRI compared to the US, but that's why a few million other people are in line and that MRI scanner won't be available for another year or two.

If they price the health care too expensively, you'd have The Prescription Drug Panderation Act. It would wreck our budget and drive our Medicare Program several years closer to bankruptcy. It would hyper-inflate the cost of every prescription drug on the market even more than the current regime. It would sure suck out loud if The President and Congress wanted to saddle us with a really stupid bill like that one.

So that's how we get a leviathan-like government and no health care. We keep recruiting a richer designated payer for health care costs and then wonder why the product costs go up far faster than the level of value provided via the services. It's a prima-face example of how you wind up with something for nothing when greed and fear replace intellectual thought in the market place.

Doctors and drug makers will provide a certain level of value, no matter who pays for the service. The more cash gets pumped into that particular market, the more these people will vaccuum it off the table without increasing the value they provide.

Giving the whole thing over to the government or a big HMO won't fix it either. That will cause your prostate surgery to be priced by a cost accountant or a GS-13 Operations Research Analyst. I'd rather have my medical bill tallied up by someone who's done an operation or two.

The key to killing off greedy insurers, unethical Doctors and power-lusting government bureaucrats before they become parasites who live off our medical field is to end the hyperinflation. Cut off the money and you cut off the bad guys from their oxygen. When the average American goes to the pharmacist, there should be a single payer. The patient.

Monday, March 28, 2005

MS - 13 and The Permiable US Border

It's not a banner day for any government when a group of its own citizens form a posse to guard it's national border and are publically threatened one of the world's largest drug smuggling operations. This has recently happened at a section of the US border near Tucson, Ariz.

The citizens preparing to set up a vigil on the border dub themselves "The Minuteman Project." In their manifesto, they state the following.

"This project is the result of our government failing to do its most basic duty: protecting each State in the Union against invasion (Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution). ..."

and furthermore,

"At the current rate of invasion the United States will be completely over run with ILLEGAL aliens by the year 2025...only 21 years away. ILLEGAL aliens and their offspring will be the dominant population in the U.S. and will have made such inroads into the political and social systems that "they" will have more influence than our Constitution over how the U.S. is governed. The ugly consequence of an ignored U.S. Constitution is already taking place.

Future generations will inherit this mutated form of the United States of America, consisting of 100 different sub-nations, speaking 100 different languages, and promoting 100 different cultural agendas. That will certainly guarantee the death of this nation as a "melting pot". Instead, it will be tantamount to a sack of marbles...with each marble colliding with the other marbles, as each culture scrambles for dominance of its culture over all others.

The final result: political and social mayhem. "

To make things even more chaotic, a renowned Salvadoran drug smuggling cartel, Mara Salvatruca, or MS-13, as it is known on the streets, has threatened to inflict violence on these 'Minutemen'. Perhaps this is an effort to demonstrate to people exactly who really owns the Southern US Border.

Mara Salvatruca has deadly intent. They have spent years smuggling drugs and weapons over the Mexican Border and are in no mood to stop doing so. This is their lifeblood. The Minuteman Project threatens to hit them where they live.

According to World Net Daily,

"A leader of the violent, terror-connected Latin American gang Mara Salvatruchas, Ebner Anivel Rivera-Paz, has reportedly issued orders from federal prison to members of his international criminal organization to teach a lesson to a group of Americans taking border control into their own hands.
...
Lately, the gang has joined forces with former members of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, a radical terrorist group, and some U.S. intelligence sources say they may also be cooperating with Islamic terrorist groups – including al-Qaida. " - Hat-Tip Digger's Realm.


The US Border Patrol has announced a significant increase in resources to protect the Arizona section of the US Mexican border. What that means in real terms remains to be seen. What we know right now is the following.

  1. The US Government has not put the necessary effort into controlling the border.
  2. The citizens, particularly in Arizona, have become so sick of this that they are willing to toe the line of outright vigilantiism in order to restore basic civil order.
  3. Gangs like MS-13 have so little respect for the US Government in general that they see no problem publically threatening The Minuteman Project with violence that will take place on US soil.

I can only hope that recent overtures towards putting more Border Patrol agents in Arizona are genuine. This is not a situation that the US government has adequately under control. It will get worse and perhaps quite violent if immediate action isn't taken. Perhaps Bill O' Rielly call for National Guard deployments to the border are not as outlandish as they may seem at first blush.

Friday, March 25, 2005

System Identification And The Future Of Humanity

US Air Force Mathematician David Lee descibes the system identification problem below in The Cost Analyst's Companion.

"You're given an input F(t), and output g(t), predict the output h(t) of the system if given a new input."

This seemingly innoccous engineering problem metaphorically describes a lot of what has recently happened to the human condition. We have confused ourselves of what constitutes the creation of a human being , and therefore are no longer particularly certain if all of the outputs we could possibly classify as human beings are of equal value.

When we were still certain that we all became human beings the same way and that we all had certain rights and responsibilities that flowed from that state of being. As long as we kept that basic code straight, we were fine and could all just get along. Or as Thomas Jefferson put it -

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,..." - Declaration of Independence.

This statement inhered a large number of assumptions that not everyone in the country, or in the rest of the world, willing swalloed whole. Every time we deviated from it, we wound up with nothing but trouble. The 3/5ths Compromise, the Pro-Choice Movement, even The NAZI's in Germany all found ways to skirt this basic premise. However, prior to the Euthanasia Movement, all of these deviations from the principle laid out by Mr. Jefferson, had one common denominator.

Each of the the three situations where innocent human beings were either enslaved or killed involved a philosophical subterfuge. This involved taking groups of people, namely Africans, Jews and unborn infants, and classifying them as something other than human.

Prior to the Euthanasia Movement, an individual, defined specifically as a human being, had engage in totally despicable bahavior , e.g. to murder others, before anyone in society sanctioned their killing as a just process. What is happening in the case of Terry Schiavo, and what happened in the cases of everyone Jack Kervorkian "helped", is a new level of moral depravity.

Now we no longer have the same respect for humanity. It's as if the process by which humans are created can produce a different output than the one identified by Thomas Jefferson. When it comes to basic humanity, we no longer feel confident that we have the system identification of what being human is and what being human entails completely figured out. This could kill every one of us one day, really!

Update I - The Jawa Report suggests that another Founding Father has been totally left out of the equation during the ongoing 'Euthanasia' of Teri Schiavo.

Update II - Michelle Malkin reports that Terri Schiavo's Brother-In-Law has been quoted as saying that Terri's dehydration is just a "natural part of the dying process."

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Oh, The Humanity!

A woman named Terri Schiavo lies dehydrating in Florida. She is incapable of receiving nutrition through her mouth, and thus must be fed by a tube. Her husband claims that she wishes to die and be free, her parents say otherwise and both the husband and the immediate family are lawyered to the hilt. This has become yet another battleground in the war between so-called Pro Life and so-called Pro-Choice political advocacy groups.

In a recent poll on whether Terri should live or dehydrate, ABC News offered the following preamble to the main question.

" Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years. Doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible. Her husband and her parents disagree about whether she would have wanted to be kept alive. Florida courts have sided with the husband and her feeding tube was removed on Friday."

Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters posts that ABC News made her seem less well off to push an agenda. Namely,

"... she has never been on life support, she is simply getting food and water thru a tube. That is not "on life support." Further, while some doctors have said she had "no consciousness " others in the medical community disagree. "

Wizbang demands to know "If they are doing the right thing, why do they have to stretch the truth to defend their actions?" - H/T to Wizbang.

I demand to know how in the heck anyone would know whether Mr. Schiavo or the parents has this issue right at all? Also, for the unfortunate judges who have had this one dropped in their laps, how do they adjudicate this?

There are two possible ways to approach that conundrum. The first is to make a decision based on Utilitarian grounds, under the particular instances of this case. The judge could apply the decision and then walk away, announcing that a decision of this magnitude could only be correctly made on a case-by-case basis.

The other method would be an attempt on the part of the judge to write overarching legal guidance that would settle future controversies based on clear, legal interpretation. Given that this decision would potentially be used as a precedent anyhow, there is an argument over who wins the high ground of precedent.

Having a hard and fast rule to adjudicate these cases in the future would save a lot of grief and grievance later. What would be even better, would be an overarching legal standard of what constitutes a human being. This is ultimately what this fight is being waged over. We can't just cavalierly yank the plug out of a human being.

Nobody really wants an overarching standard of what constitutes a human being. That would cut too close to the quick. It would reveal way too much when unborn infants, and the chronically ill had to be retaxonimized for the next edition of the Biology Textbooks. That's ultimately what it has come to.

There are elements of modern society who want to be able to eschew their responsibilities to the living and not pay the penalty for it. These reponsibilities can be crushing, but they are towards a human being. At least they are, until we change the definition of what human is.

This is why we need to force the issue on the courts to decide whether there is such a thing as someone who is conceived of two human parents, but is not human. Making this battle take place in front of the cameras disallow this continued defining down of all of humanities.

Monday, March 21, 2005

If Scott Peterson Were A Smarter Criminal, Who Would He Be?

According to BlueStateBase, Michael Schiavo didn't have the agonizing choice to make that he's currently getting salubrious credit for. In fact, his only problem with the situation is that Terri continues to breathe.

  1. ...first Michael Schiavo beats and strangles his wife Terri, leaves her lying unconscious on the floor until her family arrives to get her to the hospital.
  2. Then Michael Schiavo sues the hospital for $20 million because he needs the money to get his poor wife therapy.
  3. Then Michael Schiavo pockets the money, denies his wife the care he said she needed and finally, claims she really wants to die.
  4. Michael Schiavo killed his wife Terri's cat, melted down her wedding ring and then took up with his girlfriend and lives with her today with their children.
  5. Just take a gander at the sworn testimony of an attending nurse: Carla Sauer Iyer (affidavit* below) but let me save you some time and report a quote of Michael Schiavo's after visiting his still living wife: "When is that bitch gonna die?"

When is this poor woman going to die? Not yet! Thank you US Congress.

Why is Michael Schiavo so concerned? It's not over the pain. It's over what's left of the $20 million. The day after he won that judgement, he probably started wanting Terri taken off the machinery and planted somewhere six feet under.

Now, she just won't die. Michael Schiavo is watching his lawsuit swag melt away like the sands in an hourglass. He thought he'd won it all and hit the jackpot. He must have figured he could plant poor Terri, pocket the green and take up permanently with his newest rent-a-skank.

If I were truely a sadist, and was the judge in this case, I'd do the following.

  1. Euthanize Terri Schiavo.
  2. Charge Michjael Schiavo with murder.
  3. Charge Michael Schiavo and all of his heirs for every legal hour billed, by every attorney involved, since this became an issue.

If Terri Schiavo were to pass peacefully in her sleep the day after Michael's booty ran out, justice would be served in a way that the euthanasianists will never understand. The woman is a human being, not a slogan generator, not a talking point, not a meal ticket for her dishonest, dirtbag of a husband.

Others Blogging this slow-motion homocide by a greedy husband follow below:

Ace of Spades , Boi From Troy , Of The Mind , Sue Bob's Diary , The American Mind, and Wizbang.

Oh, and just so you can hear what people say on behalf of a slow, agonizing execution by dehydration, here's Like Kryptonite To Logic, Himself, Oliver Willis

Thursday, March 17, 2005

LASER EOD WAGON

The US Army may be planning on trimming about 12,000 soldiers off of it's next rotation to Iraq, but that doesn't mean there isn't still a lot of emphasis. The most recent high-tech gadget to be earmarked for deployment is the ZUES.

The ZUES is a humvee with a powerful dual laser system. Combat engineers use it to do away with unexploed ordinance via thermal combustion. According to Defense Tech,

The system uses diesel fuel to create the laser beam, which focuses energy on the outer casing of the target, which heats up until it detonates, [triggering] a less violent explosion than if the explosive was activated, causing less damage to the surrounding area...

“Its power level and utility is new and is not for aerial targets, it’s for unexploded ordnance,” Dodgen said. “It is a system that works, and we certainly would like to use it whenever possible.”

So there you have it, less collateral damage and a more rapid disposal of unexploded bombs through technology. Onwards and upwards for new military technology.

Cozying Up To Iran? I wish I were Kidding!

Who could possibly forget "America Held Hostage; Day 438!" Not me, I spent over a year of my young life hearing that on the news every day. Apparently, several of our prominent experts on foreign policy can.

Bill Clinton perhaps enhaled before he offered up this incite on the current regime in Iran.

Bill Clinton also seemed fuzzy about the true nature of tyranny, and thus was clueless about murderous theocratic Iran. Recently he cooed, "Iran today is, in a sense, the only country where progressive ideas enjoy a vast constituency" — as if theocrats there allow truly popular government. -From Victor Davis Hansen. (Jewish World Review)

Thomas P.M. Barnett offers up this gem of an observation.

WORK WITH ME ON THIS ONE. Iran getting the bomb could be the best thing that's ever happened to the Middle East peace process. .....

He then maps out how satorially elegant the emporer's new appeasement outfit would look...

I would send James Baker, our last good secretary of state, to Tehran as your special envoy with the following message: "We know you're getting the bomb, and we know there isn't much we can do about it right now unless we're willing to go up-tempo right up the gut. But frankly, there's other fish we want to fry, so here's the deal: You can have the bomb, and we'll take you off the Axis of Evil list, plus we'll re-establish diplomatic ties and open up trade. But in exchange, not only will you bail us out on Iraq first and foremost by ending your support of the insurgency, you'll also cut off your sponsorship of Hezbollah and other anti-Israeli terrorist groups, help us bully Syria out of Lebanon, finally recognize Israel, and join us in guaranteeing the deal on a permanent Palestinian state. You want to be recognized as the regional player of note. We're prepared to do that. But that's the price tag. Pay it now or get ready to rumble." -Thomas P.M. Barnett (Esquire Magazine).

Iran would just love to agree to that and I'm sure Mr. Baker is packing his travel bags as we speak. Mr. Barnett would also like to unload that Florida swamp condominium he owns the expensive time share in. If this is The Pentagon's new map, please don't hand it off to an over-eager 2nd LT.

Iran runs a thug regime. It will not negotiate with the US, because it would lose any claim to its legitimacy without us as an enemy. They are also about as likely to cut loose Syria and Hamas as they are to build a Holocaust Memorial Park.

That of course assumes the Iranian government controls Hamas as well as bankrolling it. That's quite a leap of faith and not a very safe one. Iran's government probably pays Hezbollah, Hamas and all the other assorted hudlums, vipers and churls a protection fee.

Last time out it was the US Embassy, tommorrow, it could be The Iranian National Assembly. The current PM of Iran probably gets that message at least once a month. Sometime near when the rent check is due. The Iranian regime governs with the permission of their terrorist guardians. This scenario is straight out of Plato's Republic.



Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Change Or Die

Starting as far back as the mid 1980's, Mike Westfall and other union activists have noticed a change in how business gets done. Westfall begins one of his recent sermons against corporate America witht he following paragraph.

"The working American today faces a more complex and changing employ­ment situation than has ever existed before in history. In many segments, for a variety of reasons, available work is shrinking while the number of those seeking work is increasing. Women, out of economic necessity, have been joining the labor market in record numbers. The baby boom generation has been swelling the workforce and a yearly new crop of inexperienced and unskilled high school graduates are demanding the availability of meaningful employment opportunities where they can make a contribution to the system and their own economic well being.

Presently this country has many alienated and demoralized young people who are at the peak of their health, energy and idealism, but are being lost to society forever because they can only find unstable, low paying, part-time jobs with little opportunity for advancement.

What really is at stake today isn't economics - it is the future of large segments of an entire generation of Americans."

A fairly typical set of opinions that you'll presently hear from leaders of labor and from political leaders from "Progressive" organizations. This could easily have come from Ralph Nader, with whom Mike Westfall has collaborated in the past.

That being said, the statement has an element of truth to it. A lot of young people who believed there would be a manufacturing job waiting for them upon entry into the workforce received a very rude shock upon graduation. This is not how the US economy works anymore.

In part, Caldwell acknowledges this himself in the statement below.

"But walk into any plant and you'll consistently find that direct labor represents only about 10% of total manufacturing costs. From studies in hundreds of U.S. plants, we know on average that 35% of costs are presently due to manufacturing overhead and 55% to purchase materials. ". We're approaching the point in our work when I don't even want to hear the term, "direct labor," on a project anymore. It just doesn't count-It's 10% of manufacturing costs and that's all the attention it's worth."

This statement attempts to cast aspersion on the business practice known as outsourcing. It attempts to minimalize the potential savings enjoyed by people who move corporate operations outside the US. What that very simple breakdown misses is two items.

First, when I buy someone else's materials, I'm paying for the direct labor used in processing them as a part of the price. When GM buys ready-made parts, it's paying for the labor involved in building them. Also, if the US has more expensive regulatory compliance fees than perhaps China or Mexico, GM also pays those fees everytime it buys an American material. So to say 55% of the money spent goes to materials is an innacuracy. 55% of the money goes to the price of materials which is adjusted upwards to account for the labor costs and fees of the part producer.

"It really does pit country against- country and worker against worker in a competitive effort to reduce all workers to the lowest common denominator. Many social scientists, in fact, are now condemning some of our American based multi-nationals for their treatment of foreign workers with low wages and poor working conditions, without really contributing to the economic well-being of these workers."

So what's new? American workers used to hold a monopoly on the skill sets required for heavy industry. This used to be the only country where the skills and capitol could easily meet up and form an organization. This is no longer true, so now workers compete to offer labor at the most affordable price.

They compete the way everyone who drives wishes oil producers had to compete. Corporations are now able to pay someone what the labor involved in heavy production is actually worth. The union premium and the scarcity premium are both eliminated.

So all of this puts an American Corporations in a bind. They can change or they can die. They can change in three ways.

  1. They can ditch overpriced American labor and overly constrictive laws. This would make them pariahs and somewhat deservedly so. Being a pariah is not something Bernie Ebbers worries a whole lot about, so the outsourcing practice will continue until American and foreign labor rates are close enough to justify saving the transactions costs and risk premiums involved in outsourcing by relocating these factories back in the US.
  2. They can stop wasting piles of money on perks and benefits. Ken Lay loses the jet, and all the programming nerds can forget their stock options, which are good things. You and I get screwed out of our pensions, which is not. If a corporation can hire enough competant workers to do the job without offering the benefits package, guess what action they will take?
  3. They can apply for political relief in the forms of bans, tariffs and import quotas. If I don't have to use what happens to be banned, tariffed or limited by quota, this is pretty cool. If I don't sell any of the above, this is even more cool, because I don't lose my job. The second I do need anything on the banned, or tariffed list, I'm screwed. The second Bernie Ebbers or someone of his moral character wants something off this list, we'll have the same problems with our tariff laws that we now have with our War On Drugs. It will be totally unenforceable, and the rest of the world will hate us and laugh at us for trying.

In conclusion, we are all somewhat screwed and will all have to get by on less for the following reasons.

  1. The rest of the world is now a heck of a lot more productive than it used to be, so we have lost our monopoly on productive industrial assets. The US will only remain the center of industrial production when it pays economically to leave it there.
  2. The rest of the world sees our lifestyle and pretty much hates us for it. Don't expect a whole lot of sympathy from a bunch of Koreans earning $2.50 an hour when we gripe about losing factory jobs that pay $25.00 an hour.
  3. The ability of corporations to offer generous benefits and meet prior obligations on workers' benefits is directly tied to the ability of these same corporations to continue their economic dominance in their field of endeavor. Strip away the dominance and the benefits go bye-bye. That pension you were promised back in the 1970's when most Koreans, Thais and Chinese were too illiterate to work in a factory is now financially unsupportable for the corporation or government entity that promised it to you. You will not receive most of it. Plan accordingly.

So there you have it. The new reality is not a particularly good one for the US economy. We will suck it up and deal with it, or we will die. It's not rocket science and its not anyone's fault any more than the law of gravity is someone's fault. We cannot expect the rest of the world to politely roll over and let us dominate industrial production so that we can continue to get paid upper middle class wages for what has traditionally always been working class work. As I said before, we have to change both our expectations and our ways of doing business or we will go the way of Bethlehem Steel. It's very simple, change or die.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Rule Sets - How We Civilize Ourselves

I've recently slammed Thomas PM Barnett over his over his glib obsession with "locking in an alliance with China at today's rates." When he thinks, he sometimes only thinks in an act utilitarian fashion. However, he does think about interesting topics and often brings them to life in both his weblog and his journal; Rule Set Reset.

In one article in February's Edition, "Rules, Rule Sets and Social Systems," author Mark Safranski posits a theory of how civilizations stipulate rules and maintain order. He described four classes of rule sets that can be charted on two sets of axis to form a Cartesian Plain.

One a first axis, he describes rules as explicit or implicit. Explicit rules are written down and technical in nature. They are the stuff of law books and are enforced by referees, police officers or regulators of some sort. They give rise to The Guardians that Plato was afraid needed guarding themselves.

Implicit rules are less tangible and require a certain savvy and soul to intuit. They are traditions, customs and "the vibe" you sense around you. They get enforced by everyone, to a certain degree. You won't get ticketed for breaking one of these, but if no one wants to be around you, even your friends, then you've probably jumped outside these sometimes subtle social norms.

On another axis he lays out rules as either strong or weak. Strong rule sets hammer violators with a bad consequence that occurs with high probability. The expected value of any transgression small or large is substantially reduced. Weak rule sets either issue a slap on the wrist or punish in an unpredictable fashion.

This analysis allows Safranski to classify societal rules as being Totalitarian (Strong, Explicit), Individualistic (Weak, Explicit), Communal (Strong, Implicit) or Anarchic (Weak, Implicit). This makes for a convenient shorthand for dividing up the world's societies. You have the Core (Explicit, well-defined rule systems) and the Gap (Implicit, unclear rule systems). Or, if an analyst prefers, there are the Repressed (Strong, harsh rule systems) or the Free (Weak, laid back rule systems).

In my opinion, niether split really gives you an accurate taxonomy of what is really out there today. A third axis, possibly hinted at by Safranski when he described "buy -in", could and should be Compliance. This would vary between voluntary (most people generally accept these rules, punitive enforcement is not frequently needed to keep the populace in line), and Coerced (most people disobey, the second the authorities take a walk and only frequent, brutal punishments keep it going).

This would further subdivide Safransky's categories into a more accurate picture of what types of rule sets exist.

  • Totalitarian Rule Sets would become

a) Authoritarian (Strong, Explicit, Voluntary; e.g. Canon Law of The Roman Catholic Church) - a large number of people except being told exactly how things will work.

b) Tyrannical (Strong Explicit, Coerced; e.g. Modern China, Saudi Arabia) - a large number of people are held against their will.

  • Individualistic rule sets would become either

a) Libertarian (Weak, Explicit, Voluntary; e.g. The Modern US in many respects) - People are willing to accept a limited amount of authority and a larger amount of personnal responsibility.

b) Powerless (Weak, Explicit, Coerced; e.g. Fuedalism in 14th Century France) - This is the best of several poor choices. It doesn't work, no one likes it, other alternatives just don't exist accept for anarchy.

  • Communal Rule Sets would bifurcate into

a) Mutual (Strong, Implicit, Voluntary; e.g. Social norms and cultural traditions) - People are generally in agreement over "how things work".

b) Unavoidable (Strong, Implicit, Coerced; e.g. the caste structure in most societies, taboos) - Something that no one really likes, but that has to be worked out. People accept these unwritten rules, often against their wills, in service of a higher good.)

  • Anarchy would not bifurcate accept that possibly, if a Voluntary anarchy existed, it would last until people grew tired of it's deleterious effects.

By ignoring the will of the people to comply with a rule set, the author ignores a vital component in judging the vitality of a given rule set. If we ignore the coersive element rampant in many modern dictatorships, then Neville Chamberlain definitely should have "locked in Hitler at 1936 rates."

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Pot Calls The Kettle Genocidal

A man who once served as a domestic terrorist for The Klu Klux Klan is not the sort of person who should go around comparing anyone's tactics to Adolf Hitler. Unless, perhaps he's drawing off of knowledge gleaned from personnal experience.

Senator Robert Byrd, who honed his leadership techniques in the KKK, seems to think hubris is a hip new martial arts craze, because this is exactly what he recently did on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

"Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side," the Democrat from West Virginia said. "Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal."

The Republicans and The Anti-Defamation League wasted no time in calling Senator Byrd on his hateful rhetoric.

Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a member of the Republican leadership, said in a statement, "Senator Byrd's inappropriate remarks comparing his Republican colleagues with Nazis are inexcusable."

ADL Director Abraham Foxman said: "It is hideous, outrageous and offensive for Senator Byrd to suggest that the Republican Party's tactics could in any way resemble those of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party."

CNN reports that Senator Byrd trotted out a spokesman/lackey to clean up his rhetorical dogpile.

"Terrible chapters of history ought never be repeated," said Tom Gavin, spokesman for Byrd. "All one needs to do is to look at history to see how dangerous it is to curb the rights of the minority."

Republicans poured on harder at that juncture.

"With his knowledge of history and his own personal background as a KKK member, he should be ashamed for implying that his political opponents are using Nazi tactics," said Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Yes, Mr. Brooks indeed had a point there. The pot did indeed have the audacity to call the kennel genocidal.

Moving The Ball

The word from President Bush's oponents on Social Security Reform is that he is running out of time to convince the public that Social Security needs fixing. They say this as President Bush prepares a sixty stop tour to tout his new initiative for improving the American pension system. This is not only spin on their part, but it is a sign of growing concern.

The New York Times took a poll on Social Security and misreported it's results in the following manner.

Reporting the poll's results, the Times said the survey showed that Americans "are increasingly resistant to [the president's] proposal to revamp Social Security and say they are uneasy with Mr. Bush's ability to make the right decisions about the retirement program." The paper also reported that, "The poll underscores just how little headway Mr. Bush has made in his effort to build popular support as his proposal for overhauling Social Security struggles to gain footing in Congress."

The poll ignored the fact that 68% of repondents felt the current system had troubles. It also ignored the result that 55% of these people felt that these problems justified immediate action.

This could be why even DNC Chairman Howard Dean admits that something needs to be done about Social Security. That something may or may not be the specific proposal outlined by President Bush. However, the so-called third rail is now an open point of political debate and discussion.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan added even greater impetous by stating that Social Security Reform was a key to avoiding longterm economic stagnation. This never would have happened in years past and is a sign that George W. Bush knows exactly how to move the ball towards his chosen goal post.

Update I: Boi From Troy has more detail on Alan Greenspan's Social Security remarks.

Update II: Cold Hearted Truth analyzes the New York TImes poll from a different perspective.

Update III: Right Voices chronicles one of Harry Reid's less congenial moments.

"Reciprocals"

As you may or may not already be aware, members of the Watcher's Council hold a vote every week on what they consider to be the most link-worthy pieces of writing around... per the Watcher's instructions, I am submitting one of my own posts for consideration in the upcoming nominations process.
Here is the most recent winning council post, here is the most recent winning non-council post, here is the list of results for the latest vote, and here is the initial posting of all the nominees that were voted on.

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