Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Yeah! A good bud Joshua has set me up with a brand new site with my own domaine name.

Henceforth, all posting will be done at http://www.stephenwbrowne.com/

So please bear with me while I learn the bells and whistles of the new system.

Expect more photos, easier-to-read text, dancing girls...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Another Ah-ha! moment

In my review of Thomas Sowell's book, "A Conflict of Visions" I described reading it as one of the great Ah-ha! moments in my life.

(See: http://rantsand.blogspot.com/2007/04/review-conflict-of-visions-by-thomas.html )

A commenter in Peru agreed, "I have read in 1996 the Spanish translation of the 1987 edition. It was also an Ah-ha moment for me."

Well I caught Rush Limbaugh on my pickup radio the other day talking about his blacklisting while trying to buy a football team.

Rush said, "If the NFL can be politicized, what makes you think a liver transplant can't be?"


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Take the jab!

I'm sitting at home writing this, with a temperature of 101 and diffuse aches throughout my body. I'm cold, in spite of layers of thermal underwear. My head feels like it's stuffed with cotton wool and my throat feels like it's been swabbed with sandpaper. And though I'm not coughing much, when I do it feels like two guys with baseball bats have laid into both sides of my lower ribs simultaneously.
In other words, I have the flu.

What's worse, I have no excuse for it. A few weeks ago I covered a drive-through flu innoculation our city/county health personel put on at the county highway department barn. How difficult would it have been to pay the fee and get the jab myself?

Well, maybe I didn't want to spend the money, and maybe I'm kind of chicken about shots.

Apparently lots of people are, our City/County Health director said while the event went very well as a preparedness exercise, turnout was disappointing.

I guess the joke's on me. I had to spend the money and get blood drawn anyway.

Not that that did any good. My doctor said everything was normal in my bloodwork, which simply ruled out a number of other things I didn't have and confirmed what I knew already. It's flu.

So I said, "Bed rest, plenty of fluids..."

"That's right," he replied, "everything your grandmother would have told you. And, don't take anti-fever medication unless it gets above 102. Fever fights infection."

That's one of the reasons my father, a retired physician, says medical services are overused in America.

"Things that used to be treated with a mother's kiss are taken to the emergency room these days," is how he put it.

So now I've paid the co-pay to confirm what I already knew, and done my bit to raise the insurance premiums of my co-workers next time around.

In the meantime, I can't hug my kids (and I could use a hug right now,) I can't kiss my wife (and she's going to kill me if she gets sick while the play she's in is running,) and while nausea is one of the symptoms thankfully absent, nothing really tastes good either.

So do yourself, your family, and your co-workers a favor and take the jab!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

When deadly force is a duty

Dumb moments in journalism

If you go here:


you'll find a Dutch website* with a video of British press interview with a raghead (observe the gutra on said head) about the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, speaking in a good solid English working-class accent - the accent I associate with the salt of the earth, saying:

"...in Islam, the punishment for anyone who insults the prophet (Arabic phrase which means "peace be upon him,") — is capital punishment. He should take the lesson from Theo van Gogh and others who've faced the punishment."

The journalist (not on-camera, only his microphone appears) then breaks in to ask, "Is that (unclear) be construed as a threat?"

Is the Pope Catholic? Does the bear shit in the woods?

After which the interviewee goes on to elaborate that, while he wouldn't necessarily be the one to carry it out, short answer: yes.

Well, perhaps the fellow was just double-checking. Perhaps it was an example of English reserve. And perhaps the excerpt wasn't long enough to show how he undoubtedly had penetrating questions about how could the interview subject expect full rights of citizenship and rely on the hospitality of a free society, and yet demand the right to annul those very freedoms which made that country such an attractive destination for immigrants?

Now go on and listen to the speaker with the megaphone express his hatred for democracy in every country in Europe, and "this dog Wilders."

"Islam will dominate... So no matter where he runs... Islam will come, and it will conquer... Islam will enter the house of every person in this world...We will see the European crusaders destroyed..."

You get the drift.

And, this takes place outside the Houses of Parliament, the "Mother of Parliaments."

Interviewer asks, "So you consider this a victory today, that you've prevented him from speaking?"

I vote clueless.

Listen a little longer and you'll hear another speaker loudly trumpeting his invitation to Geert Wilders to come out and be murdered by the mob. And moreover, expressing his indignation that the British police won't allow them to come in and get him.

I don't know about you, but it's my strong impression that these fellows mean what they say. (How's that for English-style understatement?)

I suppose some fellow-libertarians (those not members of the "libertarians with cojones" caucus) are going to call me names again for this, but there are times when a government of free men must be willing to shed the blood of its citizens.

This is one of them. That mob of savages should have been read the Riot Act**, ordered to disperse, and if they didn't they should have been treated to mass volley fire.

You don't like tyrannical government supressing free speech? So do you think the tyranny of a bloodthirsty mob is an improvement?

Now that I've stuck my foot in it, let me think of a few other occasions when I saw government clearly failing in its duty to use deadly force.

For those preparing angry comments calling me a racist, try this on for size.

A few years back, a mob in a German town besieged a hostel for immigrants. In the course of the riot, the mob set fire to the place and burned to death several Turkish women and children.

The police pretty much stood by wringing their hands.

Their clear duty was again, order the mob to disperse and give them a "first, second, third warning..." followed by volley fire. Then form a skirmish line, sweep through town and shoot/bayonet anyone carrying an incindiary.

Case three, requiring more subtlety.

A while back I saw a news video of English soccer hooligans in a stadium with two tiers of seating. The upper tier was quite high above the lower tiers.

The lager louts were ripping up the wooden seating and throwing it onto the heads of the spectators below.

From that height, throwing heavy objects onto a crowd is attempted murder.

Obviously, volley fire is not an appropriate response in crowded conditions. Snipers are.

"If you are not prepared to use violence to defend civilization, you must be prepared to accept barbarism."
--Thomas Sowell

*To show you something about education in the Netherlands, the web site text is in Dutch, but the video is of course in English, but with no translation or subtitles. The Dutch audience is just assumed to understand English.

**From Wikipedia: The Riot Act[1] (1713) (1 Geo.1 St.2 c.5) was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain which authorised local authorities to declare any group of more than twelve people to be unlawfully assembled, and thus have to disperse or face punitive action. The Act, whose long title was "An act for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies, and for the more speedy and effectual punishing the rioters", came into force on 1 August 1715, and remained on the statute books until 1973.

No longer on the statute books. Pity, it's kind of classy.

"Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God Save the King!"

Point being, you get a warning. Von Hayek pointed out years ago that one of the essential qualities of the laws of a free society is not that they always make perfect sense, or be perfectly just (if there is any such thing this side of heaven,) but that they be consistent. You've got to know from day to day what to expect from the law.

Sue the bastards Rushbo!

How could you say these vile things Rush Limbaugh?

“You know who deserves a posthumous Medal of Honor? James Earl Ray. We miss you, James. Godspeed."

"I mean, let’s face it, we didn’t have slavery in this country for over 100 years because it was a bad thing. Quite the opposite: slavery built the South. I’m not saying we should bring it back; I’m just saying it had its merits. For one thing, the streets were safer after dark."

Oh, you didn't. In fact they were made up. By people who were not mistaken, but deliberately lying.

But here: http://newsone.com/obama/top-10-racist-limbaugh-quotes/

You can find a site which still claims El Rushbo said them all - and cites sources!

Please take a minute to go there, and click on the SOURCE buttons under each quote.

Back now?

OK, notice that each source is secondary. Among the sources are the book "101 People who are Screwing up America," by Jack Huberman, and CommonDreams.org (a say it very softly, communist - shhhhh, front organization.)

(OK, spare yourself the trouble, I'll say it for you, "MCCARTHYITE PIG! WITCH HUNT! WITCH HUNT! WITCH HUNT!" There, don't you feel better now?)

Not once is a written source or an air date for these alleged quotes cited.

So what? This is a tinfoil-hat-wearing blogger so who cares?

Except that supposedly "professional" types at CNN and elsewhere are refusing to apologize, some (such as one Rick Sanchez) offering lame excuses of the "Well if it ain't true, it oughta be" kind.

The wittiest living man writing in English, Mark Steyn, pointed out the single, obvious fact that should have given the lie to this. If Rush had made these statements, does anyone seriously think they would only have been brought public attention now?

The occasion of these particular slanders/libels* is of course, Rush's attempt to buy a football team.

I could give a crap except for one thing, this time the slanders have evidently achieved their purpose. They have derailed what was a purely business deal.


Rush, I think you just won the lottery.

Libel laws in the U.S. I'm told, rest on two legs, 1) the assertion must be false (in America truth is absolute proof against libel**), and 2) there must be demonstrable damage.

Nowadays "mental anguish" has been accepted as damage, and defined down to "hurt feelings." Dumb and dangerous to free speech. But Rush actually suffered an aborted business transaction directly attributable to these slander, as documented by the football bigwigs' public statements.

Sue the bastards Rush! Sue them down to their underwear! Sue everybody in sight!

As a libertarian I've always been a bit uncomfortable about libel laws (and I'll present my Free Market Anarchist alternative later.)

In a civilized society, a gentleman falsely accused of making statements that vile would send a designated gentleman around to the slanderer with a polite request for either a public apology, or a meeting on the Field of Honor.***

One could of course, say no. And thus be revealed as a coward without the courage to defend one's lie. And of course, no jury would award more than a slap-on-the-wrist fine and a hearty handshake for the slandered party when he met the offender on the street and caned him. (As Sam Houston once did on the Capitol steps to a member of Congress who made a vile - and racist, insult, then haughtily refused him a duel.)

But we don't have a civilized society, so sue them Rush!

P.S. I'll point out here that I have been sharply critical of Rush Limbaugh in the past here: http://rantsand.blogspot.com/2006/11/libertarians-emerge-as-spoilers.html
when his mouth ran ahead of his brain.

But read the post and see that what Rush said on that occasion was an intemperate, and uncharitable interpretation of something that was admittedly true.

Note also that the insults I delivered to Rush for satirical purposes, "fat, deaf, junkie," were also true at the time.

*A lawyer friend once explained the legal difference between libel and slander to me: slander is spoken, libel is written. That's it.

That definition held for centuries until broadcast/recorded media made it a bit more complicated. The modern convention seems to be to use the term 'libel' for everything.

**In the U.K. startlingly, this is not the case. Which is why London is a favorite destination for libel tourism.

***Am I kidding? Even I don't know.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

All eyes on the prize

Note: A slightly different version of this was the weekend op-ed in my newspaper.

"The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows:...and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
--Last Will and Testament of Alfred Nobel

Norway, with less than five million inhabitants and a military smaller than many states' National Guard, has managed to do what Russian might, terrorist ruthlessness, and Latin American tyranny could not.

They've made the president of the United States a laughingstock.

In 2009, a record 205 nominations were received for the Nobel Peace Prize. The prize was awarded to President Barack Obama, nine months into his term. Worse, nominations closed on Feb. 1, which was less than two weeks after Obama took office.

Of course the Nobel Peace Prize Committee did not mean it that way. They obviously chose Obama because he's the anti-Bush, and to influence U.S. foreign policy in a direction more to their liking.

But Obama supporters and detractors alike realize there is no upside to this. They only difference is whether they're reacting with delight, or dismay.

Obama said he was, “surprised and humbled.” I suggest a better adjective is “humiliated.”

If you doubt this, imagine yourself in large public gathering introduced by a speaker who heaped the most fulsome and effusive praise on you, which you knew for a fact you did not deserve.

Heck, it's embarrassing enough for any man with self-respect to listen to when you do deserve it.

If someone is heaping abuse on you, you can ignore it and look above it all. So how do you deal with sickeningly sycophantic praise without looking rude and graceless?

So why would the awards committee make such a gaff? And one at such odds with their intended purpose?

Well, to begin with the Peace Prize is awarded by an entirely different set of people than the other Nobel prizes. The Nobels for Physics, Chemistry, and economics are awarded by a committee from the Swedish Academy of Science, the literature prize from the Swedish Academy.

The Peace Prize is awarded by a committee of five people elected by the Norwegian Parliament, roughly representing the political makeup of that body. This year that's three from left to far-left parties and two from conservative parties. The chairman of the committee is the notoriously gaff-prone Thorbjorn Jagland, a former prime minister of Norway. (A.k.a. "The Joe Biden of Norway.")

For another, the prize has always been inconsistently awarded.

Teddy Roosevelt won the prize for brokering the peace treaty that ended the Russo-Japanese war. And both sides agreed he deserved it.

On the other hand, both Hitler and Stalin have been nominated, Yasser Arafat actually won it, and Jimmy Carter only won his twenty years after he negotiated the peace between Israel and Egypt.

Mahatma Gandhi (nominated 5 times!), Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Václav Havel, and Corazon Aquino never won.

In 2007 the committee nominated Irena Sendler, a Polish woman who saved 2,500 Jewish children during the Second World War. She was tortured and left for dead by the Gestapo, and later imprisoned by the Communist government.

That year Al Gore won it for his Power Point presentation on Global Warming.

The fact is, the Peace Prize has always been a poor relation coasting on the reputation of the other Nobel prizes given for real, substantial accomplishments in literature, science, medicine, and economics. (With a curious exception. There is no prize for Mathematics.) So I wouldn't take this prize too seriously.

Still, though I have my differences with Barack Obama, that's the President of the United States you're patronizing you lutefisk-eating Euro-weenies!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

How about a “public option” for newspapers?

Note: This is a rare, in fact unique example of an op-ed that I was asked to hold. Not spiked, just asked to hold and rework if I liked.

I was not offended. In fact, I was delighted when I thought about it.

Why? Because it scared the $#!+ out of my publisher and editor. What they said was, 1) "We sometimes make mistakes" is a damaging admission. Manifestly true, and we're not trying to hide it, but it's the kind of honesty that can hurt you if it ever comes up in court.

And 2) they thought some people would actually say, "Hey, what a great idea!"

But most of all, because given the premises of the health care argument, the logic herein is inescapable - and that's scary.



Wednesday night President Obama gave a speech to congress outlining his ideas for health care reform. Mostly it was a recap of what he's been pounding away at for a while, with a couple of minor surprises.

The president did give a nod to the lawsuit factor driving health care costs up. Baseless accusations of malpractice too-often force health care providers to practice “defensive medicine.” By ordering every diagnostic test under the sun they try to avoid winding up on the receiving end of a lawsuit.

Since the president has so far studiously avoided the subject of tort reform this was praiseworthy, however offhand and half-hearted the mention.

Another surprise was he didn't quite insist on a “public option” in health insurance.

He didn't have to. Once a large enough fraction of the health care industry is pulled into the government sector, the rest will fall into place.

The president said, “But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear - it would only be an option for those who don't have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance.”

How could anyone object to that? He's not proposing to nationalize the health insurance industry after all.

In fact, this sounds so reasonable I have an additional suggestion. How about a public option for newspapers? We could try it right here in our city.

We at the newspaper are aware that local government is sometimes not entirely happy with our coverage. We sometimes make mistakes. Some accuse us of being one-sided or unfair, or of only reporting bad news. We often give coverage to people they regard as troublemakers with nothing constructive to say.

And, we have a quasi-monopoly in our county as it's only daily newspaper. And let's not forget that advertising can be pretty expensive. Why should only big, rich businesses be able to afford full-page ads? What about small mom-and-pop businesses? Don't they deserve quality advertising?

So why not start a tax-subsidized newspaper to create some competition in the local newspaper business? And maybe a radio station as well. After all, if the people are paying for it, it would serve the people and not some private for-profit interest.

Using the president's logic, “But an additional step we can take to keep newspapers honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the media. Let me be clear - it would only be an option for those who don't have access to news and advertising. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have newspaper subscriptions and advertising accounts.”

A tax-subsidized newspaper could afford more reporters and photographers, more color pages and more comics. A not-for-profit newspaper or radio station could offer free or greatly discounted advertising.

This wouldn't affect your present newspaper or radio station. Any business which preferred to could keep their own paid advertising in the privately owned media.

Of course, more people want their particular news interests published than any newspaper has room or any radio station time for. But you shouldn't worry about news and ad rationing. Public option media would have an impartial board of prominent citizens appointed by the government to review submissions and decide what is really important and newsworthy.

Isn't that the way it always works in government?

After all, it's not like we're proposing a government monopoly on newspapers.