Saturday, August 29, 2009

"Bill would give president emergency control of Internet"

CNET, Aug 28, 2009:

"[Bill would] permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity." emergency.

"The new version [of a bill winding thru the US Senate--S.773 (excerpt)] would allow the president to "declare a cybersecurity emergency" relating to "non-governmental" computer networks and do what's necessary to respond to the threat."

It would also set up a "cybersecurity professionals" certification and require some private-sector servers to be managed by someone with the certification.

Industry players are "troubled," the article says.

No shit.

"Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Commerce committee, and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced the original bill in April, they claimed it was vital to protect national cybersecurity. 'We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs--from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records,'Rockefeller said.

"The Rockefeller proposal plays out against a broader concern in Washington, D.C., about the government's role in cybersecurity. In May, President Obama acknowledged that the government is "not as prepared" as it should be to respond to disruptions and announced that a new cybersecurity coordinator position would be created inside the White House staff. Three months later, that post remains empty, one top cybersecurity aide has quit, and some wags have begun to wonder why a government that receives failing marks on cybersecurity should be trusted to instruct the private sector what to do."

Thank you. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Over and over, government players rear back on their hind legs and arrogate to themselves the authority to direct the actions of the rest of the nation (and the world), most commonly in areas in which government institutions themselves have failed to show any competence. They can't protect their own records; they can't organize their own cybersecurity; let them boss us around on these topics.

But then, nobody ever got elected or reelected by announcing that the government shouldn't get bogged down in some no-win situation, or should stay out of some area where it has no competence, or learn a lesson from its own failures and figure out a way to get out of the way instead of wading in deeper.

No, you get reelected by seizing on crises and taking advantage of the automatic assumption -- which the press will be happy not to even think to question -- that the first, best, and sole solution set lies in the exercise of more government power.

Well, why not. It's not like anybody is ever going to hold you to any standards of competence or performance. The city is incompetent at its basic job of protecting New Orleans, so the state government fails to intervene, leaving it to the feds to jump in -- too late. Make speeches, take helicopter rides, criticize partisan rivals (only), pass enormous spending bills -- and two years later you have a tale of waste, fraud, and only incremental improvements. But not to worry: The press isn't going to hold your feet to the fire. And if they do -- if there is a front-page multi-day story on how awful the government performed even at its most basic tasks -- well, still not to worry, because they won't follow up and keep hammering -- they've published their investigative report, now it's back to business as usual.

Next election, no worries because the press won't lean on you about your failed promises, your incompetence, or the government's general failures.

So we have what should be a big fat laugh: The feds want to take over private Internet network companies in times of 'crisis,' defined by the President -- who this year happens to be Barack Obama, but remember that recently it was one of the George Bushes, and it could be somebody like that again in the future -- and this new knucklehead will have the power you thought safely in the hands of your favorite political party, whichever one that is.

We are all idiots. Blind leading the blind? Dumb leading the dumb!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why We Are In Danger from World Terrorism *Because of* Dick Cheney's View the World.

Dick Cheney meets with Prince Sultan, Minister...Image via Wikipedia

Former VP Dick Cheney's work on his upcoming book, in which he will apparently defend his record, is producing a spate of articles on his views. One observation is that he is still strongly convinced a rogue nation will hand nuclear weapons over to a terrorist group, who will then attack the US.

To a Libertarian, this prospect leads strongly in an entirely different direction than Cheney thinks it must. To Cheney, all solutions involve the US continuing its intense involvement in attempting to direct the affairs of every other nation on earth.

To a Libertarian, the risk of terrorism suggests a different question: Why are foreign terrorists interested in attacking the U.S. in particular?

To answer this, let's turn to a terrorist problem that is not ours, and ask why it isn't. Chechnyan terrorists regularly attack targets in Russia. They have not attacked any U.S. targets, and nobody seems to expect them to. Why not?

They attack Russian targets because they have a beef with Russia. The Russian government holds power in Chechnya, controls its government, and fights with Chechnyan separatists. So the separatists attack those who interfere with what they consider their national rights: the Russians.

They don't attack the U.S. because we are not involved in Chechnyan affairs. More specifically, the U.S. does not involve itself in Russia's affairs: We don't support Russia in this conflict, we don't sell Russia weapons to use against Chechnyan opponents, we don't give speeches about it, we don't consider it our affair. And it isn't. And so we are not at risk from either side in that conflict.

The same goes for Tamil terrorists in Sri Lanka. And, for that matter, Basque bombers in Spain. We aren't involved in these conflicts.

But we involve ourselves in every other conflict on Earth, and in some of those conflicts, one party or another sees the U.S. as making their conflict harder because we support the other side.

Muslim terrorists don't denounce us and bomb us and fly jets into our buildings because we are Westerners. Not really. They talk like that sometimes, but if we weren't involved in the affairs of Muslim countries, they wouldn't bother forming an anti-Western-Culture theory to bolster themselves for the long fight against a superior foe. They'd just ignore us.

But we had to overthrow the government of Iraq; we had to take care of Saudi Arabia's problem by defending their neighbor Kuwait; we are now encouraging, apparently, Israel to bomb Iran's nuclear bomb facilities; we have troops in Afghanistan supporting a government we installed, and are bullying the neighboring governments too. And in country after country, year after year, we support oppressive governments, take sides in internal and external conflicts, and come up with elaborate excuses as to why we can't benignly watch the world do what it will, but must intervene, to produce, with force if necessary, the outcome we speculate would be good for us in the long run.

Central to much of this is Israel, whose continued existence we warrant, arm, and fund. Every country, every regime, and every opposition group that does or might someday threaten Israel we must involve ourselves against.

This leads to some perverse behavior sometimes. We can't just arm Israel, and threaten to intervene on her behalf should she be attacked -- in fact, the one thing we don't do is intervene militarily when Israel is attacked, for some reason. No, we have to try to control the complex internal politics of every regime around them -- and every other group in the world that is interested. So when Saddam invaded Kuwait, we couldn't just let Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, and possibly Syria figure it out -- they were all as unhappy with Saddam and his ambitions as we were, and they are right there on the spot. No -- we had to be the ones to intervene militarily, because otherwise the balance of power among Iraq and Iran and Syria and Israel might go out of control, and who knows where that would lead? We had to balance Iraq and Iran -- Iran, which had almost collapsed under the years-long assault of Iraq, and whom we helped prop up; but now Iran was growing too powerful, and a success against Iraq would give the mullahs too much power. To a Libertarian, this mess would have given the powers there a rare opportunity to decide whether they had more to fear from Saddam or from Israel. It might have led to a new alignment of powers. Imagine that. One in which the U.S. would play only a minor role. Imagine that.

No, we had to expend our blood and treasure to defend Kuwait -- and incidentally Saudi Arabia, source of the 9/11 assassins, and Iran, our current source of woes. And they all let us, because then they could avoid the blood and expense, and the political fallout, and still badmouth the US!

Every nation with problems, we have to get involved. North Korea is nuts; we have to step in and tell them that their policies to create nuclear weapons for themselves are "not acceptable." Even though we have, really, no clue what to do about it if the ignore us, as they always do.

For a while there it looked like we were going to use sense: We insisted that China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia take care of the problem in their own back yard. We refused to be drawn into the talks. North Korea, knowing a fish when they see one, very much want the US to be the sole opponent. They know they can always take us for a ride. (The irony of Bill Clinton's trip to shake hands with His Shortness to get the two reporters released is that Bill traded a handshake and photo op bit of propaganda for two human beings -- Bill gave North Korea less and got more from them than the U.S. ever has -- it was the most successful negotiation we've ever had with North Korea! (Usually, we give them oil and money and goods, and get a promise which North Korea never keeps.)

But lately, even with a Democrat liberal in the White House (what a surprise! The peace-loving Democrats in power continue the warmongering policies of the evil Republican predecessors!), the US is talking tough with North Korea. Again, we say have the Cheney worry: North Korea will give its nukes to terrorists who can bomb either Israel (our 51st state in practice tho not in law) or the US mainland.

Well, they might, though nothing we've been doing about it will help Israel, and our continuing involvement in every conflict on Earth makes us a target for the terrorist attack that must sooner or later succeed, because time is on their side, not ours.

And of course we're worried about NKorean missiles reaching Hawaii. Why on earth would Kim send a bomb to Hawaii? If the US decided that NKorea was a problem for the countries around it (and for Israel, the other target), then we wouldn't have to worry about Hawaii in this regard. And maybe -- just maybe -- the other nations of the world would eventually be forced to act like grownups and figure out solutions for their problems. After all, in many cases they are right there in the line of fire even more so than we are. Frankly, I don't believe the nations around Israel really, in their heart of hearts, want to see a terrorist group plant a nuke in Jerusalem. The likely reaction of Israel to the threat, or worse the reality, of such an attack would make me very nervous, even if I were the fruitcake President of Iran.

The US is a target for so very many negative forces of the world because the US involves itself in so many areas of the world. Just as there seems to be no aspect of American life that the government doesn't think it should have an opinion about, pass a law to control, and stick its bureaucratic noses into -- by the same token, there is no country on earth and no disagreement among the peoples of the earth that our wise politicians in Washington think is none of our business.

Switzerland isn't target of anybody's ire. There's a reason. Countries that meddle make themselves targets. We are the biggest target out there -- because we are the supreme meddlers in all the world. Just ask yourself: Why are we the ones at the center of everything? Why do other countries stay away, dummy up, waffle when we're in there Solving the World's Problems? How come they aren't worried about what's likely to happen?

All the security and waterboarding and spies and constrained freedom in the world won't protect us from our own inability to mind our own damned business.

The real root cause? Our political class is composed of meddlers. They get elected, and reelected, by sticking their noses in. They don't get vote by saying, "You know, we should just stay out of that one; yes, I know, awful things might happen; but we aren't the ones best suited to tackle the problem -- we'll just make it worse!" I know, because Libertarian candidates say that all the time, and none of you ever vote for them! Because you, like the pols, can't leave well enough alone!

There are tradeoffs in every involvement. We brush that aside. We shouldn't.
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Monday, August 10, 2009

E-Cigarettes Look More Effective Than Nicotine Gun or Patches

The cigarette is the most common method of smo...Image via Wikipedia

at Reason Magazine:

A new South African study suggests that smokers who try to quit by switching to electronic cigarettes, devices that deliver nicotine vapor instead of tobacco smoke, are more likely to succeed than smokers who use other nicotine replacement products. Doctors in Cape Town gave Dutch-made Twisp e-cigarettes to 349 patients. After two weeks 6 percent of the patients had stopped smoking, and the quit rate rose to nearly half (45 percent) after two months. By contrast, a 2002 study in the journal Addiction found that the six-week quit ratewas about 16 percent for smokers chewing nicotine gum and about 19 percent for smokers using nicotine patches. After six months, those rates fell to about 8 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

More at
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The Real Clunkers in This Deal: Why "Cash for Clunkers" is a Terrible Idea

Money on the GroundImage by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

Reason Magazine:

Cash for Clunkers has been a thrilling moment for advocates of expanded government, who say it proves what we can accomplish when our leaders put their minds to it. They are absolutely right, says Steve Chapman. The program proves the federal government is unsurpassed at two things: dispersing money and destroying things.

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

George's House vs Al's House

I don't usually bother posting political satire, but I enjoy this one. Gore's "politicians are the most arrogant people on earth" reality bears highlighting, and while Bush comes out looking pretty good on this one, there's certainly plenty of "we'll tell you how to live" politician arrogance on his part - it just doesn't show up in this spot.

See below for concluding comment. -- mac

A Tale of Two Houses

House #1

A 20 room mansion (not including 8
bathrooms) heated by natural gas. Add on a pool (and a pool house) and a separate guest house, all heated by gas. In one month this residence consumes more energy than the average American household does in a year. The average bill for electricity and natural gas runs over $2400 per month.. In natural gas alone, this property consumes more than 20 times the national average for an American home. This house is not situated in a Northern or Midwestern 'snow belt' area. It's in the South.

House #2

Designed by an architecture professor at a leading national university. This house incorporates every 'green' feature current home construction can provide.. The house is 4,000 square feet (4 bedrooms) and is nestled in a high prairie in the American southwest. A central closet in the house holds geothermal heat-pumps drawing ground water through pipes sunk 300 feet into the ground..

The water (usually 67 degrees F) heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer The system uses no fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas and it consumes one-quarter the
electricity required for a conventional heating/cooling system. Rainwater from the roof is collected and funneled into a 25,000 gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets goes into underground purifying tanks and then into the cistern. The collected water then irrigates the land surrounding the house. Surrounding flowers and shrubs native to the area enable the property to blend into the surrounding rural landscape... The heating/cooling system is so efficient that initial plans to install solar panels were cancelled.
HOUSE =1 is outside of Nashville , Tennessee ;
It is the abode of the 'Environmentalist' Al Gore.

HOUSE #2 is on a ranch near Crawford , Texas ;
It is the residence of the former President of the United States , George
W. Bush.

Yes, it's "An inconvenient truth.."

I sure hope this gets passed to everyone!
And, yes .... I DID check Snopes prior to forwarding

You can verify it at :

I did, and it's true, apparently.

As a libertarian, I'm no friend of George's or Al's or their respective parties. I can't overlook, however, the reality that I never heard about Bush's politically correct house (although Gore's un-correct house has been mentioned in the news) -- and I can't help thinking that if this were reversed, both Bush's power-hungry house and Gore's Earth-loving house would get equal time. Bush, being both a conservative Republican and a bad guy, doesn't get credit for the occasional things he does right.

Monday, August 3, 2009

States are Always "Surprised" When the Bubble Bursts

Cato InstituteImage via Wikipedia

This from Cato Institute's Cato@Liberty blog:

Steve Chapman points out in the Chicago Tribune:

The crisis in state budgets is not an accident, and it wasn’t unforeseeable. For years, most states have spent like there’s no tomorrow, and now tomorrow is here. They bring to mind the lament of Mickey Mantle, who said, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

If they had known the revenue flood wasn’t a permanent fact of life, governors and legislators might have prepared for drought. Instead, like overstretched homeowners, they took on obligations they could meet only in the best-case scenario — which is not what has come to pass.

Over the last decade, state budgets have expanded rapidly. We have had good times and bad times, including a recession in 2001, but according to the National Association of State Budget Officers, this will be the first year since 1983 that total state outlays have not increased.

The days of wine and roses have been affordable due to a cascade of tax revenue. In state after state, the government’s take has ballooned. Overall, the average person’s state tax burden has risen by 42 percent since 1999 — nearly 50 percent beyond what the state would have needed just to keep spending constant, with allowances for inflation.

Would that other journalists would show such good sense when governors and legislators moan about the draconian budget cuts they’re being forced to make, taking their state budgets back to the dark Dickensian days of 2003 or 2005.

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