Pressure on Republican House?!

Ramesh PonnuruI’ve been skeptical of the idea that if 70 senators vote for the immigration bill it will put so much pressure on House Republicans that they will have to pass it. If 70 senators vote for it, that means (given likely unanimity or near-unanimity among the Democrats) that a strong majority of Senate Republicans voted against it. That’s not going to put pressure on House Republicans. A Republican who supports the legislation said to me recently that I’ve gotten the psychological dynamics wrong: The bigger the Senate vote, the less likely House Republicans are to pass the bill, because they don’t like being cornered. I think there’s probably something to that idea.

—Ramesh Ponnuru
Pressure Points on Immigration

Problem with Unenforced Laws

Three Felonies a DayOver at Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok discussed how No One is Innocent. He referenced Harvey Silverglate’s book, Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. As the title indicates, Silverglate thinks that people commit three felonies per day on average. Taborrok doesn’t think it is that high, but that it is certainly true that people commit felonies commonly. He referenced a common why that we all commit felonies, “Have you ever thrown out some junk mail that came to your house but was addressed to someone else? That’s a violation of federal law punishable by up to 5 years in prison.”

Tabarrok’s primary concern is government surveillance. Since we are all of us committing serious crimes all of the time, it really does matter that the government is always watching us. As I’ve discussed, today the government is just looking for bomb plots. Soon it will be looking for drug users. And after that it will be the adulterer who is destroying our great country. That isn’t just paranoia; this kind of data use creep is a well known phenomenon.

But the problem is much deeper than Tabarrok indicates. The one thing that I learned from Ayn Rand that was really valuable was her comment about how the Soviet Union kept people in check. She noted that that they didn’t do that by enforcing laws very strictly. They did it by having a gazillion laws that no one enforced. Or, at least, they were never enforced as long as a person didn’t annoy the power elite. If someone started talking publicly about the need for government reform, well then, suddenly the police found all kinds of laws that the person was breaking.

That’s the problem we have in the United States. We’ve already see the United States government go after anti-war groups in the name of terrorism. An even better example is John Kiriakou, who is doing two and a half years in prison. He’s there because he blew the whistle on our torture program, but of course that isn’t the technical reason. The government found a minor offense to justify putting him in a cage for 30 months. Meanwhile, no one who broke the law by being part of the torture program is in jail, even though in addition to torture they have certainly all thrown away junk mail that didn’t belong to them.

The evidence is clear: our government will persecute anyone that gets in its way. And these unenforced laws make it easy. And when the government stores all of our phone and internet information for later use, you can bet that anyone who gets in the way of the government will have plenty of incriminating evidence against them just sitting on the NSA computers.

Scary Birthday!

Joe FlahertyOn this day in 1732, Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach was born. He was the ninth son Johann Sebastian Bach. Was that the last of his sons? I don’t actually know. Johann Sebastian had two wives. The first gave him seven children before she died for unknown reasons but I figure it was simply exhaustion. The second, who was 17 years younger than he, gave him 13 more kids. He was a randy old guy. Anyway, Johann Christoph Friedrich was quite a good composer like all the Bach boys. He was an early Classical composer (you can definitely detect a strong Baroque influence) as you can hear in the following Sonata for Flute in F Major:

The great French mathematician Simeon Denis Poisson was born 1781. The Banjo LessonJewish philosopher and socialist Moses Hess was born in 1812. The great American painter Henry Ossawa Tanner was born in 1859. He was the first African-American painter to get noticed by the world art community. You can definitely see the appeal in The Banjo Lesson on the right. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was born in 1905. Author Mary McCarthy was born in 1912. Two gorgeous actors Judy Holliday and Jane Russell was born in 1921. Lovely in a different way, Maureen Stapleton was born in 1925. And director Tony Scott was born in 1944. It turns out that he did not have cancer; he just wanted to kill himself. But I think, “You don’t have to make all crap; you have a lot of talent; why don’t do something good instead of just another action blockbuster. Repeat after me: I will never make another film with Chris Pine.” As it was, I thought he made a few films that were rather good: True Romance, Crimson Tide, and Enemy of the State. It’s very sad.

Actor Bernie Kopell (“Doc” on The Love Boat) is 80 today. Meredith Baxter is 66. Novelist Ian McEwan is 65. And cartoonist Berkeley Breathed is 56. Here is an example of his brilliance:

Bloom County

And the adorable Juliette Lewis is 40.

The day, however, belongs to one of the funniest people on the planet—at least from my persepctive—Joe Flaherty, who is 72 today. I would like to provide a good overview of his work, but there just isn’t that much available online. Here he is doing his most beloved character, Count Floyd:

Happy birthday Joe Flaherty!

Dot-Blog Won’t Save the World

BlogThe newest Wonk Blog member, Lydia DePillis wrote an interesting article on the future of domain names, but I think she is fundamentally wrong.

The first half of the article is rather amusing. At the end of every day Wonk Blog publishes a feature that provides links to four or five almost random articles. These round-ups are called, “The Best Sentences We Read Today.” And then, instead of listing the titles of the articles, they list interesting sentences from the articles. For example, two days ago we got this one, “Hoffa went missing in Detroit, a city that, then as now, was filled with great places to hide a body.”

As a result of this feature, some guy went to the Wonk Blog staff and tried to sell them for $30,000. He was going to throw in too. Plus he offered a business plan of sorts where the website could have a community and people who could rate the sentences. Blah blah blah. DePillis is very nice about it, noting that it might even be a good idea. (It’s not.) What I think is most funny is that this mystery man has owned the less appropriate since 2008, but he only purchased two weeks ago. I bet he’d be pleased if 500 bucks. Regardless, he shouldn’t be talking to the Wonk Blog staff; they’re just a bunch of nerds who work for Washington Post, that most likely owns the name Wonk Blog itself. (At least, I hope so; I like my wonks pure!)

Where DePillis goes wrong is in the second half of the article. There are a lot of people who continue to sit on domain names and try to make money off them. And I guess there is some money to be made, but it isn’t that lucrative a business anymore. At the top of the dot-com bubble, people really were getting big money for domain names. What’s more, just about any domain name you could think of was taken. It is much better now because there simply isn’t that much demand.

Now ICANN has announced a number of new extensions: generic top-level domains (gTLD). The most notable of these is the .blog extension. According to DePillis, all these new gTLDs are going to put an end to people like the mystery man selling his cool dot-com names. But it really won’t. We have seen gTLDs added before and the reaction is always the same collective yawn. Anything other than dot-com and dot-org (when appropriate) just look kind of shabby and disreputable. Would a professional endeavor really use And if it did, wouldn’t there be leakage to Best And wouldn’t that not be a problem the other way around?

In the end, it doesn’t really matter. If a website has useful or entertaining content, people will come. I really don’t like blogs that are part of the system. But does that stop me from reading Digby or The Reaction every day? Of course not! But it does muddle the message and doesn’t make things easier. It makes you look a bit like a computer tech who is working out of the back of a grocery store. And dot-net makes you look like you have a shop in one of those crumbling shopping centers where a liquor store is the only business that thrives. Dot-blog and dot-web will not change that.

Summer Cold

A Cold

Summer is here and guess who has a cold? Both my son and I! I guess the first week without any stress of school, homework, sports and appointments let our guard down and wham, it got us!

Now trying to get a child with ADHD to take it easy, and not go swimming in warm, sunny Southern California is rather challenging, so I gave up! But for myself, a daily “Immune Shot” (fresh squeezed ginger shot) and “I am Strong” juice from Juicy Ladies is a must! It could all be in my head but I’ve visited them three days in a row now and I’m already feeling better.

For my son I will need to sneak in healthy foods (a smoothie), vitamins and get him to bed early in order for him to get well, a little bit of a challenge but I will manage.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and fun summer!