Dazzling Knowledge

Friday, August 31, 2007

Go back to the Middle Ages, Hippie!

Imagine an egalitarian world in which all food is organic and local, the air is free of industrial pollution, and vigorous physical exertion is guaranteed. Sound idyllic?

But hold on... Life expectancy is 30 at most; many children die at or soon after birth; life is constantly lived on the edge of starvation; there are no doctors or dentists or modern toilets. If it is egalitarian it is because everyone is dirt poor, and there is no industrial pollution because there are no factories. Food is organic because there are no pesticides or high technology farming methods. As a result, producing food means long hours of back-breaking physical work which may end up yielding little.

There is - or at least was - such a place. It is called the past.

Whole thing.

via Hit and Run

Irish Slaves

Disturbing post on the forgotten history of the trade of Irish slaves.

Although the Africans and Irish were housed together and were the property of
the planter owners, the Africans received much better treatment, food and
housing. In the British West Indies the planters routinely tortured white slaves
for any infraction. Owners would hang Irish slaves by their hands and set their
hands or feet afire as a means of punishment. To end this barbarity, Colonel
William Brayne wrote to English authorities in 1656 urging the importation of
Negro slaves on the grounds that, "as the planters would have to pay much more
for them, they would have an interest in preserving their lives, which was
wanting in the case of (Irish)...." many of whom, he charged, were killed by
overwork and cruel treatment. African Negroes cost generally about 20 to 50
pounds Sterling, compared to 900 pounds of cotton (about 5 pounds Sterling) for
an Irish. They were also more durable in the hot climate, and caused fewer
problems. The biggest bonus with the Africans though, was they were NOT
Catholic, and any heathen pagan was better than an Irish Papist. Irish prisoners
were commonly sentenced to a term of service, so theoretically they would
eventually be free. In practice, many of the slavers sold the Irish on the same
terms as prisoners for servitude of 7 to 10 years.

Via Isegoria.

All Politics, No Principle

Sikha Dalmia tries to explain the Bush administration's craven reversal on immigration reform:

It is not like it does not understand that the "problem" of illegal
immigration is purely a function of existing immigration laws, not "evil doers."
These laws don't exactly roll out the welcome mat for high-skilled immigrants
that California's Silicon Valley badly needs. But they are downright hostile
toward "unskilled" workers who form the backbone of the agricultural,
landscaping and hotel industry in the Golden State and elsewhere.

On paper, there are two types of visas available for unskilled workers: H-2A for
campesinos, or farm workers, and H-2B for other seasonal jobs. But thanks to
copious red tape, these visas rarely ever arrive on time for the job. Even
worse, they are usually good for less than a year and can only be renewed a few
times. Once they expire, workers have to return home because neither they, nor
their employers, can apply for a green card or permanent residency. Such a
dead-end process leaves workers no choice but to work illegally.


So why drive out the workers we have? Employer sanctions have been on the books
for years. Why enforce them if there are no upsides for national security—only
downsides for the economy?


The only plausible reason is that the administration has not just abandoned
rational immigration reform, which would be understandable under the
circumstances. It has actually made a conscious decision to embrace its opposite
to win back its lost base before next year's elections. In short, its
immigration policy now is driven neither by conviction, nor the needs of the
economy—but naked political calculation, even if that involves targeting
"willing employers" and "willing foreign workers," the very victims of that

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wingers and Their Zingers

In fairness I haven't watched the entire debate, so I can't say for certain who came out on top. But Al Franken versus Ann Coulter just doesn't seem like a fair fight, on paper.

Maybe it isn't hard to make Coulter look foolish, but it's always fun when somebody does. Observe:

From the Connecticut Forum; link provided by RADAR magazine (www.radaronline.com).

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Monday, August 20, 2007

News Flash: Americans Don't Like Pain

Jacob Sullum in reason.com's Hit & Run section has an interesting piece about our society's (or at least the media's) ambivalence regarding the pharmaceutical treatment of pain. Is there a limit to how much can be prescribed and to whom? Which types of medication are acceptable? Finally, should law-abiding citizens be denied access to stronger forms of painkilling medication just because others have chosen to abuse and illegally manufacture said painkillers?

More detail can be found by clicking the link above. In the meantime, here's a word from our sponsor:

[Note: I'm the "SPB" Mr. Sullum gives props to at the end of the post, although I leave comments on H&R as "SPD." Eh, close enough.]

An 'Alarming' Improvement in Pain Treatment [reason.com]

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Try this maze

The Maze! Test your skills! Try to reach the goal without touching the walls! How steady is your hand? Let's find out! Try and beat all four levels! Play NOW!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Why we cannot reform infrastructure maintenance

Soon after the tragic bridge collapse in Minnesota, I thought about what could be done to reform the system so that we can prevent such avoidable disasters. It soon occurred to me that the big problem would be politicians. Think about it, even with ample funding, what incentive does a politician have to invest in the mundane, but important task of routine infrastructure maintenance. Nobody gets credit when things run smoothly. Politicians get credit for highly publicized projects that are often of questionable civic value.

Here's Jim Peron on the issue:

Earmarks divert spending from the necessary projects to the frivolous. The New York Times reports that in spite of historically high spending on transportation, highway funds are allocated according to "the political muscle of lawmakers, rather than dire need," which means "construction on new, politically popular roads and transit projects rather than the mundane work of maintaining the worn-out ones."

The Times adds that politicians are keen to fund politically-correct projects for transport over actual maintenance projects. This has "resulted in expensive transit systems that are not used by the vast majority of American commuters."

The chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is Representative James Oberstar, a Democrat from Minnesota. Oberstar recently bragged about bagging $12 million in funds for the state, but the New York Times notes that $10 million of that "is slated for a new 40-mile commuter rail line to Minneapolis, called the Northstar," and "the remaining $2 million is divided among a new bike and walking path and a few other projects, including highway work and interchange reconstruction."

Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) says that the political process means "that routine but important things like maintenance always get shortchanged because it's nice for somebody to cut a ribbon for a new structure."

When Gamers Have Babies

Via Isegoria.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Eco-Stars: Walk The Walk, Then Talk The Talk

RADAR magazine -- absolutely, definitely in business this time! -- has an interesting article about how the most prominent and vocal proponents of environmental conservation have a hard time practicing what they preach (and preach, and preach, and preach...).

The only thing people like Laurie David and Barbra Streisand defend stronger than their pro-ecology stances are their own carbon-spewing lifestyles in defiance of said beliefs. Curiously enough, pointing out the hypocrisies of the globally-thoughtless are slammed by their admirers as right-wing attack jobs. So then the right-wing is more environmentally aware than the left? I'm confused.

Remember, folks, true care of the environment begins at home. Not my home, mind you, but yours.

Green Fakers: Why Eco-Hypocrisy Matters [RADAR]

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