Jim Davies's blog

Plus ça change...

in

 plus c'est la même chose.  Posted today to The Guardian:-
 

Let's see if I understand this.

From now on, the government will NOT, NO, NOT collect and store private phone calls and emails from all and sundry.

But government will compel phone companies, who actually operate the gear, to collect and store private phone calls from all and sundry... whether the companies want to do that or not; and they say they don't. Given the high level of outrage at this invasion of privacy, I believe them. Nobody kicks his customers in the teeth, it's really bad for business.

And government will compel those phone companies to hand over what they have collected and stored, as and when government says it needs it.

So what changed, exactly?

Three Card Monte, anyone?
 

A New French Revolution?

in

The last few words are a bit smelly, but here is one neat way to make a point. I hope nobody confiscates the truck.

The Target Target

There's great alarm about the theft of 70+ million credit card details from the retailer Target - and, I heard at the weekend, others too. Macy's was mentioned. Target's CEO said that malware had been snuck into each of their point of sale computers.
 
Thought #1: this is a good opportunity to tell folk about the merits of CASH. Privacy, from government and other thieves; a loosening of the bonds of debt, etc.
 
Tought #2: Whodunnit? This looks like a vast and well organised piece of expert hacking. Who else have we heard about recently who's built a track record of operating a vast and well organised piece of expert hacking? Now, mere suspicion is by no means proof of guilt; but am I the only cynic wondering if the NSA's fingerprints are all over this?

How Big is Space?

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A recent “Frontline” program speculated that there's probably an abundance of life in the universe, and said the task of hunting for it is becoming better focused.
 
I've often wondered how big it is, and so did a certain 13-year old Dane. Astrophysicist Paul Butterworth offered a good answer here. Notice his footnote: we can only “see” out about 10 billion light-years, so we know it has a radius at least that big, but if may be bigger yet.
 
However, that set my contradiction-detector a-jangle. If nothing can move faster than light, how could rocks travel further than 10 billion light-years in only 10 billion years?
 
More: those stars we can detect on the edge, 10 BLYs away, must have taken longer than 10 billion years to get there; hence to arrive and be seen must have taken more than 20 billion years, round-trip. Yet the Universe is thought to be no older than 15 billion years.
 
There's something fishy going on. Is Hoyle's Steady-State theory about to stage a comeback? Was Einstein mistaken about the speed limit?
 
Inquiring minds would like to know.
 

Fallujah

If I understand it, fundamentalist Islamists have taken control of this Iraqi city, and have so far declined the government's invitation to hand it back and let bygones be bygones.
 
Dominant US reaction has been dismay: is this what we fought and died for? (Answer: yes. A dead loss, like the whole of the Iraqi and Afghan wars.)
 
Here's a different view, arising from that most valuable question, “Why?” Why has Al Q'eda set itself up as a sitting duck? - for the city is surrounded by a superior force. I'm no expert, but always thought that an army surrounded was an army lost. Possible answers:
 

  1. AQ plans a big suicide or martydom, to inspire less committed supporters everywhere to rise up and avenge their forthcoming extermination. Or,
  2. AQ has laid down a challenge to the elected, Shia Iraqi government which they think it will flunk. That is, they expect the government's army to fail to press their tactical advantage, and thereby to expose the legitimacy of that government as a sham and “democracy” as an invention of the infidel... right on both counts.

 
Either way, I fear it will keep Iraq off the tourist map for quite a while yet.

An Answer to Haters of the 1%

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I really don't envy the rich. I'd like to join them, and have great difficuty doing so, but if they weren't there nobody would be able to join them, it would be hopeless. I refer of course only to those who get rich honestly, as a result of voluntary exchanges.
 
But a great number of Lefties do seem to hate them, passionately. Here's a possible antidote for the venom.
 
Yesterday in this Buchanan article, I read that the 1% pay 40% of all "income taxes", so-called. That looked very surrpising, so I checked; and found he's probably right.
 
1% of tax payers is about 1.33 million people, and 40% of the i-tax yield is about $400B a year. Divide that, and we get $300,000 a year per fat-cat. The top i-tax rate is 39.6%, meaning that average plutocrat is earning around $760K a year. Yes, I can readily believe there are over a million people earning that much.
 
Now for the fun bit: take them away. Double the tax rate so as to push them to emigrate, whatever, do what the venomous socialists say they want. They're gone. So i-tax revenues tumble by 40%.
 
All remaining taxpayers will then need to take up the slack, including those envious activists. The increase they will need to pay is 100/60 or 67%.  Ask them if they are ready to pony up an extra 67% in payments to the IRS, and measure the hush that descends.

Peter Schiff Bursts the Anti-Walmart Bubble

Check Peter Schiff's Facebook page, and scroll down a little to the top-left panel. Today there's a video about his spoof campaign to get the retailer to raise employee wages by also raising prices.
 
Called the "15 for 15" deal, he asks departing shoppers whether they favor a 15% wage increase - and they all say yes. He then invited them to contribute 15% of what they just spent in the store, promising that it will go to the workers.
 
Can you believe it? - not one of them gave a dime. Hilarious.

FDA Suppresses Genome Service

TIME magazine reports that the DNA testing service offered by the firm 23andMe has been ordered closed down.
 
The idea was that for only $99 and a sample of saliva, one could obtain a report of the health problems to which one was probably prone. Pretty interesting stuff, which would greatly assist making some lifetime choices.
 
But Nanny said No. The FDA now prevents one learning that about one's own body.

Forbes Article on Irwin Schiff

in

Forbes magazine has an extensive article out today by Peter Reilly about my favorite political prisoner.
 
It includes two video clips, very well worth watching. The first is an interview with Peter Schiff and the second is a Fox TV segment showing Irwin at his best.
 
Reilly manages (with some effort) to reach the wrong conclusion, but it's good to see such a prestigious magazine treating the subject seriously.

Outreach

in

A good place to join the intellectual debate, and from which to refer new visitors to STR, is The Guardian.
 
It began as an English newspaper early in the 19th Century and was a backer of the "Manchester School" of the free-market liberals. After the latter turned coat to statism around 1909 the journal followed, so today it has a left-of-center political bias. But its open forum, called "Comment Is Free" or CIF, is very well designed and run. The managers are actively courting US-based contributors, so there's a refreshing international flavor.
 
Additionally it was a Guardian reporter, Glen Greenwald, who broke the Ed Snowden story.
 
Opportunity knocks.

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