Sunday, August 31, 2014

There's a reason they don't grow that here

Economist/serial letter writer Don Boudreaux has penned a column on the idea of using heated greenhouses to produce local food in area unsuited for growing that type of food.

Some lands and local environments are better suited than are other lands and local environments to growing particular kinds of crops. Obviously, South Florida is better suited to growing citrus than is Western Pennsylvania. This fact, however, doesn't mean that Pennsylvanians couldn't grow all of their own citrus. They could indeed do so if they were to build many huge hothouses. 
Yet not only would such hothouses divert land in Pennsylvania from other valuable uses, these hothouses would have to be heated — a very energy-intensive procedure. We can be reasonably certain that the fuel costs of heating such hothouses are greater than the fuel costs of shipping oranges from Florida to Pennsylvania. The reason for our certainty is that if the transportation costs were greater than the costs of heating the hothouses, Pennsylvania farmers could earn profits by growing citrus in hothouses. These farmers would be able to sell their crops to Pennsylvania supermarkets at prices lower than the prices that those supermarkets now pay to stock their shelves with citrus fruits from Florida. 
But in reality, no farmers in Pennsylvania grow citrus in hothouses — a pretty good sign that the amount of resources required to operate citrus hothouses there is greater than the amount of resources used to ship citrus to Pennsylvania from Florida. 
What's true for citrus is true for wheat, peas, beef, pork, you name it. The lowest-cost place for producing any particular type of food is seldom close to home.

Citrus is an extreme example and most locavores make that argument that while tropical fruit is out of the question, vegetables like green beans are not. What I like about this column is that is answers that in an easy-to-understand way. Simply put, we can tell it's not a good idea because mainstream farmers aren't already doing it.

Maine farmer's are willing to make large operations for potatoes and blueberries, but for some reason cabbage doesn't come up. That's a clue that there are better places to grow cabbage.


Friday, August 29, 2014

The college orientation rape message I would deliver

This week NPR's Jennifer Ludden reported about feminist activists who are pushing universities into punishing students accused of rape and sexual assault.. The reporting is horribly one-sided and leaves out the crucial detail that many of these accusations uses an overly-broad definition of rape that many people reject.

Her report started with a new student orientation at Georgetown that broke students into small groups to discuss this new low standard for rape. Well, I think students should be warned, but not with the message the activists will give. This is what I would tell them:

Welcome new freshmen. I want you to take everything you know about rape and forget about it. Forget about the idea that this is something vile people knowingly do. The classic definition, of sex forced upon an unwilling partner, has been dismantled. Instead, the term has been redefined from an evil, violent act into a mild technicality.

From now on, you must think of all sex as rape until it can be proven otherwise. It is the default now. Think of rape as a new concept and forget about everything you knew going in. Forget about men violently forcing themselves on women or taking advantage of unconscious people. That's the old definition. The new one must be taught, as no one would ever figure it out for themselves without guided lessons.

Under the new definition, all sex is rape until the woman gives verbal permission to a man, known as affirmative consent. Nothing else will do, such as letting one thing lead to another and letting reciprocated acts or a lack resistance speak for itself.

And if the woman has been drinking or is high, that permission doesn't count. After all, you can't sign a legal contract while intoxicated, because all human interactions should follow the same rules as formal documents that are checked by lawyers and that require the signatures of witnesses.

It doesn't matter if she is the aggressor, is older, is in a committed relationship with you or is willing to have sex again afterwards. It doesn't matter if both partners acted completely the same or are both intoxicated. It isn't really about what either sex partner wants, but about satisfying the wishes of activists. This is about attacking men and treating women as helpless children.

In fact, it may not even matter if she gives you permission and you have documented proof that she was both and went far out of her way to have sex with you. Schools like this one care more about appeasing activists than preserving justice. This is not about justice or morality; it's about shielding young women from the consequences of their actions at the expense of young men.

Don't expect women to have to lift a finger to notify you that the rewarding sexual activity you're engaging in is secretly a life-ruining rape. She can always change her mind later and retroactively remove permission later. From the activist perspective, it's better to let women be raped than to ask women to exercise prudence for their own well-being.

As we've all experienced, most women want to be pursued and want men to play the aggressor in sexual situations. That's why the activists are putting all responsibility on the male partner - they still believe sex deep down inside that sex is something men pursue and women act as the gatekeepers to sex.

And above all else, if you want to make sure you never commit a happy, consensual act that has been redefined as rape, don't ever pursue a women's studies major.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Forward indeed

A few articles from Left-wing news blog have come up in my news feed lately that fact check and disprove some current left-wing talking points and outrage blogs.

For example, writer Manny Schewitz demolished the quip that Ronald Reagan went golfing the day after the Beirut bombing in 1983, which is being used to counter criticism that President Obama was laughing on the golf course 10 minutes after saying he was deeply saddened by a reporters execution by ISIL.

A different ForwardProgressives writer, Allen Clifton, also took the time to disprove articles claiming right-wing musician Ted Nugents insults directed at his critics were really criticisms of American Indians. He added:

It’s one thing to be partisan based on the subjective manner in which you view particular issues. We’re all guilty of that. But it’s another thing to blatantly lie, or support those who do, just because those lies happen to tell you what you want to hear.

Clifton even penned a piece calling out people who are turning their anger at the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson into a sweeping hatred of police and celebration of murdered cops.

I admire what the writers at ForwardProgressives are doing. They are calling out lies and misinformation from their "side" while still being true to themselves and writing critical pieces of my world view. That should be the standard, but it's not. I try my best to do the same thing, but with a busy schedule that limits how much time I have to write and an abundance of rival topics, I don't do it enough.

Bravo to the writers and editors of ForwardProgressives for putting the truth before anything else.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Buzzfeed is still not trustworthy

The viral content sausage factory Buzzfeed has been deleting thousands of its older articles, some of which were plagiarized from other online articles and others that failed to meet the standards of journalism the website is now trying to establish.

But the one article that stood out to me in particular is still there, the 8 Foods We Eat In The U.S. That Are Banned In Other Countries piece by Ashley Perez that got a lot of attention after an actual chemist tore it apart as scaremongering nonsense. Once the article was revealed to be a fraud, and a plagiarized fraud at that, the editors at Buzzfeed chose to edit the links without posting that it was updated, and maintained the false claims.

That was bad writing, and even worse editing, and since that article is still there I have to reject any claims the company is making that it is transitioning itself into a legitimate news website. Buzzfeed is a fast food restaurant inside a stadium, not a gourmet cafe.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A kinship with John Adams

I just started watching HBO's John Adams miniseries, I'm only past the first episode and there's something that resonates deeply with me, and it's extremely relevant to today.

Adams was tasked with defending the British soldiers charged with the Boston Massacre, who behaved as police in a colony fueled with hatred of the British government. When an angry mob began pelting the soldiers with clubs and sticks they eventually fired and killed five people. Adams proved in court that they acted in self defense, despite being the only ones with guns.

It's a Hell of a thing to watch that while people around you respond to the Michael Brown shooting by making the strange claim that police shouldn't be allowed to shoot unarmed or knife-wielding assailants even when they are being attacked and are in mortal danger.

After that, we see Adams grow more and more frustrated with the heavy hand of the British government, but also feel revolted by the brutal violence carried out by ghoulish mobs and advocated by rabble-rousers. He wanted to live in a nation of laws, not one of thuggery and street violence.

Cue the militarization of police, Occupy Wall Street lawlessness and Cliven Bundy's needless armed standoff.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who both opposes a tyrannical government but rejects savagery as the response. I just hope most of the other people who feel this way didn't die 200 years ago.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

How to be a weasel: Kevin Sorbo edition

Actor Kevin Sorbo wrote a post on Facebook criticizing the rioters in Ferguson, calling them animals.

Nearly everyone is against the riots, including supporters of the protests who make great paints to separate the protesters from the rioters. As it happens, blacks are seen to be the majority of both protesters and rioters.

But of course, Sorbo is a conservative in Hollywood so the weasels have to find a way to be outraged. In this case, they decided to erase that stark line between protesters and rioters and falsely present his criticism against the rioters as criticism against black protestors.

For example, here are some weasel headlines:

Actor Kevin Sorbo: Ferguson unrest let black protesters be the ‘animals’ they ‘truly are’

'Hercules' Actor Kevin Sorbo Calls Ferguson Protestors 'Animals,' 'Losers'

Actor Kevin Sorbo’s Shocking Racist Rant: Ferguson an ‘Excuse’ For Black People to Act as ‘Animals They Truly Are’

As is customary when a famous person says something that caused offense, Sorbo issued an apology and clarification, explaining that he was indeed talking about the rioters and no one else. As is also customary, no one who was criticizing him cared about the apology.

Are all segments of the black population supposed to be immune to any and all criticism even when they are committing crimes against innocent members of the public? In a world where weasels get away with their skulduggery, that seems to be the case.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rick Perry used, not misused, power

I was just in the car and heard a 30 second NPR national story about Rick Perry's indictment for abuse of power, and it left out a crucial detail that seems to be left out a lot in coverage of this story.

Here is a good summary from the Associated Press:

After Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunken driving in April 2013, Perry threatened to veto $7.5 million in funding for the state's ethics watchdog unit in her office unless she resigned. Lehmberg is an elected Democrat and Republicans have long accused her public corruption prosecutors of targeting conservatives.

The shallow coverage has simply said that Perry vetoed funding to force a public official from office, and then moves on to other details of the case. Leaving the drunk driving out of it changes the whole ball game. It makes Perry's actions sound reasonable, although with Lehmberg's reputation for targeting conservatives it's likely his motivations are less pure.

I'm not saying this crucial detail is being left out on purpose to tilt the coverage or singling out NPR. NPR is far from the only news source to leave out that detail, and other NPR stories have included it. With our old friend Hanlon's Razor it's fair to chalk this up to incompetence and not malice, but it does mean members of the public are getting the wrong idea about the subject.

Even serial conservative-basher Jonathan Chait thinks this is a political witch hunt. He makes reference to the old joke that grand juries are so loose with indictments that they would indict a ham sandwich:

The theory behind the indictment is flexible enough that almost any kind of political conflict could be defined as a “misuse” of power or “coercion” of one’s opponents. To describe the indictment as “frivolous” gives it far more credence than it deserves. Perry may not be much smarter than a ham sandwich, but he is exactly as guilty as one.

When you've lost Jonathan Chait, you've lost the case.