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Submitted for your approval:

Being unable to pass a law against something that the state can’t turn against you doesn’t make that thing not wrong.

An elegantly modest proposal.

First, from the Rolling Stone article everyone is reading:

We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We’d have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate. Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.
Yes, this coal and gas and oil is still technically in the soil. But it’s already economically aboveground—it’s figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony. It explains why the big fossil-fuel companies have fought so hard to prevent the regulation of carbon dioxide—those reserves are their primary asset, the holding that gives their companies their value. It’s why they’ve worked so hard these past years to figure out how to unlock the oil in Canada’s tar sands, or how to drill miles beneath the sea, or how to frack the Appalachians.
If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn’t pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today’s market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you’d be writing off $20 trillion in assets. The numbers aren’t exact, of course, but that carbon bubble makes the housing bubble look small by comparison. It won’t necessarily burst—we might well burn all that carbon, in which case investors will do fine. But if we do, the planet will crater. You can have a healthy fossil-fuel balance sheet, or a relatively healthy planet—but now that we know the numbers, it looks like you can’t have both. Do the math: 2,795 is five times 565. That’s how the story ends.

Next, from a Guardian article on James Henry’s study, The Price of Offshore Revisited:

Despite the professed determination of the G20 group of leading economies to tackle tax secrecy, investors in scores of countries—including the US and the UK—are still able to hide some or all of their assets from the taxman.
“This offshore economy is large enough to have a major impact on estimates of inequality of wealth and income; on estimates of national income and debt ratios; and—most importantly—to have very significant negative impacts on the domestic tax bases of ‘source’ countries,” Henry says.
Using the BIS’s measure of “offshore deposits”—cash held outside the depositor’s home country—and scaling it up according to the proportion of their portfolio large investors usually hold in cash, he estimates that between $21tn (£13tn) and $32tn (£20tn) in financial assets has been hidden from the world’s tax authorities.

The math is ineluctable, isn’t it. —Desperate times call for those most basic of government functions.

(Hell, considering how many of the super-rich doubtless depend on the value of the carbon on the books, it’s not even redistribution, per se: penalize Peter to pay Peter to keep Peter from roasting, drowning, starving Paul…)

That mighty crash? The Overton window just fell off the dextral end of the discourse.

All electoral polls in the United States should now begin tracking three sets of numbers: all respondents; likely voters; those likely to be allowed to vote by Republicans.

Nothing is hidden from you that you cannot see with your own eyes.

24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn nor wives, and they are odorous and vile. Of how much greater value are you than these wretched birds! 25 You should be worried about your appearance, that people do not take you for a raven, lest you are cast out into the fields. 26 If then you are not cast out into the fields with the ravens, you have pleased your Father in Heaven. 27 Consider the lilies! They neither toil nor spin, and so I tell you, their life is but a season, and they have no wives. Solomon had many wives, and in his glory was arrayed in garments finer than any lily of the field! 28 They are but meager grasses, fit only to be thrown into the oven, but you are precious to your Father in Heaven and your prayers have brought you great wealth. 29 In striving for what you will eat and what you will drink, pray steadfastly, and your Father will give you these things.

Last summer, Adam Kotsko went on a bit of a Twitter-tear as he is wont, cheekily parablizing the global financial crisis; his colleague, David Weasley, was then inspired to share Nate Dannison’s “National Gospel of Liberty”:

Parable of the Wealthy Fool

13 One of the wealthy men who had gathered said to him, Sir, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me. 14 But he said to him, Foolish coward! Can you not work for yourself? 15 Do you not see those around you, who have prayed steadfastly and have built up great stores? 16 And he said to them, Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of laziness, for one’s life consists of the abundance of his possessions. 17 Then he told them a parable: The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, What should I do, for I have no more room to store my crops? 18 Then he said, I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods and my wives. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, for God has blessed you with riches. 20 But God said to him, You fool! This very night you will be blessed with additional riches. And the barns you have prepared, they are not large enough. 21 So it is with those who do not build enough barns to store all the treasures that God has blessed them with.

Of this effort Kotsko said, “I have no doubt that if Nate rewrote the entire Bible along these lines, it would quickly replace the original version in the world’s affection,” but I fear in this expectation he proved to be no less foolish than the wealthy fool, his snugly satisfactory barns nowhere near enough to store the riches laid up for us all:

There are three sources of errors in conveying biblical meaning are, in increasing amount:

  • lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ
  • lack of precision in modern language
  • translation bias, mainly of the liberal kind, in converting the original language to the modern one.
Experts in ancient languages are helpful in reducing the first type of error above, which is a vanishing source of error as scholarship advances understanding. English language linguists are helpful in reducing the second type of error, which also decreases due to an increasing vocabulary. But the third—and largest—source of translation error requires conservative principles to reduce and eliminate.[3]

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:[4]

  1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias. For example, the Living Bible translation has liberal evolutionary bias;[5] the widely used NIV translation has a pro-abortion bias.[6]
  2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, “gender inclusive” language, and other feminist distortions; preserve many references to the unborn child (the NIV deletes these)
  3. Not Dumbed Down: not dumbing down the reading level, or diluting the intellectual force and logic of Christianity[7]; the NIV is written at only the 7th grade level[8]
  4. Utilize Terms which better capture original intent: using powerful new conservative terms to capture better the original intent;[9] Defective translations use the word “comrade” three times as often as “volunteer”; similarly, updating words that have a change in meaning, such as “word”, “peace”, and “miracle”.
  5. Combat Harmful Addiction: combating addiction[10] by using modern terms for it, such as “gamble” rather than “cast lots”;[11] using modern political terms, such as “register” rather than “enroll” for the census
  6. Accept the Logic of Hell: applying logic with its full force and effect, as in not denying or downplaying the very real existence of Hell or the Devil.
  7. Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning
  8. Exclude Later-Inserted Inauthentic Passages: excluding the interpolated passages that liberals commonly put their own spin on, such as the adulteress story
  9. Credit Open-Mindedness of Disciples: crediting open-mindedness, often found in youngsters like the eyewitnesses Mark and John, the authors of two of the Gospels
  10. Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness: preferring conciseness to the liberal style of high word-to-substance ratio; avoid compound negatives and unnecessary ambiguities; prefer concise, consistent use of the word “Lord” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” or “Lord God.”
Thus, a project has begun among members of Conservapedia to translate the Bible in accordance with these principles. The translated Bible can be found here.

It could do no harm and it most certainly could do much good.”

Our ceremonial innocence.

“…I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no ‘two evils’ exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. There is no third party. On the Presidential ballot in a few states (seventeen in ____), a ‘Socialist’ Party will appear. Few will hear its appeal because it will have almost no opportunity to take part in the campaign and explain its platform. If a voter organizes or advocates a real third-party movement, he may be accused of seeking to overthrow this government by ‘force and violence.’ Anything he advocates by way of significant reform will be called ‘Communist’ and will of necessity be Communist in the sense that it must advocate such things as government ownership of the means of production; government in business; the limitation of private profit; social medicine, government housing and federal aid to education; the total abolition of race bias; and the welfare state. These things are on every Communist program; these things are the aim of socialism. Any American who advocates them today, no matter how sincerely, stands in danger of losing his job, surrendering his social status and perhaps landing in jail. The witnesses against him may be liars or insane or criminals. These witnesses need give no proof for their charges and may not even be known or appear in person. They may be in the pay of the United States Government. ADAs and ‘Liberals’ are not third parties; they seek to act as tails to kites. But since the kites are self-propelled and radar-controlled, tails are quite superfluous and rather silly.” —W.E.B. Dubois

Pushing the kettle too far.

Muzzy-headed, bleary-thunked, pre-coffee. Awoken by the yowling feed-me cats from a half-dream, half-Gedankenexperiment: an unknown dignitary (perhaps a FIRE executive) was tweeting snapshots of their 12-course dinner from a trendy SoHo hotspot (Toronto was rather obviously standing in for New York). A free-speech zone had been barricaded off for protests six blocks or so uptown, in the nearest available public open space; anyone caught on the streets around the restaurant by the dignitary’s security cordon was being pre-emptively detained. —Unless, of course, you’d submitted yourself already to background and credit checks (the results keyed to your genome through Xe Monsanto’s patented Trust But Verify® process) and were paying the yearly subscription fee, and so could show the cops your Presumed Innocent® citizen’s ID card—

28.6 million man-days—and growing!

Between 1970 and 2005, the number of people incarcerated in the United States grew by 700%. Today, the United States incarcerates approximately 2.3 million people. According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States has only 5% of the world’s population but a full 25% of its prisoners.

—“Banking on Bondage:
Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration
ACLU, November 2011

Always controversial, for-profit prisons were initially hailed by political conservatives as a cost-effective way to relieve the overcrowded penal system. And for a while private prisons relieved some pressure and initially turned a nice profit for such companies as Prison Realty Trust and Wackenhut Corrections Corp. Indeed, Wackenhut did too well for some. Its South Florida facility was publicly criticized for treating inmates as if they were on vacation, giving them access to televisions and gyms.

But today, the industry is in a rut, and its prospects have been severely trimmed. Overbuilding and ill-fated financial schemes have hammered stock prices. States, once eager to outsource their inmates, are backing out of private prison contracts. News of escapes and violence at private prisons adds to a climate of distrust. Execs at the for-profit prisons insist the concept still works. But the spate of bad news has given longtime critics such as Middle Tennessee State University criminologist Frank Lee a new platform. “Private prisons don’t work,” he says.

—Charles H. Haddad, “Private Prisons Don’t Work,”
Bloomberg Businessweek, September 11, 2000

Record 2010 Financial Results

CCA’s record revenues of $1.7 billion benefited from an increase in compensated man-days which generated revenue from federal and local customers. Our average compensated man-days rose 3.2% to 28.6 million in 2010 from 27.7 million in 2009 and reflected an increase in demand for beds from the US Marshals Service, the Bureau of Prisons, along with the states of California, Georgia and Florida. Our revenue from Federal customers rose 9.4% to $717.8 million and accounted for 43% of management revenues for 2010. Management revenue from state customers was $838.5 million in 2010 and represented 50% of management revenues. Net income was a record $157.2 million in 2010. Net income per diluted share rose 5.3% to $1.39 compared with 2009. The growth in our earnings benefited from our higher revenue base and an increase in our facility operating margin to 31.2% in 2010. We have invested a significant amount of resources in improving our operating efficiency that includes new prison designs that are more cost-effective to operate, cost-saving strategies from a company-wide initiative to improve operating efficiencies and best practices that we developed from our broad experience in the industry.

Corrections Corporation of America,
2010 Annual Letter to Shareholders

Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities. This possible growth depends on a number of factors we cannot control, including crime rates and sentencing patterns in various jurisdictions and acceptance of privatization. The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.

Corrections Corporation of America,
2010 Annual Report on Form 10-K

While private prison companies deny taking steps to affirmatively support legislation that promotes mass incarceration, and although CCA left ALEC in 2010, according to a recent news report, “for the past two decades, a CCA executive has been a member of the council’s [task force that] produced more than 85 model bills and resolutions that required tougher criminal sentencing, expanded immigration enforcement and promoted prison privatization … CCA’s senior director of business development was the private-sector chair of the task force in the mid- to late 90s when it produced a series of model bills promoting tough-on-crime measures that would send more people to prison for a longer time.

—“Banking on Bondage

The number of immigrants detained annually has nearly doubled, to 390,000 since immigration enforcement was transferred to the newly formed Department of Homeland Security in 2003, creating a huge market for private prison operators, who house almost 50 percent of all federally detained immigrants compared with just 6 percent of state prisoners and 16 percent of federal prisoners.

—Rania Khalek, “The Shocking Ways the Corporate Prison Industry Games the System

Recently, ALEC leaders have been involved with discriminatory immigration laws that carry potential benefits for private prisons. On April 23, 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law Senate Bill 1070, a statute that requires police officers in Arizona to ask people for their papers during law enforcement stops based only on an undefined “reasonable suspicion” that they are in the country unlawfully. Senate Bill 1070, and similar “copycat” laws since enacted in several other states, have the potential to further increase the number of immigrants detained, thereby adding to pressure to build more immigration detention centers. Russell Pearce, currently President of the Arizona State Senate and a member of ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force, was a sponsor and moving force behind the Arizona bill, and he presented the idea for the law at an ALEC meeting. According to a report by National Public Radio (which is disputed by Pearce and CCA), the private prison industry engaged in a “quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070.”

—“Banking on Bondage

I think it’s clear that with the events of September 11 there’s a heightened focus on detention, both on the borders and within the US. More people are gonna get caught. So I would say the events of September 11, um, let me back up. The federal business is the best business for us. It’s the most consistent business for us, and the events of September 11 is increasing that level of business.

—Steve Logan, CEO of Cornell Corrections,
during a conference call with investors
two months after 9/11

We believe the outlook for CCA and the private corrections industry remain very positive. Public prisons are overcrowded and increases in the US inmate population are expected to outpace the addition of new prison beds. Historically, the US inmate population has also accelerated in post-recession years, particularly at the state level. Demand for new prison beds from the federal sector remains strong. The Federal Bureau of Prisons is operating at about 138% of its rated capacity and its inmate population is expected to grow. The US Marshals Service also expects meaningful growth in the coming years.

We expect the shortage of new prison beds coming on-line to be further constricted by government budget constraints in funding new capacity. No states during Fiscal Year 2010/2011 allocated funds for new prison construction.

Corrections Corporation of America,
2010 Annual Letter to Shareholders

The sum of the opposition.

So half the country’s underwater, 98% of the rest but a thrown rod or the cluck of a doctor’s tongue away from joining them in that country from whose bourn, and still these yahoos get on the teevee to lecture us all about the pain we must yet endure, the sacrifice we all must share, and God forbid we try to alleviate even a fraction of that pain with an Xbox or foodstamps—and I can’t help but think: my God, these monsters, they hate us for our freedoms—

The harebrained utopian dreaming of—

The decoupling of rising productivity from rising fortunes for workers is, after all, only a phenomenon of the past 30 years. In the period prior to that, rising productivity went with rising wages: this was the heart of the postwar Keynesian social compact. And in the period prior to that, rising productivity went along with a shortening of the working day, through a long series of bitter struggles.

Go, read; it gets good. From a while back, but I’m pasting this into the commonplace book for tomorrow’s Monday morning. (And also, from the comments: “a lot of what you see is that labor is not so much replaced by machines as it is transferred from the paid staff to the consumer.” —For all that the chosen example is problematic. [What example isn’t?])

Anyway, yeah. More like this; a resolution. Twitter’s fun and all, but it’s impossible to find anything later.

Why do Americans still dislike atheists?

“A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency—issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights—the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious.” —Gregory Paul, Phil Zuckerman


It’s not like I meant to take a couple months off or anything. —Oh, hush. Y’all already got more posts outta me in Q1 of 2011 than Calvin Coolidge, put together! (And two whole chapters yonder, which the Inner Marketer made me promise I’d mention somewhere in here.)

Christ, I’ve been complaining about it almost as long as I’ve been blogging: the instant gratification of a ranty political post; the lengthy time thereafter one has to regret what one has said. And it’s not that there’s anything specific I posted in haste that I especially came to repent at leisure (recently) (well, not so much; not as such); it’s just that once I made a conscious effort to post more frequently, well, there they came: outrage pellets, guaranteed to please the crowd: it may not serve to increase US, but by god it sure as hell kicked THEM in the rhetoric!

Not that THEY ever actually noticed, but hey.

I never wanted the pier to be a political blog; I hate arguing! (Cue the Spouse’s knowing smirk.) —No, it’s true: I like forcefully stating my opinions, I can enjoy staking out the silliest possible position for or against some inconsequential thing and defending my claim with bulwarks of trivia, but the moment some actual conflict rears its head, over something that matters, I’m circling the wagons to close off the episteme: I must physically restrain myself from finding a pair of lapels I can grab. My God, how can you deny this is true? For fuck’s sake why are you repeating that lie? Who could possibly intend that consequence, can’t you see it? How on earth did you get to be so stupid?

It’s why the koan’s so important to me. I don’t know that I ever will manage a sunny heart. —Anyway. Less frequency; less pelletage. Or something. That’s my pledge to you. This week, anyway.

The irony I suppose being that whenever I’m recognized offline for my online contributions it’s inevitably the rants that get mentioned? “Man, you really knew how to fire ’em up,” said the genial older gentleman at the science fiction convention, who shall remain nameless through the simple expediency of never having caught his name. —“Well, I did start blogging again,” I said. “I’m just trying to stay away from the ranting, you know?” —“Oh, that’s too bad,” he said.

As I was saying. Evergreen perennial, this. Ah, well.

Fantasy, unlike science fiction, relies on a moral universe: it is less an argument with the universe than a sermon on the way things should be, a belief that the universe should yield to moral precepts.

Farah Mendlesohn

My last political post:

THEY win by themming US; WE win by ussing THEM.

Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.

I say, old chap, Bady said the profit motive was amoral, not immoral, so unless you’re arguing that seeking profit is itself an inherently moral act, that greed is, essentially, good, then you might want to reconsider—what? You are? That is what you meant? —Oh. Well. Um, in that case, I suppose, carry on? —And, uh, good luck with that.