Saturday, September 27, 2014

If it were that easy

"Dark Apple" just doesn't have the same ring...
everyone would be doing it:
Terrorist groups could get the capability [to launch an EMP] from any one of these countries or from a few other countries either directly or by theft. The weapon could be delivered by a Scud missile hidden under a tarp from a medium sized ship in the shipping lanes off the coast of the United States. Scud missiles are available in the weapons market for about $100,000. If the United States were attacked with this weapon the country may find it very difficult if not impossible to retaliate...
Part of the downside of DoomPr0n is explaining exactly how, if it's so easy to destroy the US, leaving us unable to retaliate, for less than the annual salary of a Midwestern state college CIO, why someone hasn't done exactly that. Seriously, whether we deserve them or not, we have lots and lots and lots of enemies, and surely most of them can scrape together $100k.  If the Russians could have Ukraine as far as Paris for the cost of a single nuclear missile, why are our lights still on? Maybe because it's a fake threat.

This is not, of course, to minimize the potential damage an EMP could do: I'm actually of the opinion that a Carrington-type EMP event is not a possibility or threat so much as an eventuality.*  But I do suspect that building a working EMP bomb that would fry electronics over 4 million or so square miles takes a little more engineering and testing than does cutting off the heads of reporters.

"Terrorist groups,"** whether they have cool acronyms or not, ought to rank very low on the average American's threat scale.  You are far more likely to be destroyed by Janet Yellen than by Akhbar Akmed al-EMPbomb.  Just sayin'.

* that burning orb in the sky really doesn't care if you live or die, so much. And he can turn your lights off forever with no more than a well-aimed root beer belch.
** by which we usually mean "garlic-smelling men more interested in killing other garlic-smelling men than us"

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Potatoes in a barrel - the disappointing finale

Our work here is done.
The year began with high hopes that growing a potato garden in a 55-gallon barrel would result in many more pounds of potatoes per square foot of ground space than planting traditionally.  I am sorry to report that this did not happen.

As you recall, the plants themselves took to the concept like ugly to a feminist.  A full three months ago they had already reached the top of the barrel and by my count had 97 days to do nothing but make tubers for us.

Where have all the taters gone?
It wasn't like there was anything wrong with the plants themselves.  I harvested my control group,* made up of a pair of plants in a raised bed, a few weeks ago. The result, while not impressive by Irish standards, was at least respectable.  I probably got a 10-1 return in that group.

And it wasn't like there was any lack (or surfeit) of water.  When I dumped the barrel I noted that the soil was moist all the way through yet none of the potatoes showed evidence of rot.  The healthy growth and color of the plants themselves is sufficient evidence that they were not lacking sunlight, either. And the plants seemed to suffer little or no bug damage.

That leaves the soil or the barrel itself as the main problem.  As it was nearly the same dirt as the control group, I am tempted to eliminate that as well. And the barrel itself should not have made any difference - we're left to blame the depth of the dirt or perhaps the temperature.

Spud, I am disappoint
So what the real problem is, I'm not sure. But the top foot of dirt contained almost no potatoes whatsoever. The middle third gave up but a half-dozen small ones.  In the whole bottom third waited only the tiniest of spuds.  In all, the 2 pounds of seed potatoes we started with resulted in maybe 4 pounds, not even enough return to cover their cost. Or even hash browns at Thanksgiving.

I'm still sold on the concept,** but next year I'm going to make a couple adjustments.

1.  I'm probably not going to use this barrel again. A couple of people I talked to use wire fencing or even old tires to the same effect, so I may try one of those or perhaps a shorter barrel. More gardens, but none will be as tall - or as heavy.

2.  I'm surely going to change up the soil.  While I was always careful to add it dry, it was still horribly packed by harvest time.  So a bunch more mulch and maybe even some chopped straw may help to lighten it up a bit.

If I were Irish, we'd be facing a long, hungry winter.  This is why I like to make mistakes while they still don't count.

* Because, science
** Like a government climate scientist, I'm not going to let facts get in the way of a good theory.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The problem really is black culture

Not a victim of black culture
Phillip Bump uses his #whiteprivilege to dismiss the true cause of black underachievement:
Let's assume instead that the black culture option is the correct explanation. That pathology actually is something reserved for black people...
It has always been amazing to me how white liberals will go to such extremes to avoid 'blaming' black people - by which is meant, treating black people as adult and fully-human moral agents - for the consequences of their own decisions.  In this case, we're going to go through an entire article on 'black culture' while dismissing the very idea that it might have any impact on black achievement.  And we're going to do so without ever examining a single attribute of that culture that might affect one's financial health.* It's a very liberal thing to do.

In that vein, Bump is happy to kick things off with a straw man, that being the idea that the pathology of poverty "is something reserved for black people." Besides acting as an anti-racist dog whistle, it's laughable, because no one denies that there are lots and lots of black people who are successful and lots of whites who are not. While this social pathology is commonly referred to as 'black culture,' that's only because American blacks are its primary modern representatives, not because they are its sole adherents or even solely responsible for its existence. What is actually at issue is whether the culture itself leads its adherents into poverty or plenty.
But again: What are the components of that culture? Paul Ryan got in trouble because he implied that the problem was, in short, laziness. Coates frames it loosely in similar terms — "black people are less responsible, less moral, or less upstanding" ...
You will notice that while Bump is willing to ask a very good question here, he is also quick to avoid any specific answers that might enlighten us to precisely how black culture might keep its adherents in poverty. He mumbles instead about negative stereotypes, as if the fact that something is a time-honored stereotype makes it automatically incorrect. 

But let's leave politics aside and go straight to the culture at issue.  Rather than trying to determine whether rims or gold teeth or twerking lie upon the path to a stable prosperity, let's examine prosperity and back our way into whether the components of modern black culture are liable to lead us in that direction or not.

I will defer here to Professor Walter E. Williams** to tell us what a person ought to do to escape poverty.  His list is surprisingly simple and if followed virtually guarantees any American will provide a better life for his children, something expected and experienced by whites since the founding of the nation.

The steps are:
  1. Graduate from high school. 
  2. Get married before you have children, and stay married. 
  3. Work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage. 
  4. Avoid engaging in criminal behavior.
Now, these steps and their implications are not really difficult to comprehend, so let's measure them against black culture and see how they align.

First off, education, graduate from high school.  Does black culture value education?  Not, do black people go to school?  That's not the question.  The question is, does black culture place importance on getting educated?

There was a time when it did.  Read the works of Booker T. Washington and his frenemy WEB DuBois and you will quickly discover that 19th century blacks understood that education had been denied them under slavery because it was so powerful. The slave was kept illiterate because no literate man could be kept a slave. George Washington Carver said that education was the key that unlocks "the golden door of freedom," and it was more to his generation than a pretty image.  The first generations after slavery worked very hard to become educated or at least literate. The black illiteracy rate dropped from 80% in 1870 to 23% in 1930, an incredible advance in a very short period of time.

When Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or Kweisi Mfume or Louis Farrakhan talk to black people today, do they talk about the value of education?  No, they don't. The fact that a novelty rap video that promoted literacy caused consternation across the fruited plain is sufficient proof that black culture does not value education.  Strike one.

Secondly, marriage. Does black culture value marriage and childbirth therein?  To ask the question is to answer it.  People may dispute why the black illegitimacy rate is north of 70%, but no one denies the fact that fewer than 3 in 10 black children are born to married parents, down from 7 in 10 a half century ago. Marriage is simply not important to black culture.*** Strike two.

Thirdly, how about work?  One can go into all sorts of explanations about why the black unemployment rate stands at twice the white, and I have no doubt that racism plays a non-trivial part in that. And there are lots of black entrepreneurs, though not nearly as many as there needs to be. That said, is hard work valued in the black community?

One does not have to look very hard to find country songs that celebrate hard work.  As much as I hate country music,**** it offers a good representation of middle class white values, and those values presume that hard work is a noble endeavor.  So one question: where are the rap songs that celebrate hard work and the value of holding a job? Strike three.

Finally, avoiding criminal behavior.  Spend a few hours watching BET and you'll find that criminal behavior is glorified in nearly every video.  Yes, it's glorified in much white music, too. Get it thru your head: this is not a racial thing. Glorifying crime will have the same corrosive effects on whites in the near future as it has on blacks today. And those effects today cannot be denied.

Blacks are not in prison in such high numbers because of racism. That's a fantasy woven by the enablers and those who make a decent living perpetuating black behavioral pathology. Blacks are imprisoned because they commit and have historically committed crimes at a far higher rate than whites. One can try to explain why this is so, but one cannot deny the fact that obeying the law is not a very high priority in black culture.

Martin Luther King addressed these very issues a half century ago:
Let us be honest with ourselves, and say that we, our standards have lagged behind at many points. Negroes constitute ten percent of the population of New York City, and yet they commit thirty-five percent of the crime. St. Louis, Missouri: the Negroes constitute twenty-six percent of the population, and yet seventy-six percent of the persons on the list for aid to dependent children are Negroes. We have eight times more illegitimacy than white persons. We’ve got to face all of these things.
But blacks have not faced these things.  They have, if anything, reveled in them. They have hopped aboard a liberal excuse carousel that guarantees that blacks will have music and motion but will never actually go anywhere. Strike four.

But in the end, Bump reveals the real problem even while he tries to pass blame for it off to his political opponents:
It's the Lee Atwater-ization of institutional racism, manifested on the front page of The New York Times ... in the form of expanded voting restrictions that would keep more black (Democratic) voters from getting to the polls.
The beauty of liberal thought is that it can sweep so cleanly to conclusions without ever examining the logic that got the liberal there.*****  Those conclusions make liberals, and especially white liberals, feel good about themselves, which I have long suspected is the purpose of liberalism anyway.  But it is a cheat. The much maligned discussed voting restrictions do not, in fact, keep black(Democratic) voters from getting to the polls.  They demand that people going to the polls provide proof that they are the people who have the right to vote.

This demand, Bump asserts, constructs a barrier over which black(Democratic) voters cannot climb. But even assuming that it's true, why should it prove such a barrier?  Is there a law that keeps black(Democratic) voters from getting IDs?  No, there's not. What exists is a lot of black(Democratic) people who do not possess or will not present IDs.

Now assuming just for a minute that such disengagement from what most would consider a basic requirement of civic life truly is a part of black culture, then how could blacks ever expect to share those parts of the majority culture - like getting a job, opening a savings account, and buying real assets - that lead to accumulated wealth?

Culture matters, and there are certain cultural values - literacy, savings, and marriage, to name a few - that have a non-trivial effect on the capital accumulation of those who exhibit them. The fact that black culture possesses none of these values should not lead us to any other conclusion than that those who follow that culture will remain poor.

Poor people are poor because they make the kinds of decisions that lead to poverty. Except in the liberal fantasy world where everything happens by magic and randomness and racism.  In that world, savers have savings not because they spend less than they earn and put the difference aside, but because they are, as one former Speaker of the House asserted, The Winners of Life's Lottery. And those who spend every penny they receive have nothing left at the end of the day not because of math, but because math itself is #racist.

* It has always amazed me that the kind of people who are so quick to value multi-culturalism do not, when push comes to shove, really believe that culture makes any difference in any meaningful respect. 
** Black by popular demand
*** It is becoming less important to white culture as well, and can be expected to have the same corrosive effects. 
**** For me, I prefer Rush. The band, that is.
***** p'raps because it was not logic that got them there, but whatever.