All posts by Rand Simberg

More Gun Control Success

In the most recent year, nine out of ten of shooting fatalities in Kenya were police shootings, according to this story.

One must get a certificate in order to own a firearm in Kenya. This is issued only after a detailed personal investigation and must be justified.

But police and other public officers and members of rifle clubs are the exception to the rule.

One Down, Two To Go

We haven’t found Osama or the Cyclops yet, but here’s something better. The true evil genius behind Al Qaeda, Bert, has been captured and jailed. Based on the URL of the link, the SAS must have gotten him.

[Update at 11:33 PM PST]

I’m informed by an unreliable source that he was actually captured by MI6 and Austin Powers. Judge for yourself–it looks like a phaked photo to me…

Our Friends The Iranians

With apparent government complicity in Tehran, Al Qaeda are slipping into Iran (and Pakistan, which we already knew), according to this article in today’s Christian Science Monitor. Perhaps we should not worry about Somalia, or even Iraq, for now, and go after the next possible domino in Tehran. It’s probably got the most potential for a pro-western government of all the current middle eastern dictatorships, and its situation on the border of Afghanistan, where our enemy is fleeing, makes it a more immediate next war aim.

Let Them Have Cake

Megan McArdle (who uniformly offers interesting insights into economics, often with incisive implications for politics, i.e., she often agrees with me, or I with her), has some very worthy thoughts on the politics of tax cuts/delays/increases etc., and their political implications, that won’t offer much solace to Democratic dreams of restoration, and I urge all to read them.

But I really want to kvetch, Andy-Rooney like, about one thing that she said (and this is a long-standing complaint).

She uses the well-worn cliche “have their cake and eat it too.”

Am I the only person in the world to whom this phrase makes no sense, or at least, no obvious point? If I have a cake, of course I can eat it too. If I am the owner of a cake (and I assume that having implies ownership, what with the other old saw about possession conferring 0.9 legality), then I can do anything I durn well please with it, including eating it, feeding it to the dog, throwing it against the wall for art, or encasing it in resin and dropping it on Al Qaeda along with fruitcakes.

A much more meaningful thing to say would be, “eat my cake and have it too.” You see, it’s almost the same thing, but to paraphrase Mark Twain, the difference between the right word order and the almost-right word order is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

My way, it immediately conveys the intended meaning–that someone wants to consume the cake, but still have it afterward, which is, of course, not possible.

I therefore declare my (likely lonely) crusade to get people to start using this hoary old expression correctly, if they continue to insist on using it at all. Expect me to shortly set up a web site for this purpose at…


For all those fantasists who think that Enron will be George Bush’s Whitewater (and who, like Bob Scheer, apparently never had the cerebral propensity to understand Whitewater), the WSJ has an entertaining little reminder of the real Whitewater, and the continuing stark difference between this administration and the previous one.

Amnesty For Governments

David Carr has a little commentary at Samizdata on Amnesty International, which, in its support for gun control, is shown to be yet another “average post- modernist left-wing lobby group”:

Far from being a ‘Candle in the Darkness’, Amnesty International is just another one of those organisations that know everything about human rights and nothing at all about human liberties.

Not to mention human nature…

National Iranian Review

Professor Reynolds has a link to a BBC story on more incipient revolution in Iran. It’s an interesting story, but what caught my eye were these two sentences:

The reformists believe the next step will be the prosecution of numerous reformist deputies on economic corruption charges as part of a right-wing scheme they believe is aimed at bringing the parliament down.


While the right-wingers accuse the liberals themselves of trying to precipitate just such a development as part of a plot to overthrow the Islamic system and to save their own political lives.

Just what is it that “right wing” means in the context of an article about Iran? Does it mean that they want school vouchers? That they favor fewer restrictions on the right to bear arms? Do they want lower taxes? Are they opposed to growth in the mullah-run government? What?

And does it mean that the reformers are “left wingers”? Probably not–this is not a phrase often used in the press, other than in “right-wing” media, like Reason or the National Review. In the editorially-condoned jargon, “crazy extremists” are “right-wing,” while their opposite extremist counterparts are “mainstream.” Often, they’re even the editorial staff…

Some have pointed out that such concepts as “left” and “right” don’t translate well to the Middle East. I don’t think that they’re very meaningful even for domestic political discussions, and are generally a sign of political simple-mindedness. I think that statement holds even more true for this article. But of course, such terminology makes it more natural and easier to call “conservatives” in America the “American Taliban…”

The Grass Is Blue

As a break from All Enron, All The Time, time for a little culture.

As I said previously, “Rocky Top” sucks big time as a college fight song, but it’s a great bluegrass song, and the genre seems to be taking off in a big way, with a new generation. Over the years, the public’s exposure to bluegrass has been episodic and misleading (Beverly Hillbillies theme song, “Dueling Banjos,” miscegenation, and forced sodomy from the movie “Deliverance,” etc.).

With only this exposure, most people thought of it as music for barefooted southern yokels (which is ironic, since it was actually invented, developed, and celebrated in Kentucky, Chicago, and Indiana), and even the country music industry has treated it like an ugly cousin. Most music stores don’t even have it as a category, burying it among folk (if they have such an aisle) or country. Few realize that it is a profound type of music, a purely American art form (with roots from both the British Isles and Africa) containing elements of jazz, blues, folk, and, done well, requiring great instrumental virtuosity. (Ironically, at least until recently, there was actually a larger following for it in large cities than in the South).

Here’s an article from USA Today Weekend describing the recent bluegrass revival, partly spurred on by the Cohen Bros. movie, “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” but also by the now-easy availability of a wider variety of music via the internet. Like blogging, this is another example of how the net is bypassing big media (and big “entertainment”) to offer music that people might actually want, instead of what suits in towers think that they might, or should want.

Logic Gymnastics

…should be an Olympic event for liberal pundits. I haven’t said much about the Enron situation, other than to point out that the only administration for which there is actually any evidence that favors were granted to Enron for political contributions was the Clinton Administration.

But Shields and Brooks on MacLehrer tonight was hilarious, watching the mental and logical contortions that Mark Shields was going through to try to pin the tail on the elephant. Given the paucity of real scandals, after the scandal du jour, the scandal continuum of the previous administration, this is the pathetic state to which their desperation finally leads them.

First, it was the old ploy of guilt by association and reputation–most of Enron’s contributions went to Republicans, Bush was good buds with Lay, then he tried to deny it, Bush has a reputation of being for the wealthy and powerful, blah, blah, blah..

When Brooks points out what I did previously–that Enron actually did get rides on diplomatic missions in exchange for contributions to the DNC and White House (with associated eventual contracts)–and there is not only no evidence that the Bush Administration helped Enron when they asked for it, but that instead there is abundant evidence that they hung them out to dry, then Shields says, “Well, it’s not what they did, it’s what they didn’t do. They wanted to not be regulated.”

Then, when it is pointed out that if this is what they wanted, and they actually got it (not at all clear), it seemed to not do them any good, since they are now bankrupt, the story shifts again. “Well, but they’re such crumbums, letting their business go under, and their stock melt down, and hurting all those employees, and widows, and orphans, and their puppy dogs.” Thus we progress from “Enron bribed the Bush Administration to grant them favors” to “the heartless Bush Administration let Enron go under, hurting all those poor people…” (This is a tactic that Henry Waxman is shifting to as well.)

I suspect that this whole thing is going to go over about as well as Daschle’s absurd attempt to blame the depth of the recession on tax cuts that haven’t happened yet (i.e., like a uranium Hindenburg).

If there is a scandal here, it’s not a campaign finance scandal (unless the SEC was paid off to look the other way). It is a scandal of corporate governance and the accountability of accountants, and while Enron is about to go mammaries up almost immediately, it’s also going to be long-term damaging (and appropriately so) to Arthur Anderson.

The latter company has built itself into an accounting and consultancy powerhouse, but if we are to judge by the Enron case, its clients have been getting poor value for their money (unless their intention is to use it as a high-paid consiglieri to keep a double, or even triple set of books, which are promptly burned at the first sign of the G-men…). This is what Enron paid twenty-seven megabucks for? Nice work, if you can get it. And stay out of jail…