Monday, July 30, 2007

Out of Touch

Michael Barone: Our National Funk
Most strikingly, only 25 percent of Americans are positive about the direction of the nation, down from 41 percent in 2002. In only a handful of the 47 nations are there declines of similar magnitude -- Uganda, the Czech Republic, France, Canada and Italy. Obviously, one factor here is the decline in the job rating of George W. Bush and of Congress (and the response in other countries to squabbling politicians in Prague, Paris, Ottawa and Rome).

......That's my reaction as well to the finding that by a two-to-one margin Americans say their children will be worse off than we are. There's a similar response in Canada, Britain and Brazil. The even more negative verdicts in Western Europe and Japan can be explained as a cool assessment of the combination of low birthrates and overgenerous welfare states.

But what basis do Americans have to suppose that, for the first time in history, a younger generation will be worse off than their parents? Perhaps it's just a feeling that things cannot possibly get any better. In any case, we seem to be in a pronounced national funk.

We might take some comfort in some of the trends of opinion in the rest of the world. In China and India, large majorities think the next generation will be better off -- a vote of confidence in their surging economies, which are providing cheaper products for us and are growing as markets for American goods and services. In Latin America, most believe that people are better off with free markets. (The highest percentage was in Hugo Chavez's socialist Venezuela!) In Africa, most express great optimism in the future -- a sign that the world's most troubled continent may be at last turning around.

Barone seems to be blissfully unaware of who the winners and the losers are in globalization. The Chinese and Indians who are "pollable" are by and large the winners, people in the prosperous urban elite who see their prospects and their nation ascendant. American workers, are by and large the losers. Average wages are flat after inflation. The nation is bogged down in Iraq, which only adds to the looming national debt disaster. The news about trade is by and large negative (4,000 workers laid off, engineers training their replacements from Mombai while executives complain that our education system is not turning out enough qualified engineers. Mr. Barone needs to get out more, perhaps he should go back to Detroit and talk to some ordinary people about what they see and how they see the world.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hours of Service: Here We Go Again

TTnews: Court Issues Split Ruling on Drivers’ Hours of Service Rule
A federal court issued a split ruling Tuesday on the government’s rules governing truck driver hours of service, rejecting a petition by a group representing owner-operators but granting a separate request by a public safety advocate group.

.....“We are analyzing the decision issued today to understand the court’s findings as well as determine the agency’s next steps to prevent driver fatigue, ensure safe and efficient motor carrier operations and save lives,” FMCSA said. “This decision does not go into effect until Sept. 14, unless the court orders otherwise.”

The court vacated the portions of the rule that extended the maximum allowable driving time to 11 hours from the previous limit of 10, and eliminated the so-called 34-hour restart, which allows drivers to reset their maximum allowable hours in a week.

The ruling maintains the limit for drivers’ work time of 14 consecutive hours. Previously, the agency had allowed drivers to work for 15 hours per day, but had let them clock on and off duty.

Not much of a surprise. The administration seemed to be unwilling to admit "no means no" the last time the rules were thrown out as arbitrary and capricious. Perhaps they will create a rule centered on safety this time (there were some improvements from the old rule, but not enough). It's problematic when you admit you are going to kill more people with your new rule, but the value of their sacrifice will be outweighed by the cost savings for shippers. Myself I think a simple rule is better, the current system (no more than 14 hours working/11 hours driving then 10 consecutive hours off [unless you split break], 70 hours in 6 days/80 hours in 7 days [except after 34 hours off] is a mess. All that and it does not address circadian rhythm. EOBRs tied to the truck and GPS are essential to make whatever rule they impose mean something.

Of course the Supreme Court has changed since last time the rules were rejected by the DC circuit so perhaps this time they will go for broke.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Snowbirds might live longer

WSJ Economics Blog:Head Toward Heat and Live Longer
Leaving the cold Northeast states for the warmer South and West may mean a longer life.

New research on the effects of extreme temperatures found that 5,400 deaths a year are delayed by getting away from cold temperatures. The life expectancy for people whose death were delayed by moving increased by an average of 9.1 years, according to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Economists Olivier Deschenes at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Enrico Moretti at the University of California, Berkeley, matched data on deaths from 1972 to 1988 to weather conditions on the day of death and county of residence.

Extreme temperatures — both hot and cold — generally tends to spur a spike in deaths. That’s evident from the increased public attention from heat-related deaths, which hit elderly people especially hard. But deaths actually decline significantly in the days that follow, suggesting that the extreme heat hastened the deaths of people who were already weak and would’ve died anyway. “As a consequence, there is virtually no lasting impact of heat waves on mortality,” the researchers write.

Extreme cold weather leads to an immediate spike in deaths as well, but it isn’t offset by a decline in deaths afterward. One extremely cold day in a 30-day window increases mortality by 10%, the study found, mostly the result of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases (leading to hypothermia, pneumonia and other heart or lung problems). People in low-income areas are hit especially hard, as are infants and older adults.

Overall, cold weather accounts for 1.3% of total U.S. deaths a year, a larger impact than homicide, leukemia or chronic liver disease. The researchers note that Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago are affected the most; as many as 3.3% of their deaths could be delayed by changing exposure to cold days.

The research could help explain the increase in life expectancy over the last three decades, about a quarter of a year per calendar year. The population shift from cold states to warm states, the study found, accounts for 8% to 15% of the gains in longevity.

Who knew? Maybe the big 3 will solve their pension issues by requiring retirees to live in Michigan to get a pension....

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Good Night and Good Luck

Shakesville on the New Executive Order via Ezra Klein
Under this order, the Executive Branch can ’starve out’ a person by completely freezing their assets, without trial, without the need to present evidence, and without appeal. The Treasury Secretary has sole discretion to determine who is in violation of this order, in ‘consultation’ with the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State. That last part is verbiage; Treasury has the power per this order. Even better, the Secretary of Treasury has the explicit authority to delegate this decision to any flunky or flunkies of his choice per Sec. 6. This order applies to all persons within the United States. If Treasury declares that a person is a ‘SIGNIFICANT RISK’ to commit violence in Iraq, or a ‘SIGNIFICANT RISK’ to support violence in Iraq in any way, or to have assisted in any way a person who is a ‘SIGNIFICANT RISK’ to do so, all their assets are to be immediately frozen.

It is a further violation of the order to make a donation to such a person whose assets have been frozen. (I was being literal when I said ’starve’ them. Such a person would have no legal means of acquiring food, clothing, or shelter. They couldn’t buy it with frozen assets, nor accept it as a gift, and stealing is already illegal.) [See here for the statute on which Bush relies to issue this order.]

Section 5 says that these actions will be taken by the government without any notice to the person whose assets are to be frozen. I see no procedure listed for any appeal from this action to anyone. In theory, a person could argue the matter in federal court. However, merely donating legal services to represent such a person would apparently be a violation of Sec. 1(b). The odds of an unrepresented person successfully challenging an executive order, when said order will be defended by a phalanx of Justice Department lawyers, are low.

Is that scary enough for you? When I first read it, I checked the site to make sure it wasn’t a spoof of some sort, a la the Onion. I may have missed something, but I hit the high points.

Oh, I probably don’t need to mention the obvious, but the lack of due process, lack of evidentiary requirements, and the vagueness surrounding exactly what constitutes a violation make this order a totalitarian dream. And there is no end to the ‘daisy chain’ it creates, either. If you donate money to a person whose assets were frozen because they gave money to a person who was declared to be a ‘significant risk’ to commit or support violence in Iraq, then you are subject to the order, subject to have your assets frozen, and anyone helping you thereafter gets the same treatment. This order is far in excess of the presidential orders from 20+ years ago that were circulated to make us afraid of the government. (FYI, there’ve been executive orders since at least Kennedy that declares the feds are in charge of everything in case of nuclear attack and such.)

Of course, the administration has demonstrated a) the willingness to use the levers of government for political means (see: Goodling, Monica) and b) an absolute indifference to public opinion, and, on a semi-related note, the belief that they don't have to enforce laws that inconvenience them or force them to answer uncomfortable questions

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Will 2008 be another 3 way?

Race42008:Is There a Viable Third Party Candidate?
The coming presidential election is just the sort of contest that cries out for a third-party protest candidate into whom the voters can channel their collective angst. That’s because 2008 is shaping up to be a year in which voters are disgusted with both parties, demonstrated by the equally dismal approval ratings of President Bush and the Democratic Congress. Further, of the leading presidential contenders on either side of the aisle, none has yet been able to connect with voters’ “mad as hell” sentiments towards all things Washington. Lecturing the electorate on why they shouldn’t be mad as hell isn’t going to help. Nor will pointing fingers at the other party, as Democrats are wont to do. Americans once again feel that their representatives in government have forgotten just who owns this country, and they’re out for blood. And they’re going to get it. One way or another.

Consequently, the MSM, sensing that we are once again about to see a 1968 or 1992 style electoral debacle, has been coronating one Michael Bloomberg as the latest incarnation of Ross Perot, a third-way kinda guy who will tell it like it is and spoil the election for the Republicans. Indeed, even I bought into the Bloomie schtick until recently. But I have since been disabused of that notion for several reasons. Foremost among them is the simple reality of what sort of vacuum will exist in the race for 2008.

While many readers will disagree, and some rather vehemently, I believe that the two major party nominees will almost certainly be Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. I believe this to be the case for a number of reasons, none of which need be laid out in this post. Now, in such a race, there would almost certainly be room for a third-party candidate due to the vacuum that would exist in a general election campaign. But said vacuum would most certainly NOT be filled by Michael Bloomberg. Here’s why.

In a Rudy/Hillary race, the nation is faced with two major party candidates who are a) northeastern, b) pro-choice, c) pro-Iraq, and d) who have significant appeal to centrists of various sorts. With author Fred Siegel’s recent revelation that Bloomberg isn’t particularly anti-war, and with our own Aron Goldman’s discovery that Bloomie sees his role in the race as to fill a vacuum in the center, the rationale for a Bloomberg candidacy in a Rudy/Hillary race ceases to exist. To put it another way, we already have two relatively centrist, pro-choice, pro-war New Yorkers in the race — is there really room for a third? To ask the question is to answer it.

So if not Bloomberg, then who? Many observers will look to their left and opine that Ralph Nader could once again make waves. But does anyone seriously think that liberals will allow Nader to deny them the White House yet another time? Others will look to their right for that looming third-party pro-life candidate. But third-party candidates rarely come from the poles of American politics; a pro-life candidate running an abortion-centered campaign would annoy Team Rudy, but wouldn’t take more than 2 or 3 percent of the vote. In order for a third-party candidate to truly make waves, he has to fill the Rudy/Hillary vacuum. In short, we’re looking for a pro-life foreign policy realist from Middle America who, like Americans, is mad as hell.

I'm curious if someone will appear to challenge the big 2. Third Parties have been ridiculed as irrelevant, but they were important in 1992 and 2000 (though Nader's campaign never had any prospects besides a spoiler role). The time might be right. 50% of the populace claims to be unwilling to vote for Hillary no matter what. Guiliani and Thompson both have weaknesses as campaigners and may not wear well as the 'campaign that will not end' drags on. I think a Sam's Club Party could well break out.

They Play With Dogs

CNN:Doctors remove 5 polyps from Bush's Colon
Afterward, the president played with his Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley, Stanzel said. He planned to have lunch at Camp David and have briefings with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, and planned to take a bicycle ride Saturday afternoon.

Cheney, meanwhile, spent the morning at his home on Maryland's eastern shore, reading and playing with his dogs, Stanzel said. Nothing occurred that required him to take official action as president before Bush reclaimed presidential power.

I'm not sure what is weirder: that the two most powerful men in America seem to while the day away playing with their dogs; that their P.R. folks thought this was important enough to pass on to CNN; or that CNN thought it worthy of passing on to us.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sleep tight, America, Homeland Security is on the job

Fox News: 8-Year-Old Boy Held From Plane for Appearing on No-Fly List
An 8-year-old boy expecting to catch a plane home is denied entry for appearing on a terrorist no-fly list, reported

Bryan Moore was set to catch his first plane trip when he arrived at an airport in Cortez, Colorado to fly home after visiting his sister, said the report.

"They almost got me scheduled in and then the lady just bowed her head and said, 'We can't get you on this plane, you're a terrorist,'" Moore said.

The soon-to-be third grader was red flagged as a threat to national security because his name popped up on the national watch list.

Maybe Chertoff had a gut feeling about him...

Economy Pinches Trailer Manufacturers

Today's Trucking News:Trailers parked, new trailer shipments down in '07
The sluggish U.S. economy is to blame for a slowdown in the number of trailers being shipped to North American trailer dealers, according to trailer OEMs and industry analysts.
For the first five months of this year, total shipments were down almost 12 percentage points (11.8 percent) compared to the January-to-June period of 2006. And according to industry research experts A.C.T. Research, that number will probably be more like 15 percent by the end of the year.
....According to Chris Hammond, vice-president of dealer sales for Great Dane Trailers, hardest hit have been flatbeds. He attributes that to the U.S. construction slowdown. "Refrigerated trailers have been selling well, and dry vans are somewhere in the middle," he says.

The slump in housing and autos is taking a toll on the rest of the economy. Autos probably are a victim of all of the heavy incentive deals of the past few years which persuaded folks to buy a new car a year or two before they otherwise would have. Also light trucks are no doubt being hurt by the decline in construction (hurting work pickup buyers) and the rise in gas prices (persuading some lifestyle pickup drivers to move to cars)

Also, in the truck manufacturing industry there was a massive pre-buy to avoid 2007 Emissions standards, resulting in huge plunge 2007 model year truck sales. Trucking companies did not want to pay $7000 more for a truck that weighs more and has more things to break. Here we are also paying for the sins of the EPA in moving the 2004 mandate up 2 years (via a lawsuit against the engine makers for merely meeting the rules). The resulting engines and trucks were half baked, causing higher prices, losses in fuel economy and many, many breakdowns. Eventually (around the original launch date) the manufacturers got all the issues sorted out. This convinced most people that the hot ticket was to buy the year before and let someone else deal with all of the hassles of owning the latest EPA experiment.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Soldiers are not policemen

The Nation:The Other War

The Occupation of Iraq has only lead to grief. Any foreign army facing an insurgency is going to do all sorts of things that increase the support for the insurgents. I remember when Republicans spoke disdainfully about Nation-building.

Same old song, next verse

Jame Wolcott riffs on Fred Thompson's video "appearance" at the National Right to Life conference (sort of a remix of the 1984 talking head with Father knows best):
I'm sorry I couldn't be with you in person, but all my good shirts are at the dry cleaner's.

That's the thing, the pro-life movement has accepted second class treatment from Republican Presidential Candidates and Presidents far too long. If they don't want to be seen with "our kind" why should we give votes to "their kind"?

Monday, July 09, 2007

If only it was a dilemma for business

Thomas Palley: The Profit vs.Country dilemma
Free market societies need separation between market and government, intermediated by constitutional democracy. In the 20th century many countries suffered from excessive government control over market activities, and they paid a heavy price. In the 21st century America risks paying a heavy price from the reverse problem of allowing excessive corporate influence over government.

This is a huge danger, yet it is off the political radar. One reason is that business funds both Republicans and Democrats, thereby silencing both. A second reason is that much of the public believes businessmen are smart and can run government well - after all they are rich. Put the two together, and it is easy to see why business executives move seamlessly from Wall Street and corporate boardrooms to top government policy offices on Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues.

We're coming around to the idea that what's good for corporate America is not always what's good for America when it comes to environmental policy, I wonder how long it will take this awareness to extend to trade policy?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ice Road Truckers

Caught the first 4 episodes tonight. Is it just me or is Hugh a bit of a whiner? He's always badmouthing his employees. If he really think his folks are all lazy and stupid then maybe he should go find somebody else to drive his clapped out trucks rather than gossiping like an old woman. It's not like there is a shortage of folks with HGV licenses in Canada.

Hollywood is out of Ideas

Superman Returns, Die Hard 4, Rocky whatever the hell number it is they are up to, and now Alvin and the Chipmunks

I wonder how long it's going to take for them to exhaust remotely viable old series (serieses?) to cannibalize for Movie ideas, my prediction for the next decade is they'll move to classic commercials for movie ideas, first up: Where's the Beef?: The Movie

A Wedged Bear in a Great Tightness

Stumbled on an interesting discussion between two historians about the future of US involvement in Iraq
Sally Marks: Whither Iraq?
A few people, including Senator Joseph Biden and General Anthony Zinni, worry that if we leave and Iraq explodes, the whole Middle East will explode as well. If that happens, we shall be immensely lucky if the only serious consequences for us are skyrocketing oil prices, leaving us nostalgic for the days when gas was only $3.50 a gallon and we could afford to heat our homes, and a global recession or depression. But we might not be so lucky, and our government–or another player--might commit a new blunder in Iraq, Iran, or elsewhere–which brings us to the worst case of all, nuclear war.

Of the nuclear powers, Russia alone is an oil exporter. However, though it no longer borders on Gulf states, it still considers the Persian Gulf part of its Near Abroad, meaning its backyard which it regards much as
the United States has long viewed the Caribbean. Of the others, China is extremely oil thirsty and a power to be taken seriously as it emulates American development of a century ago and quietly penetrates much of Africa economically while buying up our debt and financial firms. India is thirsty, too. Pakistan, to the east of Afghanistan, is Sunni, an oil importer with a precarious pro-American president and an army and intelligence leadership inclined toward Islamic fundamentalism. It and
India, both nuclear states, are perpetually on the brink of war over Kashmir. In the Middle East itself is Israel, nuclear and a likely monkey wrench in possible solutions. Then there is Europe, including two nuclear states (Britain and France) plus Germany, and the United States, as well as non-nuclear Japan. Historians famously do not predict, but it
is obvious that the scramble for oil or other unstable factors and perhaps blunders in the Middle East and related areas could create a crisis leading to a global explosion. Clearly, the time for oratory about victory or defeat is past. Concentration now should be on limiting the disaster and doing our utmost to ensure it does not turn into utter

Among the imponderables is the problem of Al Qaeda, which gained entry into Iraq during the chaos after our conquest and has since spread, becoming brutally inventive. We pursue it, but our main focus is on Baghdad, where progress is slow and the Iraqi army’s ability to hold what US forces gain is questionable. Along with other insurgencies, we must deal with Al Qaeda, though rhetoric about “If we don’t fight them there, we’ll have to fight them here” is nonsense. Al Qaeda will attempt further atrocities here, whatever we do in Iraq. Beyond pursuing it (preferably with the aid of tribal sheiks) and trying to train a reliable Iraqi army and police, if that is possible, we must restore the Gulf balance of power in order to keep the peace. For a year, I have queasily wondered whether we would end up with our troops in several heavily fortified bastions watching Iraqis slaughter each other. That is now being discussed. In any event, it seems unlikely that any American president will seriously consider full withdrawal in the next five or six years at least, given all the potential consequences.

David Kaiser: Options in Iraq
I certainly agree that the United States government has brought an almost unprecedented catastrophe upon us, similar in some ways to the Austro-Hungarian decision to attack Serbia without sufficient diplomatic preparation in 1914, although nowhere near as serious, since Iraq is not on our doorstep and since nations no longer field armies in the millions. However, it is possible--actually, I think, probable--that what we have done (which cannot in any case be undone) is to accelerate something that was already happening: the rise of Islamic fundamentalist movements and the eclipse of the regimes that have ruled much of the region in cooperation with western powers since the 1950s. This has been happening for a long time. Iran, of course, overthrew its American client ruler in 1979. Earlier, Iraq had become an anti-western, totalitarian state, albeit one that could play a role in maintaining a balance of power in the region (as she points out), and one which, alas, allowed most of its people to live normal and even productive lives while nurturing an active middle class--things which Iraqis (except in Kurdistan) are now unlikely to know for decades. Pro-western regimes have been losing ground in Egypt since Sadat's assassination, and the Saudi kingdom is in many ways not pro-western at all. Pakistan is heading down the same road. Meanwhile, Hamas and Hezbollah are gaining.

The issue we face is whether keeping troops in Iraq, as Prof. Marks wants to do, will help arrest this trend. I think it is far, far more likely to accelerate it. Western occupation is a terrifically effective target for Islamist movements. To put it bluntly, it proves (to millions of Arabs) that we are just as bad as they say we are. What we have in the non-Kurdish areas is our own version of the West Bank, but without settlers. There is no reason to believe that we shall be any more successful than the Israelis have been in securing popular Arab support for our presence or even in dealing with opposition. (Our intelligence is never going to be anywhere near as good as theirs.)

Iraq, she says, is fragile, but indispensable. Well, so was the Austro-Hungarian empire, as it turns out, but it died anyway. As Peter Galbraith has pointed out, Iraq for the moment is the only survivor of four multi-ethnic states created after the First World War, the others being Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union. There really is no evidence now that any major group in Iraq wants a truly united, pluralistic Iraq (although the Sunnis would like to return to the days that they ruled the roost and some Shi'ites would like to dominate the Sunnis.) I don't see any reason for the United States not to encourage a de facto partition, under some "autonomy" scheme, combined with some peaceful population transfers, before all the transfers are accomplished through mass violence.

The problem of course is getting loose without triggering the worst case scenario is going to be fiendishly difficult, akin to removing all of the cards of a Suit from a house of cards without collapsing the whole thing. Turkey's army is poised at the border, itching to take the war to the Kurds. Iran and Saudi are both involved in proxy war. Once we head for the door will will have no friends inside Iraq (or perhaps rather everyone will be honest about their friendship or lack thereof with the US). We are in a horrible predicament, one that is going to become more clear, and more dire, with the passage of time. Coupled with that, if the new president cannot get free, the domestic political dynamic is going to get even uglier.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Everyone is a temp now

Chicago Tribune: Layoff fears part of 'new normal' via Mish

Unemployment is lower for better-educated workers than for other workers, in good times as well as bad, federal data show. But college-educated workers lose jobs more often now than they did 20 years ago.

"It appears that there has been an upsurge in job-loss rates for more-educated workers in the early and mid-1990s and again in the new century," writes a leading job-loss researcher, Princeton University's Henry S. Farber. "Job-loss rates for other educational groups show a cyclical pattern but no upward trend."

Income loss is greater too. The average earnings decline including lost raises was 21 percent for workers forced to find new full-time jobs between 2001 and 2003, four times the mid-1990s rate, Farber found.

Ray Ercoli heads a career ministry at Barrington's Willow Creek Community Church. He added volunteers and services in 2001 to help unemployed high-tech workers, but people kept coming after the economy recovered.

"The need we see now are older workers losing their jobs after being employed 15 to 20 years, usually at one company," he says. Some have that "deer-in-the-headlights look. They're not sure they're going to be able to land another job."

The article is pretty disturbing. Frequent unexpected Job loss has been the scourge of the working class for years, now everyone seems to part of this story. Businesses are becoming less and less inhibited about purging older workers and engaging in continual churn to keep wages low. This is happening while more and more of the risks in health care and retirement are being fobbed off on workers.

Congress is led by its wallet

Jim Jubak:Congress Follows the Money on Energy
The names may change in Congress. Democrats may replace Republicans in the majority. But when it comes to energy legislation, the same rule always applies: Money talks.

So is it any surprise that agribusiness, a sector that gave $44.6 billion to Democratic and Republican candidates in the last election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, came out the big winner in the energy bill passed by the Senate on June 21? The oil-and-gas industry, which gave $19.1 billion as part of a natural-resources sector that gave $46.4 billion, didn't do too badly, either.

Never mind that Food prices are going through the roof thanks to the current Ethanol boondoggle and Energy Companies that are earning record profits somehow need tax breaks to stay in business (poor little rich boys, why they're regular Richie Riches)

Update: See also Mark Shea: What I mean by "Incestuous Political Class"

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A voice from the past

Claremont Review of Books: Sins of the Fathers (discussing Joseph Frank's analysis of Fyodor Dostoevsky's political thought)
Dostoevsky is a political thinker. It is one of the many merits of Frank's biography that he sees clearly that politics is a leading theme—in a sense, the dominant theme—of Dostoevsky's writings. Dostoevsky's deepest concern is the question of authority, who rules, and who should rule. Tentatively, we may say that his answer is that these four fathers should rule unconditionally and absolutely: God the Father; second, the fathers of God's church, such as Father Zossima; third, the Tsar, the father of his people; and fourth, the biological father, Karamazov.

.....Frank sees clearly that the novel equates the murder of Fyodor Karamazov and Ivan's revolt against God. Frank believes that this equation is a weakness in Dostoevsky's plot, and that it is not quite plausible, given the fundamental goodness of God's creation. But Frank fails to notice that the key to Dostoevsky's case for authority is that it is made in the teeth of what his own characters, and perhaps Dostoevsky himself, see as a serious question about God's justice. Anticipating Frank's analysis, and stating it more forcefully, Czeslaw Milosz observed (in his excellent essay "Dostoevsky and Western Intellectuals") that The Brothers is, at its heart, a meditation on the Russian intelligentsia's act of abolishing simultaneously the authority of God, the Tsar, and the paterfamilias.

Smerdyakov, the actual murderer, the illegitimate brother whose passions and countenance are altogether ugly, simply presents the true face of the intellectual Ivan, who is outwardly cultured, suave, and good-looking. Ivan is horrified as he discerns his own character with growing clarity. By the end of the novel, he goes insane. The crude and smirking Smerdyakov, consumed by hate, is the genuine expression of the liberal intelligentsia's revolt against the authority of the biological father, the father Tsar, the fathers of the Church, and God the Father. In this paternal foursome, the death of the authority of God the Father is the key to the deaths of the other three. For God the Father legitimizes all authority, according to Dostoevsky. When God's government is thrown into question, all government—that of the family, church, and state—is similarly upset.

In The Devils, Dostoevsky shows us the political future of Russia without the fatherhood of God and Tsar. In that novel, we see through the microcosm of a small provincial town what will happen when the leftist intellectuals take over in the name of socialism and communism. They are ruthless, they kill without a thought, they are willing to commit mass murder to realize their dreams. Their souls are at the farthest remove from the equality they preach. They are hateful tyrants.

It's an interesting way to tie together the threads of "tolerance" and the profound lack of tolerance manifested by its liberal proponents" . Of course Dostoevsky's remedy, absolute submission to paternal authority is flawed as well, which he acknowledges. It is also a little disconcerting that his belief in "submission" to the pater is eerily reminiscent of Islam (which from the other side is not that odd as both have a pre-Reformation philosophy).

Today we are threatened by the spawn of Benthamite liberalism in both the left's disdain for moral authority in personal morality and expression and the right's disdain for it in business and the limits to governmental power (at least when they hold Leviathan's reins). But going back to classical thought is not a clear path to safety. Dostoevsky may not know the way home but he at least knows how we wound up where we are.

Well at least he was driving a Prius

CNN:Gore's son free on bail, facing drug charges
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Former Vice President Al Gore's son is getting treatment following his arrest on suspicion of drug possession on Wednesday in Los Angeles, according to a Gore spokesman.

Marijuana and prescription drugs were found in the car Al Gore III was driving, police said.

Al Gore III, 24, was arrested in Los Angeles early Wednesday after he was stopped for speeding, according to a sheriff's department spokesman.

......According to Amormino, Gore was driving south about 2:15 a.m. in his Toyota Prius, going 100 mph on the San Diego Freeway, when authorities stopped him.

Just the juxtaposition of a Prius and 100MPH amused me. Perhaps that's symptomatic of the suburban "soft environmentalist" movement, using hybrids and other "green" technologies to do rather "ungreen" things. "Wow, with my new hybrid Lexus I can do my 80 mile commute without paying near so much for gas", etc.