Category Archives: Totty

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Rule Five Field-Dressing Whales Friday

On my last foray in Japan, I was able to partake in one of the Sendai area’s culinary specialties – whale.  Now I didn’t have to harvest and process the whale myself, and while eating whale was on my Japan bucket list, I have no interest in obtaining whale meat for myself.

However, I have had occasion over the last forty-odd years to field-dress a bunch of big-game critters, from javelina and antelope to elk.  It’s a messy process.  So, imagine doing the same with a whale.  Ugh.  Excerpt:

“First, we opened the whale to expose the lungs, intestines, and liver,” (marine biologist Aymara) Zegers explains. Fluids gushed from the incisions, forced out by the immense weight of overlying flesh. The team sampled the fluids, as well as tissues and stomach contents. “These can help determine the possible cause of death, for example as a result of heavy metals or microplastics or red tide organisms,” says Zegers.

The team also took skin for DNA testing and examined the whale’s ovaries. Although the ovaries were small, another indication that the whale was not yet fully mature, she was starting to ovulate—a sign that the young whale was moving into her reproductive phase and therefore of generally good health.

Now, with the necropsy complete, the defleshing team can get to work. Whale strandings are unpredictable events that cannot be programmed into schedules or budgets. Most of the workers are friends of the museum crew, volunteering time and muscle to this stinkiest of tasks in exchange for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The museum does not have access to flensing knives, the best tools for the job, so instead the volunteers use cheap kitchen knives that Zegers purchased on her way out of town.

The goal over the coming days is to remove as much of the flesh as possible. Then they will carve the skeleton into parcels of manageable size for transport to the museum. Some bones, such as the jawbones, parts of the skull, and the ribs, will separate from one another naturally. Other sections, such as the vertebrae, will be cut up by hand.

Have a read, examine the photos and video, and imagine that.  Now bear in mind that this is a reasonably fresh carcass; imagine one that has been fermenting a while, which I suppose cetacean biologists probably also have to deal with from time to time.  I imagine “ew” just doesn’t quite cover it.

I sure don’t envy these folks.

Now the whale I ate in Japan (OK, I didn’t eat the whole thing) was caught and processed by a “research” vessel that had, I feel certain, powered hoists, power tools and experienced staff.  Also the whales taken by Japanese fisheries are minkes, which are unlike blue whales in being smaller and much, much more plentiful.  I wouldn’t be have eaten blue whale; my personal preference is to eschew endangered species.  Minkes aren’t.  They are basically the cows of the sea.

But no matter what tools you have to hand, this is a huge, bloody job.  I admire the dedication of these cetacean biologists who undertook this enormous task.  My Stetson’s off to them.

Rule Five Economic Illiteracy Friday

Thanks once again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

The daffy old socialist from Vermont is once more up to his usual shenanigans, this time proposing a universal health care scheme estimated to cost more than the entire Imperial budget.  Excerpt:

Not only has Sanders’ office not done its own serious accounting for the Senator’s signature policy objective, the maligned “Koch-funded” piece of propaganda…closely reflected other academic estimates of single payer’s price tag.  Indeed, in our post yesterday, we cited a study by the left-leaning Urban Institute that ran the math and came up with a nearly identical cost projection — via the Washington Post:

The government’s price tag would be astonishing. When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) proposed a “Medicare for all” health plan in his presidential campaign, the nonpartisan Urban Institute figured that it would raise government spending by $32 trillion over 10 years, requiring a tax increase so huge that even the democratic socialist Mr. Sanders did not propose anything close to it.

When right-leaning and left-leaning think tanks produce strikingly similar calculations, perhaps we should sit up, pay attention, and take the results seriously. As for the “savings” canard, the Urban Institute analysis guesstimated that BernieCare would increase overall costs by more than $6 trillion over a decade, so how can Sanders claim that the Mercatus numbers point to a multi-trillion-dollar decrease?  Economist Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute, an expert on these matters, explains the context: “The claims of lower total economy-wide health savings only [materialize] because Blahous charitably accepted the Bernie assumption that we can lower all payment rates to Medicare payment rates,” Riedl tells me.

Here’s the conclusion:

When Blahous applied his institutional knowledge to the math, Sanders’ fanciful savings evaporated, and a higher tab of roughly $4 trillion over ten years emerged.  And notice — again — the relatively similar projections from both Blahous and the Urban Institute.  Riedl also notes that both entities’ analysis align closely with extrapolations from state-level estimates from Vermont and California, where single-payer schemes were abandoned by left-wing legislatures due to totally untenable costs.  We mentioned in our breakdown of Ocasio Cortez’s magical thinking that she did not propose anything even remotely approaching a plan to pay for all of this.

Well, there’s are a couple of obvious answers:

  1. We’ll just add a bunch of zeroes to the currency, and it will all work out.  (The Venezuela solution.)
  2. We’ll just borrow the money!  (The U.S. Congress solution.)

The usual answer to this involves the iron fist of government being employed to slash prices at gunpoint.  That results in fewer providers entering into medical career fields; it results in fewer facilities, it results in fewer companies manufacturing devices and drugs; it results in rationing.  See the formerly-Great Britian’s National Health Service for an example.

Our own Colorado voted down a single-payer solution.  California’s loony legislature abandoned a similar initiative after seeing the numbers.  Ditto for Vermont.  And, to be honest, the daffy old socialist from Vermont’s idea isn’t going anywhere at the Imperial level, either.  He will keep on campaigning for it; his self-awareness is so low that he’s handing the GOP a gift every time he speaks on the topic.

Not that that’s anything new for him.

Rule Five Fundamental Misunderstandings Friday

This guy has a serious, fundamental misunderstanding of what capitalism is.  Excerpts, with my comments, follows:

But the fact is, capitalism moves and energizes the modern world.

Sort of.  Unfettered, laissez-faire capitalism is not actually practiced anywhere in the modern world.  What we do have is a combination of cronyism and mercantilism.

And what capitalism values, our world does more of; what it doesn’t, we do less of.

Yes, this is true.  And that’s precisely how it should be.

Many of us feel like the activities of a normal life are becoming harder and harder to accomplish.

So, how many is many?  That’s a content-free assertion.  “Many” is very relative.  Three can be “many.”  I wouldn’t want to have three people standing on my tongue.  That would be too many.

So the question becomes: In a system where capitalism is a prime determinant of value, how can we preserve what we truly value as humans, what matters to us beyond money?

With free trade and free markets, obviously – in other words, capitalism.  And, as I’ve said before and will say again, there really is no “-ism” in laissez-faire capitalism; there is no underlying ideology other than liberty.  An honest free-market system consists of nothing more than free people deciding, freely, for themselves what to do with their money, their talents, skills and resources.

Here’s where the author, one Andrew Yang, goes off the rails, in defining his “reformed” capitalism:

Human capitalism would have a few core tenets:
1. Humanity is more important than money.

Again, a content-free statement.  That means precisely nothing; you can’t quantify it or even define it.

2. The unit of an economy is each person, not each dollar.

See above.

3. Markets exist to serve our common goals and values.

This is real dinger.  Yang seems to be of the stripe that “people should be free to make choices, as long as the choices are ones I approve of.”

There are no common goals or values.  Only individuals have goals and values, and those may vary widely.  You can’t define common goals or values and assign them without the iron hand of government telling people what to do.  Quis custodiet ipsos custodes applies here; there is no way to have markets “serve our common goals and values” without someone in power deciding what those common goals and values are, and imposing those goals and values on the population as a whole.

There’s only one answer to such a suggestion:  Fuck off, slaver.

Rule Five Space Force Friday

Do we need a space force – a space navy, if you will – to protect commerce from Earth orbit to the Moon and beyond?  The serving Top Man at NASA thinks so.  Excerpt:

NASA’s administrator is a strong defender of President Donald Trump’s proposals for space — including an armed force and a permanent presence on the moon — and says he wants Americans to realize how much their well-being depends on what happens far above Earth.

“Every banking transaction requires a GPS signal for timing,” Jim Bridenstine said in an interview. “You lose the GPS signal and guess what you lose? You lose banking.”

“If you look at what space is, it’s not that much different than the ocean,” added Bridenstine, who made 333 aircraft-carrier landings as a Navy pilot. “It’s an international domain that has commerce that needs to be protected.”

Bridenstine was in his third term representing a congressional district in Oklahoma when Trump nominated him to lead the $21 billion space agency. He was confirmed in the spring despite criticism over his lack of scientific or engineering experience and his previous statements questioning climate change science — though he said in hearings that human activity was the chief cause of global warming.

Last summer, when he was still in Congress, Bridenstine supported a measure that would have created a “space corps.” It passed the House but was removed from the final defense spending bill. Then last month, Trump called for the Pentagon to develop a sixth branch of the American armed services that would protect national and commercial interests in space.

I’m of mixed feelings on this one.

Pros:

  1. The kid in me, who loved Star Trek, thinks the very idea is just cool as hell.  Were I younger, I’d join up.
  2. There will eventually be commerce in space; there are just too many riches out there (asteroid belt, for example, a wealth of rare earths and precious metals) and that commerce will need to be protected.
  3. If the United States isn’t the first to do this, someone else will be.

Cons:

  1. We’re broke.  How the hell are we going to pay for it?
  2. We’re broke.  How the hell are we going to pay for it?
  3. We’re broke.  How the hell are we going to pay for it?

I have a novel idea, though; there’s another way to skin this particular cat.  As noted, there are a wealth of resources around the Solar System, much of it inside the orbit of Jupiter, that private enterprise will eventually want to go get.  OK, I’m in favor of private enterprise, and have long held that when practical space travel is developed, it will be private enterprise that does it.  So, OK, let those private organizations develop their own armed ships and security forces, as a cost of doing business in, say, the asteroid belt.

“But Animal,” you might ask, “what happens in the event of a conflict with another nation, a nation that has their own forces in space?”  Simple answer, one that goes back to the 18th century; give the private ships a letter of marque to conduct offensive operations under the U.S. flag.  Resurrect the concept of the privateer.

Seems like the answer to me.  Thoughts?