Saturday, December 31, 2005
To break the tension, Fermi began offering anyone listening a wager on "whether or not the bomb would ignite the atmosphere, and if so, whether it would merely destroy New Mexico or destroy the world."
Now can anyone in the class tell us why it is a weakly dominated strategy to bet that the world will be destroyed?
I don't have the Dawkins book I've been reading with me now, so I can't quote directly, but in it he recaps the argument he made in The Selfish Gene: humans are "really" just survival machines for genes, which discard us when we have served their "purpose." He even presents a little song he penned celebrating this fact for a conference.
Now, I've gotten a few letters on my recent columns to the effect, "Leave the biology to the experts." But my point has been that the biologists have not been leaving the philosophy to the experts, and, indeed, have often not even recognized when they have left the realm of biology and entered that of philosophy. One thing philosophers are trained to do is sort out bad arguments from good ones. So let's see which category Dawkins falls into.
The form of the argument is: X and Y are closely related entities. (E.g., a human and his genes.) But while Xs come and go, Y endures through this series of new relata. (E.g., the same gene can appear in generation after generation of people.) And, somehow, the existence of Y depends on X. Therefore, the purpose of X is to maintain the existence of Y.
So, let's try out that form with some other contents. Theaters and plays are closely connected. But while plays come and go, theaters endure through scores of different shows. Obviously, theaters need plays to stay open. Therefore, the purpose of plays is to support theaters!
No, wait, let me try another: Autos and trips by motorcar are closely connected. But one auto endures through many trips. And if there were no possibility of travel by car, there would be no autos. Therefore, the purpose of car travel is to maintain the existence of automobiles!
In short, the argument is rubbish. That Y lasts through a succession of Xs says nothing at all about any purposeful relationship between them.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
I think Gene is saying the following: The Darwinists claim that the first living cell gave rise to all terrestrial organisms through an undirected process of mutation and adaptation through natural selection. The ID people object to this and claim (a) that certain steps in the process are wildly improbable and hence (b) an intelligent designer must be controlling the whole thing.
Now Gene's point is that there is an element of truth (and hence, falsity) in both camps. For what if God set up the initial conditions of the universe such that the "improbable" steps had to occur? In that scenario, the Darwinians who watched a video of the origin of life would come away vindicated, but the ID people would also be correct in their criticisms. What's going on is that each side is making a metaphysical claim that goes beyond the natural facts.
I'm amazed that this never occurred to me before, but the most important part of Darwinian theory--the non-teleological character of evolution--is completely untestable.
Gene, have I got your views correctly?
(NOTE: When I say I changed my mind, I don't mean that I now endorse the theory of common descent. I just mean that I originally thought Gene's criticisms of ID were silly, but now I realize what Gene's saying. It's particularly ironic that I didn't see the point myself, since it's very similar to my own attempt to prove that miracles by definition don't violate natural laws.)
What's remarkable about this is that it is does not jibe with a literal reading of Genesis 1 or 2!
In Genesis 1, we learn that on day six: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."
So that's not the beginning -- that's day six! Of course, maybe Christ didn't literally mean the beginning...
Then in Two we read:
"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made."
"And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof.
And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man."
So this disagrees with both Christ and Genesis One! In Genesis Two, man and woman were not created together on day six (like Genesis One) or at the beginning, as Christ said, but one man was created before day seven, and sometime later a woman was created.
Yes, I'm sure fundamentalists have worked out some elaborate evasion about how these three literal readings don't "really" contradict each other. I also expect there is some fundamentalist out there somewhere explaining how it really is biologically possibly to create a woman from a man's rib!
In any case, the is a problem for a Christian here only if Christ's words were meant literally -- and to insist that they were just begs the question on the table!
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
(1) A response to Norman Podhoretz's defense of George Bush's honesty on WMD.
(2) My reaction to the Intelligent Design ruling.
(3) Some quick thoughts on the torture/domestic spying stuff.
Monday, December 26, 2005
From this article, where this physics graduate (so an expert in evolutionary biology) refers to Intelligent Design (ID) proponents as "nuts" and "people without scientific backgrounds," you wouldn't know that ID is endorsed by plenty of people with PhDs in relevant areas, such as chemistry, geology, etc.
Mark my words, folks: If one had to choose between the Bible thumpers and the extreme Darwinists, I think the former are closer to the truth. I'm not saying the Genesis account is a perfect description of what happened, but I believe that within 50 years, the theory of common descent will finally break under the mounting pressure. Don't listen to that old codger Gene. I hear he's an alcoholic.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Friday, December 23, 2005
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
It prompted a Popper-style "bold conjecture" on my part: There never have been live giant squids! The ocean just emits giant squid corpses from time to time.
Also, see Kinsley on Roe Vs. Wade. On this topic, the "right to privacy" angle has always struck me as disingenuous. If you really believe in a right to privacy, Roe supporters, then tell me which is more private:
1) A person who grows a pot plant in their fenced-in backyard and then smokes it in their bedroom; or
2) A person who goes into a large hospital and has an operation involving numerous medical personnel, herself, a fetus, and, to an extent, whomever got her pregnant.
Pretty obviously, 1) is a lot more private. Yet we never see the Roe defenders trying to extend the principle to that scenario.
And one more: let's hear it for the Second Vermont Republic.
Monday, December 19, 2005
"If evolution was wrong, it would not be accepted by scientists."
Right, just like if geocentrism was wrong, it would not have been accepted by scientists for 2000 years, and if phlogiston theory was wrong, it would not have dominated chemistry for a century, and if there was no ether, that concept would not have been used to explain light for 100 years, and scientists never would have spent several decades ridiculing the theory that beer fermentation depended on a living organism...
Defending evolution is one thing, but the above is silly science worship. (I'll also note that the folks at Talk Origins seem to blur the difference between the theory that life evolved from a common ancestor over hundreds of millions of years, the evidence for which I find compelling, and the sub-theory that it evolved solely by natural selection of random mutations, a far shakier proposition, IMHO.)
"Or do you really think that we are smart enough to work on things like cancer treatments, while at the same time being so stupid that we can't understand a basic algebraic proof that shows the impossibility of evolution?"
The version of the above circa 1550: "Do you really think we could construct great cathedrals and castles and trebuchets and aqueducts and be so stupid we couldn't understand a simple proof that geocentrism is wrong?"
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Another point that would buttress this guy's argument is that some Christians imagine heaven to be singing the praises of God (to His face) for eternity. Now if you're a skeptic you might think, "That sounds boring." But that's because you're not really taking the theist position seriously. Imagine if you were literally in the presence of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent Being. What better use of your time could you devise than announcing all of His achievements, including logic, mathematics, beauty, love, truth, the laws of Nature...Well, I could go on and on. (Ha ha, get it?)
Friday, December 16, 2005
Thursday, December 15, 2005
"A weather expert says December 2005 is on pace to become one of the 10 coldest in more than 100 years, despite claims at a global conference on climate change this week that the Earth is getting warmer."
(Hat tip to Benny Peiser.)
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
When I ran this idea by TT Tom, he speculated, "You'll be shot for annoying the cop that much." But seriously, what is the legal status of such behaviour? I imagine that you can do the exact same actions as if you were on the phone, but not be subject to any penalty.
Friday, December 09, 2005
Besides the council members who want to keep their jobs, the change is strongly supported by "union leaders and party bosses," who want to establish longer term relationships with council members. Hey, it's a real drag having to re-bribe new councilors every few years!
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Monday, December 05, 2005
'But any number of things, good or bad, can cause an increase in national income. The monetization of the subsistence and barter economy, caused by expropriating the producing classes and coercing them into the labor market, can show up as an exponential increase in "national income." If somebody figures out how to suck air out of the atmosphere, bottle it up, and sell it back to workers as an alternative to suffocation, that'll probably kick the "national income" up a few notches. Not everything that increases "national income" is good (these people have heard of the broken window fallacy, right?).'
I've put together a compendium of conservatives on drugs. That's a double entendre, and the other entendre will come soon enough. I think you see where I'm going with this...
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Thursday, December 01, 2005
And why don't we have a law against changing the radio station or rewinding a CD while driving? (Note: If you are a New York State legislator, please be aware that the previous sentence is an example of sarcasm.)
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Civil War-Sino-Japanese War 1923-1949 = 3,466,000 murdered
Rule over China (PRC) 1949-1987 = 76,000,000 murdered
Boy, the US sure did the Chinese a big favour by "liberating" them from the Japanese and handing them over to Mao, didn't it?
This Misesian style of analyzing action is common in the history of philosophy -- you can find it in Aristotle, in Kant, in Augustine, in Aquinas, and, apparently, in Buddhism. It is only those indoctrinated in the scientistic philosophy trendy at the moment who find Mises's approach quirky or idiosyncratic.
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Today is marked by the crazies as Buy Nothing Day in your part of the world (and Japan). Yesterday was Buy Nothing Day in the U.S. and Canada (my neck of the woods).
But don't worry, you won't be alone. I will go and buy stuff here in solidarity with you. Maybe some garbage bags, maybe a cup of tea, maybe a hat or a scarf, or this t-shirt. Hey, every day is a good day to enjoy capitalism.
There are plenty of Biblical passages where Christians are instructed to forgive, regardless of the contrition or not of the trangressor. Also, one can forgive without "forgetting," in the sense that you could still not let a murderer babysit your kids, even though you forgave him for his previous crimes.
It's particularly interesting that Ilana (we know each other--I'm not using her first name because she's a woman) took this tack, because I think this is actually one of the major differences between Judaism and Christianity. In my view, God basically said to humans: "Okay, you want a list of necessary and sufficient conditions for moral behavior? Read Deuteronomy. You can't do it, huh? OK, so just love Me and love each other."
Friday, November 25, 2005
My dissertation at the LSE was on the economics of happiness. Somewhere along the way I guess I was convinced that we could measure happiness or, at least, give a 'good enough' account of it. And, since some prominent economists--especially Richard Layard who let me use a manuscript version of his book "Happiness" as I was doing research--are using happiness data to plump for more statism, I thought throwing a wrench into those works would be a good idea.
A synopsis: We're (Westerners) wealthier, healthier, and more educated, but we're no happier than we were 60 years ago. People call this a paradox. They don't really bother too much about the fact that something like 80 per cent of us claim to be 'happy,' which compares favourably with any other non-capitalist nation you care to pick. The solution to the paradox is that, after some point, what matters is relative, not absolute, income. So since the Jones's also have more, none of us are much happier by way of comparison. That's the story.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
The two problems with wealth maximization as a norm are:
1) The notion of "society's wealth" is itself incoherent. We can say how wealthy an individual is because he potentially could sell his assets on the market, and we can make a good guess as to what amount of money their sale would bring. But who is "society" going to sell its assets to?
2) It recommends any policy that increases some measure of wealth, whatever the means it employs. I have no doubt that the US could increase the material wealth available to residents by forcing unemployed people into slave labor camps. The "goodness" of such a policy is the necessary conclusion of the wealth-maximization criterion, and it is only met by a lot of evasion on the part of those advocating it.
One of them declared to me "it's the best measure we have." But if the "best measure we have" is rubbish, then why not just admit that we can't measure anything resembling "social wealth." We're the folks who showed this can't be done, remember? It's as though, after proving you can't build a perpetual motion machine, we then signed onto a project designed to create one, because "it's the best effort available."
Ben Powell -- an Austrian who hasn't forgotten what the core of our views is -- offered the following tale to the two wealth maximizers:
A young economist travels to a remote, seaside Mexican village. While hanging around the docks, he spies a local fisherman coming ashore with a great catch. He stops the fellow and asks him what he does for a living.
"I fish for a couple of hours a day."
"Then what do you do with the rest of your time?"
"I go home, have a little tequila, make love to my wife, and then play some music in the cafes at night."
"No, no," the economist says, "this is no good. You're a great fisherman, and we're going to make you wealthy. First thing is to get you some employees and more boats. Then we'll get you a contract with an American cannery. Next, you'll open your own canneries in California. Soon, you'll be the top fish supplier in the world. You'll be a multimillionaire."
"And then what will I do?"
"Why, you can retire to a little seaside Mexican village, fish for a couple of hours a day, go home, drink a little tequila, make love to your wife, and then go out and play in the cafes at night!"
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Friday, November 18, 2005
Or, in another sample:
Guy #1: What time is it?
Guy #2: One o'clock.
Guy #1: What? How long has it been one?
Guy #2: Less than a minute?
About half a block later, I came upon a restaurant with a sandwich board outside of it listing the day's specials. The lunch special was the "Kobe Burger."
The burger you just can't say no to.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Monday, November 14, 2005
The website turned out to have all sorts of "Jaworski" references. But they wouldn't let me take a closer peek inside any of the supposed "Archives" or "family photos" and so on. In fact, there appears to be an "International Jaworsk Family News."
And then I saw this as the address bar:
Changing the variable after "name=" to some other nifty things yielded (just as I suspected) this, this, and this.
Ha ha ha. Stupid web shells.
"He was 6 feet tall," she said. "He could have done something horrible my granddaughter and me. That's exactly the reason you need to learn how to handle (a firearm) and keep it with you."In more good news today, Canadians don't trust their government. Or so says a poll. What's amazing isn't that "only" 27 per cent of Canadians trust their government to do the right thing mostly or always, but that a full 27 per cent do trust the rogues. Have a quarter of my fellow Canadians been hiding under rocks the last little while? Why isn't this number hovering around 10 to 12 per cent (the percentage representing civil servants and politicians)?
In cool news, it turns out that there are about 2,000 Canadian-specific words. You can take a look at a few of them here. Just the other day, for instance, I was talking to my buddy David Faraci about train tickets. I asked him "how much is the fare return?" He was confused. When I told him I meant, 'how much was the ticket to go to your location and come back to where you started from?' he informed me that Americans don't say "return." They say "round-trip." Now, we say "round-trip" too, but we also say "return."
Other Canada-specific turns of phrase or words include: shit disturber (you Americans or Brits say "shit stirrer," which sucks compared to shit disturber.) I guess we say "Chesterfield" to mean couch, but I've never said that. "Double-double" means two cream and two sugar in your coffee. I didn't know that was distinctly Canadian. To "deke" out your opponent is to get past them by way of a trick, or fancy stick- or foot-work. We call a warm hat a "tuque," and they're "serviettes" where I'm from, not always napkins. Then there's "dick all" to mean nothing, and a two-four to mean a case of beer (this goes out to the moron border guard from many moons ago who asked me what alcohol I was bringing across the border. I told him I had a two-four, and he frowned like he was confused and asked in this snarky [that's Canadian too!] voice, "what's that?" I told him twenty four beer. He lectured me that that was a "case of beer." I should have shoved each one up his ass. Instead, I said "yes.")
Sunday, November 13, 2005
That reminds me of a joke Jan Lester told me.
A man hates onions, but, unfortunately, lives in a country where they are a part of almost every dish. His doctor, who knows about the man's dislike and the troubles it causes him, during a check-up is pleased to inform the fellow, "I've got a solution to your problem!"
"What's that?" the man asks.
"There's a new drug out. If I put you on it for a few weeks, you'll love onions!"
"But I don't want to love onions!"
"And why not?"
Friday, November 11, 2005
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Monday, November 07, 2005
But little Justin was being uncharacteristically quiet, so when the teacher prodded him about his father, he replied:
"My father's an exotic dancer in a gay cabaret and takes off all his clothes in front of other men and they put money in his underwear. Sometimes, if the offer is really good, he will go home with some guy and make love with him for money."
The teacher, obviously shaken by this statement, hurriedly set the other children to work on some exercises and then took little Justin aside to ask him, "Is that really true about your father?"
"No," the boy said, "He works for the Republican National Committee and helped re-elect George Bush, but I was too embarrassed to say that in front of the other kids."
(Circulating the Internet via e-mail.)
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Monday, October 31, 2005
Saturday, October 29, 2005
I captured some moments in pixels...for you, dear readers.
But my favorite moment will last only in memory. In the middle of the storm, I watched a fellow walk down his steps dressed only in shorts, shoes and a BIKE HELMET. A cigarette was dangling from his mouth a la Keith Richards. In his arms was a rotten jack-o-lantern. He walked to the middle of the intersection, lifted the pumpkin over his head, and then smashed it on the street. Without checking his grand work, he turned around and nonchalantly walked back up the stairs into his apartment.
Friday, October 28, 2005
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Monday, October 24, 2005
Sunday, October 23, 2005
That pretty much blows the government's cover story, that its motivation for taking this step is concern for the health of non-smokers. If no significant amount of smoke enters the non-smoking area, no further health benefits possibly could come from making the smokers' ghetto "as unpleasant as possible." No, it's obvious the purpose of the measure is to punish smokers for affronting Blair's Puritans by enjoying tobacco.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
I got to thinking. Why did Empire so obviously not want to do the repair? Do they just make their money off estimates? Not a bad business that but how long can you pay for relentless ads on those amounts?
I have no idea who is behind these "acts of terror". I have no idea if they are even related, but I do know it is costing Americans millions of dollars to deal with these non-problems. It would be so easy for foreign or domestic terrorists to seriously harm the economy without having to spend very much time or money. Just call a plausible threat into Al-Jazeera or forget a backpack on the El in Chicago and the harm is done. Cheap and efficient.
Meanwhile, an actual bombing basically goes unreported in the Media. After a passing mention in the national news outlets, the tragic story of the University of Oklahoma Suicide Bomber is almost undetectable outside the Blogosphere. Had the bomber not been turned away at the stadium, this would've been top news for weeks and still deserves more scrutiny, especially with a mysteriously appearing suicide note. (Note: in the story above there was no suicide note "discovered" at the time of publication.) Also, smaller but real explosive devices have appeared at Georgia Tech and UCLA student housing. Sure, those were "kids just being kids", but you can't lose a finger from a misplaced backpack or silly phone call...just billions of dollars.
Puzzled, he asked, "I do?"
"Sure -- I get about half way through a sentence, and you say, 'Shut up, Gene.'"
Monday, October 17, 2005
Lest you think this is merely of academic interest, consider the stakes: the Pentagon last week revealed that it is spending money to train certain scientists how to write screenplays for thrillers related to their specialties. Why? Because the status of science has sunk so low that the government needs these disciplines to become sexy again among students or the brain drain will threaten national security. One of the reasons we have fewer science majors is the pernicious right-wing notion that conventional biology is vaguely atheistic.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Have you seen these stupid posters at the airport? So you're telling me that if John Smith goes up to the janitor and asks, "Where's Billy's desk?" the janitor will say, "It's in room 304, fourth row, 2nd from the left"?
Yes, the janitor knows where a particular kid's desk is, in the same way that in a Hitchcock movie all of the guests at the deserted mansion know where the killer is--i.e. in the house with them. But they don't know which particular person is the killer.
(I know, I know, I'm getting too epistemological with the poster that just wants everyone to be an involved parent. I should stop blogging and go play catch with my son.)
In 1905, in part because of the Platt Amendment, there was an uprising to which the United States responded by occupying Cuba for three years. A 1934 treaty reaffirming the lease granted Cuba and her trading partners free access through the bay, modified the lease payment from $2,000 in U.S. gold coins per year, to the 1934 equivalent value of $4,085 in U.S. Treasury Dollars , and added a requirement that termination of the lease requires the consent of both governments, or the abandonment of the base property by the United States.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Monday, October 10, 2005
I think many misunderstandings are like that -- we hear each other's words fine, but we are using two different frameworks for understanding what is being said.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
"That Macedonian bastage better flee town before the Athenians commit a second crime against philosophy but good."
But I guess they didn't mean that first edition.
But this case crumbles like a house of cards at the slightest touch of a finger to its weak point: Minarchists are asking the populace to solve a much worse public goods problem than the one they started out with. If people cannot work out a solution to the problem of petty criminals' depredations that handles the issue of free riders, then how in the world are they going to solve it when it involves defense against a state to which they have surrendered all of the large weapons, all legal authority, and tremendous resources (from taxation)?
Of course, people can ad do solve these problems, otherwise the 1989 revolutions in Europe would have beeen impossible. And, just so, they can solve the initial problems as well.
As Anthony de Jasay put it, the minimal state is either unnecessary or impossible.
Friday, October 07, 2005
Zod is running for president in 2008. (Hat tip to Rob Dodson.
Harriet Miers has plenty of experience. Knowing George Bush.
Exercise tips from the same site:
There is a vast array of equipment designed to simulate aerobic activities such as running. These machines are essential for those of you who live in cloud cities where the only streets are those made of vapor and traversed by wizards. Otherwise, go outside for God’s sake.
And did you know there is a sport called chessboxing?
Will Wilkinson make fools of those blaming Bush's "economic libertarianism" for the New Orleans disaster.
The cat's out of the bag.
What's up with Thomas?
And I thought this was a joke at first. (It's not.)
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
X: What wilst thou make or cause, to perform or carry out? thou wilst not kill me unlawfully and with malice? Assistance, assistance, ho!
Y: What, ho! Assistance! Assistance! Assistance!
Z: How now! Any of several kinds of black, brown or grey, long-tailed rodents, resembling, but larger than, the mouse? No longer living, for a coin of silver, no longer living!
Y: O, I am killed by violence!
Prize for the first to answer: a one year supply of veeta-vita-veja juice!
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
So fed up with reaching for the remote every time the advert appears, I emailed Ford to let them know how vulgar and low class I think the commercial is. They wrote back to tell me that:
By buying commercial time on top-rated shows, we are not making judgment on the specific content of the show but simply making an optimized attempt to reach our many customers through award-winning television programming.
The content of the show??? I guess they were too busy watching the cootchie footage to bother reading my email before posting a form letter. I could get too busy to bother buying another Ford in the future myself. I wonder how sexy that would sound to their financial division. You know, sometimes bad publicity is BAD.
I'll try one more time: FORD! Stop running that inane commercial that everyone HATES.
"Study Italian in Italy
Language courses in Italy - selected universities and academies. Courses and programs in Madrid,
Barcelona, Salamanca and Marbella. Links and information."
On the topic of language, Umberto Eco tells (in Mourse or Rat?) of being given a copy of a book translated into Italian without having the original. The translation said that the first American scientists gathered to create the A-bomb began by conducting corse di treni. He was immediately suspicious as to why "persons who were supposed to discover the secrets of the atom wasted their precious time..." by racing trains. He changed the text to read the Italian equivalent of "training courses," and recommended the translator be fired.
Monday, October 03, 2005
Sunday, October 02, 2005
I immediately asked for a one day extension.
Saturday, October 01, 2005
Friday, September 30, 2005
Good work, Redmond!
Thursday, September 29, 2005
E: Well, Chelsea is really putting on the pressure now.
S: Gree, aiy, oon kenny graws by inkly wee doon griscombe.
E: Yes, Angus, as you say, if the Liverpool striker gets another yellow card, they're in deep trouble.
S: Doan mekely a gong tee ave it scummin mee nutmeg.
E: Well put, Angus, well put.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"
His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the president sits, head in hands.
Finally, the President looks up and asks...
"How many is a brazillion?"
(Thanks to Dick the Weasel for passing this on.)
Well, duh, if you're going to treat it as a sport, those rakes, pitchforks, etc. are going to hurt a lot of people.
Monday, September 26, 2005
When the staff in the home he lived in tried to tell him of his condition, he replied, "That's ridiculous -- if I was blind, wouldn't I be the first one to know about it?"
My ring and shoes vanished under the guise of morning.
I saw the devilish look in the serpent's eye as his spiny tongue wrapped around my body. My legs felt as if they were being stabbed with a thousand tiny needles.
After I took the needle from its place, I pryed my father's bones from the floor and put them in my satchel.
As I reached the mountain's top I took my father's bones and held them to the ground. The people of the earth relinquished their skins and flesh taken over the years of people passing over their home. The skins attached the bones and rose, forming into the figure of a man I knew from when I was young.
I saw the familiar clearing with my fathers chopping block and the axe he used for splitting wood on the ground beside it. Home. I ran through the trees, the wind in my ears, my breath leaving my throat in heavy huffs, my feet slapping the earth beneath the trees of these woods, these woods that had stood between myself and my home for so long.
Before I entered my home my brothers came out, and, thinking I was a peddler, asked how much the jade I carried was worth.
The soil on my skin turned into sprinkles of gold dust. The people proclaimed me some kind of god.
The needle from my tongue flung towards the lying man and struck him in the heart. It gave him poison at the place where it would hurt the most, and soon the man became a limp purple figure of stone.
I was offered a place in the palace, but I could not accept. I wanted to be with the mountain; I felt it move under my skin as I knew part of me was in the mountain too.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
This fellow wrote a letter to the editor, the gist of which was that God had arranged day and night during Creation, and man shouldn't be fiddling around with God's work. I really couldn't get my mind around what the fellow thought was happening -- did he believe that the US Congress was adjusting the Earth's orbit so as to actually alter day and night? Or, was it that, while creating day and night, God had also decreed that the middle of the first be called "noon," and of the latter "midnight"? Then what about all those people who don't speak English? Are they guilty of some form of temporal sinning?
And that reminds me of a story my wife told me. It was early January, and she was in her office. Her colleague mentioned how cold it was. She said, "Yeah, it is, but at least the days are getting longer."
He looked at her incredulously. "No they're not -- they're getting shorter!"
She was trying to convince him that the days had started getting longer just before Christmas, but to no avail, when a second co-worker joined in, saying, "You know, she's right -- the days are getting longer now, and the nights shorter, but not by the same amount."
Not by the same amount? Where was the difference going?
And that reminds me of a story I hope Woody will post in the comments.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
"And it would be just the same if the pupil cast doubt on the uniformity of nature, that is to say on the justification of inductive arguments. - The teacher would feel that this was only holding them up, that this way the pupil would only get stuck and make no progress. - And he would be right. It would be as if someone were looking for some object in a room; he opens a drawer and doesn't see it there; then he closes it again, waits, and opens it once more to see if perhaps it isn't there now, and keeps on like that. He has not learned to look for things.
"But imagine people who were never quite certain of these things, but said that they were very probably so, and that it did not pay to doubt them. Such a person, then, would say in my situation: "It is extremely unlikely that I have ever been on the moon", etc., etc. How would the life of these people differ from ours? For there are people who say that it is merely extremely probable that water over a fire will boil and not freeze, and that therefore strictly speaking what we consider impossible is only improbable. What difference does this make in their lives? Isn't it just that they talk rather more about certain things that the rest of us?"
And that is essentially the position of the Popperians: they use induction just like the rest of us do, but they simply insist on talking about it in an obscure and convoluted fashion.
A major research institution (MRI) has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest chemical element yet known to science. The new element has been tentatively named "Govermentium."
Govermentium has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 225 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 313. These 313 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.
Since govermentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of govermentium causes one action to take over 4 days to complete when it would normally take less than a second.
Govermentium has a normal half-life of 2 years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, govermentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause some morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to speculate that govermentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical Morass."
Witness the Kelo decision, where the homes of poorer residents were seized for private development. Wikipedia notes that when the case came before the Supreme Court, "The NAACP, AARP and the late Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference... signed an amicus brief arguing that eminent domain has often been used against politically weak communities with high concentrations of minorities and elderly."
Too late, my friends! If you had stood up for the property right of a restaraunt owner or landlord to reject customers for any reason whatsoever, maybe you would have had a chance in Kelo.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Records show the AMO was cool from 1900-1925, warm from 1926-1969, cool from 1970-1994 and warm since 1995.
Climatologists look at those dates and realize a generation of Americans is virtually blind to the true threat of hurricanes, having never experienced a major hurricane firsthand, at least until last year's four Florida hurricanes.
"During the time when so few hurricanes hit North America, we as a society framed decisions about land use, construction standards and other aspects of our lives around the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico," wrote FIU's Willoughby last fall. "Built into those plans was the unstated assumption that hurricanes would continue to stay away from our shores as they had for the last third of a century."
Another expert said the hurricane seasons of the 1940s, in the heart of the last AMO warm phase, would stun today's Floridians.
"Imagine variations of 2004 occurring every year for 10 years," said Roger Pielke Jr., a University of Colorado professor who studies risk and has written a book about hurricanes.
Moreover, some researchers say records for the 1940s and earlier may undercount that era's storms because reconnaissance flights and hovering satellites still were in their infancies.
"We don't know what was going on out in the middle of the ocean," Willoughby said.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Dear People of Earth,
We Plutonians are deeply offended by all this blabber about Pluto not really being a planet. Cut it out now, or suffer the consequences.
People of Pluto
Friday, September 16, 2005
In an interview, Dr. James O'Brien, hurricane expert at Florida State, was asked "Do you think that global warming has had an affect on the intensity of hurricanes?"
"Absolutely not. All of the people who are hurricane scientists or teach about hurricanes at the graduate level that I've talked to agree with me."
Hurricannes were stronger in the late 19th century than today:
Accumlated Cyclone Energy (combines the numbers of systems, how long
they existed and how intense they became) -
1969 158 1877 73
1970 34 1878 181
1971 97 1879 64
1972 28 1880 131
1973 43 1881 59
1974 61 1882 63
1975 73 1883 67
1976 81 1884 72
1977 25 1885 58
1978 62 1886 166
1979 91 1887 182
1980 147 1888 85
1981 93 1889 104
1982 29 1890 33
1983 17 1891 116
1984 71 1892 116
1985 88 1893 231
1986 36 1894 135
1987 34 1895 69
1988 103 1896 136
1989 135 1897 55
1990 91 1898 113
1991 34 1899 150
1992 75 1900 84
1993 39 1901 93
1994 32 1902 33
1995 227 1903 102
1996 166 1904 25
1997 40 1905 28
1998 182 1906 163
1999 177 1907 13
2000 116 1908 95
2001 106 1909 92
2002 66 1910 64
2003 175 1911 36
86.6 ACE 93.9 ACE
Hat tip to Benny Peiser.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
"To get a rough estimate of the temperature in degrees fahrenheit, count the number of [cricket] chirps in 15 seconds and then add 37. The number you get will be an approximation of the outside temperature."
So whenever you don't hear a cricket chirping, it's roughly 37 degrees!
First of all, what's wrong with asking whatever price strikes one's fancy for a good one owns? If a gas station wants to ask $1,000,000 a gallon for regular, isn't that its right as the owner of the gas?
Secondly, if gas stations or oil compannies or whoever can "ignore supply and demand" and still sell their product at a price set by their whim, then why in the world would they wait for a crisis to raise prices? Why didn't they raise them to $3.40 a year ago, or ten years ago? Are the managers so stupid that they don't realize a crisis is the worst time for them to raise prices, since everyone will shout about gouging?!
The whole concept of gouging is complete rubbish.
Monday, September 12, 2005
Friday, September 09, 2005
"Somalia has no functioning government, and therefore no regulations or licensing requirements for businesses, and no taxes on businesses or individuals. Those wishing protection from bandits may voluntarily pay warlords or security guards, and private courts resolve disputes. Since the collapse of the government, businesses have been doing much better. Though Somalia continues to be a poor country, the number of individuals living in abject poverty has diminished— surpassing its neighbors in this respect."
Want to help the poor? Get rid of the governnment!
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Let the people back in. They will bring out the survivors. They will tell you FASTER where the attics serving as tombs are. They will clean their streets and bring in necessary supplies. What are you afraid of Mayor Nagin? That these 10,000 will vote you out of office? Someday you'll have to let the citizens of New Orleans back in. Let real order return. Let it return now.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
It's either fortune or fame
You must pick up one or the other
Though neither of them are to be what they claim
If you're lookin' to get silly
You better go back to from where you came
Because the cops don't need you
And man they expect the same
-- Bob Dylan
Monday, September 05, 2005
The New Orleans' evacuation plan was at best laughable. That buffoon begged people to go to the Superdome. Fortunately, for the people who could not get there, he didn't think to send city or school buses to rescue them from the poorest neighborhoods. They were safer drowning in their attics anyway. He didn't bother to stock the stadium with adequate supplies nor did he order appropriate security. Nagin felt it was more important to protect Nike sneakers than little boys and girls. Reports are sketchy but it is apparent that people possibly as young as seven were raped and murdered in the shelters. So long as the shelters were controlled by hoodlums, there was absolutely no excuse for Nagin to divert his police force to stopping looters. The people he promised refuge to should have been his most important job. Instead of bitching to Washington he should've been at the convention center with a rifle hunting down the perps. But the best you could get from him was that when buses arrived to haul the damned off to Texas, Nagin had his privileged evacuees from hotels and the like escorted to the front of the line! When the flooding began, he begged more people to leave. Some of those were greeted by the police and promptly had their vehicles confiscated. Who the hell is going to take a chance on escaping when both the thugs and the police are carjacking?!?!
Mayor Nagin, your rant may have sounded good but it was as full of hot air as Katrina herself. If you are going to keep demanding that Washington do the job that was yours anyway, why don't you do the noble thing and resign?
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Still, I wonder. Would the public have donated money to a fund designed to shore up the levees before the catastrophe? Are they also as penny-wise and pound-foolish as the federal government? While the government holds a monopoly on "public goods" I suppose not, but it sure would be neat to find out.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
This is what Professor Hanson and his ilk ignore. We can never be certain that our actions will produce the result we want; to enter into historical counter-factuals is to wade into an intractable bog. All we can do is act according to the principles of justice: we know it is wrong to slaughter a quarter-of-a-million innocent people, even if we might fear the consequences of our not doing so.
Friday, September 02, 2005
Yeah, it would be a good point, if our troops didn't have the role of the hurricane in the Iraq version of this story.
Minarchist libertarians take notice of all this. Government does not keep us protected from the chaos of New Orleans. It's the missing hundreds of thousands of decent citizens that maintained control. The government is STILL operating! Only now you can plainly see it's a paperwork tiger as all government everywhere is. It was only by the mutual understanding of the good people of New Orleans that the city ran. We all live in Anarchy right now. We always have.
How has the government taken care of them besides selling them a weak levee? It stuffed the poor into the lowest parts of the city. It provided them mass transit that in the end could not take them out of harm's way. It prevented good citizens from bringing weapons into the Murderdome to protect themselves. (If the baddies can fabricate weapons in a prison, think of the weapons they can make in the Murderdome.) The people aren't being allowed to leave either. The cops that are left are stopping car thieves on one block while "commandeering" SUVs from citizens attempting to escape on the other. The cops scatter looters from markets only to then "commandeer" the food themselves. Early in the blame game, there are the local politicians that didn't take it upon themselves to ensure that the levees would hold. Further along are the national politicians who shortsightedly sent pork home or to foreign countries instead of spending a few million to make sure the Port of New Orleans would remain operable.
This can spread to any other American city as refugees crowd services elsewhere. The government isn't a thin tissue preventing chaos, it only exaggerates it. In Mississippi where the borders aren't shut down, private citizens have already arrived with ice, water and food. Elsewhere, private citizens have offered their homes and transportation all around the country. It's only by mutual consent that the whole country hasn't erupted into a battlezone in the wake of this national disaster. The government's magical pixie dust works only as long as you believe it does, then you realize it has always been up to you.
Open New Orleans to outsiders and let her people go. Let the free market fix this as rapidly as humanly possible. Let Americans help Americans and tell these bastard politicians to shove off. That's how we'll get New Orleans back in the quickest amount of time. It's the least we can do to truly help.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Right now they should be getting every schoolbus in the state and driving it into New Orleans. Pick people up wherever and depost them elsewhere. They should be making food drops all over the city from airplanes. This is stupid. If the government weren't screwing everything up from the beginning, this hurricane would've taken out maybe a couple of dozen drunks on Bourbon St. Every other corpse was murdered by an incompetent official.
Even removing the threat of hurricanes, New Orleans is/was under threat of flood 365 days a year. This could have happened with a deluge miles up the Mississippi as easily as it did with Katrina. It is painfully obvious, they have never had any implementable plans for floods at all...other than rely on Texas and the Feds. God damn those useless government bastards to the same hell they have created.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
This disaster is a national one. We are going to be paying for this. All of us. Whether we are paying for "legitimate" food for these people or paying back those businesses later, we are still going to be paying for it. So let those directly suffering take care of their needs now and those indirectly suffering we'll deal with later.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Sunday, August 28, 2005
(And just what was he trying to pay for by inserting his card in some ruins, anyway? Whatever it was, it must have run out after 500 years, or at least gone bad.)
Saturday, August 27, 2005
After contemplating his complaints, I must admit that my speculating on the possible famine deaths in Afghanistan was a foolish undertaking. The commentator who chooses to address empirical matters in which he has no expertise puts himself at the mercy of "experts" among whom he has no sound basis for believing one rather than another, and typically winds up believing whichever authorities lend support to the position he wishes to support anyway.
It is better to have no opinion about something than an unfounded one. So, yeah, I was guilty of that -- but Hanson predicted Afghanistan and Iraq would not be quagmires!
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Monday, August 22, 2005
"Marx views the business cycle as an extension of intensifying class struggle. The state's ability to thrust an arbitrary amount of unbacked paper money into circulation creates an inflationary dynamic that favors debtors at the expense of creditors. The credit system becomes an instrument for the 'ever-growing control of industrialists and merchants over the money savings of all classes of society.'"
That's why, when the US was attacked by a bunch of terrorists from Saudi Arabia, we attacked... Iraq!
Sounds like a selling point to me, Rich! Where do I sign up?
By the way, President Grover Cleveland's excellent speech explaining why he wouldn't annnex the islands is worth reading.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
CUSTOMER: Well, what do you see?
FORTUNE TELLER (staring into steaming pile of viscera leaking across the ground): I'm sorry, but your future looks like a bloody mess.
(The Bush administration shhould have hired one of these guys before going into Iraq.)
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Falsificationists typically answer, "Well, you have no reason to doubt R." That won't work, because:
1) Per Popper, I certainly do have such a reason: There is 0 probability that any of my current theories are true. (Given an infinity of possible theories, what are the odds I've hit on the correct one?)
2) I have no reason to doubt T except R, so the choice to stick with one is arbitrary.
3) Repeated demonstrations of R are irrelevant on Popper's own terms -- that would imply a degree of verification!
OK, I promise to stop obsessing about Popper!
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
The author, Hultberg, is also wrong that anarcho-capitalists are preventing republicans like him from being taken seriously in academia -- my experience is that anarchism is taken far more seriously than views like his.
PS -- Roderick has spoken.
"If your approach to mathematics is mechanical not mystical, you're not going to go anywhere." -- Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Declares LewRockwell.com : "All of this means that while the government has been artificially propping up the economy and 'stimu...
Is shaping up nicely .
The language won't die, but that doesn't mean the programmers won't ! Funny quote: '"Just because a language is 50...