Saturday, December 31, 2005

Good Physicists, Bad Game Theorists

(Don't worry, this has nothing to do with evolution.) I've heard several times that the Los Alamos scientsists were a bit dark as the Trinity Test approached:

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?

New Year's Eve in Milford, PA

Click on a photo for a larger image:

The Bashful Gene

OK, folks, I promise I'll stop soon, but before the year ends I need just one more evolution fix.

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

Linnaeus, Darwin, Callahan

Like the appearance of certain comets, once in a great while when I'm arguing with someone I realize I am wrong and change my mind. I think Gene has stumbled onto something quite brilliant (and I am not just throwing that term around flippantly) in this LRC article on Intelligent Design.

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.)

New Blog

My friend Sheldon Richman has a new blog -- check it out.

In other news from the blogsphere, Will Willkinson has a great quote from Anthony de Jasay on envy.

This Isn't Going Where He Wants It To...

A fundamentalist reader contends that one has to believe a literal account of Genesis or think Jesus was lying when in Mark, chapter 10, verse 6, he said: “But from the beginning of creation, God made [humans] male and female...”

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

Big Time

Thanks to Dick Clark (who surely must be busy as we near the New Year), I now have a Wikipedia entry.

Catching Up on LRC

Rather than clogging up the blog every other day, I've consolidated. Here are my 3 latest LRC columns:

(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

More From the Lovers of Reason

The Passion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

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.

Mythical Marketing

Earthlink is running an ad campaign where their employees (actors? I don't know) say things like, "I believe in an Internet without identity theft," or "I believe in an online experience without viruses." In the meantime, mythical beasts such as unicorns and giants and fairies are shown cavorting near their cubes. Doesn't this imply that these people will believe almost anything, and that we shouldn't give their beliefs any credence at all?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Dawn of the Dead

I saw a Discovery Channel show mentioning that, while we have found lots of dead giant squids, no one has ever seen one alive.

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.

More on Evolution

I get everyone mad at LewRockwell.com.

Must Read

Michael Kinsley on torture. (Hat tip to Jim Henley.)

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

The Evolution of Bull

Over in Talk Origins, in their Post of the Month(!), are some seriously silly statements about science:
"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

Follow-Up To Mercer on Christian Forgiveness

For those interested, here is my follow-up (it's about 7 posts down) to Ilana Mercer's column in which she states that Christians should only forgive those who are truly sorry.

Interesting Article on Evolution/ID

I must confess I clicked on this because I thought it was going to ridicule Intelligent Design theory (and I like to get angry at writers with whom I strongly disagree). As you can see, I was pleasantly surprised. It sounds almost corny, but I really think music may contain the mysteries of the universe. I mean, what the heck is it for? What does music do?

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

Prove That You're Free...

...by voting! (No, of course I'm not trying to influence your vote. Think of me as a union rep who carts busloads of immigrants to the polls and gives them cartons of cigarettes. "What's the analog of the cigarettes?" you ask. Well, if you vote for Gene or me, Gene will begin posting serious items on this blog. Promise.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Murphy Twin Spin (or is it Double Play?)

When you're as productive as me, sometimes different articles coincidentally run on the same day...Here's a stuffy economics piece on the alleged threat from China, and here's an insolent one on Bush's foreign policy.

That Damned Global Warming!

WorldNetDaily, 13 December 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.)

Shy, Sexy Robot

Patrick Hughes takes on NetFlix customer service.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Cell Phone Laws, Part II

I recently came up with the following thought experiment: In a place where driving while using a hand-held phone is illegal, get a toy cell phone. Then drive around with it held up to your ear. When you get pulled over, show the officer at your window that you weren't using a cell phone, but just playing at it. What will happen?

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.

WTF?

On the radio today, I learned that Sharper Image is featuring a life-size, robotic, chattering chimpanzee head as a holiday gift suggestion. You know, the expression "WTF" is over-used, but some things really seem to necessitate invoking it.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Democracy at Work

The NY Times of Dec. 4 reported that the NYC council is contemplating raising the number of terms they can serve to three, after voters had declared they wanted them around for no more than two. Advocates of eliminating term limits want the council to "work together as a unified body." They criticize council president Gifford Miller is "unable to control his members"! Why, I thought there were various people on the council so that they each could represent their constituents,, nnot so that one person could control them all -- naive me.

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!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Big PDF on Spontaneous Order

Can't vouch for the quality of this article on spontaneous order, but if you're unaware of the term, you might give it a look...

More on national income

Kevin Carson on why increasing national income is not a proxy for increased liberty:

'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?).'

Read more.

Conservatives on drugs

We have an election in Canada. The Conservative Party has recently issued a "tough-on-crime" policy plank which supports ridiculous mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers, and promises an end to decriminalization of marijuana talk.

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

Congressional Priorities

Congress has more important things to consider than the gutting of the Constution and hundreds of US casualties a month in foreign adventures, like the Bowl Championship Series.

Also, discover who reallly killed Kennedy.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Missing the Point

I entered New York state today and noted the sign saying, "No using hand-held cellphones while driving." I was struck by how odd this law is. I mean, I've always found the tricky part of using the cell in the car is dialing, because you need to look away from the road. Isn't that just as hard on a phone set in a little holder by the stick? On the other hand, the part of using the two that's different, the talking, is no problem for driving when using a hand held at all -- at least no more than holding a cup of coffee or a sandwich.

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

More on WWII

Rudy Rummel reports new death-by-government figures for China:
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?

Home improvement

How about new appliances?

Human Action

I was browsing through a book on Budhhist philosophy the other day and found: "Human action has an aim. That which is aimed at is an object, i.e., that which is desired."

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

Buy Something Day

British friends, today I urge you to go out and buy stuff. It doesn't matter what, just anything will do.

Why?

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.

Mercer Misunderstands Christian Forgiveness

In this piece I believe Ilana Mercer misunderstands the Christian approach to forgiveness. It is true that God is just. However, Jesus bore the punishment for everyone else's sins--that's why Christians say "He died for our sins." (Someone used the analogy that God is a judge whose own child comes before him in court. Because He's just, he still levies the fine, but because He loves His child, He gives the child the money to pay the fine. Just so you're not confused, in this analogy the child is us, not Jesus.)

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

Oh no! We're headed back to Bentham

I don't know how Austrian this is. I bet it probably isn't very Lionel Robbins-ish. He, after all, said "every mind is inscrutable to every other, and no common denominator of feeling is possible." If he's right, then measuring happiness is ridiculous. Maybe you think so, too.

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

Oh No! We're Headed Back to Smith

I attended the Southern Economics Association meeting over the past weekend. There, I had a very distressing conversation with two young "Austrians." Both of them were advocating wealth maximization as the proper normative criterion for policy evaluation. This is a regression to the views of Adam Smith, and an idea that I should have thought was utterly discredited by the work Menger, Mises, Hayek, Kirzner, and Rothbard.

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!"

Friday, November 18, 2005

Laughter Alert

Julian Sanchez -- look, there's a link to him over to the right side of this page, OK? -- has directed our attention to Overheard in New York. Check out this thread, and learn what Vicodin can do for you.

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?

What P.M. Jaworski Said

Some time ago, I was walking down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. I stopped at a news agent's -- wait, what do we call them again in the States? -- and browsed the headlines. Most were about the Kobe Bryant rape case.

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

You can't make this stuff up


Yes, you read correctly. Have some Ranch Chicken, and become aware of the Vegan lifestyle.

My front porch


I wake each morning and go to school with this as my first sight out the door. "Liberty." Sweet.

Some days, I'm wearing this to drive the point home:

Monday, November 14, 2005

Google ads

An ad on my own page caught my eye. It said something about the Jaworski Family album, and I was intrigued. I'm sort of curious about my past family, and if anyone has any info stored somewhere on my family tree.

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."

Wow.

And then I saw this as the address bar:
http://www.ourfamilynewsletter.net/official.asp?name=Jaworski

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.

Some good news

What must be a rarity in the news biz, a paper reports on someone using a gun to defend herself! Said the would-be victim who kicked royal ass:
"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

Sexuality and Onions

Julian Sanchez wonders if it's OK for parents to give their children a drug that "cures" them of homosexuality. In pondering the point, he writes: "If you really and genuinely (at the end) prefer one gender, are you really likely to resent that you don't (anymore) prefer the other?"

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?"

"They're disgusting!"

Friday, November 11, 2005

methinks the lady doth protested too much this time

I normally don't read Tom Palmer's blog unless someone mentions that he's posted another one of his hysterical but hilarious rants, so I was quite amused this morning when I saw that Jeremy Sapienza over at Anti-State.com had not only linked to the latest barrage of drivel but also had quite a lot to say about it. Then I got to the part where Sapienza complains about Palmer censoring Sapienza's rebuttal to mistaken accusations (or outright lies?) Palmer has made about Sapienza. Shame, shame Tom: a good argument consists of two honest players.

William the...

My oldest son was playing Age of Empires this morning, and had taken the role of William the Conqueror, invading England. It occurred to me that it must have been really discouraging to the English people when they heard "William the Conqueror" was on his way -- no wonder they lost! If only it had been "William Who Was Stopped at the Cliffs of Dover" or "William Who Took Sussex but Then Was Routed," I'm sure the English would have put up a much better fight.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

More Price Gouging!

We saw gas for $2.39 a gallon the other day -- after seeing it over $4 2 months ago. I want to say I think it's disgusting how the consumers are price gouging the oil companies. As soon as supply rose, they ruthlessly slashed prices without any concern for the welfare of the millions of employees and shareholders in the oil industry. Congress should pass a "Windfall Savings" law to tax away the money they selfishly have saved.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Embarrassed...

One day a fourth-grade teacher asked the children what their fathers did for a living. All the typical answers came up -- fireman, mechanic, businessman, salesman, doctor, lawyer, and so forth.

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

El Presidente

This article makes me think of my son, Clark. He's 2 weeks shy of one year old. Bob and I carry every item he could possibly need, and attend to his every need, because he can't. Oh, but Clark doesn't wear a watch. He does wear a pacifier, though.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Intelligent Design and Falsification

Some critics of Intelligent Design theories say that they are not falsifiable. However, ID says, "Mechanism (organ, etc.) X is too complex to have evolved by random mutation and natural selection." Therefore, it can be falsified by showing that X could have evolved that way.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Critique of Private Law

I don't think it's worth a rebuttal (or is it a rejoinder?), but anyway here's a funny critique of my article on private law. (Be sure to note the connection between my stance and the hunger blockade of Iraq.)

Socialist Awards

Make sure there are enough categories that everyone can win!

(Hat tip to Elen.)

Items Attended

Sitting in my logic lecture today, I noticed that the lecturer, Colin Hawson, was standing in front of a sign reading, "Do not leave any items unattended." Well, there were quite a few items in the room, and between attending to all of them I caught very little of Hawson's talk.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

hey Fred!

Wilma dropped in for a spell. She was a fun ride while she lasted and left some light disaster porn in her wake. The hangover was annoying. In my case, four days without electricity and a couple of days with no landline phone and a mobile that worked intermittently.

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.

The Illusion of the "User"

New at LewRockwell.com.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

What Word?

What unusual word occurs most frequently in book titles in your library? I think in mine it's "leviathan":
Leviathan
Crisis and Leviathan
Escape from Leviathan
Against Leviathan
Murder on the Leviathan

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

As Ye Reap, So Shall Ye Sow

My eight-year-old son is apparently writing a mystery tale entitled The Gelato Murder, which takes place in the back streets of Florence, and the last words of which are "Bomb Bawerk."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Decline of Religion

In the cathedral in Truro, Cornwall, I found a pamphlet reading: "One day at a time... A service of music, dance and thanksgiving for lovers of Country annd Western Line Dancing."

Worship in our cathedral to to the sounds of Garth Brooks!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Cat Let Out of Bag

The UK government currently is proposing to ban smoking in all pubs. Their latest scheme would allow smoking only if a pub provides a sealed room with "self-closing doors" for nicotine fiends. The Times yesterday reported that a confidant of Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, said, "The aim is to make them as unpleasant as possible."

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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

plumber's crack pipe

I had a little plumbing problem a month ago. The snowbird upstairs returned from her real home and decided to wash her dishes. The water emptied into my closet. She called Empire Plumbing which is a local company that runs a lot of advertising on TV. They came over and determined the old drain pipe in my ceiling is cracked. They would get back to me the next day with an estimate and the charge for the estimate was $150. It took them TWO weeks to get back to me with an obviously inflated $1750 (not including replacing the ceiling.) Yes, I called them several times to only be told "the estimate guy is out." I found another company which would do the repair and replace the sheetrock for hundreds of dollars less.
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?

kids just being terrorists

So I'm watching the lastest example of what must be Al Qaeda's best method of jerking the US around: the closing of the Baltimore tunnels. Last week an abandoned backpack closed down some of Los Angeles' mass transportation systems and we all heard about the NYC subway threat of a few days earlier.

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.

Finishing Sentences

A friend of mine was recently telling me about some identical twins who are so close to each other that they often finish each other's sentences. I said, "But you do that with mine a lot!"

Puzzled, he asked, "I do?"

"Sure -- I get about half way through a sentence, and you say, 'Shut up, Gene.'"

Monday, October 17, 2005

More From the Lovers of Reason and Science

Okay okay, I know there are plenty of Bible-thumpers who say silly things regarding Darwin, but c'mon, this Alter piece in the August Newsweek is just ridiculous. After explaining that intelligent design theory is "unscientific" (presumably because it makes no falsifiable claims), he says that it performs worse in the lab than medieval alchemy. (Apparently it was demonstrated in someone's laboratory that the universe was not designed by an intelligent creator.) But my favorite argument is from the beginning, where Alter shows that intelligent design proponents threaten national security (duh):

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.

Hampstead Heath

Scenes from Hampstead Heath in London.



Saturday, October 15, 2005

Picture Time!


Eamon, frog, Adam, Lili (TT Tom's daughter), and Emma in Pennsylvania.

The garden of the house where I'm living.

And again.

Looking out my bedroom window.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

My Bizarro Twin

My wife discovered the "Bob Murphy homepage." The guy's an economist, yep, teaches an honors class, yep, writes popular commentaries on economics, yep, is for inflation and against tax cuts...Wait a second!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The School Janitor Knows Where Your Kid's Desk Is...

"...Do You?"

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.)

The Principled Castro

My lovely wife Rachael alerted me to this article on Gitmo...Notice that, like Hillsdale College, Fidel Castro refuses to accept government funding!

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.

...

Since coming to power, Fidel Castro has only cashed one rent cheque, while steadfastly refusing to cash any others, because he views the lease as illegitimate.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Wallace and Gromit Fire

Shocking news here: The warehouse containing 30 years of Wallace and Gromit clay models burned to the ground yesterday.

If I were the police, I'd be investigating Gumby's movements during the day very carefully.

Monday, October 10, 2005

FAQ on Anarchy

I gave this talk at the most recent Mises University...

Different Frames

At the cafe this morning, two men sat down and began ordering breakfast for themselves and their absent companion, who they knew was on his way. The waiter, only seeing to of them, kept trying to squeeze what they were asking for into an order for two, and was getting confused because he couldn't make it fit. Finally, one of the men said, "There are three of us." Immediately, the confusion cleared.

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

The First Edition

I've been reading Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle. (If the title seems daunting, realize it just means the book on ethics dedicated to his son, Nichomachus.) On the back I saw the heading, "Reviews from the first edition." I expected to see something like:
"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.

The Minarchists' Dilemma

Libertarians in favour of a minimal state typically base their case for the state on a public goods argument, e.g.: "Everyone would like to be protected by defense and law enforcement. But it's not possible to make those goods exclusive, so that only those who can pay for them are able to use them. Therefore, they must be provided by a state that taxes everyone for their provision, or there will be too little of them. To keep the resulting state minimal, we need a watchful populace."

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

Seen Around the Web

Take a tour of my old neighborhood.

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:

Aerobic Equipment

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

Shortest Tale in Western Literature

Cuando desperto, el dinosauria estaba alli.

(When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.)

-- Augusto Monterroso

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Come? Un topo!

Quiz for our readers: what is being "re-worded" below:

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

ride it like a Ford?

For the last several weeks in the South Florida market, Ford Motors has been running an advertisement that is driving everyone I know completely nuts. Where to begin describing it? The Reggaeton-like soundtrack? The bikini clad women who appear older than the teenaged male protagonist? The incessant lyrics that sound like they are singing "ride her like a whore" while all you see in the frame is a crotch shot? The 700 times it is broadcast a day? The "Spanish" version with the poorly enunciated Spanish? There's something to hate for every member of your family. The only group that could possibly like it is the pre-teen Hispanic boys segment who think that they will get invited to beach parties where twenty-something harlots will succumb to their great taste in cars and trucks...when they finally get a learner's permit.

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.

the chinese ministry of google

Here's the latest reason why I've been looking for an alternative to Google. I haven't found the perfect one yet, but I'm getting warm.

Has Italy Been Doing a Little Conquering?

AltaVista offers me the following:
"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.

Buckley for Pork

My new article on LRC.

Also, see who will be our new Secretary of Defense.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Planning Ahead

I attended LSE's induction for new PhD candidates on Friday. (See, Jan, even LSE knows that induction is cool.) Our schedule was annnounced,, and we were told that the deadline for submitting our dissertations is September 30, 2009.

I immediately asked for a one day extension.

Why Did Blair Side with Bush

Turns out there's good money in it.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Windows XP

I'm having my first experience using Windows XP. My initial impression is that Microsoft has decided that it is futile for it to challenge Apple on the "ease of use" front, and that it has chosen to lock-in its advantage on the "incomprehensibility of use" dimension instead. E.g., whereas clicking on the little style box in the toolbar in Word formerly dropped down a list of styles from which you could choose, now it presents you with... well, I can't comprehend what.

Good work, Redmond!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Chelsea v. Liverpool

Went to see this football match with my friend David last night at a pub. It was action-packed: in only 92 minutes of play, there were three shots on goal! The announcers were an Englishman and a Scotsman. The sort of thing I heard them saying throughout the game was something roughly like this:

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

Not for personal use

You see, if you're stationed abroad, witnessing and committing atrocities, you might as well find a way to make it pay. See here.

Bush Stunned

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing. He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed by a car bomb."

"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.)

Competitive Gardening

Back in the UK. On the Heathrow Express, the TV showed one of those "interesting little factoid" things, saying that gardening is the most dangerous sport in the UK.

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

The Scary Natalie Portman...

cut-out doll story.

Wouldn't I Be the First to Know?

Oliver Sacks wrote about a patient who had gone blind from a brain tumor, but didn't know it He apparently continued to "see" things that he made up to go with the sounds, smells, etc. around him.

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?"

How Many Bushies Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

Ten.

Generate Your Own Fairy Tale

Here:

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 father’s 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

Kids These Days

Computer lingo permeates the vocabulary of today's children. My kids and their friends "X out" someone from their (non-computer) games for mis-behaving. They "delete" non-digital things -- "Delete the orcs from the woods, and pretend there are trolls instead." The other day, my six-year-old asked me if I had seen her "painting utilities." I finally figured out she meant her brushes and so on, by analogy with the utilities on our Macintosh.

Time Passages

The most recent round of tinkering with daylight savings time seems to me, without having given the matter much thought, to be mostly a nuisance -- all sorts of electronic devices are going to have the time wrong in November and March for years to come. But it reminded me of a complaint I saw in the newspaper during the last round of tinkering.

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

Induction

Wittgenstein writes in On Certainty:

"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.

Insect Repellent

What if you spray Off right on a bug? Is it filled with self-loathing?

GOVERMENTIUM

From http://www.crazyshit.com/display_lit_c.php?ltid=42 (link not worksafe!):

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."

Nice Shootin', Tex!

US soldiers, on average, fire 900,000 rounds of ammo to kill one Iraqi insurgent.

Who's the Sovereign?

The Brits storm an Iraqi jail to free two of their soldiers, releasing 150 Iraqi prisoners in the meantime.

So who is the sovereign power in the newly "freed" Iraq? Hobbes would have an easy time with that one.

Eminent Domain

Left-wing interventionists may be sincerely motivated by the desire to help the poor. But, as I pointed out in Economics for Real People, to strengthen the state in the interest of helping the poor is a fool's game. "The powerful" aren't called that for nothin' -- they're going to capture whatever mechanisms of power are put in place and use it for their own ends.

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

Recent Hurricane Activity in Florida Is Typical of Earlier Periods

Here:

Lucky Florida

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

American Affluence

Overheard in a Gap store near the campus of Michigan State: "Instead of buying new clothes for tonight, I guess I could just do my laundry."

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Important Message from a Reader

Just received this e-mail, coming from an unknown top-level domain:

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.

Sincerely yours,
People of Pluto

Friday, September 16, 2005

Is global warming causing stronger hurricanes?

Dr. William Gray, the world's foremost hurricane expert, says: "And, the people that say that [global warming is increasing hurricane activity] are usually those that know very little about hurricanes."

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?"

His answer?

"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) -
http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/E11.html

1969-2003 1877-1901

ACE ACE
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

35y average
86.6 ACE 93.9 ACE

Hat tip to Benny Peiser.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

a whopper

Tom Delay says that all the fat has been trimmed off the budget? That's like accusing Michael Moore of being an anorexic.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It's 37 Quite Often

From the Library of Congress:
"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!

Gouge This!

All right, everyone repeat: There is no such thing as 'price gouging.' There is no such thing as 'price gouging.'

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.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Partly on this.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Good Compilation

Somebody assembled a list of all the ways FEMA is hampering the relief effort. The last one is particularly ironic.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Anarcho-capitalism...

featured on Wikipedia.

A quote:
"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

looking for elian, fed agents were too little too late

I'm here to rescue you!

the fastest way to get the holdouts to leave

Lift the idiotic mandatory evacuation order. As long as the city remains sealed, those people have an excuse to remain in it no matter what is happening. I can't fathom the reasoning Mayor Nagin has for knocking down every door in New Orleans to find 10-15,000 thousand people who wish to remain protecting their property in the city they love. One wonders if he's on a looting expedition himself.

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.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Cops...

Up on Housing Project Hill
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

The 256 Names of...

that Swedish guy.

Need a demonstration of how to put a lid on a garbage can?

jefferson parish moves forward

The fuzz decided to allow Jefferson Parish residents to briefly return to survey their properties. The people had better plans. Today, the authorities admitted that they can't possible arrest all the people who claim they are going to ignore orders to vacate again by Friday. With power and sewer returning, stores began to open and people realized it is time to rebuild. I suspect these New Orleans' suburbs will be the first to fully recover since the people have physically taken back their town. It will be interesting to see how long it takes New Orleans proper to figure out that you don't have a city without citizens and do the same. So long as they keep treating the die-hards as nutcases, I'm afraid the rebuilding of New Orleans will take much, much longer. Once the water is gone, it is in the best interest of the city to allow people back in.

Monday, September 05, 2005

the nagin memorial motor pool

nagin memorial motor pool

the big blow continues

Last week a lot of people were lauding Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin's rant against the federales. Usually when someone in charge is so boisterous about other people's failures, my b.s. detector rings even louder. In this case, the Monday-morning quarterback was also the man who dropped the passes on Sunday. Sure, FEMA royally screwed up rescue and alleviation efforts. I also suspect Baton Rouge has a lot to answer for but this is mostly Ray Nagin's game.
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

curious I am

I have absolutely no idea how much $$$ it would have taken to make the New Orleans levee system tolerant of category 5 hurricane. Maybe the money bag that Bush and friends diverted to Iraq would've been enough. Maybe it would have taken several pork barrels. In any case, within a few hours of the public identifying an actual public need, more money than would have been necessary to update the levees rolled into the coffers of various private charities. Unfortunately, that money now has to be used to fix people's lives instead of just an earthen dam.

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

Goethe Had It Right

"What matters to an active man is to do the right thing; whether the right thing comes to pass should not bother him." -- Maxims and Reflections.

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

Um, Well, The Relief Workers Didn't Break the Levees!

In the continuing wingnut effort to plumb the depths of stupidity, this one writes: "Here's hoping Johnny Apple isn't sent to cover New Orleans, he might simply declare it a quagmire and then the chorus for a timetable for withdrawal would start up."

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.

this was not a natural disaster

Make no mistake. When New Orleans appeared out from under Katrina, it was mostly cosmetic damage. Lines down, roof shingles scattered and the normal aftermath of a good sized hurricane. It was annoying but it wasn't a disaster. What happened in the hours AFTER Katrina was a completely man-made catastrophe. It started years ago when people gladly accepted that the government can protect them.

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

this is plain MURDER!

They've stopped taking people out of New Orleans and they won't let people in to pick up their families and friends. They won't let private citizens in to sell or donate food. It's not safe. It's not safe!?!?! People are dropping dead on Interstate 10 and at the Superdome. New Orleans in on fire and the haven't got the sense to obtain one of those aerial figherfighter planes. They seem more worried that the drug dealers are price gouging their crack addict regulars than the safety of anyone.

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.

Home Study in Austrian Economics

"What I Did During My Summer Vacation."

Four Thumbs Up for 24

I'm sure most of you have at least heard of the TV show 24, which follows government agent Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland) around for one hectic day. Well, my wife and I rented the first disc on a lark, and I am somewhat embarrassed to report that when we went to bed last night, we had spent about 15.5 of the previous 26 hours finishing season 1. (I don't know what I'd do if I had a real job.) Here's another recommendation from an LRC writer, with some mild spoilers.

I Defend Gene

When someone verbally attacks Gene, I've got his back. When someone physically attacks him, I try to be an ocean away.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

however...

...a few steps to the left a human horror is unfolding. If it weren't for the failing levees, New Orleans would have been completely fine, but they are in real trouble instead. The first thing, and I'm sure I'll get yelled at for this, is to stop trying to stop looting. Police should be on dinghies getting folks out of town instead of chasing down some dehydrated unfortunates carrying loaves of bread. The food is going to rot and the sneakers are going to be full of mold shortly. This is the last chance for that wealth to be used or it will be wasted. There is no returning it to its rightful owner. How the hell is making a looter drop a pile of clothes in muck going to help anyone anyway?

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.

sigh

A few months ago I was in a hurry to get across country but picked the Mississippi Gulf Coast as my one meandering side trip. From Gulfport east till 90 meets the 10. Beautiful and idyllic. If you can imagine the most pastoral images of the old South mansions and their stately oaks but place them in an even gentler coastal setting that is what was lost to Hurricane Katrina. It was my second trip down there. I once stayed in Bay St. Louis and visited Pass Christian. I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that all those places are gone. It is painful.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Cynicism Re: Iraq's Constitution

Someone actually called me a "word whore" over this article, so it must be juicy. (I pointed out that since I don't get paid for my LRC articles, I'm at best a word slut.)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Forecast...

dark and stormy, with a high chance of drive-bys.

Go see Forty-Year-Old Virgin. It's hilarious.

They Don't Take...

The NY Times reports that a traveler to Cuzco, Peru, visited some Inca ruins, and found that he couldn't slip his credit card between the huge stones of the anncient walls. Obviously, the problem was that he was using his Amex card. Because the Incas did build great stonewalls, but they didn't take American Express.

(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.)

Future Plans

After LSE, I'm thinking of spending some time as a multi-nucelate, acellular aggregate.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Professor Hanson Is Not Happy...

with my analysis of his views.

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!

Monday, August 22, 2005

What Is "Capitalism"?

Chris Matthew Sciabarra the meaning of the word. A quote:

"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.'"

Violent Old Ladies

What makes a Texan happy.

Hat tip to Glen Whitman.

Isn't That Sweet?

Japanese-Americans who were torn from their homes and imprisoned for the crime of having the wrong genes are now receiving high school diplomas. That certainly makes up for everything, doesn't it?

The Bush Doctrine

"'The only way to defend to our citizens where we live is to go after the terrorists where they live,' Bush said in a speech to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars."

That's why, when the US was attacked by a bunch of terrorists from Saudi Arabia, we attacked... Iraq!

Hawaiian Independence?

Rich Lowry complains that the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, a bill currently under consideration by Congress, could be the first tug in "pulling America apart by the seams."

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

Is the Most Vile Columnist in America...

Michelle Malkin?

Of Course They Were Lying!

This should be of special note to the reader who commented defending the London police in the shooting of Charles de Meneze: Every aspect of that defense turned out to be based on police lies. No turnstile jumping, no heavy coat, no running from the police.

The Secrets of Divination

I was discussing the Roman practice of predicting the future by cutting open a chicken and examining its innards the other day, when I suddenly got a picture of how it all worked.

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

The State

"For every state must treat free men as cogs in a machine . And this is precisely what should not happen ; hence the state must perish"

-- Hegel and Schelling

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Live Aid...

The famous concert contributed to the death of 100,000 Ethiopeans.

And a Kenyan economist pleads for the West to stop the deadly aid game. "The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Yep, More Falsificationism

Reading Brand Blanchard's Reason and Analysis, I've realized that the core problem with Popper's philosophy of science is that it is merely the negative image of positivism. Positivism held that scientific statements had to be verifiable. Popper saw that, per positivist strictures, that would never occur. He suggested that instead they need only be falsifiable. But falsification is only the flip side of verification -- if I falsify a, I verify ~a. And, per Popper, verification is impossible! I can never verify the result R that supposedly falsifies theory T. Only whim can lead me to decide that I should believe R and cease believing T.

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!

Today's Headlines

"Iran to Remove Seals from Nuclear Sites"

See, those folks aren't so bad -- they even want to save marine mammals!

PS -- I just read that the US is upset because Iran plans to "break" the seals. Now, that does sound unpleasant.

Jerry Garcia - 10 years ago...

Well, after ten years the search continues for the "Band" that could be interesting enough to be even close to Jerry Garcia and the bands he played with. During the first couple of years after Jerry's death, a buddy of mine would call me to see if a found a "Band". No I'd reply, and ask... and you? ... No he'd reply. Neil Young I suggested once. Would you go on tour for a week or more? No, I guess that's not it. The remaining members of the Grateful Dead with assorted folks to handle some of the lead guitar, Jerry stuff. Not quite there. The subtleties of Jerry weaving his sound about any melody, leading to fascinating ways to work the emotions... So, for those that dig that type of sound... Where's the "Band"?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Golden Meanies

I received unsolicited mail the other day containing this article. In it, the author mis-uses Aristotle, contending his idea of virtue as the mean between extremes "refutes" anarcho-capitalism, as it represents a vicious "extreme" and a constitutional republic a virtuous mean. I'm no expert on Aristotle, but I know this is rubbish. One cannnot simply take any spectrum and declare that Aristotelian ethics shows the mid-point is the place to be. The mean between going on a murderous rampage and committing no murders is to murder a moderate amount of people. The mean between telling the truth all the time and lying constantly is to lie half the time. Anarcho-capitalist contend that the State is an evil, and so the virtuous course is to eliminate it, not go halfway towards the total State. I'm sure Aristotle discussed the fallacy being committed here -- perhaps our friend Roderick Long can provide more details?

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.

An orgy

“The advancement of science and the rationality of politics are interwoven in a social process that, in the perspective of a more distant f...