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Showing posts from February, 2012

You Don't Have to Be a Prostitute

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We report... and then we decide:

"Author Jodi Dixon, a final-year medical student at the University of Birmingham, U.K., describes a 2010 study of 315 students at London University in which 1 in 10 reported knowing a fellow student who had turned to prostitution out of financial necessity."

This is supposed to indicate a big problem,  showing how common prostitution is amongst medical students. But wait a sec... the study says 1 in 10 students know someone who has turned to prostitution. And this is from a study at a single university, which surveyed only 315 students. So 1 in 10 of them would be 32 students.

At this point, it might occur to one that 32 students is not an unduly large circle of friends for a single person to have. So it's quite possible that these 32 students all know the exact same person who is working the streets. And that possibility looms even more distinctly when one considers how, in a small community like a medical school, word that "Bill wh…

Traumerei very pretty, traumer blossoms oh so sweet

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(Hey, I just like having fun with the great names my readers have. How about that dude who is anti-hotel, for some reason?)

In any case, in comments elsewhere, traumerei writes: "Don't think asking for Punnett squares for memes will go over too well with users of the term."

Yes, very good point. Look at the following:
This sort of construct is a very, very early achievement of genetic science. It turned out, of course, that most genes do not work in such a straightforward fashion, and genetic science has come a long way since Mendel. But even at this early stage, we see genuine scientific results, yielding nice, mathematical, testable predictions about what will happen in certain situations.

Where, gentle reader, has "memetic science" achieved anything remotely like this? Where can we find memetics' punnett squares, that tell us what will happen when a green idea and a yellow idea "mate"?

And here is a real kicker: it turns out that there is no e…

The Most Convenient Philosophical Discovery Ever

Think about it: At the very time the English gentry were grabbing the British peasantry's land through enclosures, and the Native Americans land through thrashing the crap out of them, along comes John Locke, and works out, purely philosophically -- nothing to do with his class interests involved at all, mind you! -- that the Indians and the peasants had never really owned that land in the first place! That they had been using it for hundreds or thousands of years meant nothing: they hadn't mixed their labour with it, you see, like the gentry did. (Or really, the labour of some hired hand, because you know the gentry sure as shinola weren't out there fencing those pastures themselves.)

It just happened to work out so nicely that it was actually OK to take these people's land.

It's Linsane!

My friend Juliard Velard has written the Knicks' official Jeremey Lin song!

Famous Italian People

The third most popular Google search term for finding this blog this week was "famous Italian people."

Huh? Yes, this blog has mentioned Italy occasionally lately, but I don't recall doing any survey of famous Italian people. Why is Google sending searchers with that phrase in mind to here?

The fifth most popular search yielding us hits is: "gene-callahan.blogspot.com"
A hint: If you've got that in hand already, you don't need Google!

Yeats on Berkeley

"Descartes, Locke, and Newton, took away the world... Berkeley restored the world. Berkeley has brought us back to the world that only exist because it shines and sounds."

********

"I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
      And live alone in the bee-loud glade.   

"And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;   
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
      And evening full of the linnet's wings.   

"I will arise and go now, for always night and day   
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
      I hear it in the deep heart's core."

Why Fuss About Referencing Styles?

I've started using Zotero, and am getting the hang of it and digging it. One interesting thing: Zotero has converted me to one of its referencing styles, because I couldn't find the one I really liked and had been using in one of its lists. (I'm not saying it's not there: I just got tired of looking!)

In any case, looking back, I'm amazed at how much fuss my professors made about what reference format to use on undergraduate papers. (And let me tell you, that took some looking back to see that far into the past!) As someone who publishes regularly now, I only once have had a journal tell me to re-submit a paper because my references were not in their preferred format. My response? I just submitted it somewhere else. I mean, really... I don't mind reformatting my references for you if you accept the paper, but you claim you need the references in your publication format in order to have it refereed? The referees are going to say, "Whoa, I can't decide …

The Taxman Is Literally Robbing You!

And other such hyperbolic claims are taken down by Matt Zwolinski.

How All Nature Shows Ought to Be Narrated

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WARNING: If you're playing this at work, you might want to keep the volume low.
(Hat tip to Kevin Vallier.)

What Am I to Call Me?

People like labels for political positions. Whenever talk of politics comes up, they'd usually like to know what to call you. Well, sometimes I'm inclined to say, "I'm a conservative." The problem with that is, it makes people think I am somehow aligned with nutjobs like Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh. Do I have time to explain to my interlocutors that Gingrich, Limbaugh et al. are not conservatives?
There’s a lot to admire about conservatives. By conservatives, I mean people who believe that when you cast aside the inherited wisdom of past generations in a bid to make society dramatically better, you usually make it worse. The problem with many in today’s Republican Party isn’t that they share this skepticism about change. It’s that they apply it selectively. When conservative principles restrain their country, their religion, their class, today’s conservative leaders cast them aside.

Trintarian Meditations

The Father <--> the concept of a work of art
The Son <--> the working out of the concept
The Holy Spirit <--> the power of the work itself

Hat tip to the late, great Dorothy Sayers.

This brings to mind the criticism of some of my previous trinatarian meditations: one commentator wrote that I was generating novel, wild interpretations of the trinity that would shock most Christians. Maybe so, but, as I recall, the interpretation that induced that critique was drawn straight from St. Bonaventure, who lived 700 years ago and was, after all, canonized by the Catholic Church.

This sort of criticism is of a piece, I think, with that claiming that "ordinary Christians" don't share my "high philosophical" view of Christian doctrines. Well, so what? Would it be a good critique of modern evolutionary theory to note that many of those who profess to believe in it believe silly things, for instance, that every human activity has a gene that codes for it,…

Ned Block on The Bell Curve

If you have any interest in the topic of race and IQ and you haven't read this, you really ought to do so. Block shows the very basic error made by Murray and Herrnstein, in carrying over the heritability of IQ within a race to heritability across races. (As Block clearly demonstrates, there is no necessary connection between the two numbers whatsoever.) Along the way, he also shows that "These issues are pathetically misunderstood by Charles Murray.

Somebody Needs a Logic Lesson

One Andy Horowitz wants to show how ill-educated is Rick Santorum, so he "disproves" Santorum's contention that most early presidents home-schooled their children with the following:
Santorum may find it pleasant to imagine George and Martha Washington sitting by the hearth with her son Jacky Custis, helping him read from a primer, but in fact, Washington imported a Scottish tutor named Walter Magowan to live in Mount Vernon and provide the classical education his stepson needed to enroll at King’s College (today’s Columbia University).

John Quincy Adams sent his son Charles Francis to public school at Boston Latin.

Andrew Jackson’s adopted son Andrew Jr. went to the Davidson Academy in Nashville.

Martin Van Buren’s son Abraham attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and Zachary Taylor’s son Richard attended private schools in Kentucky and Massachusetts. (Both later became Confederate generals.)

Ulysses S. Grant sent his sons to the Emerson preparatory …

A Pepper of Thoughts

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Interesting analysis of why Paul doesn't attack Romney much.

Andrew Sullivan equivocates between two meanings of "abortion." The meaning used in the titular question is "Do animals deliberately end their own pregnancies?" But the meaning used in the reports Sullivan cites is, "Animals in certain circumstances have lots of pregnancies that end early." Well, no one ever doubted that sometimes animal pregnancies "abort" as in "miscarry"!

S*&t Brooklyn people say:

Historical Research Is Hard Work

I posted the other day about the "guy who shot his kid's laptop." But what I was mostly posting about was The Last Psychiatrist's analysis of reaction to the video.

But in the comments, Prateek became a bit distraught, because I hadn't realized the whole thing was a hoax. This was interesting to me: this required historical research!

I followed the hint Prateek provided and found a video of some old codger (pot, meet kettle) chewin' on a pipe and making accusations against Tommy Jordan (the guy in the laptopicide video): that, for instance, Jordan is no IT dude at all. And the pipe-eatin' codger provided a link to where Jordan "actually" works. If you follow that link, you find out that Jordan... is their IT guy! So the guy who is "debunking" the original video can be debunked himself, at least on one point.

The long and the short of this is not to figure out whether this guy really shot his daughter's laptop -- I don't care t…

John Gray, Atheist...

on the "childishness" of the new atheists:

"The paradox of an immensely powerful mind mistrusting the intellect is not new. Pascal needed intellectual humility because he had so many reasons to be proud of his intelligence. It is only the illiteracy of the current generation of atheists that leads them to think religious practitioners must be stupid or thoughtless. Were Augustine, Maimonides and al-Ghazali - to mention only religious thinkers in monotheist traditions - lacking in intellectual vitality? The question is absurd but the fact it can be asked at all might be thought to pose a difficulty for de Botton. His spirited and refreshingly humane book aims to show that religion serves needs that an entirely secular life cannot satisfy. He will not persuade those for whom atheism is a militant creed. Such people are best left with their certainties, however childish."

(Hat tip Rod Dreher.)

China: Fixing Your Public Image Is Easy

A lot of people, especially in the West, don't like you, because you are an undemocratic nation. This is easy to handle. Here is what to do:

Divide the Chinese Communist Party in two. You can do this by lot, if you wish. Call one half, say, the Rommunists, and the other half the Dommunists. Now, each side must begin to violently denounce the other side in the press, in speeches, in forums like the UN: in short, whenever addressing any public. Announce that elections will be held in a year or so, and then rig the process so that only candidates nominated by the Rommunists or the Dommunists can possibly win. Either the Ds or the Rs will capture control of the government. But tell the losers not to worry: they will get nice, cozy positions in government-connected industries, where they will bide their time until, in the next election or the one after, they will be back in office. And meanwhile, the winning party should announce the golden age has dawned upon the earth, while the los…

My Dollars Is Fluctuatin!

Aah! Bob Murphy posted a comment here, I realized what I thought was Kling's statement is a statement he is attributing to goldbugs! My arguments were all OK, but they shouldn't have been directed against Kling!

So, a big oops.

You Can Find Correlations Where You Want

Economist Keith Chen has done work showing there is a significant correlation between strong-FTR languages (future time reference) and low savings rates, and weak-FTR languages and higher savings rates.

The difficulty? Well, here's the linguist, Östen Dahl, upon whose work Chen's classification is supposedly based (from the comments section of the above post):

"I do not specify a binary classification of European languages (let alone the languages of the world) and I do not use the terms 'strong-FTR language' and 'weak-FTR language.' (In the abstract of his working paper, Chen says 'what linguists call strong-FTR languages' — what he should have said is 'what I call strong-FTR languages'; Google Scholar yields no hits for the phrase 'strong-FTR language' except Chen's own paper.)"

In other words, Chen has found a strong correlation... based on a distinction that he himself made up, and that linguistics experts say do…

A Pepper of Thoughts

The Last Psychiatrist writes about the guy who shot his kid's computer:

'"Kids today are so goddam spoiled.  When I was their age I had to work, now all they do is play video games..."

'Who bought them the video game?  What did you think they were going to do with it?  Trade it for a calculus tutor?'

What happens when you try to avoid saying a taboo word.

The sexual division of labor appears to go as far back in human history as we look, and to have existed everywhere. But, if you've got a hold of an ideology that says it's not a good idea, then out with it!

Irony

My friend was on his porch, talking to a naturalist who was over for lunch. She mentioned hummingbirds, and he said, "Well, we don't have them in Connecticut," he never having seen one in his life.

She pointed over his should and said, "Well, then, what is that?" He turned, and there was the first and only hummingbird he has ever seen.

*****

My wife had just parked the car, and asked me to fold in the side-view mirror. I started to say, "Really, is that necessary -- have you ever actually seen..." when, there on the ground, I saw the completely smashed up side-view mirror of a Mercedes parked behind us, the first and only time I have seen one actually taken off of a parked car.

Well, If It Helps Bash China, What the Hey?

Hannah Beech makes a claim that immediately rang false to me:

"Firstly, at a mere 6’3”—relatively short by basketball standards—Lin might not have registered with Chinese basketball scouts, who in their quest for suitable kids to funnel into the state sports system are obsessed with height over any individual passion for hoops."

Does Chinese basketball really not have a place for players who are a mere 6'3"? That would be shocking. And rightly so, because it is nonsense. Almost everysingleroster I havelookedupfor a Chinesebasketballteam has multiple players 6'3" and under, some as short as 5'9". (I found two teams that only had one player 6'3" or under, and none that didn't have at least one.) Lin's height obviously would have been no problem at all. And it only took me a couple of minutes to discover this. But the fact this is so easily debunked did not stopothers from repeating it!

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio

Kevin Vallier Gets It Right

Libertarianism is not a uniquely "non-coercive" political philosophy:

"So let me pose a question to traditional libertarians... you want to set up a libertarian society because you think it is required by justice and to serve the common good. But your free and equal fellows reasonably reject your conception of property rights. As a result, the coercion you are prepared to use to defend your property against their encroachments will be coercion that they have strong reason to reject."

He's in It to Wing It!

Ron Paul: Mitt Romney's wingman.

And check this out: if you simply disagree with Ron Paul's views on money and write about it, that constitutes a "vicious hit piece." A calm dissection of Paul's views is "crazed." Is there any group of people more paranoid and defensive than Paul's supporters?

And not only that, they also ignores to learn English! ("He ignores to mention this is the classic definition of inflation.")

And the Place Was Filled with Foreigners!

J.R. Smith on playing in China: "[There is definitely a difficulty because] they don't speak the language."

Technology: Not Advancing as Fast as You Think

More evidence for Tyler Cowen's Great Stagnation: I went to the sporting goods store today and bought some dumbbells. With all of the advances in materials science, you'd think they could do a lot better, but no: a set of 10-lb dumbbells still weighs just as much as it did forty years ago.

Know Your Gnostics

Is now available online.

Tell me what you think of my handling of the gnostic issue, PS Huff.

Margin Call

Great movie, much better than either Wall Street movie or anything else I've seen on the financial industry. The acting is great, and the accuracy in depiction phenomenal.

You Know What Really Sucks?

Not only was there a famous philosopher named Berkeley, there is also a city named Berkeley. And that city has a university in it. And that university has a prolific publishing house.

So when you search JStor for papers with "Berkeley" in the full text, you get a lot of false positives.

Voegelin on Rawls

"In the first place you have certainly an accredited respectable gentleman who is a professor at Harvard.

"In the second place, he develops a contract theory in complete ignorance of the fact that in the Republic, Book II, Plato has explained why contract theories don't work. Crass philosophical ignorance! Incredible impertinence in believing that he can develop axioms like contract theories and so on as a basis of anything. Complete ignorance of the famous Platonic dichotomies of philosophy and philodoxy, of justice and injustice, of doxa and so on, and episteme.

"And on this basis (I wouldn't even call it semi-literate–at least three quarters illiterate) regarding philosophical matters, he publishes a book which attracts enormous attention (also enormous criticism, not only applause).

"But after all, it is a major event if you look at the periodicals and the publications and so on; there are books written about it, there are articles written…

As I Was Mentioning

As Patrick Deneen notes, the HHS mandate is a perfect example of liberalism's drive to impose liberal values on everyone:

"From its earliest articulation, liberalism has set its sights on the rout of Catholic Christendom. Liberalism was fundamentally animated by a deep philosophical and theological objection to Catholicism – and, until recent times, vice-versa. Debate over the HHS mandate should be understood in its broadest context: the longstanding effort to wholly remake society in the image and likeness of liberal philosophy. That philosophy holds at its core that humans are by nature free, autonomous and independent, bound only by positive law that seeks to regulate physical behavior that results in physical harm to others (and, increasingly, selves). Liberal people should not be bound by any limitation upon their natural freedom that does not cause harm (mainly physical harm) to another human; otherwise, the State should be indifferent ('neutral') to any claim…

Barter Came After Money

"The economists tell us a neat story about the development of money. The primitive world, they tell us, begins in barter, develops in money, and matures in credit systems. The problem however, is that the historians and the anthropologists have been telling the economists, and telling them for over 100 years, that they can find no record of this development; in fact, the actual history seems to be just the opposite: first comes credit, then money, and finally barter systems. Widespread barter systems only come about after the collapse of monetary systems, and even then money is still used as a unit of account, as a way of equating dissimilar items." -- John Medaille

Competing Moral Visions

Since Bob Murphy seems confused about what I was claiming in this post, I thought I would try to clarify. Consider this example:

A starving family, the Aquinines, is wandering the roads of Rothbardia during some hard times. (I know, I know: there would never be hard times in Rothbardia! But this is a thought experiment, so play along.) They come upon a field owned by Walter Block, overflowing with ripened crops. Being good Thomists, they believe that if they are starving, and someone else has plenty of extra food, there is nothing wrong with their eating some of that surplus to keep themselves alive. So they sit down and begin snacking, when along comes Walter, patrolling his land, shotgun on his shoulder.

Now, Walter might be in a kindly mood and allow them to eat, but he clearly believes he has every legal right to drive these "marauders" off, using deadly force if necessary. Let's say he does so.

What I was contending, in the post linked to above, is that this result…

A Pepper of Thoughts

Lee M. on why Christianity just doesn't depend on things like the historical existence of a "first man" named Adam.

Courtesy of Language Log: "New York Daily News sports editor Paul Gallico wrote in the mid 1930s that basketball 'appeals to the Hebrew with his Oriental background [because] the game places a premium on an alert, scheming mind and flashy trickiness, artful dodging and general smartalecness.'" That is, of course, why Jews still dominate the NBA to this day.

Hanging out at a party with a lot of obnoxious guests, and looking for a way to express your feelings? Try, "This party has more dicks than the Icelandic Phallological Museum." And please consider making a donation.

The Liberal Illusion

Now, one of the things grad school does for one is that it teaches one how to use words in a way no one else will understand. And here that word is "liberal." In political theory, "liberal" means everyone from Ted Kennedy to Murray Rothbard: left-liberals and libertarians are (quite correctly) understood as being but branches of the Enlightenment project.

The liberal illusion is this: that liberalism is morally neutral amongst the diverse moral viewpoints held by citizens, and only seeks to create a "meta-framework" in which they can get along peacefully. In fact, liberalism, like every other approach to politics, is grounded in and promotes a particular moral view of society, and uses coercion to establish that view. And the view liberalism promotes is that individual autonomy must always, or at least nearly always, trump every other claim in the public sphere. (For lengthy demonstrations of this point, see Alasdair MacIntyre's Whose Justice? Which …

Being There

It has always amused me how much emphasis we place, in our non-fiction media, on someone being "on the scene." You see this, for instance, when there is a big meeting at City Hall, or a riot in a prison, or the police are at some celebrity's house. Turn on the news, and there will be a reporter, outside of City Hall, or just beyond the fence around the prison, or on the other side of the police tape from the Celebrity's house. Generally speaking, the only information these reporters will have is what authorities are releasing to them, which they could just as easily have had e-mailed to their office: yet there they are, the wind sweeping their hair, reporting on the scene. Somehow, that makes their reporting of the official press release more trustworthy, or accurate, or something.

But we of book culture are subject to this bias as well. I'm reading Michael Erard's Babel No More right now, a book about hyperpolyglots (people fluent in more six or more langua…

Meanwhile, at My Other Site

And It's Santorum By a Nose...

Rick Santorum is now... what? About the dozenth Republican to lead in the polls for this year's GOP nomination?

Some time soon, I expect to see Low Tax Looper pull ahead. Prison shouldn't be any barrier, right? At least not compared to being anti-war.

Bait

In the comments on another post, Jim writes "The Caplan post is real Callahan-bait..."

That made me think of a story.

I was working for an HMO in Virginia. I was the manager of an eight person intranet development team,  and Cynthia Esposito, my co-author for the article in that link, was my manager. Outside her office was a little hallway with a desk stuck in it. One of my team, Marcus, worked there, with his back to the passage to Cynthia's office.

One day I went to see my boss, but was stopped in my tracks by a pencil on the floor. I bent over, picked it up, and said, "Marcus, you dropped this."

He turned from his work and noticed me for the first time. "Oh no, I placed it there."

"You did? Why?"

"It's a Gene trap."

"A what?"

"Well, I needed to talk to you. I guessed you would come see Cynthia at some point during the day, but I wasn't sure I would notice you passing by. So I set a Gene trap: I knew you w…

Economists Say the Damnedest Things

I heard Paul Romer present yesterday at NYU. He gave a very interesting talk on his plans for charter cities. But he began his talk claiming something very strange.

"First of all," he said, "think about shaking hands. Shaking hands, I think we can all agree, is an obviously inefficient norm. It's a major way to transmit disease." (I quote from memory!)

Well, there certainly is that downsize to shaking hands. But it also provides social bonding, human contact,  acts as a signaling device ("he had a good, firm handshake"), and probably more of which I am not thinking.

So how does Romer know that these benefits do not outweigh the costs? Well, when pressed on the issue, by Joe Salerno and David Harper, his answer seemed to be, "Well, I would prefer a world without handshaking!" along with an assumption that others would as well.

But even if his assumption were true, it would not guarantee his point: people might mistakenly think they preferred…

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Blogosphere?

In this blog post, one Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute claims that Ludwig von Mises's case against "free love" is "implicitly" a case against birth control. Because Mises was enough of a traditionalist to be against things like multiple partners at once with no need for commitment, open marriage, and so on (things that were part of the "free love" package), he must, simply must, have had the exact same position on birth control as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It doesn't seem to have occurred to Mike that the vast majority of Americans are:
1) Not advocates of "free love"; and
2) Not opposed to the use of birth control.

Nor does Mike seem to have heard of this new tool called Google, with which one can actually find out what Mises thought about birth control, rather than just giving it your best guess. If he had tried this Google thingie, he might have discovered that Mises was a birth control enthusiast:

&qu…

A Problem in Probablistic Combinations

Given that there are 100 lockers in the YMCA locker room, and it is just before closing, so that only you and one other fellow are left in the room, what is the probability the your two lockers will be immediately adjacent to each other?

Answer below the fold.

Another Famous Member of the Paul Family Chastises Me

"Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings." -- St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 9

Perhaps I am the anti-Paul here: when at a libertarian blog, I become like a statist. When at a traditional Catholic blog, I become like a Protestant. When at a liberal blog, I become like a traditionalist.

Perhaps there was a reason I heard this epistle last week? Nah, couldn't be!

Alerting Bob Murphy: Krugman Is on Our Side

At least on this issue.: a reduction in the price of (certain) assets is not the destruction of wealth, and does not reduce output capacity.

This was first noted explicitly (to my limited knowledge) by the late, great Fritz Machlup. Machlup wrote:

"While it is perfectly clear that an individual capitalist or speculator may make losses on the stock exchange, it is very doubtful whether 'society' can make such losses."

Just so: if stocks decline, what has occurred is that certain people (the owners of stocks) have become poorer, and other people (for instance, those holding cash but interested in buying stocks) are now wealthier, because their cash can now buy more in the way of stocks. Bob and I, blissfully unaware of having been anticipated in our "breakthrough" by several decades, basically repeated Machlup. (I still think we wrote a fine article, just not one as original as I thought it was when we wrote it!)

And now Krugman points out the same thing. Th…

Is This a Parody to Show How Dumb the Whole "Meme" Business Is?

John Stossel says that ideas have sex. My questions are legion.

When the idea that, when tied, one should hold the ball for the last shot in hoops, mates with the idea that the number of primes is infinite, what does their offspring look like?

If two ideas of the same sex have been steadily mating for many years, should we allow them to be married?

Is it moral for ideas to have anal sex?

And, most of all: The concept of a gene is useful in biology because it represents a unit of inheritance, and based upon the genes present in the two parents, we can make very good probabilistic predictions about various traits of their offspring.

But, besides just making up a cute name that sounds kind of like "gene," what is the identifiable unit of inheritance in ideas? How do we detect what "memes" are present in various ideas? What mathematical formulas have been developed for predicting which "memes" will appear in the "offspring" of two ideas?

Wait: You …

Things That Just Ain't So

"People only pay their taxes at the point of a gun." -- Libertarianism 101

"Personally, I don’t mind paying taxes that support the public schools, because I see them as a public good, even though my family chooses not to use them." -- Rod Dreher

An Idea So Silly

that the dude should have dropped it as soon as he put away the bong. My favorite bit: it is "jaw-droppingly easy" to create whatever spurious correlations you want, once you set your mind to it. ("Speakers who have the sound 'f' in their language are more likely to open delis.")

That Fascinating Paul Family

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NBA all star, US Senator, presidential candidate, Super Bowl winner, transvestite: Is there anything this family cannot achieve?




Waiting for Godot?

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The crime that is sure to happen here soon? The upcoming bondage party?

In any case, these cuffs have been attached to this fence for over a week:




That's a Shutout, Folks

The Obama administration loses 9-0 at the Supreme Court, which acts to prevent a major violation of religious freedom. Signs say the contraception assault on the Catholic Church will be struck down as well if it gets to SCOTUS.

This Raises the Question of Begging the Question

I like the answer as to how to use the phrase "beg the question," given in point number four: don't. You lose whether you use it in the traditional or the newly popular meaning. And there are better phrases to choose for either meaning.

My New Coffeepot

My wife bought this fancy pants, hi-tech sleek black and chrome thing. This morning it beeped. Went I went down to check it, the display read,

"Coffee is ready. That new brand you got: meh.

"But what do you think about that Santorum sweep in the Midwest? Game changer, huh?

"By the way, the fridge says the blue cheese ain't doin' so well. Just sayin'."

Oh-oh

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This isn't good, folks:




Bulbs well above ground, and trees in bloom, in New York, on February 7? (And will you look at the size of that spider?!)

The Mark of Zotero

I'm getting seriously into organizing my Berkeley paper at this point, and thus am back to using Zotero, the reference management tool upon which I settled, again. Some comments:

Good points: It's free. It integrates into Word and Firefox, both of which I was already using. It syncs your references across machines for you. It makes it pretty easy to grab citations from off of the Web. Getting them into Word is not too bad, but...

Bad points: The user interface is a little mysterious: Things aren't always where you expect them to be. It forces you to use Firefox. But the worst is that it fights with you over formats. I had my bibliographical entries in a format I like and generally use. When I imported several entries today, they came in slightly differently. "No problem," I thought, "I'll just tweak them to my style." But the next import not only came in Zotero's way (as I expected), it also put all of the entries I had just tweaked back in Zot…

How Many Mammograms Does Planned Parenthood Perform Each Year?

It turns out the answer is... zero! No one was going to lose access to mammograms because Komen stopped giving Planned Parenthood money, because Planned Parenthood doesn't do any mammograms. There won't be any "sections" of the country where women can no longer get mammograms if Planned Parenthood lacks Komen funding, because Planned Parenthood doesn't do any mammograms

Oops.

UPDATE: Title changed from "provide" to "perform," because Planned Parenthood "provides" screening in that it refers for and may help pay for mammograms. But obviously Komen could just fund the people who are getting the referrals directly without diminishing the availability of screening.

But, Is It Portland Organic?

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Hat tip to Lee M.

Now Online

Why Mention Him?

For some reason, at the end of her halftime show, Madonna put up Ron Artest's new name in big lights! Maybe they're going out or something.

History of Thought Alert, and, Why Sumner Is Wrong

Mario Rizzo's colloquium has a very interesting paper on tap for this week, discussing the unacknowledged sources of Keynes's General Theory, "Origins of The General Theory: How Keynes Came to Write a Book on Say’s Law and Why it Still Matters" by Steven Kates.

Here is a quote I found in the paper, which leads us to the "Sumner Is Wrong" portion of my title:

"Spending is good for trade -- the extravagant man benefits his neighbors -- in a society where S > I generally, the young gentleman would perhaps be conferring a benefit..." (Tarshis's notes on Keynes's lectures of Michaelmas, 1932)

The important thing here regarding Sumner's contention that S simply must, must, must equal I is that, well, no it needn't. It depends upon how you define S and I. Above, we see Keynes developing a framework in which S clearly need not equal I. It is one thing for Sumner to argue that, "Well, such a framework (and its concomitant set of def…

Interpreting Nevada

Romney will be the nominee. Gingrich will be able to challenge him in a few states where he is (or almost is) a native son, e.g., he is likely to take Georgia. But Gingrich has too much baggage, and too little money, too represent a serious threat.

Paul did well: it looks like about 18% of the vote for a third place finish. But this is a state in which he campaigned fairly hard, that is fairly libertarian, and which has a caucus, which everyone says favors Paul vis-a-vis primaries. So my prediction is bearing out: the ceiling on Paul's support is roughly 20%. I didn't arrive at this estimate because I hate Paul, or in order to stab him in the back. I arrived at it by considering this simple fact: about 80% of GOP voters are enthusiastically hawkish. Ron Paul is the anti-hawk. How the hell is he going to get the votes of that 80%?

Well, he isn't! This is reality, not Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Look, I really wish these people weren't all so hawkish. I think their po…

Italian in Little Italy

One of my instructors in Siena talked about her time in New York with me. She mentioned that she had been to Little Italy, and then she chuckled.

"You know," she said, "there are a lot of people in Little Italy who think they can speak Italian. But I never heard anyone actually speaking Italian. Instead, what they spoke was like a stew, with little bits of Italian in it, but also English, and Calabrese, and Sicilian, and Neopolitan, and half-a-dozen other dialects."

A Hipster Travels

He sits in one of the middle seats, listening to his iPhone while reading Phillip Roth. The hair on his head is cleanly shaven, but his beard is dark stubble. The black frames of his glasses are ironically thick.

The stewardess comes around serving drinks. He removes his earphones and places the book on his lap.

"Would you like tea?" she asks him, with a thick Italian accent.

"Does it have caffeine?" He makes a little moue of distaste.

"It is not decaffeinated."

He waves his hand in what for him is a gesture of dismissal. "That's OK."

The stewardess is puzzled. She speaks enough English to know that "OK" means "yes." But he had seemed so concerned that the tea not contain caffeine just a moment before.

He is oblivious to her puzzlement, and merely repeats himself. "That's OK."

She shrugs her shoulders and pours the tea for him. Now he is puzzled. He had not thought of the fact that a foreigner is likely to …

Just Because You Hold a Peace Meeting...

it doesn't mean peace is what you'll get.

Similarly, just because you are dismantling regulations in the name of achieving a true free market doesn't mean a true free market is what you'll get.

Third Time Is the Charm?

This is now the second time Ron Paul has publicly defended Mitt Romney against opponent's attacks.

Cabinet position, anyone?

The Current Stack

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One of three.




I Know What I'm Getting Daniel Kuehn for Christmas

Komen, Part II

Well, Komen folded to political pressure. It's important to remember that all this pressure had nothing whatsoever to do with breast cancer screenings. If Komen had de-funded a breast cancer screening organization run by the Catholic Church because of its efforts to resist having to fund contraception for employees, all of the protesters would have approved, whatever this would have done to the availability of breast cancer screenings. The issue here is solely abortion: for many on the left today, it has the status of a sacred right. For them, Komen's move was as if a feudal lord in 1200 refused to trade with a monastery, because they practiced Christianity.

UPDATE: Daniel has made me realize my original NeoNazi example was bad, because it gives the protesters an out. Now I will re-frame this the right way.

UPDATE II: In fact, we know the protesters would not be upset by the move vis-a-vis the Catholic Church I mention above, because the Obama administration is trying to clos…

Berkeley Was Not a Subjective Idealist, Part III

"What entertainment soever the reasoning or notional part may afford the mind, I will venture to say the other part seems so surely calculated to do good to the body that both must be gainers. For if the lute be not well tuned, the musicians fails in his harmony. And, in our present state, the operations of the mind so far depend on the right tone or good condition of its instrument that anything which greatly contributes to preserve or recover the health of the body is well worth the attention of the mind." -- George Berkeley, "Siris," Philosophical Writings, p. 315

This is from an essay advocating the drinking of tar water for health. So those who conttend that Berkeley "thought the external world didn't exist" would have us believe that he wrote an entire essay on the importance of putting imaginary tar water into his imaginary body.

Not Looking Too Sweet

The trailer for Sacha Baron Cohen's new movie is out. When they can't find anything worthy of even a chuckle for the trailer, the prognosis for the movie as a whole is not good.

Christie, You Make Me Misty

With little to do in the evening in Siena, I read a few mystery novels before going to sleep. On the jacket of those by Agatha Christie, I found the following:

"The mostly widely published author of all time and in any language, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare."

What is this supposed to mean? I can understand eliminating the Bible from the rankings, as either:

1) It was written by many authors; or
2) It was written by one author, but it's not really fair for Him to compete with us in a book selling contest. ("Ooh, God, #1 on the NYT's bestseller list again... I suppose you're going to take gold in the Olympic decathlon again, too, aren't you?")

But why isn't Christie number two, and Shakespeare number one? Even if you think it was really the Count of Basie or the Duke of Ellington who wrote the plays, that is still one author, right?

A Pepper of Thoughts

* Did you know there are bot nets, managed by bot herders? One has been discovered that contains 4 million computers.

* Very good post from Mario Rizzo on rationality.

* By the way, I am available for editing work. (I have been professionally editing for a globally circulated magazine for the last four years, but I've decided to try to pick up more work like this.)

I'm Not Quite Getting This

I see a campaign going around on Facebook to "de-fund the Komen Foundation," because of this situation.

So wait a second... because the Komen Foundation de-funded Planned Parenthood's cancer screening, we should now de-fund all of the other cancer screening they still do support?! Wouldn't that be doing the exact same thing you are mad at them for doing: de-funding some cancer screening for political reasons?

What Makes a World Possible?

I was thinking to myself, "The best possible outcome of the upcoming US presidential election is for Obama to be re-elected."

And then I thought to myself, "What do I mean here by possible?"

Let's say someone says to me, "Well, what about if the Dalai Lama became president?"

OK, that might be better, but it wasn't something I was considering among the "possible results."

Well, why not? After all, it's not logically impossible.

I think what I mean by possible, in this sense, is that it could occur without an extraordinary amount of change happening between now and when the event being imagined is thought to occur. For Obama to be elected president, basically nothing has to change except for it to be November instead of February. But I still consider Romney being elected president possible, because for that to occur, the only further thing that has to happen is for him to win the GOP nomination (which seems very likely at this point),…

Who Should Have the Right to Speak to Lithuanians?

Paul Pillar wonders:

"Should the political authority in whatever state hosts the [alien] contact effort (right now that would be the United States) have the right to determine what is said to the beings in another world? If not, who would have that right? If we receive a message equivalent to 'take me to your leader,' what should be the response? Should the extraterrestrials be patched in to a meeting of the United Nations Security Council? Or how about a G-20 summit?"

Hey, Paul, what about this idea? What about whoever wants to speak to whoever else, they can?

Science Often Ignores Counter-Evidence

and damned right it should!

Have you ever heard of Orffyreus's Wheel? In the 1700s, a rather eccentric personage named Johann Bessler was exhibiting a perpetual motion machine in Europe. Several prominent scientists examined it and were unable to determine how it worked. There were allegations of fraud, but the method of fraud supposedly employed would not have been possible if first hand accounts of the wheel's operation were accurate. (Note: it is an historical problem to determine what actually was occurring! Science depends upon history.)

In any case, scientists simply ignored this unsolved problem, and went on as if the belief in the impossibility of a perpetual motion machine had never been challenged. And good for them that they did! For science to proceed forward, contrary observations must often be disregarded. Michael Polanyi notes that a very similar thing happened in the 1920s, when a (this time) serious scientist presented multiple observations confirming the exi…