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Showing posts from December, 2004

Greetings from Hurricane Evacuation Zone A

Well Gene, ya know it wouldn't be me if I weren't able to pull seemingly useless trivia from my, er, trivia conglomeration gland. There's probably good cause to worry about tsunamis hitting the East and Gulf Coasts of the US. I didn't read the NY Post story but any doom-and-gloomer worth his salt should probably first mention La Palma in the Canary Islands off Africa. Nearby, we have plenty to be worried about too from such fun things as the Montserrat and Kick 'Em Jenny volcanoes and a crisscross of faults under the Caribbean one of which recently gave the residents of the Cayman Islands a jolt that would have sent manly Californians screaming like little girls. Of course, land movement isn't the only cause of large waves. Besides a little hurricane (storm surge is the #1 killer!) here and there, rogue waves much like the one that hit Daytona Beach in the middle of the night back in 1992 frequently topple large ships out at sea. Heck, I don't know why w…

Tsunami Warning

Well, Margaret was spot on -- a few hours after I read her post, I read a columnist in the NY Daily News bemoaning the fact that there was no warning system in place. What people neglect to consider is that there is a cost for every precaution one takes, and that it is trivial, once a disaster has taken place, to judge that it would have been worthwhile to have had a warning system in place for that event, it is quite another matter to wisely allocate scarce resources beforehand.

"Lawlessness" Pays

Interesting development in the wake of the tsunami. Across the Indian Ocean, Somalia also got whacked by the wave--at least a hundred dead last count. As part of relief efforts Dubya said he'd temporarily suspend their debt. Whaaaat?!?! Last I checked Somalia had no central government except a bunch of guys who have to hang around Kenya because they have no authority within Somalia itself. Interesting. Do you suppose this new government has already promised bankers to leach the Somali people for money to pay back the debt the old government took on? No wonder they can't show their faces in Mogadishu. Obviously the people of Somalia are better off with the numerous clan chiefs and warlords than whatever the bankers want to impose on them through Nairobi. I hope they get their wish and keep their money.

Some Wild Cleaning Is Gonna Happen Today

I heard an announcer on CBS News Radio in New York say that, in the city, "street cleaning rules are suspended tomorrow."

You don't want to be out there when they come around with those big old broom and water trucks and no rules!

Congressmen to install tsunami warning system in Capitol reflecting pool.

The other little point about the Sumatran superquake I'd like to point out is the absurd coverage of the lack of an adequate tsunami warning system in place in the Indian Ocean. We can't spend all our time and money chasing nearly implausible dangers, can we? This is the first ocean wide tsunami in at least 500 years in the Indian Ocean. Is it really so newsworthy and ridiculous that they didn't have a system in place? Guess what? The East Coast of the United States doesn't have one in place either. Why?!?! Because it's probably not worth the expense since Atlantic tsunamis are as rare as Indian Ocean ones. An estimated 95% of these quakeborn waves occur in the Pacific where the system not only is in place but is a necessity. What do you think the chances are that within a year there will be a bill in Congress asking to put one in place on the East Coast? I bet it happens before the next wave hits shore.

Hey, it'll just spur growth in South Asia, right?

Not to take lightly the horror of the Sumatran superquake but this seems like a good time to bring up Bastiat's Broken Window Fallacy. Nobody in their right mind would seriously suggest that the quake and tsunami that killed over 25,000 people would be a boon to the local or world economies. On the contrary, it's obvious we're all worse off for it especially in the directly hit areas. Yet, when four hurricanes beat the swamp out of Florida in August and September of this year, some financial analysts were proclaiming these multiple disasters would spur growth in the Florida economy. To be fair, the disasters weren't as bad and few people lost their lives but that only means that the Florida economy will recover to the point it was at before the disasters much faster. It will eventually get back on track but it will be months or years later than it would have been without the storms and that track will be in a different direction than it would have been. Likewise, a bro…

Season's Greeting from Ali Gene

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Yes, me been gone from the blog for a good spell of time now, but for the hollydays me giving all you ladies something to look at, should youse boyfriends be away:

Photos from Sicily

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An allee outside the Museo Archaeologico in Syracuse.


A view from the hilltown of San Fratello.


Another view from San Fratello.

Propaganda 101

I'm cleaning out all of my accumulated junk (it's part of my "Honey Do" list from my wife) and I came across a "Global Social Studies" notebook from my high school days. I was quite amused at the "ID" section on the very first page of the notebook. Some excerpts:

Persian Gulf A very unstable area that is associated with many oil-producing countries. Because of their power over the economy, these countries are potentially very dangerous.

Saddam Hussein A very dangerous ruler of Iraq. He could try and take over all of the oil in the Persian Gulf, crippling the economy. He has already invaded and annexed Kuwait.

Helmut Kohl President of W. Germany, fighting to unify Germany.

Manuel Noriega A former leader of Panama who was voted out of office, but used force to retain his position. U.S. forces restored order.

Nelson Mandela A revolutionary in South Africa who was imprisoned for civil disobedience. He was released and toured the world, pre…

(/&&£()(=)!"° Keyboards!

So why does every country have to move the punctuation keys around on me? I just have gotten used to the English layout, and now I find the Italians have yet another way to arrange them. If you see silly punctuation in my posts, youàll know why! Wonàt youé

Sicily

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I'm touring Sicily for a week before returning to the States, so my blogging will be limited -- OK, Bob? -- but I'm going to begin blogging my trip.

The most striking thing so far, besides the physical beauty of the island, is how wrong I was in my naive impression of what life here would be like. I had heard of "la problema del sud," referring to the economic disparity between the north of Italy and the south. I had expected to find the island mired in poverty, a sort of time warp where elderly women in black dresses were sweeping the sidewalk in front of their ancient, stone homes, and men in traditional Italian garb sat in trattorias sipping wine and talking with great passion.

Traveling across the north coast of the island, I found the towns to be more modern and less impoverished than I had expected. There were Internet cafes, plenty of cell phones, modern fashions, and an awful lot of Mercedes and BMWs for an "impoverished area." In the small town of …

Murphy Audio Files

Well, Gene is still AWOL in posting to his own blog, so I guess I can fill the air time by linking to the Ludwig von Mises Institute's gracious hosting of some speeches I've given. One is a talk on the Austrian approach to capital and interest theory...

...whoa, sorry, I fell asleep just typing that out!...and the other is a critique of the invasion of Iraq that I gave at Hillsdale College. So for those of you who have always said, "That Bob has funny quips, but I wonder if he's got a funny voice to match them?", enjoy!

...in sickness and in health...

Two things are crazy about this story:

First, the Marine tells them to chop off his finger rather than cut his wedding band, even though (as any pregnant woman can tell you) you can cut a wedding band and put it back together again.

Second, after the doctors chop his finger off to save the ring, they lose his ring. (Or more likely, somebody stole it.)

Adventures in Babysitting

True story: I was sitting up with our three-week old baby, Clark, who wouldn't go to sleep. I decided to be like Mommy and sing a song. Rachael normally sings "Come Away With Me" (Norah Jones), to which I don't know the words. I racked my brain for a few moments, trying to think of a song that I both knew and that was soothing. I finally hit upon it: Dan Fogelberg's "Leader of the Band."

About five seconds into it, Clark had stuffed his fist into his ear. What a precocious infant!

A Coordination Failure

I was at an academic conference some time ago, sitting with a friend, who commented to me that "I'm tired of hearing Professor X talk on conservatism. Can't they come up with something new?"

A few months ago, about a year after that conference, I happened to sit next to Professor X during a dinner. While we were eating, he remarked to me, "I just recently went to country Y, where they had asked me to present a talk on conservatism. I wish they would ask me to talk on something else, as I'm so tired of talking about conservatism."

What I Saw Inside the UFO

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Can you guess what it really is?

I'll Trade Ya

In this article I do my best to explain why it doesn't make us richer to prevent (a) US consumers from buying products as cheaply as possible, (b) US workers from working for the highest possible wages, and/or (c) US firms from producing at the lowest possible cost. Simplistic, I know, but very few people agree with this view so forgive me.

St. James Park and Buckingham Palace

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A flower and shrub border in St. James Park.


The birdman of London.


A view across the water in the park.


Buckingham Palace and the Queen Victoria Memorial, from the entrance to the park.

Murphy vs. Long

In his unblog, Roderick Long recently made an unpost in which he critiqued my LRC article on miracles and physical law. Because my answers to his challenges are fairly brief, I’ll post them here:

I see three problems with Bob’s solution. First, as Bob acknowledges, it’s much harder to see how the really fancy miracles, like walking on water or ascending into heaven, could be accounted for in purely naturalistic terms – yet Bob is committed to accepting those stories too. (And things really get tricky if we try to handle the Old Testament miracles too, like Eve arising from Adam’s rib or Joshua stopping the sun.)

Now here, I think Long is missing one of my basic points: No matter what happens, it must have been possible, and hence could have been explained “in purely naturalistic terms.” I think what Long really means to say is, that it would be really tricky to explain walking on water etc. using only a very few simple laws of nature. To this objection, all I can say is that God …

Those Dirty Law-non-breakers!

Some English doctor was on the news this morning, complaining that the government has not been helping her enough with her duty to harass smokers. She said that it has been "too lenient" on them.

Smoking is legal in the UK. Was does it mean when someone says the State is being "too lenient" on people who are not breaking the law? I believe she thinks that everything a person does is subject to government meddling, whatever the law happens to be.

My Seminar Missed Me

I have missed my history of science seminar a couple of times this term. On the other hand, a couple of times it has missed me. Today, for the second time, I arrived to find an empty room.

I think my two misses and its two misses cancel each other out, don't you?