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Thursday, September 23, 2004

bumper sticker update

I mentioned in an earlier post about gauging voter interest through political bumper stickers. Well, since Labor Day, Kerry has taken a slight edge over Dubya in the South Beach vinyl wars. Today, I observed a man in a tank top walking around with a circular Kerry sticker stuck to his bicep. I'm not sure what that portends.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Economist Says, Have More Sex!

Here is a very interesting chapter from an upcoming book by Steve Landsburg, in which he argues that sexual conservatives will actually reduce the spread of AIDS by having more one-night stands:

http://www.landsburg.com/moresex.htm

I don't think this blog is the ideal place to debate the matter, but my own feeling is that Landsburg is basically wrong. At least two major problems:

(1) He assumes that everyone is purely selfish, e.g. Landsburg's model (it seems to me) would not include the possibility of someone discovering he is HIV+ and then refraining from future sex because he doesn't want to hurt other people. Once we realize that there are such people, then I don't see why Landsburg denies (at the end of his chapter) that his analysis might encourage more promiscuity. ("I'll be doing the world a favor by going out tonight! A Ph.D. at the U of R even says so!")

(2) He assumes that the degree of promiscuity is a purely individual decision, rather than one formed by culture. To take his "monogamous wives" story, once the women all take on an additional partner, then (I claim) the next generation of people will take this behavior as standard, and then future Landsburg's will argue for even more promiscuity still.

I realize I sound like a stodgy Puritan who rejects economic analysis, but I really do think the analysis is dead wrong in this case.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

How Should I Respond?

I'm about to head off to the London School of Economics to do a master's degree in their philosophy department. I just logged into my LSE e-mail account for the first time, and discovered I had one message, from LSE, saying, "This message was automatically generated, and you should ignore it."

Now, if someone said, "Gene ignored the sign at the beach that forbid swimming," that would mean that I did go swimming. By analogy, in order to ignore a message that says it should be ignored, it seems I should not ignore it. But, if I do that, then I am ignoring it.

You see my dilemma. I suspect this is some sort of test from the philosophy department to see if I am really up to the mark, and I'm very anxious about how to respond (or not).

Friday, September 17, 2004

A true punk, that's all.

Johnny Ramone--the man credited with revitalizing Rock by adding Punk to it--is no more after a long battle with cancer. It wasn't just that unique but much copied staccato guitar sound that Johnny introduced to the world but an attitude that encouraged people who might not have realized that despite having no training their creations and ideas were just as valid as the next person's, maybe even better. Spending his creative and business life doing things his own way made for lots of enemies. Even among self-described Ramones fans, there are people who opted to note his passing on Wednesday by complaining that they couldn't like Johnny because he was a right winger or astute businessman or some other nonsense reason that had nothing to do with the music. Nice to know that people who should be thanking the Ramones and specifically Johnny for cracking open an increasingly insulated industry are themselves guilty of pushing out the iconoclasts who taught them everyone is valuable--but isn't that what always happens to revolutionaries?

Several years ago I was able to interview him. It was a great pleasure and honor. Thanks for everything Johnny and Godspeed.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

It's All Good

In the most recent issue of Reason Magazine that I received, I found an ad for American Spirit cigarettes. At the top of the ad was the text "November 2" -- election day -- followed by a listing of a number of political parties: Green, Republican, Constitution, Democratic, American, Socialist, and so on. Finally were the words, "It's all good."

What typical nonsense. If voting Socialist is good, then voting for the Constitution Party is clearly bad. If voting Republican is good, then voting Green isn't. Even the people who promote this idea will reveal that they don't really believe it if they are asked to include the Nazi Party in such a list.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Fowl Play

Near my apartment there is a live poultry vendor. A price board on the wall outside its door lists prices for chickens, roosters, rabbits, ducks, guinea hens, and "fowl." I've always been puzzled by what you get when you buy fowl. I mean, I thought chickens, roosters, ducks, and guinea hens were fowl. Are they offering some other sort of bird that they can't identify beyond the fact it seems to fall under that general category? Does anyone know what this means?

9/11

The Arts and Entertainment cable channel today was showing videos taken in lower Manhattan on the day of the attack on the World Trade Center. (I'm not sure how the program fell under either "art" or "entertainment.") It was really stunning to see how much damage those terrorists did. Their action was revolting brutal, violent beyond belief, and about as evil a deed as a handful of humans have ever pulled off.

Of course, none of that justifies pulverizing a bunch of Iraqis who had no connection to 9/11. But, since some hawks equate all objections to the invasion of Iraq with support for terrorists, I thought the above might be worth saying.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

My New Plagiarism Survey

I just received an e-mail with a "Plagiarism Survey for Economists" attached. I sent this note in reply:

*****
Dear X,

I haven't had time to fill in the survey, but I did make a copy of it, which, after a few cosmetic changes, I hope to be able to pass off as my own, original work. Thanks for sending it along.

Regards,
Gene Callahan
*****


Tuesday, September 07, 2004

More Frances Follies

The other day when Jeb Bush mentioned that anti-trust laws prevented gas companies from working together to form a gasoline distribution plan in the wake of Hurricane Frances and the state would have to do it instead, I knew it could only mean trouble. Sure enough, pre-storm shortages worsened and today there were reports of five mile long gas lines in some areas. People even drove to the Florida Turnpike rest areas just to fill up there.
Now if price gouging weren't illegal the few stations that have gasoline could charge accordingly high prices. People would only purchase the smallest amount they actually need and there'd be more gas to go around--but the state doesn't like that idea either. It'd be nice if those people in line realized how much the government contributed to their woes but will they be in line long enough?

The fruits of Gene

Gene Callahan's recent articles on voting have inspired me. I may also try to emulate his approach to facial hair.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/murphy/murphy84.html

Monday, September 06, 2004

The ancient cycle begins anew

Hurri-up-and-wait-cane Frances marched up the Bahamas and promptly camped out in a hole near Moore's Island. Then she drifted ever so slowly towards Florida. With no real features in the atmosphere to drive Frances and the failed Hurricane Charley forecast fresh in their minds, officials decided (correctly) to put up hurricane warnings for most of the east coast of Florida. Of course, any time you tell millions of people to evacuate and then nothing happens in their area, you're going to hear the classic refrain of first time hurricane survivors: "I'm never evacuating again."

This is especially true in Miami where the mandatory evacuation begin at 4pm on Thursday and included tourists in hotels that line the Gold Coast. Thursday and Friday in Miami were quite sunny and conditions only started to really deteriorate Saturday afternoon. Tourists unable to find hotels on the mainland (which quickly filled up) had to spend three days trapped at a public school before being released by overanxious officials. However, by Saturday morning it was clear Miami had been spared a hit and cabbies waited outside shelters for people who just couldn't take it anymore. Officials begged evacuees to not "abandon" shelters for the dangerous storm that was heading to a landfall far up the coast.

Hurricane Ivan is on its way. I wonder if less people will move inland for that event.

Friday, September 03, 2004

The Voter's Trap

In response to my most recent article on not voting at LewRockwell.com, reader Jack Dennon sent me the following interesting comment:

"The ruling establishment has the American people in a trap. Bush has commiitted war crimes. Kerry has announced: if elected he will do the same. No matter which one is elected, the election itself will express the American people's willingness to share complicity in the crime and become therefore fair game for retaliation."

Carding 40-Year-Olds

In New York City, as in most of the US, I suppose, it is illegal to sell cigarettes to anyone under 18. But the law here contains a provision, displayed on a sign at licensed tobacco vendors, that requires merchants to check IDs for any customers who are 27 or younger. What strikes me as bizzare about this is, how is a cashier supposed to know the customer is under 28 before determining whether or not to ask for an ID? A store could legally sell cigarettes to someone who is 26, but still be in hot water for failing to check his ID.

The result is that shops have to ask for an ID from pretty much anyone under 40 or so. My wife, who is 36, has been carded. Now, she looks younger than she is, and someone might suspect she is 26, but there is no way she could be mistaken for a 17-year-old.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Zell Miller

I just saw Chris Matthew's interview with Senator Zell Miller. I guess it's fitting: the stupidest president we've ever had getting the stupidest man in the senate to cross parties to endorse him.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

hurricane watch or how I love to watch hurricanes

I cannot express how happy it makes me to see all the channels in Miami broadcasting hurricane news instead of the Republican convention. Having several Weather Channel variety stations is heaven for a girl like me. My only complaint is that as the storms--and this is all storms--approach, the media show less and less satellite videotapes and more lame graphics. When I can see the satellite feed and water vapor and radar, I have a much better sense of what the storm is up to. The media people have the bad tendency of creating graphics that show the hurricane right on top of the station instead of where it's likely going to go. As they are discussing the scary graphic, they enjoy saying say things like "I don't want to scare you" and "this is just one possibility". Ugh. Just show me the satellite feed please. Why is that so difficult? That's what I want. Really.
From the bits I've seen on TV today, Frances is a really difficult storm to predict. A couple days ago it seemed like a straight shot to Savannah but now I'm not so sure. There aren't any features that will definitely steer the storm one way or the other so it really is up in the air.

bumper sticker war update

It's not really a bumper sticker but while cycling around my neighborhood today I noticed that somebody had replaced one of the free newsweeklies' box with the Lyndon Larouche booklet "A Real Democratic Platform for November 2004". They smelled faintly of unsmoked cigarettes. I haven't figured out what this means within my little system but I don't think it signals that Larouche has got the Miami Beach vote. (It's fun thinking about it though.) I'm really curious about the cigarette smell. Is that a subliminal message to smokers?