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Monday, February 28, 2005

I Agree: We Have to "Stay the Course"

Well, I've finally come around to the point of view that says the US and UK must "stay the course" in Iraq, whether or not the invasion was justified in the first place, because otherwise Iraq might become a country full of violence and chaos.

My English Diet

I have eaten more packaged sandwiches since September than I had in the preceding 45 years.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Conservative?

The Conservative Party recently sent a flyer to my house promising that, in contrast to Labour, its candidates would deliver: "Less talk, more action."

Isn't that, well, the exact opposite of conservatism?

A little more stoicism would make the world a lot better place

So, there's that guy, Hoppe, who has managed to rally several hundred libertarians around him in support, charged with the most horrendous crime in all of our "secular society" (more on that another time), the refusal to be politically correct.

These libertarians have spent much time discussing our insulted student, Mr. Knight, on the Internet and much of the talk is brutal. But I think Mr. Knight is judged too harshly, for he believes what he believes precisely because he has come to adulthood in a culture which worships freedom from insult, a world that is populated with sheep who actually pay the Wolf, the State, to keep watch over them. Mr. Knight did the only thing he knows how to do, the thing he has seemingly been taught is acceptable to do his entire life: to use authority to force others to shut up. He actually believes that he shouldn't have to hear ideas of which he disapproves. There are several problems with this, not the least of which is the evidence confronting us that the University has failed abysmally to provide Mr. Knight with anything approaching an education or even a correct understanding of what it means to BE educated. Unfortunately, Mr. Knight fails especially to understand that his chosen method of redress is a totalitarian nightmare.

(But what does it matter, anyway? Right now, our government is blowing up the arms and legs of Iraqi children who are witnessing the execution of their own parents by soldiers who tomorrow will themselves be maimed for life. So, how did I get from the inside of a college classroom to war? Because it is all part and parcel of a world gone mad. We are doomed.)

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Friendly TSA

Just to keep it real with the anarchists out there (after my post siding with Gene the Sellout), let me tell what happened with my dealings with the Transportation Safety Administration (I think that's what the abbrevation is for)...

Last time I flew, I couldn't use electronic check-in. The airline employees at the counter (both ways) had to take my license and make a phone call before giving me my tickets. The first time, they wrote down the 800 number for the TSA and told me I'd have to call or else this would happen every time I flew. So I needed to call to take care of it. (The lady added, "It will take a while.")

So finally I called, was on hold for not too long (about five minutes), and then got an African American woman in her thirties I think. (I tell you about demographics merely so you can "hear" her scold me in a moment.) Our dialogue:

TSA: Hello my name is ______ how can I help you?

Bob: Yeah, I just had a flight and couldn't use electronic check-in, I'm on some list, and they told me to call you.

TSA: Can I have your name? ... Home address? ... Home telephone? ... Date of birth?

Bob: Uh, can I ask what this is for?

TSA (annoyed): Sir, you called us. I need this information to process.--

Bob: Right, but I called you because I'm on your list and they told me I had to call you.

TSA: Sir, we need to get your information so we can send you the packet to your home address. Then when you fill it out and we process it, we can verify that you are not the person on our list, and then you will be able to fly without delays. This will take about 40 [maybe 45, I forget--RPM] days. If you have to fly before then, I suggest you book your tickets with your full name.

------

Anyway, that's what happened. So I guess the reason I could fly when the airline personnel called (which I thought was pointless at the time--"Oh phew, the would-be terrorist would never do anything after a phone call!") was that they confirmed that Robert [middle name] Murphy, at home address blah blah, wasn't the person on the list. (The actual R. Murphy on the list is apparently some anarchist who writes crazy economics articles for Mises.org.)

But isn't this a neat way for the government to get tabs on everybody? Just randomly throw names on a list, so anyone with similar names has to send all their info to the government before he or she can fly without an extra layer of molestation? (And I mean that in the generic sense, of course.)

One last thing: Last time my wife and son flew, they carefully searched him (he's three months old). And his name's not Mustapha, in case you're curious.

Gene the Sellout

I was quite amused by Mr. Fuller's tsk-tsking of Gene's reaction to his (Gene's) mugging. (Please read his analyis to assure yourself that I am not mischaracterizing his post.) He quotes Gene saying that the cops sincerely wanted to catch the guy and then says, "Yeah right." He then goes on to ask if they had done routine follow-up (sketch artist, etc.) and says "I doubt it." Then to prove that he is right, and apparently to justify his rhetorical quesion, "And Gene calls himself an anarchist?", Fuller relates an anecdote from Chicago. Gene then responded in the commentary and pointed out that Fuller's a priori deduction was completely wrong in the case of the bobbies, and then Fuller apologized.

Heh heh, got you there at the end. Of course Fuller didn't apologize, he explained that he was going on his own experience from Chicago (and that's why he wondered whether Gene knew how to interpret the desires of others across an ocean) and then ended with, "I am also curious as to how you think a private police force would have handled the situation. The same, better or worse?"

Let me go out on a limb (since we're not afraid to speculate on the motivations and thoughts of others) and say, "Yes, Mr. Fuller, Gene thinks private police would have done a much better job. He calls himself an anarchist, after all."

Incidentally, for those who like to psychoanalyze, let me admit that I'm touchy about this stuff. I myself had to quit visiting a certain forum (that shall remain nameless) when I just couldn't handle daily criticisms from anarchists who were oh-so-much purer than I was.

A final thought: Not everyone who works for the State is a minion of Satan. It is entirely consistent for someone to claim that "the police officers who interviewed me wanted to catch the guy" and "the police force is no good at catching criminals." Yes, we anarchists should never allow politicians' speeches or police slogans on their cars convince us of their good intentions, but we should also not lose sight of the phenomenon of unintended consequences. I.e. the institutional forces governing an agency that holds a monopoly on force will lead to gross corruption and ineptitude of the type Fuller described (and I believe his story, btw), even if the average cop is a decent guy.

The thing that is so horrible, sad, and yet hopeful about the State is that it takes people who have good intentions (in the beginning) and turns them into agents for evil. (And when I say "hopeful" I mean that there is hope if we could just get most of these people to see the light; if it really were true that every single government employee were as cynical and evil as Fuller believes, there would be no hope at all.) No, I don't deny that many despicable people are attracted to the State, but I think it does its own to create them.

"The Worst Get on Top," as Hayek explained, but getting there makes them worse still. I bet George W. was really cool to hang out with back when he was doing blow in college. But make him the most powerful man in human history and tell him that God expects great things from him, and look what happens.

Two Views Down Strand



Stolen Sperm?

Woman accused of using man's sperm received in oral sex to get herself pregnant. Surprised father sues. Court says sperm is gift. Hee HEEEEEE!!!! How much lower can we sink?

My Neighborhood


My friend Vicky and her son at the off license.


My Turkish dry cleaners.


Two of my housemates, Gui and Kotaro, hide from the paparazzi's intrusive camera.


My friend Mick, from Cork, Ireland, hard at work.


Looking down the high road in Colindale.


Kwamye, from Ghana, at the local phone shop/call center/Internet cafe.


The crew at New Jersey Fried Chicken -- the notorious "Slovakian chicken girl" is the one on the left.

Important Considerations on TP

From Glen Whitman.

St. Augustine on Biblical Literalism

"Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics (i.e. astronomy etc.); and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation ... the shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scriptures are criticized and rejected as unlearned men."

(From http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/cis/lucas/lecture.html#_ftn12)

You Just Can't Make Some People Happy

Despite turning my mugging into a lesson arguing against the state, some bloggers feel I failed as an anarchist in that post. For example, Raymond Fuller is so disgusted with it that he writes, "And Gene calls himself an anarchist?"

He continues: "Did the police ask Gene to sit with a sketch artist? Did they call the cell phone company to trace any calls that were made from Gene's cell phone. I doubt it."

You doubt it, Raymond, but in fact they did both of those things.

Like a Crow on a Toolshed...

When I lived in Connecticut, I once heard a ruckus in the backyard. I looked out my window to see a crow standing on the roof of my toolshed. In the trees surrounding him were five grackles. The crow could only face one of them at a time. Whichever way he looked, the grackle who was directly behind him would leave his perch and swoop in at the crow. The crow would hop around and change his orientation to face that assailant. As soon as he did so, the approaching grackle would pull out of his dive, while the grackle who was now behind the crow would swoop in towards him.

After several minutes of this, the crow took off from the roof. All five grackles followed him, harassing him, no doubt, until he was out of their territory. Is there a "Driving off Crows" School were they go to learn that sort of tactic?

Where the Thirld-World Nations Have No Name

Introducing the new head of the World Bank.

a great loophole for the state

There's a lot of debate going around about the Kansas state attorney general's demand to see medical files from women who were given late term abortions. I really have no interest in debating abortion but I heard a very interesting defense of the AG from Judge Andrew Napolitano on the O'Reilly Factor tonight. I can only hope I misheard him say, "If you are a crime victim, you lose your right to privacy." Exactly what magical thing happens to a crime victim that they deserve to be twice victimized? Of course, some people will say "the defense of the child trumps" privacy and that's fine. That's a legitimate opinion but Judge Napolitano made a blanket statement about being a victim of crime not a perpetrator. If somebody steals my bike, can the state come to my house and ransack my lingerie drawer? If someone paints graffiti on my van, should the police come over and see what books I like to read? If my purse is snatched, should the Florida AG have a camera installed in my bathroom. If the state makes it illegal to eat oranges and I do anyway, do they have the right to find out what's in my bank account? Of course, not. You may not have a right to privacy, but the neither does the state have the right to inspect your life MORE than they do your neighbor's because you were victimized. A criminal yes but a crime victim? It only gives them more incentive to make everything illegal so they can control everyone's life. With each new law, they'll have two more people to hassle, the criminal and the victim.

Friday, February 25, 2005

If There Were No State...

My friend Tim Swanson alerted me to to a commentary on my mugging post in which the author declares, amongst other things:

"I was a bit surprised that Callahan said 'the state did nothing to either prevent or redress the attack'. While it may be true that the State was not able to prevent this attack or even capture the culprits, the presence of a police force certainly decreases the number of attacks on whole. There would be more muggings if the police did not exist, and that doesn't necessarily mean that they are the most efficient protection service either."

Skarbek's comment is odd in a number of ways. First of all, I didn't say, "The state has never prevented any attack on me" -- I said it did nothing to prevent that attack on me. Secondly, if the state police are not the most the efficient protection force, then their monopolization of protection services, effectively shutting out other, more effective private protection services, will obviously increase, not decrease, the number of attacks. Skarbek may mean that there are fewer muggings than if there were no government police and no other protection service took their place, but so what?

You're not in the army now

So I hear from a friend who enlisted in the US Army to become an infantryman. He details some of the crazy physical training. One of my fovorites is how as new recruits for basic training they are run around and around a dirt track for miles and miles after of course hundreds each of assorted pushups, crawls etc. finaly there is a break for lunch with a time limit. Then immediately out to run and run. Naturally as crippling effects of the grueling chore led to vomitting by all at various times during the run. The rule was no puking on the track. If you puked on the track you got a welcome break to be forced to roll around in your goop. As there were no breaks to relieve bladders or bowels, many garments were soiled. The soiling continued during lectures, puddles under many. No, don't raise your hand and ask to be excused.
Another favorite of mine was the incident related regarding chow line. As our soldier explained at his level of training he was not allowed to take the little cups of syrup for his pancakes. He attempted the mission of attaining a syrup. Thought he was in the clear. He explained an ominous feeling before the drill seargent screamed "what is this?" leading to the cup of syrup firmly slammed into his forehead.
So many memories, so little time. Our blog-boy Gene knows this man as I do. Danny A. He was tossed out on a medical. Circulation, blood pressure, heart stuff.
In a drunken, despondent condition when I saw him as he related that he never even got to toss live grenades. I guess tossing his cookies wasn't enough.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Dead Show

My friend and fellow blogger, TT Tom, went to see The Dead (essentially the Grateful Dead without Jerry Garcia -- he must have been the one who was grateful) at Jones Beach. Now, TT Tom has a thing about sitting in his own seat at a concert, sporting event, etc. Or, perhaps it's better to say a thing abut not sitting in it. So we were shifting seats every 15 minutes throughout the first set, but always up in the mezzanine, since our tickets wouldn't give us access to the floor.

Just before the set break, it began to rain. Tom said to me, "Let's head out toward the exit gate. Someone older and weaker than we are will leave because of the rain, and we can ask them for their floor stubs."

So I stood in the rain for about 10 minutes while Tom accosted people near the exit gate to see if they were leaving. After watching the futility of his efforts, I walked up to him and said, "Face it, Tom, there's no one here older and weaker than we are."

We went back into the stadium to watch the second set from the mezzanine.

The Secular Benefits of Tithing

Just so you don't think I deal exlusively in potty humor, let me share with you my thoughts on the secular benefits of tithing (i.e. giving ten percent of your income to the church). If you feel you have a religious duty to regularly given ten percent of your income, then it forces you to keep a budget so that you know what your income is in any given time period. And that's the first step toward financial discipline.

Once my wife and I got meticulous about tithing (we had been moving etc. and it took a while for us to really buckle down--she took over when I was clearly not up to the challenge and did everything in Excel) we had all sorts of money left over every month, whereas previously we had been eating Ramen at the end of every pay cycle. (Not quite, but almost.) And part of it could be divine rewards, but I don't think our income went up all that much. I think it must just be that we were previously spending all kinds of money on odd things here and there because we didn't formulate an official budget every month.

In Deep ****

True story: I was at school (my secret identity is a mild-mannered college professor) and had to go see a man about a toilet. So I get in there and walk into my favorite stall. (There are only two, and the other one is a handicapped one with the seat that makes your legs dangle.)

Much to my horror, the moment I got in I realized that the prior occupant had left me a large present. I marveled at the monstrosity for a few moments, and then was about to head for the adjacent stall (with the Olympic high-dive seat) when--gasp--I heard the bathroom door open.

Consider my dilemma: If I walked out, that student may have also noticed the present, and then told everyone that Dr. Murphy leaves gifts in the student men's room. So I couldn't leave the stall.

I tried flushing away the present, and realized why the donor had left it for all to see: It didn't want to visit the sewer! Now I was really in trouble. Even if I waited for the student to leave, he might have been suspicious at the guy standing in the stall (with the door closed) and flushing, and then staying in there for 3 minutes or whatever. And then he could have come back to investigate after I left. So I clearly couldn't leave.

Fortunately, after several attempts the agitation and solvency of the water allowed for the gradual elimination of the present. I was able to see the man as originally intended, and hopefully no rumors were started on that fateful afternoon.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Oh, I just love pith!

The absolute best T-shirt I have seen since "Egrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention."



You can find it here.

Economizing on Cogitation

There are all sorts of reasons that human beings can increase knowledge (however we define that) through society. A huge one is division of labor; rather than everyone trying to make advances in medicine, physics, economics, etc., people specialize and this is far more productive.

But there's another aspect to it that I haven't seen stressed before. Let me illustrate it with a little thought experiment: Suppose Gene Callahan, me, and 98 other people with "deep thoughts" are locked in a room. (Let's hope it's a big room with plenty of toilets.) Now we want to come up with a way to leave the room after 2000 minutes, such that everyone is as smart as possible. Finally, suppose that in the beginning we are all equally knowledgeable and intelligent. (Yes, I shall be humble for this hypothetical scenario.)

As above, one way would be for each person just to think on his or her own for the allotted time. But suppose instead, each person picks a different problem, and then thinks about it for 1000 minutes with the goal of exploring different possible solutions, identifying "dead ends," and coming up with ways to best summarize these musings to everyone else in the room.

Then, in the remaining 1000 minutes, each of the 100 people gives a ten minute summary of his or her work to the group. In a sense, each speaker would be "saving" everyone else 1000 minutes of thought in exchange for listening 10 minutes. And notice that that isn't merely where the economies come in: it also has to do with the fact that each speaker is providing that "saving" for ninety-nine other people.

I think this captures (part of) what happens in the academic community. When a genius like Einstein "sees something," he publishes it and then everybody else can start working on problems with the new head start. General relativity isn't that intrinsically difficult; by now undergrads at good schools can learn it.

This is even more apparent in philosophy and economics. When somebody dreams up a great argument (e.g. Bastiat's "Petition of the Candlemakers"), it frees up everybody else's time; they don't have to agonize over the complicated issue so much when someone makes it crystal clear. So somebody like Mises doesn't need to worry about free trade; he can go ahead and solve the problem of the subjective valuation of money units.

Airline Innovation

On a recent trip to San Jose State University (to give a talk to Ben Powell's seminar), I finally figured out what the deal is with airlines putting a "group number" on your ticket. The way I remember the progression, a long time ago ("long time" for my age, of course) they would board first class, then it was a free-for-all.

Then they started boarding by row number. This was a little better; in theory you could board from the back of the plane to the front, to reduce the amount of jostling and waiting. (Inexplicably, though, I seem to recall many flights where they boarded from the front first...)

But now they board by "group number." My first theory was that it was to minimize on people boarding before their row was called, but in retrospect that's pretty dumb. Now I think I figured out what it is: People with window seats (and I think in the back of the plane) are in group 1. Then people in window seats in the middle of the plane are group 2. Then people in aisle seats in the back of the plane are group 3. Etc.

If you think about it, this (or something close to it) is a much better way to get a given number of people into their seats than the two previous techniques. So despite the TSA crap--that reminds me, apparently I'm on their "list" now and the airline has to call them every time I fly!--the airlines are still striving to improve their product. (And don't worry, I'm not a naive worshipper of big business. There was a particular airline that really annoyed me two trips ago, but I'm not sure of their name [my wife knows] so I don't want to smear them now. Needless to say, I will be exercising my consumer sovereignty by not flying them again.)

Favourite Things

Find out what MJ's favourite things are! (Yeah, that's how we spell 'favourite' over here, OK? MS Word was just carping at me for spelling the other way.)

Shout out to Elen for the link.

Iconism Gone Mad

Using word this morning, I noticed that a little red toolbox up on the toolbar had begun pulsing. Many years ago, I published on article on semiotics and GUI design arguing that there are real limitations to what can be communicated with icons. This was a great example: What, exactly, is a little, pulsing red toolbox supposed to mean? (It turns out Word had decided, in one of its frequent decisions that it's high time to interrupt my workflow, that it was the perfect moment for a "compatibility check.")

Japanese Soldiers Need Soldiers to Protect Them

Australian force sent to guard Japanese force.

Hat tip to Tex.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Smart Cards for Troops in Iraq

This is an excerpt from Tom Engelhardt's recent LRC column...

Last November, the Marines issued a newly updated Iraq Culture Smart Card, but an earlier version, from February 2004 (pdf file), is more reliable for viewing purposes as well as indicative of the thrust of the American effort in that country. In addition to its simple cartoons of "insurgent tactics" (e.g. hiding a stick of dynamite under a dead goat), the Smart Card has a number of panels devoted to essential language skills. While its unclear exactly how the card is meant to be folded, it appears that the first language panel a Marine would read (devoted to "Command and Control") contains not translations for "hello" or "thank you," but far more useful greetings like "hands up," "no talking," "do not resist," "lie on your stomach," and "do not move." Only many panels later do we get to "hello" along with other "Helpful Words/Phrases." Actually, another word shares the same line with "hello" – "weapon," of course. With sixteen full pages, the mix-and-match possibilities ("Lie on your stomach. Hello!") are plentiful.

The cards have a cautionary aspect as well, painting the Iraqi people as uniformly dishonest. If you ask a direct question, an Iraqi's first answer is likely to be "the answer they think you want to hear, rather than an honest response." Of course, that's what you're likely to get once you ask anyone, no matter how nicely, to get down on their stomach and cut down on the idle chatter. But the panels do note that pointing with fingers and the thumbs-up sign are considered offensive in Iraq, where customs are surely strange indeed. Too bad the Army folks at Abu Ghraib never got these cards. Then again, the cards say nothing about torture being taboo. But then again, you can't squeeze everything on a card, even though the Marines did manage to condense Iraq's history, from the 18th century B.C. until today, into one lone panel.

How'd THAT happen?


What's amazing to me is not that this 1792 penny recently sold for over $400,000. What is amazing is that knowledge once so common that it appeared on the lowliest of coins, that Liberty is the parent of science and industry, is now largely forgotten. People now think that all science comes from the National Science Foundation. And of course, Industry (in myriad forms) is evil, so better it shouldn't even exist at all, right?

First, Take a Deep Breath

On TV this morning, the newswoman was saying that there is a new effort in Britain to help parents control their anger. "That way," she reported, "parents can learn to calm themselves before hitting their children."

I agree: If you find yourself in a rage at your child and are tempted to hit him, it's always best to count to ten, put your mind in a meditative state, and then give the little brat a good whacking.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Asimov's Three Robot Laws

I just watched I, Robot, which was pretty good despite Will Smith's "I'm an American black so I can get away with being an arrogant ass" approach to comedy. It reminded me, though, that I've always thought Isaac Asimov's three laws for robots were dumb. To refresh your memory, they are:

(1) Never harm a human being, or refrain from action that would result in a human's harm.
(2) Do whatever a human being says, so long as it doesn't violate rule (1).
(3) Protect yourself, so long as it doesn't violate rules (1) or (2).

I have always thought that rules (2) and (3) should be reversed, in other words, that a robot should place its own safety above the commands of a human. Otherwise, why couldn't a 12-year-old punk kid tell my $100,000 robot to snap itself in half?

And jeez, now that I think of it, why couldn't someone tell a robot to go smash a bus (so long as it was empty at the time)? There's nothing in the rules about violating property.

I think robots in the future should be programmed to (1)' respect property rights (this satisfies Asimov's first rule), and to (2)' obey every human command consistent with rule (1)'. Should we start translating The Ethics of Liberty into machine language?

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Old Testament Wrath

Since my "rebirth" in Christianity (which followed a period of what I called "devout atheism"), I have been reading from the Old Testament. My earlier conclusion was that there was some pretty outrageous stuff in these books; as one old timer put it, "The God of the O.T. was a mean s.o.b."

To make sure we understand, here's a pretty scary excerpt:

However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, the following curses will come upon you...Because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you...The most gentle and sensitive woman among you--so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot--will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For she intends to eat them secretly during the siege and in the distress that your enemy will inflict on you in your cities. (Deuteronomy 28:15, 53-57)

So how the heck can I reconcile this stuff with my professed love for a God of infinite mercy and love? Well, for one thing, the one book Jesus cites the most is Deuteronomy, and Jesus says that our Heavenly Father is perfect. To the extent that I think Jesus' moral sense is more refined than mine (in the same way that I concede that certain artists have a better artistic sense than mine, even though it is ultimately me who has to decide on what I think is good and bad art), then I take His opinion seriously.

Beyond that, though, I had this thought: Elsewhere in Deuteronomy, the Lord lays out detailed regulations for the Jews. Except for the harshness of the punishments, most of the Law seems perfectly reasonable, and conducive to their well-being. Also in this book, Moses tells of all the blessings the Lord will pour forth on those who obey the Law.

So I wonder: Could the Lord have made it so ridiculously black and white--i.e. obey Me and have untold riches, disobey Me and have disgusting curses--in order to prove the point that humans need His grace? In other words, the actual Jews did not obey, and look at all the horrible things that have befallen them since. Even if you are a skeptic, the Jews themselves (at least most) certainly believed in this stuff. So the question is, if you had been delivered from Pharaoh through miracles (or--for the skeptic--if your parents assured you that this was what happened and you believed them), why in the world would you construct a golden calf and start worshipping it??

I think the Old Testament was intended as a lesson (to future readers) on human nature, and once we realize this, God's stern warnings are more intelligible.

Army Slogans

I always thought "Be All That You Can Be" was a silly slogan. Yes yes, I know of a few young lads who came back from basic training with much more confidence in themselves and stronger upper bodies. (They also came back disillusioned because of the waste and stupidity of the actual military. And these guys aren't "political" either.) But even so, the army is the one institution that does its best to stamp out all individuality. You are only allowed to be all that you can be so long as this "being" is in strict accordance with your orders.

Anyway, I always thought that was a silly slogan. But the new one is simply Orwellian: "An Army of One." Give me a break! Are you telling me that if I went to boot camp, and started saying, "Why are we doing things this way? It seems to me that it would be much better if we did it this other way, so that's what I'm going to do from now on...", I would be encouraged?

And if it's an Army of One, why do they keep recruiting?

What Passes for Analysis Over at NRO

Cliff May writes:
"Also, as moderator, Russert should have guided the debate away from such digressions as what 'democracy' in Gaza would mean for Israeli settlers. (His argument assumes the flawed premise that democracy means majority rule – when it actually means such institutions as minority rights, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, a free press, etc.)."

From YourDictionary.com:
[French démocratie, from Late Latin dmocratia, from Greek dmokrati : dmos, people; see d- in Indo-European roots + -krati, -cracy.]

In other words, democracy means rule by the people. Duh.

The English Cafe

I often have breakfast in my neighborhood at Cafe Anglais. Isn't this a bit of an odd name? After all, I'm in England, not France, so why would the "English Cafe" describe itself in French?

Peaceful, Democratic Iraq

As I've noted before, since the election was held, all violence in Iraq has ceased.

It's the Murder Part...

Matthew Yglesias writes, on the topic of the Bolshevik murder of the czar's family, that: "The problem, as Pipes has written elsewhere, 'is that no omelette has emerged from the slaughter.' The problem is that Bolshevik rule was an absolute disaster, not that the Czar's family was killed."

No, Matthew, the problem is that murder is wrong. It is wrong even if you get a really good government as a result.

Help!

OK, I've been trying to link to Radley Balko's blog for over a week, and I can't make it happen. The line of HTML code looks exactll like all of the other links to me, but Radley's name doesn't get underlined and clicking on it goes nowhere.

Does anyone have a clue as to what's going on? (You can view page source in your browser to see the code.)

Update: Wise reader Aaron Hartter, an old friend of ours from the Anti-State.com BBS, spotted the problem -- I had typed "herf" instead of "href" when creating the link. Thanks, Aaron.

Around Town


The view down Aldwych, looking toward LSE.


The main door of Westminster Abbey.


Oliver Cromwell contemplates urinating on a lion.


The lidless eye of Sauron.

A Symposium

Members of the philosophy of social science course at LSE gather for a pint after a taxing session of Weber, Collingwood, Durkheim, Hobbes, and Mill:

Friday, February 18, 2005

Theory of Common Descent = Science

I was listening to NPR today and there was some panel on how to teach science (to high school students, I think, but not sure). The host lobbed a question to one of the panelists, alluding to the fact that public acceptance of "evolution" (by which he meant the theory of common descent, of course) was growing. The woman informed him (sadly) that that was just a statistical blip back in 2001 (?), due to the debate in Kansas, and that now the figures are back to what they were in decades past. Why the temporary upsurge during the school board debate in Kansas? She explained that because of the media coverage, "people just thought about it more." (After all, anybody who is skeptical must not have studied it much.)

So then some other guy on the panel interjects, "I've always thought we should establish 'Creationism Hospitals.' Creationists can go there when they're sick and be prayed over. And everyone else can go to the regular hospitals."

So there you have it, folks. All of the scientists are on one side of this issue, and only non-scientists are on the other side, and to say that you doubt that humans and mushrooms share the same genetic ancestor, then that is equivalent to saying that you think medicine is useless.

Now I'm a Lying Hater (or a Hating Liar?)

In response to my latest WWII heresies, I received some constructive criticism on this blog (make sure you skim the comments). Incidentally, Anthony Gregory wrote a fantastic article about this stuff, particularly about the nonexistent German A-bomb threat.

Religious anxiety

So, which is it? Is he the lord, or the antichrist? And, just for fun, see what pops up when you click here. The debate continues...

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Beatings

Responding to the post on my being mugged, reader Dave Cook writes:

"If it is any consolation, the worst beating I've ever suffered was at the hands of the police. In fact, I have a full-face photo that closely resembles yours, as the unhappy result of suggesting to a group of these thugs that an inebriated friend had not, in fact, assaulted them, but had merely drunkenly stumbled into one of them. Displeased at my response, they polished their boxing skills on my defenseless face for the better part of an half-hour despite my anguished complaints and those of my betrothed.

"Subsequent protests lodged at the police station were met with derisive laughter and an admonishment that I had gotten off 'easy.' At my trial, (I was arrested and charged with disturbing the peace, no doubt due to my loud howls of pain) the judge was critical at my plea of nolo contendre -- just due to be married, I wanted the whole sordid affair to be behind me -- the judge suggested that I had a responsibility to defend my rights when wronged. I replied that the police had a responsibility to protect and serve (as the decalcomania on the doors of their Ford Crown Victorias stated), and that I was certainly not protected, and had only been served with powerful and vigorous blows to my head and torso."

My Guest

This week, I was fortunate to be hosting the world-renowned scholar, Professor Heinrich von Oxhaumphauser, who was visting LSE. His current research is focused on the methodology of hiding behind things. So far, he has demonstrated that the thing one chooses to hide behind is most efficacious if it is:
1) Taller than the one; and
2) Wider as well.

The British philosopher Jan Lester has suggested that, in addition, the object ought to be opaque. Professor Oxhaumphauser is currently investigating that hypothesis. Here is a photo of him deep in thought:

Israel and Palestine

As is often the case, The Onion offers a more insightful analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than does any "serious" media outlet.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Big Brother Adopts

Do you ever wish you could be a police officer, but don't want to spend all that time in a pesky school? Do you like to intimidate people? Tattle on your fellow citizens? In Gulf Breeze, Fla., the police force has made this possible.

Just remember, Karl Rove...

The meek will inherit the earth.

The Underground Economy Part 2

Did you know that in New York City you can actually have marijuana delivered to your home, just like it's a pizza? You call a guy named Leo, the local pot dispatcher, and via the miracle of cell phone, he lets your neighborhood delivery man know just what you want. Literally within minutes, (much faster than pizza delivery) a nameless guy shows up at your building, buzzes your apartment, and voila, you are stoned. One, two, three, just like that! God, I really really love the market!

I Only Want the Well-Known Chemicals, Please

I was eating a sandwich from Pret a Manger the other day when I noticed that the package boasted that the food inside contained "No Obscure Chemicals."

That's very good. I only want simple, well-known chemicals -- cyanide, let's say -- in my food.

The London Underground

Very funny, but not workplace safe.

Shout out to Anthony Evans for this item.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Conversation with bean counter


My story on beans required sources. One of them was legislative officer Jim Trenholm.

Here is my conversation with Jim about beans, competition, and the importance of ensuring that everyone buys the exact same can of beans in Canada.

The image above is from the Digest. You can read that story (jpeg format) here: p. 139 and 140.

Note to Self

Do not remove all oxygen from the air in one's vicinity.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Campaign to Dispel Drug Warriors' Self-Righteous Image

Metro reports that UK Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell has announced a "boycott cocaine" campaign aimed to shame middle class Brits into shunning the drug. He notes that, in Columbia, Marxist rebels and the army have used the drug to finance a war that has killed 51,000 people.

Since that result has nothing to do with cocaine per se, and everything to do with drug warriors like Rammell making trade in it violent and lucrative because it is illegal, I recommend that all decent people shun any of the government criminals involved in persecuting the drug war, and continually point out to them that every one of those 51,000 deaths is a direct result of their aggresion against sellers and buyers of drugs.

London Underground

The Tube (that's London-speak for subway) workers were on strike a while back to prevent a driver from getting fired for something as petty as blowing past four red signals. That made some people upset. A couple of medical doctors were upset enough to put this together. Enjoy! (Warning: Includes plenty of foul language. And if you're curious by the time the song is over, here's what an Oyster card is).

[Hat tip to Jason Song]

Beans in the Reader's Digest

An article I wrote for the Western Standard has been picked up by the Reader's Digest (Canadian edition for sure, maybe the American one as well. pp. 139-140) and published this month with the title, "They count beans, don't they?" under the section, "That's Outrageous!"

Read the original Western Standard story entitled: Bean counters get literal (PDF).

The basic story is this: British baked beans are illegal in Canada. That's right, illegal. Were they found to be unhealthy? Unsafe? Nope. Instead, the beans fail to meet a 60 per cent quotient the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has deemed to be the appropriate minimal amount of beans in every can of baked beans. British baked beans contain only 49 per cent beans.

According to the Food and Drugs Act:

B.11.041. [S]. Beans or Vegetarian Beans shall be the food prepared from dried beans, may contain sauce, seasoning, spices and a sweetening agent and shall contain not less than 60 per cent drained solids, as determined by official method FO-20, Determination of Drained Solids of Beans with Pork or Beans and Pork and Beans or Vegetarian Beans, October 15, 1981. SOR/82-768, s. 29.

(Think they don't bust you for these sorts of absurdities? Think again. Here is one fine for a British baked beans-related infraction. And here's another.)

Thank goodness for this sort of oversight! I hope the CFIA is well paid for this important work keeping us Canadians safe and oblivious to the potential abuse the Brits could subject us to.

[I'm just now trying to figure out whether or not it's all right, and considered decent journalistic form, to make public a taped interview that I conducted with a CFIA legislative officer for the purposes of this article. The conversation is fun to listen to, and gives you a good sense of just how daft these regulations are. If anyone knows what the rules are regarding this, let me know. Keep in mind that the officer was well aware of the fact that I was a journalist, and that I wanted to speak to him for the purpose of making what he has to say public (at least in print).]

Valentine

Any thoughts regarding this valentine day thing? Just another retailer created event (Hallmark holiday) for the slowest month of retail sales? It seems to be chilly enough outdoors that indoor activities such as romance shouldn't need much prompting.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

it all begins like this

I was riding around on my bike today. The traffic was a snarly mess but I easily sped around most of the cars. When I was almost back home, a car slowed down next to me. I slowed down because I wanted to make a left hand turn and wanted him to go through the intersection first. He lowered his window so I figured he was another lost tourist but all he said to me was "you need a helmet" and then sped off. Needless to say I was flabbergasted. There's no law requiring helmets and I was riding my bike carefully. I'm guessing there's a genetic predisposition to busy-bodyness in some people.

Quote of the Day

Here is Rumsfeld excusing himself for his dismal failures in Iraq: "Partly it's [the insurgency] a function of what the Syrians and the Iranians are doing."

You see, the facts that the US invaded Iraq on false pretenses, killed and maimed tens of thousands of Iraqis, shot down women and children in the streets, blew up Iraqis' homes, hospitals and mosques, cut Iraqis off from vital services such as water and electricity, destroyed the institutions of civil society, left half the population without means of livelihood, filled up prisons with people picked up off the streets and then tortured and humiliated them for fun and games are not facts that explain why there is an insurgency. These facts are just descriptions of collateral damage associated with America "bringing democracy to Iraq."

-- Paul Craig Roberts, "We Have Nothing to Fear But Bush Himself"

Now That the Election Has Been Held...

the violence in Iraq is over.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Update: Getting drunk on Stalin

Okay, so I emailed the person on the UCCLA's press release about their successful campaign to have wines featuring Stalin's mug removed from Manitoba liquor stores. They name a Diana Soroka. It turns out that she's not from the UCCLA, but the communications manager of the gov liquor command & control agency, (or whatever). "I was not aware," she says, "that they had put my name on their news release until the release was sent to me by a member of the media."

Sneaky bastards. Still, Soroka was nice enough to pretend like I had asked her qua MLCC. To wit, here's what I wrote:

"I applaud the fact that Stalin's face won't be on wines any longer. I consider Stalin to be one of the worst monsters of the 20th century. Still, I'm curious why you decided to pursue this issue as the civil liberties association? Shouldn't you be defending the wine producers right to place whatever image they'd like on the bottle on the grounds of freedom of speech/expression?"

She says that this issue struck a chord with Ukrainians and others in the community and that they have "heard from people in other parts of Canada and the US thanking us for removing the wine from our shelves." Well that's great. Good on you.

As for stifling liberty: "While we recognize the winery's right to place whatever image they choose on their wine labels," wrote Soroka, "we also have the right to sell or not sell any beverage alcohol product that we feel may offend our customers. These particular wines were brought in to appeal to our Ukrainian customers. As these customers indicated to us that they were offended by the label, we chose to remove the product from our shelves."

Holy shit. Are you telling me that the motivation has something to do with what customers might want? (And if I say I'm skeptical, would that make me a jerk?) And, well, as the monopoly provider of these wines, no niche market can develop for those of us who like to collect bottles of wine with swine on them.

That still leaves this question: What is a civil liberties association doing trying to get a product pulled from the shelves for having a picture of a jackass on it? I've sent the UCCLA an email. I'll post any response I might get as soon. (Developing...)

This, by the way, is the second time I've taken issue with a purported civil liberties association in Canada. The first time had to do with Bountiful, British Columbia, where a bunch of fundamentalist Mormons practice polygamy. The BC civil liberties association went ahead and urged the BC attorney general's office to investigate and press charges against the Mormon's for statutory rape and related "liberties" violations (but, please note, not for the polygamy thing...).

Of course, the attorney general had no choice but to pursue the polygamy business as well as soon as the BCCLA made enough of a stink to get other groups to clamor on about all those wives. Yeah, I'm jealous too (but I didn't call the feds). You can read my story on that here (PDF).

(Note: I let Soroka know that I intended to use her questions for blogging purposes.)

Murphy Talk on Anarchism

Rather than retyping the introduction to this guest lecture, let me just send you to my post on the Mises blog. Needless to say, this is a fantastic talk and you should email the link to all your buddies.

Let's Take That Out for You

Another interesting item on the brochure from my local member of Parliament is that he has a weekly "surgery." Yes, I know there's a definition of the word that means "office hours," but I like to imagine he's using the other one, and that when his constituents come in, he's examining themm, then declaring, "That's a dangerous looking lump you have there in your wallet -- looks like it could be 200 quid. We'll have to remove that."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Getting drunk on Stalin

The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission caved under pressure from the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and will no longer offer wines with Stalin's mug on the label. Apparently, for Ukrainians in Manitoba, the image of Stalin on a bench with Churchill and Roosevelt was enough to kill their buzz.

The civil liberties association, however, must have been drunk when they figured that pressuring a government agency to put the kibosh on this wine was consistent with their mandate of upholding things like, oh, freedom of speech, say. Or expression. I suppose this just means that we have a new liberty--freedom from looking at a Communist dictator.

The Very Definition of a Police State

Cops bust up kiddie birthday party. Who says the policeman is your friend?


Pull Up Your Pants, Virginia

Ok, let's try and get this story straight. One guy's constituents complained about kids sagging their pants so that their boxers showed, and he decided to try and pass a bill authorizing a $50 fine if your underwear are showing. How will this fine be passed out? Will police officers stand outside every junior high and high school in Virginia, passing out fines to every male that enters? They may as well, cuz just about every young guy sags his pants. That's the way they're worn in these end times.

What really amuses me about this story is that boxers are probably the least offensive undergarments possible. They're not form-fitting, they cover lots of area, and they're generally opaque.

What I hope happens is that the fuddy-duddy old women who wrote their delegate get fined because their slips are showing.

Get ready, Iran!

Condoleeza Rice wants YOU! Look at this ominous quote, from a CNN article: "Iran must live up to its international obligations to halt its nuclear program or the next steps are in the offing. "And I think everybody understands what the 'next steps' mean," Rice told reporters after a meeting with NATO foreign ministers and European Union officials."

Now, the article goes on to say that Rice is threatening them with the UN Security Council. But come on! I think everybody knows what she means, and it's not very diplomatic.

Oh, and remember how during election time, Bush kept saying he wasn't bringing back the draft, there would be no draft, etc? I seem to remember now that the denials would include caveats like, "We will not institute a draft to continue the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq." If the US does want to go into Iran, what are they gonna do? Send five guys? I think everyone knows what this means....

Nepalese (?) Get Mugged

Maybe people are afraid to follow Gene's eye-opening tale, so I'll break the ice. My wife alerted me to this article, perhaps thinking that I'd say something clever. Well, I got nothin, except to ask, Does a government ruler ever consolidate his power and say, "This is because I love to rule over people!"? It seems it's always about restoring law, order, and peace.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

What Is an Anarchist Who Has Been Mugged?

The old quip was that a neoconservative was a liberal who had been mugged. Well, let me tell you about my night on Monday...

I was walking home from the underground station at about 10:30, on my usual route through a small park right across the street from the station. (Cutting through the park is quite commmon for commuters, and it saves me about 15 minutes.) Two "yoots" were standing about 20 yards inside the park. I had just passed them, when one of them said, "What are you looking at?"

(An aside: Just what is it with these ghetto kids and being "looked at"? I mean, it's certainly not a "black thing" -- my two housemates from Ghana never freaked out when I looked at them, nor did any of my reggae bandmates over a decade, nor have I ever met any black professional who got the heebie-jeebies when glanced at. And the white kids who grow up in the projects -- that's council flats, Brits -- seem to have the same desire that others avert their gaze as the black kids do.)

Well, I just hate the idea that all decent people need to move through life cowering from thugs, so I turned around and said, "Well, I was looking at you guys. But that's only because you're standing in the sidewalk, and I didn't want to run into you."

"Well, don't look at anyone when you go through this park."

"Look guys, I look at the tree there and that fence too -- it's not to dis them, but so I don't walk right into them."

Now, I can imagine that, after a minute or so of this, these chaps were thinking, "We're going to have to kick this white boy's ass or he's never going to shut up." But, in fact, I said good night, and turned to walk away, and it seemed they were going to let me go. But then I made what, in retrospect, I see was a terrible mistake. My cell phone buzzed, and I took it out of my pocket to answer it.

Two thoughts must have crossed my friends' minds (such as they are) at that moment:
1) we can steal his cell phone; and
2) he might be calling the police.

The next thing I knew, I felt a tremendous blow to the side of my head. One of them had kicked me there! I fell over onto the grass, and both of them began kicking me as I lay there. I struggled to my feet, and was kicked in the head again.

Here, I must note some admiration for these yoots athleticism. It's not easy to kick someone in the head who is 5'10" and is standing. I imagine the British school system must have given them lots of training in football (soccer), to "keep them out of trouble."

Luckily for me, another train had just come into the station. No doubt worried that others would be passing through the park soon, the lads demanded my money, scooped up my cell phone, and took off running.

Within a minute, a commuter on his cell phone -- to the police it turned out -- came up and asked me if I was OK. Another person helped me to find my glasses. The first fellow led me back to the station and asked for a first aid kit.

A little while later, two cops arrived and interviewed me. They were quite pleasant and sympathetic, and I believe that they really would have liked to catch my assailants, but they held out little hope that they could do so. They called an ambulance, which brought me to the local hospital. As I sat in the waiting room, my landlord and his girlfriend -- who had been told of the attack by the police -- showed up at my side. God bless them! I was checked out by a nurse, who told me I could wait a few hours to see a doctor. I asked if there was anything life-threatening about my injuries. She said "No," and I said, "Then I think I'll go home." And so I did.

So, what is an anarchist after he's been mugged? Still an anarchist, it seems. Other then sending around two pleasant blokes to chat with me for a bit, the state did nothing to either prevent or redress the attack. And, by severely restricting the right of British citizens to defend themselves, the UK government has doubtlessly given people like my park friends a great deal more confidence that they can pull off such assaults without, say, being shot in the head.

However, while such an incident may not change an anarchist's views, it can change the view of him -- besides the obvious black eye, you can see that a part of my nose now juts out to the (image's) left, while the little red circle on the right abbove my moustache is where my tooth poked right through my cheek:

Monday, February 07, 2005

Saddam's Bluff

It occurs to me that certain readers who are not already members of the Blame America First club would object to my post on Juan Cole and Jonah Goldberg.

Specifically, Jonah Goldberg had shrugged off the missing WMD by saying "we called Saddam's bluff." Outraged, I asked if people really thought that Saddam had said, "I have WMD, so you better invade Iraq to disarm me!"

Now the fair and equitable reader might say, "C'mon Murphy, chill out! Obviously what Goldberg meant was that Saddam was saying, 'Don't invade me, Great Satan, because I have WMD and will gas your infidel troops!' And because Bush and Rumsfeld couldn't pass the buck like that wimp Clinton, they decided to be men and take the risk of disarming that fiend."

OK, if that's what you think, I see where you're coming from. But the problem with that is, our alleged reason for invading Iraq was the WMD. So it makes no sense to say Saddam was "bluffing" us in order to give us a reason to invade him!!

(And of course, just to remind everyone, Iraq was saying that they had disarmed before the invasion, and were inviting inspectors in. So again I ask, how was Saddam "bluffing" when he said he didn't have WMD, and then it turns out that, well, he didn't have WMD?)

The underground economy

So, I spent the last several days in New York City, visiting my daughter. Every time we would go out for a cab, she would just hold her arm up.

I asked her, "Why don't you put your arm down until you see an actual cab coming?"

She said, "Then I would miss the gypsy cabs!" (Of course, she says it with the tone of a typical 20 year old who thinks her mother MUST be a moron, which in this case I was.)

"What is a gypsy cab? What does a gypsy cab look like?"

"Like a car! It can be black, red, green, any color."

"How do you know they aren't psychopaths looking to murder someone??!!"

At this point, I am really thinking that she thinks I am totally nuts.

"Mom, there are more gypsy cabs than real cabs on the street."

"You mean anyone can just call their car a cab?"

"Yes, isn't it great?" she asks.

I had to agree, it was great. Love the market!

We never had a problem with psychopathic gypsy cabbies, either. Although it wouldn't be easy to murder my daughter when her mother is with her. I wouldn't stand for it!

Juan Cole Takes Apart Jonah Goldberg

Here's a great LRC article...Incidentally, Cole doesn't mention it, and it's not worth writing up a whole article about, but I could not believe this paragraph from Goldberg's column:

A foreign policy realist might have said, "Oops, no WMDs" — and then bugged out. We called Saddam's bluff, which was our perfect right given the stakes, but it's not in our interests to stay. That's realism. And it's funny to hear Ted Kennedy, Michael Moore et al. keep invoking it.

Do you see it? "We called Saddam's bluff"??? So let me get this straight: Saddam told Bush, "I have WMDs, so you better invade Iraq to disarm me." Bush asked the CIA to investigate. They said, "We're not sure, Mr. President, but it's entirely possible that he does. I think we should call his bluff." Then the US invades and we discover, "That rascal! He was bluffing the whole time! He doesn't have WMD after all. You can't trust these Ay-rabs."

Oh, Cole also links to some great Goldberg quotes, archived here at a friendly site (i.e. these guys are proud of Goldberg). Make sure you scroll about halfway down and read the one about America's important need to "kill people" after 9/11.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe on Homos

No, this isn't a link to scandalous photos. It involves academic freedom. I think it would be fantastic if the university had to back off on this one--apparently the president has had to disable her email, because she was getting inundated with defenses of Hoppe--because it would show that the PC forces are not invincible. And for those of you thinking, "Give me a break! I'm supposed to get worked up over a guy who goes out of his way to offend gay students??" the obvious response is that academic freedom (and protection of speech in general) is always about statements that many find offensive. No one needs the ACLU to defend a calculus professor's ability to teach derivatives.

If Hoppe gets fined for making a positive statement (people are arguing over whether it's true, but the fact that it's even debatable shows it isn't clearly wrong) simply because it is offensive, then other professors at UNLV (and elsewhere) will once again see that you can't say certain things in America. It doesn't need to be this way, and if just one or two professors emerged unscathed, the spell could be broken.

(Incidentally, from a free market anarchist POV, there's no such thing as "the right to free speech." But Roderick Long has dug up the by-laws of UNLV, and "academic freedom" is a contractual guarantee for their professors.)

Celebrating Rand's 100th, Part I

Since last Wednesday, February 2nd, was the 100th anniversary of Ayn Rand’s birthday, I decided to have an “Ayn Rand day” of my own. Here’s my report on what I did:

8:40 AM:
I rolled out of bed and enjoyed a symbol of the fire in man’s mind. (I.e., a cigarette.) The previous day, in purchasing tobacco in anticipation of this celebration, I had been a little puzzled: just which brand is the most rational? Finally, I decided to buy a pouch of Golden Virginia and some rolling papers, as that way I could engage in productive activity (rolling) before smoking. (Of course, I bought a cigarette holder as well.)

After finishing my smoke, I showered, dressed, and got ready for my first big event of the day. I watched the house across the street out of my window until I saw all of my neighbors head off for work or school. Then I fetched the dynamite I had bought the day before, and headed over to get rid of the building. It’s pretty architecturally hideous, one of those awful fake Tudors, so, like Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, I figured it would be OK, especially today, to blow it up.

However, as I placed the dynamite, I recalled that in Rand’s novel Roark freely admitted to having blown up the building. Hmm, the house was pretty ugly, but I wasn’t sure it was so ugly that I was willing to do some time to be rid of it. I might be doing others a favor, but, then, to suffer in prison myself for their benefit would be altruistic, and acting unselfishly was surely no way to celebrate Rand Day. Let them blow up the building if they want. I shuffled back across the street and put the explosives back in my room. Crap, what is my landlord going to think if he finds enough dynamite to blow up a house in my dresser?

9:45 AM:
Well, time to enjoy the fire in the mind again – must remember not to do so too near the dresser! – so I rolled another fag and lit it. Fire, a dangerous force, was tamed at my fingertips. Well, maybe not quite tamed, since I hadn’t rolled the cigarette too well, and a burning chunk of man’s rationality fell on my trousers. Unfortunately, I was watching the smoke and thinking, waiting for great things to come into my mind, so I didn’t notice the mishap until the ideas burned right through my pants and I felt the sharp, hot sting of the mental united with the physical on my leg.

After patting out the burning thoughts – I worried that such a response might be irrational, but, damn, my leg hurt! – I decided it was high time to charge someone with plagiarism. I called my friend Bob Murphy and told him that I felt he had plagiarized his recent article on the origin of money from my work.

“What are you talking about, Gene?”

“Well, you write that money arose through indirect exchange, as some commodity came to be a commonly accepted medium of exchange, don’t you?”

“Yes…”

“And don’t I say the same thing in my book?”

“Yes…”

“And isn’t it true that you read my book before writing that article? In fact, that you read it very carefully, taking notes on it, since the publisher paid you to read it before it was even published?”

“Yeah, but what about Menger…”

“No, my friend, I’ve got you nailed. I demand that you come to London for a trial. If you refuse, I will break with you and announce that you are a looter.”

“Uh, yeah, whatever, Gene. Maybe you should cut back on the blow a little bit, huh?”

10:50 AM:
The plagiarism bit, I thought, had gone significantly better than the house demolition project. I had some more fire from within – oh, wait, that’s the wrong guru! – some fire from the mind of man, and mentally prepared myself for my next challenge. I called up a friend of mine – for the sake of her privacy, let’s call her Ann, even though her real name is Barbara Johnson. “Ann,” I said, “I’ve always admired you. As the logical outcome of that admiration, I’m coming over to force rough sex on you in a way verging on rape. But don’t worry, you’ll enjoy it. Is that OK?”

“Um, Gene, first of all, if you’re going to force sex on someone, you can’t really ask them if it’s OK. It kind of refutes the whole ‘force’ idea.”

“Oh, yeah… good point.”

“And, secondly, I have a boyfriend. I don’t think he’d like it too much if you did that.”

“What, he doesn’t want us to unite the mental and the physical in a way that expresses our highest ideals? Should we instead sacrifice our own happiness at the altar of some death-worshipping ‘morality’? Is he anti-life?”

“No, I don’t think so. But he is a bouncer at a London night club, and a black belt in karate.”

Well, then, forcing sex on Ann was out. I was at a loss to imagine whom else I might take in the roughest way possible, until I happened to glance into the mirror. Suddenly, I knew what would happen, as I caught myself staring at me with a look of such smoldering passion that I knew resisting my life-affirming desire was futile…

Noon:
After that was over with, it was high time for a smoke before setting off on my next task. I traveled to central London, where I spent a couple of hours lurking in alleys and doorways, awaiting passers-by whom I could mysteriously accost with the question, “Who is John Galt?” Most of them just pretended that they hadn’t heard me – clearly, those were folks who wanted to exist without thinking – but a few people stopped long enough to answer, “That fellow from Atlas Shrugged. Have I won something?”

Clearly, my question wasn’t having the same effect it had had in Rand’s novel. Therefore, it was irrational to continue asking it. I played some Rachmaninoff on my I-Pod, lit another fag, and contemplated – quite rationally, mind you! – what I should do next.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Out Two-Party System

"Democrats" seek to stop real Democrat from leading party.

Iran Lashes Out

Guess what? Those funny foreigners--you know, the people who aren't like us Americans--resent it when Bush criticizes their activities to liberate the Palestinians. (No, I don't really think that, I'm just using Bush-language from their POV.) Incidentally, when will these 3rd world thugs learn? Listen up, fellows: DO NOT TRUST GEORGE BUSH. NO MATTER WHAT PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS YOU MAY HAVE, OR HOW MANY CONCESSIONS YOU MAKE, BUSH HAS ABSOLUTELY NO PROBLEM BOMBING YOUR COUNTRY IF IT BECOMES POLITICALLY FEASIBLE LATER ON.

Political paradise

Making things up to get elected is acceptable and, courtesy of a recent judgement, sanctioned by law in Canada. The Canadian Taxpayer's Federation tried to get Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, in trouble for signing a pledge not to raise taxes, and then raising them anyway. In his ruling, the judge explained that anyone who believes a campaign promise is naive about the democratic process.

It's Time to Throw in the Towel

Jim, my friend, just admit it: the state is the problem, and the only solution is to get rid of it.

Spring Is in the Air

Spring is fully underway in London. Snowdrops, forcythia, crocuses, and cyclamens are all in bloom. The daffodils will bloom soon. Shrubs and trees are putting out new buds.

Winter is a quite brief affair here, albeit dark.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Balance in Scoring

The most popular sport over here is football (soccer), where a 3-0 game is a blowout, and ninety minutes passing without either team scoring is not uncommon. On the other hand, I just heard that England beat Australia 262-4 in cricket.

How about a sport that has some reasonable scores like 10-5 or 21-17?

Iraqi Elections?

The US fought against them every step of the way.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Need the Relativist Snake Eat Its Own Tail?

One of the chief objections to relativism runs like this: The relativist claims that all theories are relative to the theorist's (culture, race, religion, class, role, etc.). But, the objector asks, is the theory just stated above also relative in the same way? If it is, then the relativist cannot assert its truth. If it is not, then it denies the relativist thesis.

What follows is not an argument for or against relativism -- I simply wish to note that, at least in regards to relativism conceived in the particular fashion I outline below, the above argument does not work. Here's why:

The relativist is talking about the relationship of what we might call "first-level world views" when she states that "hteories are relative." That can be defended by noting that each such world view postulates certain entities, relationships, and so on, that it cannot demonstrate and does not interroagte, but that are used to demonstrate all other conclusions within the view. (E.g., physics postulates the idea of a "physical measurement.") Because systems arising from different postulates are incommensurable, there is no way to impartially abjudicate between these world views.

Let us call the level of theorizing of such views L1. Now, what the relativist is doing is moving to a level of theorizing we can call L2. L2 does not assume postulates about our immediate or scientific experience of the world. Instead, at L2, the theorist is concerned with examining the postulates of any such theory. Seeing that all of them depend crucially on their postulates, the L2-level theorist might reasonably conclude that all L1-level theories are dependent upon the cultural, social, economic, ideological, etc. committments of those who hold them. However, as someone theorizing at level L2, that statement need not be subject to the same caveat.

Of course, this in no way guarantees that some L3-level theorist will not come along and subsume the insights of the relativist into some higher synthesis. But that would in no way negate the insight achieved at L2.

Let me illustrate with an example. R.G. Collingwood, in The Idea of History, claims that all theories of human nature are historically contingent views based on human nature as understood by certain people at a certain time. Can Collingwood's claim be defeated by contending that it, too must be historically contingent? Not if he adopts the defence outlined above, where theories of human nature are L1 theories, while he is setting forth a theory about theories of human nature, an L2 theory.

The above view is deeply indebted to the consideration of theorizing appearing in the first 30 or so pages of Michael Oakeshott's On Human Conduct.

When Will We Leave Iraq?

In answer to the above question, George Bush said: "In the end, Iraqis must be able to defend their own country – and we will help that proud, new nation secure its liberty."

For instance, they ought to be able to defend their own country against... a US invasion, maybe? So, the answer is, "We're not leaving until they can kick us out."

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The type of person needed to go to war

You know, that switch from using bull's eye targets to human-shaped targets has really paid off. Now, not only is it easier to shoot actual people, it's fun! But as one mouthpiece points out, such are the "unfortunate and harsh realities of war."

It's Not That Bad, But Shut Up About It

Metro, a free UK paper, has a story today about an academic study demonstrating that heroin use is relatively harmless. "Edinburgh drug worker" David Pentland is quoted as saying: "To put this information out into society... is totally irresponsible."

He doesn't dispute the findings -- he just claims that the truth should be surpressed... maybe because the demand for his services would drop should people realize that they're not really needed?

Job Not Done

Today's headline in one of the papers here -- I don't recall which one -- read: "Bush Says: Our Job in Iraq Not Done Yet."

Well, sure, in that the "job" was the permanent US occupation of Iraq, it certainly isn't "done."

indymedia infiltrated by socialists!

This submission to Indymedia is a couple years old but I only found it last night. Since then I haven't stopped laughing about the author's suggestion that it would be great for Britain to take up the economic policies that made National Socialism so great! I wonder if the readers at Indymedia know the etymology of the word "nazi." Probably not.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Make the Switch!

If you're still using Internet Explorer, you don't realize how good a browser can be. I don't know if there's an even better one, but I've been very happy with Mozilla's Firefox. (Don't worry, it automatically transfers your Favorites, history, cookies, etc.)

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Fuhrer?

The more I think about it, the more absurd it is that Americans think we were ever in danger of being taken over by the Germans or Japanese. After reading many emails about this article, I have two observations:

(1) The Germans abandoned their A-bomb project early on. Also, I've read people who argued that the Germans went down a dead-end because they were afraid to challenge their scientific authorities on certain matters (having to do with particle physics). I've also read that the reason the US finally achieved it was not only that it tapped on the brainy Jews (many of whom fled Nazi Germany) but also because we had billions of dollars to throw at the project. So it wasn't just dumb luck that we made the bomb before anyone else. (Remember that those #2 bad guys, the Soviets, developed their A-bomb after stealing the plans we had invented.) Oh, and let's also remember that the only country to ever use atomic weapons on civilians was the good ol' USA.

(2) Apparently Yahoo! thinks that emails with "wwii" or "nazi threat" or "hitler's drive" in the subject line are automatically spam...

A Film I'd Like to Watch

I was at my friend Michiru's apartment the other day. On his dresser, I saw a book sitting on top of a videotape. The two titles merged together in my mind, and suddenly I realized there was a film I really would like to see made one day: Prince and Wittgenstein Live from Las Vegas on Rules and Private Language.

Crap!

Talk about a shitty story!

Quicksand

Some of us find the challenge of climbing out of a pit of quicksand so exhilirating that we can hardly wait to jump back into the pit so that we can try getting out again.

The Genesis of Atheism

First, I misconceive the idea of God. Then, I reject my own misconception, and praise myself for having set aside "irrational superstition."

(If you wish to conceive the idea of God correctly, you might begin here.)

I Don't Deserve It!

If you don't deserve your income, who does?

In my case, since my income is "outgo" these days, anyone who wants it is welcome to it!

Racing in Germany

A show you don't want to miss.

(Shout out to Jason Song for the heads up on this one.)

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

More aftershocks of 9/11

If you read this article closely, you'll see that Colorado's governor is no friend of the tenure system at state universities.

Why Not Invade Cuba?

Really, why aren't we invading Cuba? I know that posing such a question is a standard pacifist tactic, to extrapolate from whatever our current imperialist enterprises are to the whole world, but in this case I would really like someone to explain why we don't invade Cuba. Cubans are subject to a ruthless dictator, their defenses are weaker than Iraq's, and they pose a much more serious (potential) threat to the US than people in the Middle East.