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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Accessible Toilet

I was walking through the Liverpool St. train station today looking for the loo. I saw a sign saying, "Accessible toilet -->". I chuckled to myself, thinking, "Hmm, where's the inaccessible toilet?"

It turns out the joke was on me! The sign was pointing to the inaccessible toilet, at least from my point of view -- you couldn't use it if you weren't disabled.

Monday, May 30, 2005

How the Right Has Risen

An interesting piece from The Wall Street Journal on conservative and neo-conservative foundations.

Oops!

Jim Henley discusses the US government trying to ready itself for the new wave of terrorists who have been trained in Iraq. Let's rename it "The War on the Terrorism We Will Continually Create"!

The Mercan Food Centre...

is a block away from where I now live. When I saw it, I thought, "Hey, that a food centre from the country George W. Bush lives in -- Merca!" (E.g, "In these times, Merca must be strong and resist the terrorist threat.")

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Tucker to the Rescue

The purpose of this post is to shower gratitude on Jeff Tucker--the wizard behind the curtain of mises.org. My family had gone to watch Jeff's oldest daughter, Julia, play softball. I was playing catch with Jeff's son, Nicholas (who turned out to be better than me at stopping the ball from hitting old ladies watching the game).

When we were about to leave, I took off Jeff's glove and realized to my horror that my wedding ring was missing! I went into paralytic shock and called Jeff over. He began methodically combing the ground, and found the ring! I think I would have kissed him but I know Jeff is old-fashioned.

Oh, the other interesting thing was that I saw an in-the-park grand slam during the game. And for those who know her, I should report that Julia had a tough ump with a microscopic strike zone, but she sure looked intimidating on the mound.

(Yes, this is a true "web log" post. No intellectual content here, folks.)

Albanian Liver

I've been in several Turkish restaurants lately -- Turkish food seems to be a motif of my current sojourn in London -- offering "Albanian liver" on the menu. I suppose the Turks started eating the liver of Albanians when they ruled the Balkans.

Continuing in a culinary vein, I was in a pub tonight where I saw a sign declaring "No children will be served after 8pm." I was ticked off, because it was 8:30, and I had been thinking of ordering up a nice, roasted child.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Can You Imagine?

I was just alerted to the existence of an article "refuting" -- ha-ha! I will devise a crushing reply soon -- something I wrote a few months ago. Now intellectual dispute among mates is one thing, but can you imagine my shock when I discovered my good friend Jan Lester calling me an "asinorum"!

Leeson, Lester, Callahan and betting

Last night (to early this morning) I spent some time with Jan Lester, our man Gene, and Peter Leeson, the new Hayek Fellow at the London School of Economics. Before our congregation devolved into hoisting one another, and two at once (Lester hoisted both Gene and I on his shoulders), we had an interesting conversation about betting in Britain.

If you don't know, all sorts of betting is legal in England. You can bet on just about anything, including politics in obscure countries like, uhm, Canada, say. A website, betfair.com, is the most interesting case of this: It is basically just a shell, allowing for each of us to offer odds, take them, sell them, and so on. Not always does the market end up at 100%, and you can follow the ups and downs as often as you like.

Meanwhile, for your arbitraging benefit, you can take a look at oddschecker.com and use their calculator to find opportunities in differences between odds at various bookmakers and online betting markets.

Star Wars Idiots in Gene's Host Country

I immediately thought of Richard Pryor, but at least he was just trying to get high! What idiots these mortals be!

Red, White, and Blue Fascism

Here a little, there a little. I would just boycott these companies, except I am hard pressed to find a single company that isn't in bed with the feds. Division of labor has it's place, and I just can't bring myself to eat my own chickens.

Indiana announces a new sister state!

A Superior Court judge in Indiana has cemented Indiana's recent inclusion of Iran in the Sister State Program by refusing to let people practice the religion of their choice. I wonder what they will do next. Burkhas, perhaps?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Boyling Over

I've been reading a good bit of Robert Boyle lately, and last night I found myself dreaming that I was him, writing the following in my diary:

This day I have been much engagethed in my diverse philosophical speculations, devoting a requisite portion of my hours to each of the following proposed works: Essay on Fluids Stored Diversely in Jars Upon Shelves Exhibiting Extremity of Height; Commentary on Promiscuous Experiments and Experiments in Promiscuity; Essay Concerning Sensations Generated by Cold, Poros Bodies Placed in Contact with the Underside of the Foote of the Illiterates of the Maldive Islands; and A Natural History of the Gassy Emissions Emanating from the Nether Regions of the Residents of the Antipodes. In addition, my estemeed assistant Mr. Hooke and I have been able to make further progress on our hypothesis that the weight of the supraregions of the atmosphere doth compresseth the shite out of the little curlicues of air particles trappethed down in the depths of that sea, whereas, should they be absolved from bearing the pressure of that mass, they springeth the fuck back into their natural shape and length, like unto "the Boyle family pride" upon my sensory apparatus catching the merest glimpse of Mrs. Boyle in naught but her petticoat.

"...we'd all be speaking German!"

In my LRC article on the unfounded fear of Nazi invasion, I alluded to the claim that, were it not for US entry into WWII, "we'd all be speaking German." Surprisingly, many people said I was attacking a strawman, and that nobody ever claimed that. Well lookie here...

Obi-Wan versus Vader (Spoiler!)

I didn't get around to this issue in my review of Episode III, but I was puzzled by Obi-Wan's victory over Vader. Although the movies indicated that Obi-Wan was one tough Jedi (e.g. he singlehandedly took out Darth Maul after the latter had beaten Qui-Gon, and Obi-Wan jumped into the fray all by himself against that robot guy [his name escapes me] with 4 lightsabers plus all his droid cronies), clearly we learn that Anakin is better.

Of course, we knew going into the film that the two would fight each other, and we knew that Obi-Wan couldn't die, and that (probably) Vader was going to be seriously injured. (I say probably because Vader could've been injured in a different way.)

What I thought was going to happen is that Padme would've intervened--"Anakin, no!"--and this distraction would allow Obi-Wan to get away. But no, what actually happened is that Obi-Wan flat out beat him.

How so? Well, Obi-Wan says, "Don't try it, I have the high ground" or something like that. At the time this literally referred to his physical location on the bank. But perhaps in a deeper sense, Obi-Wan wins because he is right and Anakin ultimately knows that he (Anakin) was in the wrong.

Finally, why doesn't Obi-Wan finish off Vader? Three possible reasons:

(1) He can't bring himself to kill his old friend.
(2) He thought Vader was dead for sure, anyway.
(3) He still believes Anakin is the Chosen One. (And this is fulfilled in Episode VI, remember.)

Tasteless Joke

Reader Chris Strong sent me this link weeks ago, concerning the FDA's decision to bar gay men from donating sperm. Chris asks: "Does the FDA consider sperm a food or a drug?"

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Conundrum

So, it's 3:46am and I'm still in the LSE library -- and no Ritalin! Now the question is, should I go home now, or just wait out morning? I think I'll go fetch that biography of Newton from the stacks.

Follow up: I wound up waiting for the tube to start running at 5:50, and I arrived home about 7.

Apparently, This Fellow Is Dead

But it seems I like his jokes:
I had an apartment and I had a neighbor, and whenever he would knock on my wall I knew he wanted me to turn my music down and that made me angry 'cause I like loud music... so when he knocked on the wall, I'd mess with his head. I'd say "Go around! I cannot open the wall! I dunno if you have a door on your side but over here there's nothin'. It's just flat."

(Shout out to Julian Sanchez.)

It's Not Just Spanish!

Don Boudreaux complains about American reporters using faux-Spanish accents when they hit a Spanish person or place name reading the news. He has a good point, but he's mistaken when he claims that it only happens with Spanish. I recall listening to CBS News Radio during the Bosnian War, thinking that the reporter on the spot sounded like Count Chocula every time he said the name of a Serbian city.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

We Never Thought of That When I Was at UConn

A friend of mine was in the LSE library in the wee hours the other morning. While there he spotted a student busily engaged in processing something at his desk. Out of curiosity, he asked the fellow what he was up to. It turned out that he was chopping up lines of Ritalin with a credit card and snorting them, in order to keep studying.

Yum-yum

The English clearly have a different sensibility about what makes an item sound desirable than do Americans. For example, the other day, I was in a cafe that had named a sandwich on its menu, "The Crusty Bloomer." I can't ever remember, or easily envision, an American restaurant doing the same kind of thing, for example, christening a chocolate desert "The Runny Poop."

Slate Article on Nicole Kidman and Private Law

Well, not quite...But for those of you familiar with my view of market anarchy, it is amazing how well this article illustrates the principles of voluntary safety "regulation."

More Murphy vs. Callahan

I defend Lucas from that mean Gene...

Monday, May 23, 2005

Sometimes, It's Hard to Avoid Squashing Frogs

I hate to sound like a French-hating neocon, but:
"The French have accused [Google] of cultural imperialism, imposing the US world view."

Don't like the American company's search engine? Get your own frigorific one and stop whining!

Speaking of War Crimes...

The Guardian ran a story today relating that nearly a million Vietnamese are suffering health problems related to the US having sprayed 12% of the nation's rainforests and mangrove swamps with Agent Orange.

But isn't this adding insult to injury?
"Kiet's father, Tran Van Loi, who was heavily exposed to Agent Orange during the war, complains of fatigue and weakness, and finds it increasingly difficult to work as a farmer. The family receives meagre benefits: 82,000 dong from the state and 150,000 dong from Vietnam Red Cross each month."

I mean, what good are a couple of hundred thousand severed dicks going to do this poor guy?

That's Frigorific!

I just read, in Atomism and Its Critics, that Pierre Gassendi held the theory that cold is produced by the presence of 'frigorific' atoms. I love that word, and I plan to use it as often as possible. (In fact, more often than possible.)

At the Beach in Norwalk




Notice the signs these three are sitting by!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Whew!

I thought I was hallucinating last week, but when I went to my doctor about it, he told me it was all in my mind.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Grenade

At first I thought the terrorist (or whoever) that chucked a grenade at Bush was being stupid. But on second thought, just the fact that he (she?) got that far will inspire insurgents. And if the thing had exploded, my goodness that would have been symbolic (even if Bush didn't get a scratch). I bet the Secret Service got taken out to the woodshed.

(Of course, I'm always dead wrong on this stuff. For all I know the SS itself chucked the grenade to build sympathy for Bush.)

This Guy Cracks Me Up

More Bush-bashing, folks: In his warnings about stem cell research, the president said:

I've made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life -- I'm against that.

I suppose this isn't an actual contradiction--nobody ever considered Operation Iraqi Freedom to be science, after all.

Chaoulli in the NY Times


Dr. Jacques Chaoulli explains his approach to his Supreme Court trial to law student Debi Chakrabarty at the 2004 Liberty Summer Seminar.

Today, the New York Times indirectly references my Western Standard cover story from last October (entitled "Freedom Fighter") on Dr. Jacques Chaoulli's case before the Supreme Court. They write:
"A diminutive man who has trouble keeping his wire-rim glasses on straight, Dr. Chaoulli, 53, hardly looks like the "freedom fighter" that Canada's conservative news media have called him. But if he wins his case he will tear up the third rail of the nation's politics and raze what many Canadians consider to be the bedrock of their national identity."
Of course, by "Canada's conservative news media," the New York Times means the Western Standard. Where was the rest of Canada's news media on this story? If they covered it at all (which not all of them did), they buried the lede in A3.

Anyhow, the article, entitled "A Doctor-Lawyer-Gadfly v. Canada's Medical System," is a good account of Chaoulli's struggles and battles with Canada's health care system. That struggle has been temporarily been put on hold, since the Court has not yet issued a ruling in the case. Chaoulli finished his arguments almost a year ago... In my article, scholars that I spoke to expected the decision to come down before the end of last year. Why the delay? Dr. Chaoulli explained to me that he thought the delay is "a good sign."

I suppose he must have told the New York Times the same thing, since they write:
"It has been a year since the Canadian Supreme Court heard the case, a rare delay that is raising eyebrows in legal circles. Scholars studying Dr. Chaoulli's challenge say the court is either badly divided or waiting for the appropriate political moment to release a bombshell..."
A bombshell. Now that would be great news for our health care system.

I've sent Jacques an email asking him to comment on the NY Times story. I'll update this entry with his response.

Meanwhile, last August, if you had attended the Liberty Summer Seminar, you would have had a chance to meet the 'freedom fighter' in person. He explained his travails before the Court, and gave a speech on political parties.

UPDATE:
Chaoulli writes the following:
The story is very good.

What I would like people reading it to get out of it :

1. It has been unfortunate that Canadian law schools have been
teaching for so long, wrongly in my view, that the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms
doesn't protect the freedom to
contract, because a society without such a freedom is a Marxist
society.

2. It has been unfortunate that Canadian lawyers didn't challenge
that teaching mentioned above, since they were scared to touch
the taboo being the strong influence of the Marxist-driven labour
unions in Canadian social policies, wrongly put into equation with
the so-called "Canadian national identity."

3. We need in Canada a parallel university system with private law
schools whose teaching would not be driven by socialists
professors of law.

DC Smoking Ban

Gene Healy is, as usual, merciless on the typical argument for banning smoking in bars. (And doesn't he have a great first name?)

Across the Pond

I'm back across the pond in the UK. On the flight over, American Airlines gave me a packet of Ocean Spray "Craisins," which are called "sweetened dried cranberries" on the front. On the back, Ocean Spray boasts that they are "surprisingly sweet."

Given that Ocean Spray sweetened them, why would we be surprised that they are sweet? Maybe what they mean is that we'll taste them and say, "Good God, I never imagined that anyone would sweeten cranberries this much!"

Friday, May 20, 2005

Charge Saddam!

Well this is ironic...In trying to come up with something to blog about, I remembered that I hadn't heard about Saddam in months. So I went to google News to find out the latest (if anything), and the top story was precisely about this! So anyway, what the heck? The US invades a country on the basis of bogus claims, then just locks up the rival ruler and everyone forgets about him. Yay democracy!

Newsweek Flap

I make this post with some trepidation; I don't want to sound like the typical Republican apologist who excuses mistakes (or crimes, actually) by pointing out worse things that Democrats have done. Nonetheless, I couldn't help but guffaw when reading the reactions of Bush Administration officials over the (apparently) unsubstantiated claims regarding the Koran. Rice and the press secretary were saying things to the effect of, 'Newsweek needs to correct the record. People died as a result of these false claims!' C'mon, spare me...

Star Wars III

Zzzzzzzzz.....
Zzzzzzzzz.....

The only (mild) surprise for me was how Padme died -- everything else was telegraphed by putting together the plot of II and IV.

Go here for comments with spoilers, like:

"I'm still not sure why Yoda and the Jedi Fun Club don't realize that the most evil guy in the freakin' galaxy lives and works, like, 20 feet away. And yet, in Episode II, we learn that Yoda can sense the hurt feelings of his fellow Jedi millions of miles away—sorry, Mr. Jedi, I don't get it."

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Headlights

In the last few days I've been in my car for over 21 hours. (Most of that time was spent driving, mind you.) For some reason state troopers (notice that that phrase is just three letters away from the bad guys in George Lucas' famous films) were out in force on the interstates, and so I had several occasions to flash my lights to alert motorists on the other side that a wily cop was waiting to ambush them. I just love everything about this technique; it's nonviolent, completely spontaneous, and hence hard to foil. (If they wanted, I suppose cops and their supporters could flash their lights when there isn't a speed trap, thus diluting the accuracy of my warnings.)

On this particular road trip I went through just about every CD that I own, including Disc Two of Les Miserables (original Broadway cast). A particular pair of lines stuck out every time I executed the headlight trick:

There are wa-a-a-ys that a people can fight /
We shall overcome their pow-e-e-r!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Adam's Question

From my four-year-old son:
Can people who don't have TVs vote?

Eamon's Question

From my eight-year-old son:
Which tastes the worst?
a) Human dung
b) Animal dung
c) Carl Jung
d) Neil Young

Boondoggle Alert

This story could serve as the paradigm for all government "investment" projects.

"HARRISBURG—Gov. Ed Rendell said Tuesday the state is taking action on several fronts to help the struggling Mountain Laurel Center for the Performing Arts get back on its feet financially.

"The governor told Ottaway News Service that the state's effort to help Mountain Laurel includes assembling a $500,000 kitty to help the center meet operating expenses in the upcoming concert season, directing Public Financial Management, the state's financial advisor, to offer advice to arts center officials on restructuring their financing and persuading the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend its guarantee of the bond package arranged by Dolphin & Bradbury, a Philadelphia municipal bond house....

"Rendell's remarks provide confirmation for the news last week that the center in Bushkill plans to draw on $375,000 in state funds and a projected $750,000 in revenues from the new Pike County hotel room tax to offer a season of shows this summer."

So is this some unfortunate mom-and-pop business that was hit with an unforeseeable disaster? "The arts center was built with the help of a $15 million state capital redevelopment assistance grant awarded by former Gov. Tom Ridge. The center ran out of money shortly after it opened and had to cancel its performances last year."

After getting a $15 million subsidy, the center ran out of money as soon as it opened!

Aren't you glad the state is "investing" our money for us?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Galloway before Senate

George Galloway was elected as Member of Parliament for the riding of Bethnal Green. The man, widely considered a demagogue and a vituperative and powerful speaker, was accused in a recent Senate committee hearing of having been the beneficiary of oil money from Hussein's regime.

He's denied it. And he called on the Senators to allow him to testify in his own defence.

They did. And fireworks flew (watch the video in the top right-hand corner).

You can watch a large chunk of Galloway's testimony here. At any rate, you can research Galloway on the BBC, and definitely watch two things: His victory speech (where he accuses Blair and Bush of having the blood of tens of thousands of Iraqis on their hands. And then calls on the returning officer to resign), and then his interview with Jeremy Paxman.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Meanwhile, in the Invasion That's Going Well

Anti-American riots sweep the country.

President Karzai is attempting to gain control of American military operations, but, he says: "We know that without the strategic partnership with America, Afghanistan would not make it as a sovereign, independent nation." In other words, he knows he's running a puppet government and will have to get a real job if the Americans leave.

Somebody Boiled the Rice Too Long

Condoleezza Rice says US troops will have to stay in Iraq until "it can defend itself." Such as, for instance, against an invasion by the army of a large, North American superpower?

Saturday, May 14, 2005

What I've been doing lately...


The new dog, Jack. Nine weeks old, miniature Dachshund.

My first attempt at a French Intensive Garden. My fingers are crossed, and my carrots finally sprouted. They are purple carrots. Imagine that.

Our two rabbits. They love clover. My husband is upset because I won't let him mow the clover down.

And I thought I was simply feeding the birds, and voila! Sunflowers all over my yard.

Friday, May 13, 2005

It's Not True!

I ran across a notion today that I've met many times before, in gardening books, magazines, and web sites:
"Get rid of the lawn—No time to mow? Rip the lawn out and add an herb garden, a few vegetables, and some specimen plants. If you put in regional natives, you can cut down on watering too. Save your compost and put that on your plants instead of chemical fertilizers. Cottage gardens are much more interesting and useful than lawns, and they're easier to maintain."

I lived on and maintained an acre of yard for 5 years, divided about evenly between lawn, garden, and woods. The woods were the easiest part to maintain -- clean out the fallen branches occasionally and walk through with a machete twice a year to keep paths clear -- the lawn the second easiest -- and I mowed twice a week and spot weeded! -- and the garden far and away the most difficult. Gardens require pruning, watering, fertilizing, staking, and deadheading, but by far the biggest job is weeding. The idea that mulch eliminates the need for weeding is nonsense -- it helps, but sooner or later weeds pop right up through it.

Stories I lived without...

Not that anyone asked, but just in case anyone wondered, I am still alive. I have successfully avoided reality for nearly a month, and only came back because my children were beginning to look hungry. They ran out of cereal, the milk went bad, and they were eyeing me like wolves, coming in for the kill. So, I came back to reality, and cooked them some food.

I thought I would go through to see the news I had missed the last month, and just as I suspected, they were basically the same stories from the month before. There were the stupid stories, or more correctly, the stories exhibiting the stupidity of the human race: the stupid new food pyramid. I don't know why they even bother, since they can't ever get it right anyway. Of course, one can always depend on The Onion to cut through the crap. (Is there anyone else out there who is not the slightest bit baffled at why Satire is now the major source of news for thinking adults in this country?)

Speaking of stupid, The latest airport news is out. What a colossal waste of time. You can bring matches, but not a lighter? Big whoop! Of course, the whole thing is just a big waste of time.

Even more stupid, if such a thing is possible, is belief in Voodoo, in MASSACHUSETTS, of all places. You could file this story under the heading: Voodoo as diversity. (Being from Louisiana, I feel I can speak on this subject as something of an expert.)

Then there are the stories that fall under the general rubric of: How Fucked Up Is That!!?? First, that mass-murdering Negroponte is confirmed.Then the government doesn't pass up the opportunity to stick it to the soldiers. If it isn't killing them, it is giving them the shaft. Onto more horror, the government, a la Nazi Germany, performing scientific experiments on children. Oh hell, how about discrimination against gay men by the federal government (this could also fall under the WHAT ELSE IS NEW category). And what about that poor boy punished for talking to his soldier mother in Iraq on the phone??

Had enough? I have, for now.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Why Buying an S&P 500 Index Fund Is Not a "Buy-and-Hold" Strategy

Good article by Gary North on the above. Buying an S&P fund can mean buying speculative stocks at their market top and dumping them when they tank!

Poor Pat

This column by Pat Buchanan, questioning whether fighting WWII was worth it for the West, is stirring a lot of controversy, with the predictable response being, "What about the Holocaust?"

Folks, I've got a little secret to reveal to you: The West's entry into WWII did not prevent the Holocaust! (It may, in fact, have prompted it.)

The Invasion Worked!

The true goal of invading Iraq has been achieved!

Informal, Unscientific Poll

Do you read Crash Landing?

1) Yes.

2) No.

3) Maybe.

Please use our new comment feature to respond.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I Thought Cal Thomas Liked the Bush Administration

But I guess not:

"We are dealing with people who have repeatedly demonstrated they have no moral constraints and are willing to perpetrate mass murder while practicing their religiously twisted ideology in pursuit of their objectives."

The Problem with the Neighborhood

I was listening to the news while driving yesterday. The story was about a policeman stabbed in, as I recall, Jamaica, Queens. A local was interviewed, and he commented "The area itself isn't bad -- it's just some of the people who move in."

I guess what he was getting at was that particular latitude and longitude don't promote crime in and of themselves -- if the area wasn't chock full o' criminals, it would be quite pleasant.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Mises Rips off Shaw

Fellow blogger Rachael Anne alerted me to a passage from George Bernard Shaw that anticipates Mises' calculation argument by almost 40 years. Details here.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Mind Power

I'm sure I'm just stealing this point from someone else, but just in case I'm not:

People have this view that the notion of someone being able to manipulate the physical world with his or her mind is patently absurd. If there were reported cases of someone with "telekinetic" powers, the scientific person would try to come up with a "rational" explanation, because obviously you can't just will a rock off the ground. And yet, all the time we just will our own bodies off the ground. Nobody would think much of it if I exclaimed, "Holy smokes! Yesterday I saw this guy who could control his eyebrows with his mind!!"

Blurry vision

Google has recently released a nifty maps feature. You can not only get directions from one place to another, you can also check out a satellite image of the place you want to find. Some places let you zoom in pretty close, so that you can recognize your own home, but others, like London, don't get close at all.

So I was fooling around with the feature for a while, and decided to take a closer look at D.C. I found the Cato Institute, and the Jefferson monument, and then tried to get real tight on Congress. It's blurred. I guess I should have expected it, but I didn't.

Separation of Church and State

Here's a good one--some people got voted out of their church because they don't support President Bush. Yes that's absolutely ludicrous, but it's also dumb that the ousted members are suing. What would their case be? ("There should be separation of Church and State. So that's why we'd like the State to force our pastor to resign.")

One comment in the story seemed strange, though. Heidi Jenkins opined, "It's just an outrage for something like this to happen in America." I agree, but wouldn't it be even more outrageous if a pastor in Belgium booted out anyone in his congregation who didn't vote for Bush?!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Organized Crime Movies

My wife and I watch movies like crazy (we belong to Netflix). A few weeks ago we saw Ocean's Twelve, with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, etc. It wasn't nearly as good as the first one (which itself was a remake of course), but it did raise an interesting point: How to compare the relative criminal talents of Ocean (Clooney), who is a great leader, versus this other master thief, who always works alone? It seems to me a good criterion would be how much money (on net) they steal per gang member. E.g. even though the casino heist (in the first movie) may have netted more total, Ocean should be penalized for having to use ten (or 11? I don't remember if "Ocean's Eleven" counts Ocean himself) other guys.

We also finished the Godfather trilogy. The third one was nothing compared to the first two, but that's somewhat like saying the Holy Ghost is nothing compared to the first two persons of the Trinity. I wonder how much Pacino got paid for III? He carried that movie, but again, there aren't too many movies that have Al Pacino plus Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, James Caan, etc.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that the reason Vito Corleone was so much more respected (and feared) than Michael was that Vito never lied. Sure, he wasn't a good libertarian; he'd initiate aggression all the time. But at least in the movies (I can't remember if this is true in the novel), the original Don Corleone wouldn't pretend to be your friend and then have someone shoot you two months later.*

* A possible exception I suppose is in II when the young Vito (Robert DeNiro) pays off that one guy, then tracks him down and shoots him in his apartment. But even here, it's not nearly as duplicitous as Michael's antics.

Cooking Club Scam

Today I received a package in the mail from the Cooking Club of America. It sounds like a great deal. You pay $1 a month in dues, and then they send you a magazine every month, and you get discounts on stuff, and best of all, they send you products to test, which you then get to keep. Stuff like cookware sets and coffee makers. Well, I decided to google it. And I found the story of one woman's experience. Sounds pretty shady to me. First off they billed her for two years instead of one, and then they sent her a book (with a bill for $9.99) that she never asked for. She mailed back the book, but received another bill for it, at which point she called customer service. Well, the Club has a policy that says if you're not happy, they'll refund your dues. So they sent her a check. Well, she read all the fine print, and it turns out if she had deposited the check, she would have been agreeing to sign up for their Premiere Lifetime Membership--which costs $330. Whoa!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Huh?

Sunday's cover of New York Vue magazine, the TV supplement of the Daily News, read "Rosie's Challenge: Playing a retarded woman poses a tough test for O'Donnell."

I really having nothing more to say about that than the title of this post.

a bush burns in the desert while a pharoah hoses it down

Need it be repeated that regulations only stifle competition? You bet! Again and again until everyone knows the mantra.
Having homesteaded the fire arts festival in the desert niche, Burning Man has grown into a large enough operation that it requires significant paperwork and money be given to various government agencies. Since much of the territory was untread, the process of discovering how much the government could bleed out of the annual event took several years and a lot of wrangling. Detente was finally reached and the festival went on to make plenty of scratch for the governmental vultures.
Enter Burning Bush, an non-profit alternative to Burning Man designed to bring back some of the artistic freedom and sense of community that was lost when the Burning Man festival grew too large. It managed to bring together many artists that felt the older festival had moved in a direction contrary to their ideals. Although never quite under the radar nor undisturbed by the Federales, Burning Bush managed to happen without much interference...until this year. For whatever reason (conspiracy, critical mass, someone at the BLM needs new shoes) the BLM is asking for a lot more money upfront (approx. $6700 for 340 people to camp in the desert for five days.) It's an amount that Burning Man could cover easily but not the much smaller Burning Bush. For all the bitching Burning Man officials did when the BLM was on their tails for money, it seems that in the end those payoffs benefited Burning Man by possibly eliminating their first real competition. Hopefully, Burning Bush will be able to find the money or a private location on which to hold their event but it just goes to show that once again the government only knows how to ruin a good thing.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

(A) vote for me

Two days ago I received an interesting piece of paper in my mailbox. By all appearances, it was a polling card explaining to me where I should go to vote in the May 5th British election. This would be of little interest were it not for the small fact that I'm neither a resident, nor a citizen of the United Kingdom.

It turns out that the wheels in the British Empire kept spinning even after all the colonies, uhm, got their own governments and stuff.

So why my ability to vote? Well, I'm a citizen of a country that still puts British Kings and Queens on its coins, and, in some cases, includes the union jack on its flags. Citizens of commonwealth countries can vote in British elections if they live there for a while.

I know all the reasons why voting is irrational. But I also know that it's irrational only if your intention is to actually affect the outcome of the election. It isn't irrational if the value of, say, scribbling down your own name, marking an X next to that, and being able to forever say that you received a vote for Prime Minister of Great Britain, is greater than the expenditure of time and effort required by it.

Now I need to find out if Britain allows write-in candidates and, if not, what other sort of chicanery I can come up with for a good Crash Landing story. If you have an idea, send it my way.

Vegetables etc

To follow up on a recent post regarding gov't folks and the classification of tomatoes... Mr Callahan notes... Now, I suppose it's better the legislators spend their time that way than in passing some intrusive new law. Now that type of legislation is not as innocuous as it may appear. The potential ramifications of an unfunded mandate is paid for by someone. Just changing labels from manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, servicers etc adds up. The new and better info labels on foods we consume from the corner market cost, well, a lot of time and money. I can't imagine that the gov't bureaucrats are talking about something so inane unless someone makes money. Or perhaps it is a function of a topic I suggested as a sequel to the book "Economics for Real People". That book could be named "Economics for Real Gov't Bureaucrats". For instance if the tomatoe classification crisis is as it appears to be... useless and stupid, then why? Gov't job creation maybe. As the gov't doesn't create much of anything that anyone wants to buy, I think this could be an example of expansion of the very lucrative business of gov't bureaucracy. Perhaps some legislator's cousin's spouse needs a job. How about initiating a study on tomatoes?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

wouldn't you like to find a Pepper too?

Okay, what is the deal with all the new soft drink flavors lately? Lime-flavored Coke. Aruba jam Sprite. Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper. Yeah, it's great that there are so many choices "available". I say "available" because when the only product from the Dr Pepper family "available" at the supermarket is Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper, it's not much of an improvement. How 'bout making sure plain ole Dr P is regularly on the shelves too?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Genius Takes a While to Catch On...

One of the ways I explain my failure (thus far!) to achieve worldwide notoriety is to collect examples of similar underrating of work that, in retrospect, is laughable: (These anecdotes are from memory and thus 85% accurate, guaranteed...)

* The first record label to hear The Beatles turned them down.
* After hearing Hey Jude, the producer (I forget who) told McCartney, "Pop songs aren't that long," to which M replied, "This one is."
* After presenting his findings on the incompleteness of any axiomatic system of arithmetic, Kurt Godel didn't get much reaction. (John von Neumann was in the audience and asked him about it privately, after the talk.) The minutes of the conference didn't even mention Godel's results.
* After showing his results on the existence of an equilibrium in any suitably specified game to von Neumann, John Nash was informed that it was a trivial application of a fixed point theorem.
* George Akerlof's paper on the "market for lemons" was rejected by at least two (I think more) journals before acceptance. Two of the editors told him that they didn't publish articles on such trivialities. (Nash and Akerlof both won the Nobel for these works.)
* Gene Callahan, for the first 8 years of his professional career, was driven to post his analyses of pop culture on a seldom-read web log (or "blog" as it was called in those days) before receiving the prestigious post of C.S. Lewis Chair of Revisionist Science History at Oxford.

Site Move

Crash Landing is moving to new servers during the next day or so. There may be a little downtime involved in the move -- our apologies.

PS -- The move went so smoothly that we appear to have had no downtime at all. There may be some items missing on the new server. Please e-mail me -- gcallah@mac.com -- if you run across one.

Whew!

Well, even though capturing Saddam didn't stop the violence in Iraq, and "turning over sovereignty to Iraqis" didn't stop the violence, and elections didn't stop the violence, at last, naming a cabinet has stopped the violence. Thank goodness.

If a Palestinian Protest Is Peaceful...

the Israelis know how to make it appear violent anyway.

Revisionist History

Julian Sanchez makes some good points about the nonsense the warmongers will believe. But what struck me was that both sides of the debate are using "revisionist history" as an insult. Meanwhile, someone like Murray Rothbard would use it as a compliment. But viewed dispassionately it's inherently neither: whether a piece of revisionist history is good or bad depends on whether the evidence calls for the revision or not!

Just Kidding!

When I posted the image below a few days ago, I said that Frank, pictured in it, was just about to rough me up.

I want to assert here that this was merely a joke. In fact, the last time I saw Frank, he recommended I mention that I was just kidding, or else I'd be "sleeping with the fishes."

Does anybody know where the fish sleep?

Play Puck!

At lunch today someone told me that the NHL didn't play this season. Obviously, she must have noticed, and the players had to have as well, but had anyone else? Tell the truth, now!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Giver's Remorse

My dad likes to give me stuff. He's always been generous with me, even when he didn't have much money to be generous with. A funny thing about his generosity is that he gives me things he likes. I'm not trying to sound picky, honestly, because at this point in my life, my husband's money buys me everything I need and almost everything I want, so I can accept my dad's gifts knowing he's saying "I love you." For instance, last time I was visiting, my dad wanted to loan me one of his robes. So he did. Then he offered to let me keep the robe. I said thanks but no, since I was flying, and had nowhere to put a terrycloth robe. Also, I already had two robes. I think he decided that I didn't like that particular robe, so every day he'd pull out another one to loan me, suggesting that maybe I'd like this one better. Over the course of my visit, I borrowed four different cream-colored, 3/4 length sleeved, knee length men's bathrobes all stolen from various hotels. I could tell my dad REALLY wanted me to take one, so finally, I said I'd like the last one he had offered me. I couldn't fit it into my suitcase, obviously, so he said he'd have my mom ship it. I get home. My dad calls a few days later. It turns out, I'd chosen his favorite bathrobe, and could I possibly settle for one of the others?

What made me think of this funny quirk of his is that I was just cleaning off my desk, and came across an old passbook. Long ago, my parents gave me an extra checking account that came with their premiere account. Recently--prepare to be shocked--my dad asked for it back. Anyway, the checkbook had a soft leather cover on it that my dad had gotten in the mail from the bank, and offered to me. I could tell that later he regretted giving it to me, because he kept saying things like, "If you're not gonna use that, I will," and "That's a really nice checkbook cover, I know I'd like to have it." Now that the account is closed, I'm going to give it back to him when I visit in a couple weeks. I know he'd like to have it.