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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Giuliani Proves bin Laden Not Involved in 9/11

I was just recalling Benito Giuliani's fatuous retorrt to Ron Paul during that presidential debate where he claimed "I don't think I've heard that before," referring to the blowback theory of terrorism. What struck me this time was how absurd is Giuliani's claim to understand the sources of terrorism because he was in NYC on 9/11. You see, it's proximity to an event that brings understanding! The (living) people who understand the source of the 9/11 attacks best are those who got out of the lower floors of the twin towers. Guiliani understands them much better than Paul, who was only in wWashington at the time. Since this effect falls off rapidly with distance, we can surmise that Osama bin Laden, who was half the world away, must no nothing at all about the attacks. QED.

Helping a Student Through Mockery

I saw a "stay-in-school' billboard yesterday reading "I'm going to graduate because they don't think I can," underneath a picture of a male teen. So, if it wasn't for those people denigrating his abilities, he would drop out. So, they're actually helping him. And if there's a student whose abilities you've been knocking, and you've been thinking of stopping, think again -- your cruel words may be the only thing keeping him on the road to a degree!

Let Privateers Troll For Bin Laden

An interesting suggestion by Ron Paul, relying on Larry Sechrest.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Game Theory Simplified

Game theory often seems to be a daunting academic topic. However, much of this impression is the result of mere obfuscation. Here I explain some "game theoretic" concepts in everyday terms:

Stag Hunt -- Jackie, Sue, and Mary are dressing up to go out to the local dance club in hopes of meeting some "stags." Their expectations, however, will be disappointed, as all they will find at the club are weasels camoflauged as stags. A game characterized by imperfect information.

Folk Theorem -- This theorem states that "Folks is just folks." It has been challenged by the Showtime series "Queer as Folk," which raises the important theoretical issue, "Just how queer are folk?"

Prisoner's Dilemma -- The food at the prison is uniformly crap. But if you don't eat at least some of it you will starve. How to resolve the dilemma?

Chicken -- Guido and Tony decide to play chicken with their Camaros on Court St. They separate by a few blocks and point their cars at each other. However, they have forgotten that Court St. is one-way and busy. Before Guido can pull out, the B71 bus passes him and hits Tony head on. This is a "coroner solution."

Coordination Game -- After the police find out what Guido and Tony were doing, they will make Guido play the "Coordination Game," as well as the "Breathe into the Breathalyzer Game."

Rock, Paper, Scissors -- In Brooklyn, we play this game as follows: Player A approaches Player B with a "rock" and some "scissors." Player B then hands over all of the paper in his wallet.

"Don't Tase Me Bro"

Judging from Sean Hannity's radio show and some comments on a Christian blog, it appears that many right wingers thought Andrew Meyer had it coming. There are two major arguments that they use to defend the tasering, and I think each misses the point:

==> "The police were afraid. Just read their reports."

Since my objection is that the police didn't handle themselves professionally, and that in a free market this particular firm would go out of business, this type of response is silly. It's like seeing a guy punch his toddler at the store for not giving up a toy, and then someone defending him by saying, "Nah man, he didn't use too much force. I talked to him, and he wasn't hitting the kid out of sadism. The guy was really frustrated and just wanted the kid to shut up! If they kid had behaved, I know for a fact that guy wouldn't have slugged him."


==> "Andrew Meyer wanted the publicity. He was glad he got tasered."

Umm, do I really need to dwell on why this isn't a good retort from today's conservatives, who think Meyer's rants were ridiculous? Oh well here goes: Imagine Sean Hannity saying, "You know, these liberals whine that we shouldn't be bombing innocent Muslims. Well guess what, Osama *wants* us to do that."

Oh wait, I think Sean Hannity probably has said that...

In any event, I hope you get the point. If the police shouldn't have tasered that kid when he was on the ground and already had one hand cuffed, then the fact that the kid was actually doing it all for publicity isn't a justification for making his plan succeed.

One last point: Of course hindsight is 20-20, but I thought it was pretty obvious that that kid wasn't really a public threat. I mention this because some bloggers defended the cops on the grounds that the kid could've been a nut job who pulled out a gun, and then the public would've wondered why the cops waited so long to take him out. (Also, I doubt Kerry's security would've let a gun into the auditorium on the students, but that's another issue.)

The Foreboding Signal of the Fed Rate Cut

It's a bad time to have a softie at the helm of the Fed.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Those Big Spending Liberals!

I caught Bush on TV complaining that Democrats won't approve a five billion dollar increase he wants in a welfare program subsidizing health insurance. Aren't all of you small-government conservatives glad you worked to get a Republican elected as president?

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Worst

At Townhall.com, one Bert Prelutsky has no sympathy for Baby Boomers:

"But mainly because the Baby Boomers, surely the most selfish and infantile generation in our history..."

"blithering fatheads"

"left-wing chowderheads"

But, Bert, weren't the Boomers raised by your generation? I expect your next column to note that your generation is "surely the worst parents in our nation's history."

Geophysicist Confirms...

three-foot-diameter rocks falling on your head can be dangerous:

"We're now convinced this was a meteor," said Ronald Woodman, director of the Peruvian Geophysical Institute, which sent a team to the isolated site, about 600 miles southeast of Lima, the capital. "This kind of phenomenon can be dangerous, if it falls on a town, or on a house or person. Fortunately, this wasn't the case."

Full story.

(Hat tip to Benny Peiser.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

New AMD Ad

"Leading the industry again, this time its Quad Core."

My version:

"Mangling English again, this time it's run-on sentences."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Philosophy of Mind

I noticed something interesting (and hilarious, if you knew him) at the park. I was trying to get my son (almost 3) to use the sidewalk chalk that some other parent had brought. Since he likes shapes (and since I couldn't draw Thomas the Train to save my life), I tried to get him interested by drawing circles, triangles, etc.

Every time I would start, my son would immediately seize the chalk out of my hand and try it himself. He couldn't do it. So I'd pick up a different piece of chalk to do my shapes, and then he'd drop his and grab my new one. It quickly became clear that Clark thought that there was something special about the chalk that I was always holding, that allowed it to create shapes (while his pieces only created squiggles). I.e. it was as if he thought I was maliciously flipping the chalk off every time I handed it to him. I'm not a Luddite or anything, but I do wonder if Clark would have had this reaction had he not been so used to electronic toys that do all sorts of things "on their own."

Also for what it's worth, even if he were happily playing on the slide 10 feet away, if Clark ever caught me drawing again, he came over to veto the operation. A budding Republican?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Statism Fetishists

I take them on at Strike the Root.

In Defense of CEO Compensation

An article sure to increase my popularity the next time I do Oprah's show. Be sure to skim the comments. The TownHall posters' economics skills are a little scary for what I thought was supposed to be a "right wing" site.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Say What?

I have a PhD in economics so naturally I cannot understand this CNNMoney article about the falling dollar. The article talks about the ailing subprime markets blah blah and how this has hurt the dollar, pushing it to all-time lows against the euro. But it also says this:

And that's about where the dollar will be for awhile, foreign exchange experts say. The euro is not likely to trade much higher than $1.40 in the coming weeks, especially if the U.S. economy is hit with more negative news such as a disappointing read on August retail sales due out on Friday.

Why would disappointing news about the US economy prevent the euro from rising against the dollar? Wouldn't this make it more likely that the Fed would cut rates (or by a larger amount), which all the financial articles say will cause the dollar to fall against other currencies?

The only thing I can guess is that they're arguing that weaker US economy ==> lower US demand for imports ==> stronger dollar. But I'm not so sure about that last step of the argument. Sure, other things equal, if US consumers try to buy less foreign stuff, then the supply of dollars in the forex markets shrinks, and USD goes up.

But by the same token, if foreign investors get bad news about the US economy, won't they be less willing to invest in dollar-denominated assets? So the demand for dollars in the forex market shrinks, and on net it's not obvious which way the price of USD (in other currencies) will move.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ali G Visits My University

About half way in:

The Art of NASCAR Coaching


NASCAR Coach Reveals Winning Strategy: 'Drive Fast'

Wireless Freakout

I was trying to explain wireless technology to my seven-year-old son Adam. I said, "It's like radio." He said, "What do you mean, that's plugged in." I told him that was only for power, and that the signals were picked up from the air. "In fact," I said, "the air all around us is filled with songs, talk radio, TV shows. If we had TV antennaes growing from our heads and TV receivers in our skulls, we could walk around looking at TV shows without any TV."

Man, some days I freak myself right out.

Perpetual Trade Deficits Can Be Good

Really.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Strange Sign at Arcade

I took my son to the mall to let him run around the coin operated "vehicles" (rocket ship, race car, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ride, etc.). One of them had a warning label that said:

DO NOT LEAVE CHILD UNATTENDED
ONE CHILD PER RIDE
MAXIMUM WEIGHT 50 KGs OR 100 LBS


Is anyone else questioning the universe because of that last line?

Ron Paul, Weirdo, Upset by Cops Murdering People

I realize how naive this sounds, but I really don't understand why so many "elites" rip on Ron Paul when he is espousing positions that they ostensibly agree with. Look at this hatchet job by Slate. I could understand if FrontPageMag ran this type of smug commentary. But don't most Slate readers get upset when cops kill innocent people in the Drug War?

And is it really a criticism of Ron Paul that he was against the Vietnam and Korean wars back in 1988, and he still is today? (I kid you not, that seems to be the closing dig on Paul in this clip.)

Forward This Post...

I was working at a company (no, really) where the CIO got ticked off about receiving a chain letter via company e-mail. She sent out a very harshly worded e-mail forbidding chain letter forwarding, and threatening to terminate anyone who violated the policy.

The next day, I received an e-mail from a clever young lad, Marcus Everidge, whom I was managing. It said, in so many words, "Attached is a very important message from the CIO. Please forward it to at least five people within the hour, or you will have very bad luck."

Read This Post By...

Instead of a "sell by" date, wouldn't it be more useful of grocery items sported a "use by" date? You could back into the "sell by" from the "use by" yourself -- "Ooh, the 'use by' is tomorrow, so unless I can use this in one day, I'd better not buy it" -- but who knows what the "use by" is from the "sell by"? Do you have a day to use the stuff after the "sell by" date? A week? A month? Who knows?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Ron Paul Brings Out the Statist in Me

Do any other libertarian "purists" suffer from this angst? On the one hand I decided a while ago never to vote again in a political election. On the other hand, I spend tons of time on YouTube and other sites following Ron Paul. I sincerely hope he wins the election. I have even written LRC articles that all but say, "Go vote for Ron Paul!"

Can anyone reconcile these conflicting urges for me?

Another Microsoft Question

OK kids, there's a five spot for whoever can answer this first (payable in Nashville): I have an Excel document with several sheets. Right now one of the sheets points to an earlier one; i.e. there are lots of cells in it that say stuff like "'May budget'!C6".

Now I want to copy the entire sheet into a different version of this same document. I.e. the sheets and their names etc. are all identical. The problem is, when I copy and paste the sheet from my version onto the "same" sheet in the other document, Excel quite understandably is still linking those cells to the May budget sheet in the first document. I.e. I want to paste it in such that the cells point to the 'May budget'! in the same file.

Any thoughts?

Alex Rodriguez

Who's the good boy talking about Alex in The Freeman? Who's the good boy?

(Sorry, just been talking to my dog, and I can't get out of that mode. Bad blogger! Bad blogger!)

The Chasers

Australian comedians manage to drive a man dressed as Osama bin Laden within ten yards of Bush's hotel in Sydney.

Salty Quotes

Benny Peiser of Liverpool U. has an interesting academic mail list dealing a lot with climate change. Today he offered the following two quotes:

"Since the late 1960s, much of the North Atlantic Ocean has become less salty, in part due to increases in fresh water runoff induced by global warming, scientists say."
--Michael Schirber, LiveScience, 29 June 2005

"The surface waters of the North Atlantic are getting saltier, suggests a new study of records spanning over 50 years. They found that during this time, the layer of water that makes up the top 400 metres has gradually become saltier. The seawater is probably becoming saltier due to global warming, Boyer says."
--Catherine Brahic, New Scientist, 23 August 2007

More salty, less salty? Must be global warming. I'm awaiting the report: "Atlantic just as salty as always: global warming to blame."

The Dynamics of American Politics

Who made the biggest welfare cuts in my life? Clinton. Who enacted the biggest welfare increase since LBJ? Bush II. In domestic and foreign policy, Bill Clinton was a far more conservative president than Dubya has been, in total defiance of their labeling.

The dynamics behind these facts are not hard to discern. What's really important in American politics is that the people on top stay on top. What you couldn't do and get elected is, say, promise to cut defense spending by 50%, or make copyrights die with the creator of a work. Disney and Halliburton would unite to see you crushed, and suddenly there'd be lots of stories in the press about how you seem somewhat "unstable," a bit of a "nutjob" -- think Howard Dean. On the issues that don't matter much to the elite, say, prayer in schools, you can play to the base and draw out sharp differences. But once in office, there's no gain to be had from doing much about it -- instead of your radical program, you wind up tweaking the status quo at the margins, maybe even moving towards your opponent's position. E.g., how much alteration in the abortion situation has happened since Roe vs. Wade, despite multiple Republican presidents and congresses? Somehow, once in office, they just can't quite seem to get around to doing much about an issue they were all fired up about when they were speaking to that BBQ crowd in Utah! Just like the Dems, once in office this year, didn't see any real reason to make a fuss about Iraq or eavesdropping. They know the people who believe their marketing, i.e., that they're the "progressive, caring" party, have nowhere else to go. And if Democrats lose control of Congress? Well, it's off to a nice lobbying jobs! The important thing is, once you're "in," don't rock the boat.

This all would have been quite obvious to Marx. But it's kind of hard to admit you're being played for a fool.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Victor Aguilar Picks His Next Victim

After vanquishing me in open battle, Victor Aguilar faces down Paul Davidson (editor of a Post Keynesian journal) and points to the fences. And Roger Garrison had better get off his tuckus.

Republicans Are Good on Defense

So last week a B-52 was "mistakenly" armed with nuclear missiles and flew across the US. Don't worry, the government is looking into it to make sure this type of snafu doesn't happen again. And they assure us no US citizens were ever in danger (except, I suppose, from the nuclear missiles that were flying overhead).

Is anyone checking on the whereabouts of Lex Luthor when this mistake occurred?

Is It Worth It?

For crime fiction success?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

New Deal Feds to Oil Men: Stop Producing!!

While doing some research I stumbled across references to "hot-oil" production. An interesting phenomenon. (Just think how scarce our supplies would be now if it weren't for the bureaucrats back then!)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Tap Three Times (the Larry Craig Song)

Hey boy whatcha doin down there
Sitting alone every nite while I stare through the crack at you
I can hear your hand a-slappin'
I know your not just in their crappin'
One stall beside me you know you could ride me
I love you

chorus
Oh my darlin
Tap three times on the tiles if you want me
Twice on the john if the answer is no
Oh my sweetness
Tap-tap-tap
Means you'll meet me in my hallway
Twice on the john means you ain't gonna go

If you look under your stall door tonight
Pulling the Charmin with the note thats attached to my heart
Read how many times i saw you
How in my silence i adored you
And only in my dreams did that stall between us come apart

chorus
Oh my darlin
Tap three times on the tiles if you want me
Twice on the john if the answer is no
Oh my sweetness
Tap-tap-tap
Means you'll meet me in my hallway
Twice on the john means you ain't gonna go

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Overheard at the Playground

I had chaufferred Clark to the playground (he wears the pants and diapers in the family). I heard the following exchange between a mother and her daughter, who was probably around 4:

Mother: Ashleigh, we need to leave right now or we won't have time for ice cream.

Daughter: I don't care.

Mother: Well I do!