Sunday, December 30, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
"If there were no differing interests, we should scarcely be aware of the common interest, which would never meet any obstacle; everything would run by itself, and there would no longer be any skill in politics."
Friday, December 28, 2007
At 8 PM we headed over to the Marriot where Ron Paul greeted us and gave an inspiring speech. There were hundreds of students in attendance. When Ron Paul told us that this movement would outlast the election, regardless of the final outcome, he was given a fiery, standing applause. When he gives a speech you can tell he feeds off the enthusiasm and attention of the audience, and gets better and better as he goes. Afterward, Ron Paul shook hands and took a photo with every single student. He looks tired, but energetic despite it. We are being split into camps and we will be canvassing throughout Iowa in the coming days. I have some photos, but I'm not able to upload them until after the trip. I'm not sure how consistently an internet connection will be available, but I'll do my best to update what's happening on the ground in Iowa.
Six days and counting until the vote and a lot of work remains to be done.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Now, in an effort to criticize Ron Paul, people (some who are conservative, though I don't really know about the Morning Joe crowd) are ripping him for allegedly blaming the war on slavery. (That's asinine, by the way, since Paul follows DiLorenzo's take on this issue closely. I.e. Paul was saying that Lincoln didn't need to fight a war to free slaves; he wasn't saying Lincoln went to war to free the slaves.)
This video of the Morning Joe show is a great example of what I mean. At one point the guest host (I think?) says something like, "I will be willing to move on, Dr. Paul, if you will admit..." and I thought he was going to say, "...slavery would not have ended without a war." But that's not what he said, he said, "...that Lincoln went to war to save the Union." Holy crap. Thank you, that's what many of us have been saying all along, that Lincoln went to war to crush the political self-determination of the South.
Finally, pay close attention starting around 6:30. The other guy chimes in to be a tough guy, and when Ron Paul says, "You don't have the courage to read DiLorenzo!" he retorts something like, "You're talking to the wrong guy!" I.e., "you thought you were messing with a non-scholar, but you just slipped up, my friend. BAM!"
However, since that moron a few seconds earlier had said that every other historian agreed with him and not DiLorenzo, I think we know what kind of avid reader he must be. (And I don't mean because I agree with DiLorenzo, I mean what kind of idiot thinks that every single other academic could disagree with one lone wolf on a major issue?)
And then the grand finale, this nincompoop says to the others, "Did you say he was a crackpot?" Ah what a thinker this man is. I bet Socrates is glad he had that drink so he doesn't have to call in and face this giant of debate.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I responded, "What do you expect? You moved them out of Brooklyn to Milford, PA. Of course they're turning white -- they can't dance anymore, they want mayonnaise with their fish food, and they watch ice hockey instead of hoops."
I have had a cold for a good two weeks now; it's really annoying. Anyway, I mentioned to my wife that I have a hard time swallowing big pills, and that I chicken out and have to hold the NyQuil gelcap in my mouth for a few seconds while I build up the courage to swallow it. She asked, "Aren't you worried it will start to dissolve in your mouth?" and I scoffed.
Well one thing led to another, and before you know it she has out her cell phone to act as a stopwatch while I hold a NyQuil in my mouth with some water. After 7 minutes I decided just to bite the thing to see how bad it was.
I kid you not, it was quite possibly the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted. You know how if you take an aspirin or something with a chipped edge, you can taste it and it's a bit gross? That is like a shower compared to a fire hose, when you try my NyQuil experiment.
Incidentally, if you are now curious, I think it's important to hold it in your mouth for a few minutes. The warmth of the contents made it that much more disgusting. I actually thought for a second that there was some chemical reaction and it was eating away my tongue.
Go ahead and guffaw at this blog post; your scorn doesn't bother me, after I have lived through the horrors of tongue-to-NyQuil-gelcap-interior contact. The next time you have to take a NyQuil gelcap, go ahead and do the experiment. You won't believe how disgusting it tastes.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Folks, there's no such thing as "Islamo-fascism," and "moral equivalency" is used to smear anyone who criticizes anything America does, by saying any criticism at all is the same as saying "America is just as bad as X," where X can be "the USSR," "the VietCong," "Castro," or "al Qaeda,"
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Umm, does this shock anybody else? I guess I kinda pictured Afghanistan as a few dozen goatherds and opium growers. And Taliban.
Just to be clear, I understand that these two and their supporters would clarify and evade any "gotcha" from me; Perino obviously would say, "I meant that if Thomas were claiming that the US intentionally killed innocents, it was offensive," and Giuliani would say, "I meant that I never expected to hear that from a fellow Republican, especially one seeking to be Commander in Chief." But it still disappoints me that people on YouTube can think "Giuliani schools Ron Paultard" or "Perino ownz Helen Thomas" when they so obviously botched their comebacks.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
"Let us never forget that the existing primitive tribes are precisely the ones that didn't progress and remained in their primitive state. To infer from observing them that this is the way our ancestors behaved is nonsense and apt to be the reverse of the truth, for our ancestors presumably behaved in ways, which quickly advanced them beyond the primitive stage thousands of years ago. To scoff, therefore, at the idea that our ancestors among primitive tribes engaged in barter, and then in monetary exchange, etc., on the basis of the magic and games indulged in by present-day primitives, is a blunder of the highest order."
Rothbard is rejecting trying to figure out ancient hunter-gatherers by looking at how modern hunter-gatherers live. Now, that would seem to be one of the best ways to make progress here, and Rothbard's reason for rejecting seems capricious ("they are the ones that didn't advance" -- yeah, maybe because they live in the center of the Amazon rain forest, hey?), but let's grant him his point for a moment. What is Rothbard's alternative? He goes on to write:
"Secondly, the primitive's life is a life of almost constant terror. Terror of the world about him, which he does not and cannot understand, since he has not engaged in any sort of scientific, rational inquiry into its workings. We know what a thunderstorm is, and therefore do not fear it, and can take rational measures against lightning; the savage does not know, and therefore surmises that The God of the Thunder is displeased with him..."
You see, rather than doing the best you can by studying modern, primitive tribes, the right way to understand our roots is to just make up whatever shit you want off the top of your head, based on nothing at all!
Man, am I glad Rothbard cleared up that methodological confusion!
His argument against being able to voluntarily place oneself in slavery is wonderful. To be a slave means to cease being a moral agent -- if the master says, "Eat those schoolchildren," the slave is obliged to do it. But this is impossible -- the slave's moral agency cannot be alienated, no matter how much he wants to do so. I believe Rousseau is right. Libertarians should not interfere with "voluntary slavery contracts," but they should treat them as nonsense -- as if you agreed to sell me "all of the galaxies that will never be reached by humans." Two people can clown around and claim they have this agreement, but no one else should help them enforce it, or even allow them to enforce it violently.
For someone who I have often seen presented as "the anti-libertarian," Rousseau has two positions that are largely libertarian:
1) One of the major selling opints of the State for Rousseau is that it serves to secure private property. (Whether he is right that it can do so is doubtful, IMHO, but if it could that would be a good thing.)
2) He makes it clear that only unanimous consent can justify the State, and there is no justification for the, "Your ancestors were conquered, now shut up and obey," explanation of legitimacy put forward by conservatives.
More to come.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
'Now, it might be possible that the US Congress were all in on Bush and Cheney’s lies before they made them, but I find it much more likely that the the current administration, like the previous one, was relying on imperfect information provided by poor intelligence work.'
Fine, let's grant that for the sake of argument, Doug -- they still lied! Why? Cause what they should have said was, 'We're very suspicious that Iraq is continuing their weapons programmes.' In the face of many conflicting intelligence reports (e.g., Scott Ritter saying, 'Nope, no WMDs') that is the strongest thing they were entitled to say. Instead, they said, 'We know for sure Iraq has WMDs and WMD programmes'. That's called lying, Doug.
Read the rest.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Yeah, that's more significant than someone raising $4.75 million in one day. I can see why they wouldn't even mention it on their political coverage page.
'Why, then, do you think they attack us?'
'I think they want to return to the 8th century.'
I see. It's plausible to think that al Qaeda members believe they can reverse 13 centuries of history, but implausible to think that they believe guerilla warfare might drive off foreign troops! And it's not like al Qaeda has done this before or anything! It's not as if they spent a decade in Afghanistan fighting the USSR, or anything like that.
This is immoral, willful blindness. Now, we all have our shortcomings and blind spots. (Well, not Wabulon, but you get my point.) However, it's one thing to overlook the fact, say, that your son breaks antennas off of cars. But it's quite a bit different when this blindness has alreay gotten a million people killed.
Some photos courtesy of Chris Rolliston (I will shrink them to fit soon!):
I have dinner with Colin Tyler, James Connelly, and Chinatsu Kobayashi. The bloody Brits wouldn't give me one of their funny hats!
My dissertation advisor, David Boucher, chats with Stamatoula Panagakou. Colin told David, 'That's the ugliest jumper I've ever seen.' David replied, 'It's not ugly, it's festive'.
A view of the grounds.
Whoa! Did I just hawk up a sidewalk oyster or what?! Steve Buckel is clearly disgusted.
1) Someone being interviewed talked about Victorian times being the era of 'well-built buildings.' Maybe that's true -- but you're sure can't determine it by just looking around you at the buildings built now and those built then. That's because your samples aren't the same. For today's buildings your sample is essentially 'all buildings,' while for Victorian buildings your sample is 'the best constructed victorian buildings.' A little Welsh miner's shack built in 1850 just ain't around anymore!
2) These folks were waxing all nostalgic about the beauty of steam presses, etc. Of course, for the sentimentalists of the 19th century, those were the dark Satanic mills! (The site linked to capitalizes 'Mills', perhaps thinking that Blake meant James and John Stuart.)
Last night I emailed myself the attachment with the subject line "ha sg chap xvii". And can you believe, that Yahoo! routed it to my spam folder?! When will the mainstream start taking us seriously?!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Anyway, I was intrigued by the interview with Eugene Fama to which Cowen linked. But Fama says something pretty dumb, in commenting on the alleged "irrational exuberance" of markets:
Well, economists are arrogant people. And because they can’t explain something, it becomes irrational. The way I look at it, there were two crashes in the last century. One turned out to be too small. The ’29 crash was too small; the market went down subsequently. The ’87 crash turned out to be too big; the market went up afterwards. So you have two cases: One was an underreaction; the other was an overreaction. That’s exactly what you’d expect if the market’s efficient.
Huh?! I hate when really sharp proponents of a worldview talk like this; you see Darwinians do it all the time. Contrary to Fama, if the market were efficient, then the underreaction of 1929 would have nothing to do with whether the response to the 1987 crash were too high or too low. Ex ante the response would be expected to be just right, and ex post there's no reason to think it would've been more likely to be an overreaction. (Well, strictly speaking, if it weren't symmetrically distributed about the mean of zero, even so that would have nothing to do with the underreaction in 1929.)
If Fama were right, that would mean from 1935 onwards, people who believed in an efficient market would say, "The next time the market crashes, there will be an overreaction. So let's buy halfway into the plunge and we'll make money for sure."
Does that sound like an efficient market?
NB: I am not saying that an efficient market implies no over- or underreactions. What I'm saying is that the errors aren't correlated. What Fama has done is say that equivalent of, "The roulette wheel came up black and then red, which is exactly what we would have expected from a fair casino."
Finally, it occurs to me that it's getting late, and I have been dealing with a cranky toddler. So maybe I shouldn't be so quick to lecture Fama on the EMH. Oh well, "prove me wrong kids, prove me wrong."
* OK, British laddies: If you go out with messy hair, that's cool -- you were in a rush, you care about other things more than appearance, you forgot, etc. But if you spend a half-an-hour every day to make your hair look messy, you are a twerp.
* I don't get cricket! I walk to the lounge, and the score is 99-1. I go out again an hour later, and the other team is up 428-99.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Life in a politics department is full of dilemmas.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
-- R.G. Collingwood, An Essay on Metaphysics (emphasis mine)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
1 2 3
1 2 3 4
1 2 4 3
1 4 2 3
4 1 2 3
1 3 2
1 3 2 4
1 3 4 2
1 4 3 2
4 1 3 2
3 1 2
3 1 2 4
3 1 4 2
3 4 1 2
4 3 1 2
2 1 3
2 1 3 4
2 1 4 3
2 4 1 3
4 2 1 3
2 3 1
2 3 1 4
2 3 4 1
2 4 3 1
4 2 3 1
3 2 1
3 2 1 4
3 2 4 1
3 4 2 1
4 3 2 1
Does this have any important mathematical significance? Well, no, not really. Yes, it shows clearly why there are n! permutations of n, but you knew that already. So why bother with it? Because, think of this list, not of 1-4, but 1-infinity. Can you visualize it? It is infinite in a rather complex way.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I realize this was an LRC piece, and not a submission to the Journal of American Philosophy, but I still think you made this way too blunt.Firstly, I don't think Bob's invocation of the "extreme libertarian position" is relevant, unless he means by this the pure (and thus correct) moral position a consistent libertarian would hold. Libertarianism is about total respect for life and property, but it is not clear how a baby dropped by a stork onto Gene's ship has violated any property rights. It doesn't seem the Reason/Cato/Blockian position on this is a logical extension of a libertarian moral framework in any coherent sense.
First, the extreme libertarian position probably IS to have the legal right to kick the guy off your ship. I'm virtually certain that's what Walter Block (of non-Crash Landing posting privileges) would say.
Second, let's make the analogy closer. Suppose the person coming aboard was certain to go around ripping up the sails, or was so heavy that the ship couldn't get to the original destination. Or suppose the owner of the ship had just watched that early Nicole Kidman movie and was afraid the guy coming aboard was a nutjob.
There are plenty of scenarios where even intuitively, most people would think it OK for the ship owner to kick the person back into the ocean. So then the issue is, is Gene's ideal court going to get inside the person's head and second-guess those motives?
I.e. if you agree that if the owner truly feared for his/her life--maybe the person climbing aboard just had a weird look about him, or kept muttering stuff under his breath--then that makes refusal to bring him aboard OK, then I think you're stuck. Because then everyone can just claim that that was the motivation, and it would be hard in practice to prove otherwise.
If you're just trying to prove most cases of abortion are immoral, that's one thing. (I'm neither agreeing nor disagreeing.) But I don't think you've come close to proving that it would be illegal in a just world.
Bob's next point is, I think, his most constructive. Bob's week Nicole Kidman-watching captain scenario aside (how do irrational fears factor into an objective moral assessment of abortion?), Gene's point that the new passenger cannot "compel you to go anywhere you were not going before" is not perfectly analogous to pregnancy. The handling of an unruly passenger whose presence may tear down sails is less clear than the originally framed situation. And of course a pregnancy might lead the mother to have to change the destination if, say, she intended on pursuing a modeling career but would have to "sail elsewhere" if she had the kid. Per Gene's original framing, a weak case for throwing the passenger off (using the "bugger off" clause) could be made if the very presence of the passenger changed the destination of the ship.
I think such points are ultimately an abuse of a metaphor that is much more subtle. The point is that if you have a human being, you have a reasonable obligation to protect him if he finds himself with no other place to go but your ship. Gene suggests that while you don't have to do whatever the passenger demands, you must at least make sure if you do let him off, you make sure he is safe. That's the essential point. Yes, a baby may "tear up sails", may necessarily rule out certain navigation routes, such as a modeling career in the short run, but a baby is only implicitly asking to live, and after all, it was not actually floating in the ocean, it was borne of the ship itself.
The "all aboard" shout was heard, and a baby heard it and got aboard. It's not that a man's ship sunk exactly, but a man was welcomed on board. The captain may not have intended the welcoming of the passenger, but it is not the passenger's fault he was so welcomed. There may be some inconveniences to the captain, but there must be every reasonable attempt to save the life and balance the danger to the ship and the gravity of the loss to the captain as a result of a possibly different course.
This is almost the same as the policy before Roe v Wade in many states, incidentally. Abortion was outlawed, but there were some special cases in which it was allowed, including when the mother's life was at risk.
Monday, December 10, 2007
2. A couple of blogs are posting the latest philosophical attack ad, this one against Immanuel Kant, who is getting hit hard in this election. It remains to be seen whether we have free election or a deterministic one.
Read the rest here.
Unfortunately for Iran, the most qualified, moderate people are the ones most likely to emigrate. They do so in massive numbers. Several friends have left the country and many others will follow.
It is not only the lack of freedom (on the internet, even social networking sites such as Facebook are banned) but also the lack of good job opportunities that drives them away. With weak private enterprise and a large state sector, jobs are created by such inane expediencies as tearing up parking meters so graduates may write out tickets. How very Soviet.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
"The situation along the Western Front of World War I can be represented as a repeated-game prisoner's dilemma. In any given locality, opposing units could either "cheat" (shoot to kill) or "cooperate" (withhold fire or shoot in such a way as to miss). Cheating was the dominant strategy for both sides. This is so because weakening the enemy through cheating increased the cheating side's chances of survival. Cheating by both sides however, resulted in an outcome--heavy losses inflicted on both sides for little or no gain--that was inferior to the one produced by cooperation. And opposing units interacted with each other for what appeared, at least to them, indefinite periods of time.
The diaries, letters, and reminiscences of the trench fighters testify to the "life-and-let-live" (that is, cooperation) equilibrium that eventually emerged. One British staff officer touring the trenches was "astonished to observe German soldiers walking about within rifle range behind their own lines. Our men appear to take no notice." A soldier commented: "It would be child's play to shell the road behind the enemy's trenches, crowded as it must be with the ration wagons and water carts, into a bloodstained wilderness...but on the whole there is silence. After all, if you prevent your enemy from drawing his rations, his remedy is simple: he will prevent you from drawing yours." Another British officer recounted: "I was having tea with A Company when...suddenly, a [German] salvo arrived but did no damage. Naturally, both sides got down and our men started swearing at the Germans, when all at once a brave German got on to his parapet and shouted out "We are very sorry about that; we hope no one was hurt. It is not our fault, it is that damned Prussian artillery [behind the front lines]"
Believing that tacit truces would undermine troop morale, the high commands of both sides began rotating troops and ordering raids (whose success or failure could be monitored by the headquarters staff) in an effort to destroy the "live-and-let live" system."
Saturday, December 08, 2007
"I view this report as a warning signal that they had the programme, they halted the programme," Mr Bush told a news conference. "The reason why it's a warning signal is they could restart it."
Yes, it would be a precondition of restarting something to first stop it, wouldn't it?
Friday, December 07, 2007
Let the three axes between the centers of opposite pairs of faces be labeled X, Y, Z: the X-axis is the longest, the Z-axis is the shortest, and the Y-axis is intermediate.
Pick up the object in both hands along one of the axes and toss it gently into the air, twirling it about the axis. About the X-axis it will rise, fall, and twirl stably, and about the Z-axis likewise. About the Y-axis it never will, no matter how carefully you toss it. Try it if you don’t believe me. It’s quite mind-boggling to experience.
Now, come back here and explain, please.
The iBuzz vibrates in time with your music, and includes attachments for men and women.
Merry Christmas. And now, back to Ron Paul posts.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Similarly, I was backing Garage Band files up to a CD and got the message 'The total size of the files you have selected exceeds the capacity of the target CD.' (I quote from memory here.) The programmer who wrote that one had just done a subtraction of the total size of the selected files from the CD capacity to see if they would fit. In other words, he had the precise amount of the excess sitting right there in his code when he wrote the error message. So, is it a proprietary secret, or could the user be informed as well? It really would have helped to know if I was over by 1%, 10%, 100%, 1000%, or whatever. Instead, I had to de-select one file at a time and try to burn the CD again, until at last it worked.
And those aren't the only two messages of their ilk. 'A modem error has occurred' comes to mind at the moment (which error?!), and I know I've seen others.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
'Folks, we are all going to die. No one has ever disproven this.'
If you've listened to Rush, you can imagine how he said this, too. It was sort of a "let me make it 'mathematical' just as icing on the cake, because I'm both a master of wisdom and of formal argument."
But of course this is nonsense. Rush thought he was saying "there has yet to be someone who has lived forever" but the strict wording he used (which I may not have reproduced perfectly above) made a more accurate test, "Is there anyone who hasn't died?"
And of course, there are over 5 billion people who are pending counterexamples to Rush's empirical claim that everyone dies.
BTW, of course I get Rush's point. But I'm just saying that he was trying to be super anal about it and make it "scientific," when he wasn't really testing his hypothesis at all. He believes in the theory that everyone is mortal, and that's fine; so do I. But he doesn't add anything to the analysis by implicitly invoking Popper.
Monday, December 03, 2007
The wingnut brigades descended on the comment section of the stories like flies, slandering and insulting the TNR staff in every way possible, accusing them of publishing "obvious falsehoods," "slandering the troops," etc. And realize, these are the same people who had decided the stories were false the day they appeared, with NO FACT CHECKING AT ALL.
This is fascism at work, folks. There is no attempt at discussion, just vicious bullying of anyone who departs from the party line.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
(1) I may have said this before; I can't remember. In any event, I think perhaps the single goofiest argument for atheism is when they list some implications of the existence of God (whether it's his allowance of the Holocaust or whatever), and then conclude, "I don't want to believe in a God like that."
They say this with self-righteous huffery, as if they've just blown up their silly theist opponent. In any other argument, this would be such a childish stunt that it wouldn't even occur to anyone to try it. "You think if the US hadn't entered World War I, then Hitler wouldn't have come to power!?! Well I don't want to believe in a historical narrative like that. QED."
(2) The Catholic Church has been responsible for some terrible stuff, I grant you that. (BTW I was raised Catholic but am no longer one; I'm simply trying to correct a common simplification.) And then there's all the Galileo stuff; maybe Gene can give us a good link as to why the typical Dawkins-esque story here is wrong too. But I bet a lot of people don't know where the term "devil's advocate" comes from. It's from the old Church practice of appointing someone to argue against canonization, to make sure the nominee was deserving.
But LRC linked to a statement in which Huckabee said Jesus must endorse capital punishment because He didn't argue against it while on the cross. By the same logic, Jesus must not only agree with capital punishment for murderers, but also for religious heretics.
The fact that Huckabee is so flippant about our (meaning his and mine--I'm not trying to convert all Crash Landing readers) Lord while He was bleeding to death... I have to agree with Lew Rockwell that "this guy gives me the creeps."