Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Sequence of Sequences

This research was supported in part by a grant from the Universal Walloons and by a grant from the Ants of America. We thank them for their help.

Neither this infinite sequence of sequences nor any of the component sequences (which are all finite) is an unfolding sequence, but you will notice reminiscent properties. How is this generated? For component S(n), consider all words composed of "1" and "2" of length 0-n. Left justify. Sort. S(n) is the lengths of the words in sorted order. Thus S(2): Possible words are -,1,2,11,12,21,22. In sorted order, they are -,1,11,12,2,21,22. Their lengths comprising S(2) are 0,1,2,2,1,2,2.

0....................................................................0- 0

011..................................................................0- 2

0122122..............................................................0- 6

012332331233233......................................................0- 14

0123443442344344123443442344344......................................0- 30

012345545534554552345545534554551234554553455455234554553455455......0- 62

0123456656645665663456656645665662345665664566566345665664566566.....0- 63

0123456776775677677456776775677677345677677567767745677677567767.....0- 63

0123456788788678878856788788678878845678878867887885678878867887.....0- 63


Doo-doo-doo Lookin Out My Backdoor

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Nagel Mildly Questions Orthodoxy, Causes Leiter to Shit a Water Buffalo

Just because you've spent half a century as one of the greatest philosophers in the world doesn't mean Brian Leiter won't trash you should you deviate from his religious dogmas!

Vegans Beware!

It turns out that plants do things like calling over parasitic insects to kill off the eggs of insects that eat the plants. So, all you vegans who have been cruelly preying upon the plant kingdom: next time you eat a carrot, watch your back!

What?! You're Not in Favor...

of a 2400-page health-care bill written by insurance companies to line their own pockets?! Why then, the "non-partisan" people at Rock the Vote declare you are a "creep" who must never be allowed to have sex again:

(Hat tip to Nick Gillespie.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Callahan Responds to Doherty Responding to Callahan

Brian Doherty, in what is at least partially a response to one of my earlier posts here at Crash Landing, writes: "This aspect of Rothbard is sometimes used to attack him as an unserious thinker, but it isn’t fair to the purpose of this sort of polemic. While, for example, he is not capturing the full nuances of Karl Polanyi’s history or analysis in his The Great Transformation, Rothbard is doing what he was asked to do—sniffing out a detectable set of beliefs about modern civilization, currency, and markets that make Polanyi an ineffective ally for radical libertarians."

Doherty also notes:

"His critiques often have language along the lines of this comment on his beloved economist mentor Mises: 'Mises’ utilitarian, relativist approach to ethics is not nearly enough to establish a full case for liberty.'”

In "defending" Rothbard against my critique, Doherty, in fact, makes the very point I have been trying to make: in what are supposedly works on the "history of thought," Rothbard, in fact, has no interest in the "nuances" of the thinkers he is addressing, which is precisely what a real historian of thought ought to be interested in. Instead, he is rummaging through the history of thought and chucking thinkers into bins labeled "favorable to libertarianism" and "unfavorable to libertarianism," then trashing anyone who winds up in the first bin, while writing hagiography of anyone who winds up in the second.

I've just been reading the new isue of The Review of Austrian Economics, where D.J. Den Uyl writes: "It is, both to my way of thinking and others, the definition of 'ideology' in the pejorative sense to begin with one's political conclusions and then search for arguments to support it. The way it is supposed to work is that the arguments lead one to the conclusions." But look at Rothbard's quote concerning Mises: he makes no case that Mises was wrong, only that Mises' position should be rejected because it did not sufficiently support the conclusion Rothbard had already reached! Is there a clearer self-confession to being an ideologue "in the pejorative sense" that could be made?

State Aggression

Brian Doherty writes:

"States, after all, cannot function without first aggressing against someone, if only to get tax money to fund their activities."

It's amazing to me that libertarians can make such statements as if they were obviously true or uncontroversial, and something with which their opponents already agree. "So, you see," they will continue, "you are in favor of some forms of aggression!"

But this argument is entirely circular as it is typically formed: The State is illegitimate because it engages in aggression, and we can say it must engage in aggression because its collection of taxes is illegitimate -- but, of course, since the collection of taxes is how the State survives, to say their collection is illegitimate is to just re-state that the State is illegitimate. Thus, the argument runs, "The State is illegitimate because the State is illegitimate."

Or, to put it differently, if the State is legitimate, then so is its collection of taxes, and therefore collecting them is not an act of aggression. (In that case, in fact, it would be withholding of taxes due that would be theft!)

A Sandy Interview by the Beach

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rothbard on Karl Polanyi

I have previously noted that Rothbard presents us with a cartoon version of Rousseau. I am now reading K. Polanyi's The Great Transformation for a class I am teaching with the same name, and I just noticed Rothbard gets Rousseau wrong in a review of that very book. So what did he have to say about Polanyi?

Shockingly (although I really shouldn't be shocked by this anymore!) Rothbard gets Polanyi even more wrong than he gets Rousseau. With Rousseau I figured that he had the excuse that he had never read him, but only read about him, but here he's actually reviewing Polanyi's book! And he attributes to it a "Worship of the Primitive" that "permeates the book."

Well, I was already halfway through Polanyi's book, and I can assure you, the thought had not once occurred to me anywhere in my readings that I was in the presence of the least bit of "worship of the primitive." Yes, occasionally Polanyi will mention this or that aspect of some primitive tribe he thinks is/was admirable, but there just is nothing even resembling "worship" present at all, let alone permeating the book.

A couple of other quick notes:

"Polanyi seems to think that he has scored a great coup on free market economists when he says that trade first developed in international and interregional channels, and not from first local and then international. So what? This is certainly not in any sense a refutation of free market economics."

But Polanyi certainly doesn't present this as any sort of "refutation of free market economics"! He presents it as a refutation of the ideas that markets began locally and spontaneously spread out from their local origens.

"Polanyi angrily criticizes those, like Mises..."

So, I looked through all of the pages mentioning Mises. Here's the kind of fierce anger I encountered: "And a century later Mises was still reiterating tthat labor and money were no more of a concern of the government than any other commodity on the market."

In short, Rothbard appears to have been so flummoxed by Polanyi's book that he basically could not read it at all. I picture him reading two sentences, throwing the book across the room in anger, picking it up a few minutes and ten pages later, reading another sentence, hurling the book, etc., then sitting down to write a review of what he imagined Polanyi was writing about.

UPDATE: Alasdair MacIntyre on Polanyi: "see Karl Polanyi The Great Transformation... still the single most illuminating account of the inception of institutionalized modernity..."

But all Rothbard could find in this single most illuminating account was "a farrago of confusions, absurdities, fallacies, and distorted attacks on the free market." Sigh.

Nothing to Undo!

Ever since I upgraded to the new iPhone OS, that message pops up on my screen from time to time. Underneath is a button reading 'Cancel'.

OK, if there is nothing to undo, what the heck does 'cancelling' it mean? And what if I don't cancel it? Will the phone go ahead and undo nothing?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Brett Favre Has Learned

The upshot of this column, which contains lines like, "Favre also understands this offense can't afford to be dominated like it was against Arizon," is this:

Last year, Favre did not understand that you're not supposed to suck at the end of the season and blow a chance to make the playoffs. This year, he has learned that for all those millions, he's supposed to not suck. Therefore, he won't.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

The World's Great Sandwiches

OK, my research has advanced to the point that I can forward two candidates. Now, when I say "sandwiches," I mean something you could eat everyday for lunch, and not "Sloth tongue with Antibean bee's jelly butter and a lacy crust of fried morel tarts" or anything like that -- some restaurant may make such a dish, and it may be fantastic, but you aren't going to be making it for your lunch. No, I mean sandwiches with readily available ingredients that cost a couple of dollars and that you can make in under 20 minutes. Also, I am looking at when the "sandwichness" itself is what is so good about them -- of course, if you take a fantastic piece of steak and place it between two decent slices of bread, it will taste good -- but not as a sandwich, but as a fantastic piece of steak that happens to be between some bread.

So, here are my two candidates (not ranked in order):

1) The Reuben
Ingredients: Pastrami (cut it out with the corned beef, already), swiss cheese, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, rye bread.

2) The Cheddar Ploughman
Ingredients: Cheddar cheese, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, Branston pickle, brown bread. (I've eaten lots of these, and I know the igredients can vary quite a bit -- this is just my favorite combination.)

What these sandwiches have in common is that their excellence stems from a blend of surprising ingredients that you might not think would go together at first, but that somehow merge into a single taste that seems greater than the sum of its parts.

A Note on the English Versus the American Sandwich:
The are two quite different sandwich making philosophies at work here, and like Aristotle's types of constitutions, they each have their good and their degenerate variety.

The English style is to thinly layer each ingredient in balance. When done well, the result is something that tastes more like a single food than any American sandwich does. When you encounter the degenerate variety, you have just paid £2.95 for two slices of bread.

The American style is too lay the ingredients on more thickly. When done well, it never tastes as unified as the English style can, but you get a nice hearty meal and a clear taste of your ingredients. In the degenerate version, encountered especially in rural areas where "value" means lots of calories per dollar, you are faced with eating a lump of a half pound of roast beef, upon which a few scraps of lettuce, tomato, and bread seem to have gotten stuck.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Climategate: The Sequel

I was asked to look at the CRU source code to see if the comments looked reasonable to me, so I've gotten myself a bit familiar with this whole "Climategate" bru-ha-ha. I've read a few (knowledgeable) people saying it's nothing, and a few saying it's terrible. If you're thinking of wading in on this, I will say, confidently, that there is little to no chance that you can figure out which camp is right unless you are a professional working in this area. (Which I'm not!)

Nevertheless, many, many amateurs will post on the web extremely strong opinions on this matter. And the funny thing is, in nearly every single case, their opinion will line up exactly with just what they thought about AGW before Climategate! What a remarkable coincidence.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I Wish I Could Remember Who These Were

British Cabinet member A: Sir, you will die on the gallows or of a loathsome disease.
British Cabinet member B: That depends, sir, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.

Thought You Were Voting for Peace?

Sorry, but the joke's on you.