Showing posts from January, 2005

Stop the Presses!

In a survey of over 100,000 high school students in the U.S., a whopping 36% of the students expressed the belief that the press should have to receive government approval before publishing news stories.

Okay, I finally understand why my husband is a nihilist. If there is any hope to be had, I can't find it.

(I guess I shouldn't worry about it; the national media are nothing but lapdogs for the state, anyway.)

Fuzzy Old England

My impression, from watching Monty Python, The Avengers, and other British TV shows from the 60s and 70s, was that England is a vague and somewhat out-of-focus place. I can now assure you that is not the case -- objects are every bit as sharp and focused here as in the US, and their colors are no more or lessed washed out than are the colors of American objects.

However, against the above, I must mark in the surprise-on-the-downside column the fact that England is chock full of very tiny steps -- oh, like an inch high or so. English architects seem to have precisely determined the height at which a step is just too small to be plainly visible, but plenty tall enough to trip you. A favorite place for these mini steps is in pubs, perhaps as one transitions from one room to another, but maybe just hanging out halfway across a single room.

ACLU defends your right to pizza

Seriously. Say what you will about this group, they occasionally are right on the money. (Note: This might take a while to load with a dial up, and either way you need to turn on your speakers.)

State Transmitted Diseases

A common dismissal of free market anarchism is that "it won't work." I actually think this is right, but not in the sense that the law-and-order critic means. Yes, it is true that if you took just about any group of individuals from the current planet and turned them loose in a virgin territory, that in 20 years they'd have a coercive government of some kind. So in that sense f.m. anarchy "won't work."

But notice that this would be due to the prejudices and faulty theories of the random sample of people. I do not say that they'd be compelled to adopt a government because of rampant crime, vague land titles, etc. No, I am conceding that anarchy "won't work" in the same way that abstinence programs "won't work" to combat teen STDs. It's not that there's anything flawed with the policy of abstinence; on the contrary, it works every time it's tried. (I think I'm stealing that line from Bill Bennett.)


Divine Paradoxes

After one of my many thought-provoking LRC articles on matters divine, an emailer thought he'd blow me up by asking, "Can God make a chair so heavy he can't lift it?"

I forwarded the email to a Christian philosophy professor at my college, and he said that most theist thinkers deal with this type of thing by saying that even an omnipotent being needn't have the ability to perform nonsense tasks. E.g. nobody would challenge Aquinas by asking, "Can your God blumber dift?" So in the same way, my colleague said, we shouldn't squirm at questions like this.

But I think in this particular case, that's not the right answer. It is certainly coherent to ask if God can make a chair so heavy He Himself can't lift it. Moreover, it's not even an internally problematic statement--I can make a chair so heavy that I can't lift it. (I concede that I can't make a chair so heavy that God can't lift it.)

Thus I think the correct answer to my…

Overheard in a Fitting Room

While trying on nursing nightwear yesterday (undoubtedly some of the frumpiest clothing in existence), I overheard two teenage girls talking in front of the large mirror in the fitting room.

Girl 1: Amy Byer is very petite, so she designs her clothes for shorter girls.
Girl 2: Uh huh.
Girl 1: They're cut so that they look right on someone who's not very tall.
Girl 2: (nothing)
Girl 1: Anyway, Amy Byer is not a slutty designer. She designs very classy stuff. It's not supposed to be slutty looking.
Girl 2: Right.
Girl 1: (pause) So I think what I'm going to do is just bring my mom here, and point out this outfit.

Man did that bring back memories! I don't think I ever spent time inventing rationalizations about petite designers (althought Amy Byer may very well be petite), but I certainly do remember wanting clothes that my mom considered way too trampy. I looked at myself in the mirror, and saw myself, now 21 and wearing a long floral nightgown cut so tha…

The Ongoing Cost

Every week the US stays in Iraq costs the lives of 14 American soldiers and $2 billion.

The above figures are sourced to "Christopher Preble, a Navy veteran of the 1991 Gulf War who directs foreign policy at the conservative Cato Institute..."

I didn't realize Cato even had its own foreign policy!


Is there a single, better indicator that an e-mail can be deleted without further ado than it having a subject line such as, "URGENT: PLEASE GET BACK TO ME"?

Carmen and the Devil

I've been reading the brothers Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales recently. The various stories about the devil reminded me of one of my favorite snippets of lyric in rock'n'roll:

I picked up my bag, I went looking for a place to hide
When I saw Carmen and the Devil walking side by side
I said "Hey Carmen, come on, let's go downtown''
She said "I gotta go but my friend can stick around''

from "The Weight" by The Band

I'm a Rambler...

I heard a song the other night that brought me back to my childhood. It was typical of the music I heard at home while growing up:

I'm a rambler, I'm a gambler
I'm a long way from home
And if you don't like me
Then leave me alone
I'll eat when I'm hungry
I'll drink when I'm dry
If the moonshine don't kill me
I'll live till I die

I wonder if that influenced the subsequent course of my life?

Three of my four grandparents impressed upon me, by example, the notion that the ideal way to spend one's adult years is drinking and smoking. (And that's "way," not "ways," because those are not two activities, but the name for one activity requiring a pair of accessories.) I don't recall seeing my maternal grandparents drunk, but I'll also don't recall seeing them without a drink for much longer than it took to re-pour.

I can't say if my paternal grandfather would get drunk when we visited, because he wouldn't …

Tomes to Sleep By

When I went to bed last night I planned to read for a little while. I picked up a book of analytical philosophy I've been reading. I thought of the densely constructed arguments involving detailed analysis of individual sentence forms that awaited me inside. I dropped the book back onto my nightstand, shut off the light, and fell asleep a moment later.

So, I've been reading books so boring that it's not even necessary to get to the words inside to be put to sleep -- simply touching them is enough.

Genetic Programming

Today I've been watching Serena Williams play Lindsey Davenport in the finals of the Australian Open. Williams apparently has some problem with her stomach muscles and is having difficulty moving. On one point, Davenport forced Williams into her backhand corner. Williams returned that shot successfully, but pretty much straight up the middle -- setting Davenport up well. I suspected that Davenport would now hit to the opposite corner, giving Williams a long run to get to the ball. And so did Williams, who began moving back toward the middle of the court.

But, instead, Davenport sent the ball even deeper into Williams backhand corner. This forced Williams to change direction, putting a strain on her sore stomach muscles, and left her further from her forehand corner than before. She returned weakly up the middle. Now, Davenport hit a line drive into Williams' forehand corner. Williams didn't even run after it.

Some of you out there might mistakenly be thinking: That was a v…

What Floats a Politician's Boat

My local MP (Barry Gardiner) sends out a little promotional pamphlet to the houses in the area he represents. In it, he quotes Councilor Jim Moher as saying, "Nothing has given me more satisfaction this year than the road resurfacing in the Bush Grove Estate."

Could you imagine if this were true?! The most satisfying thing in Jim's life last year was a bit of road resurfacing! If you ever think your life is boring, just remember Jim.

Heard in a Pub

A woman, 60ish, is sitting at a table in a pub. She is in her weekend, going-out best, her face is caked with makeup, and she is a bit drunk. She is talking to a man, about her age, sitting on a stool behind her. In a hard tone, she asks him, "Are you with me, or are you not? Are you with me, or are you not?" She tries to continue with the same attitude, but her voice cracks a little as she says, "Are you?"

Suddenly, she sounds like a young girl, begging for affection. The crack opened the tough veneer, and allowed 40 years of pain to show through for a moment.

Sometimes, life breaks my heart.

Quote of the Day

"We foreigners do play some part in our own history, too, you know. We're not just background for US policy."
-- Sudha Shenoy

So You Wanna Be A Rock 'N Roll Star...


Remember the Holocaust

And honestly, how could we ever forget? It's all over's main page--remembering the Holocaust. The survey question at the bottom of the page is, "Could the Holocaust happen again?" You can choose yes or no. Now, what exactly do they mean? Does the question mean, "Could a regime with a racist agenda again take over a nation and set out to cleanse the gene pool?" Or perhaps, "Will the Jews ever be persecuted again?"

A survey I'd like to see the results of would be, "Do you believe that the checks and balances in place to control governments will prevent another holocaust?"

Fat Police

ABC News is runnning a story on a new law in Texas requiring schools to send "obesity report cards" to each child's parents. They find some lady, who needs to lose about 80 pounds herself, who wishes this had happened years ago. You see, her 12-year-old daughter is 100 pounds overweight, and, well...

Well, what? If only she had received a fat report on the girl, this lady would have noticed that her daughter has a completely speherical shape? I mean, it never occurred to her that her own example and what she was feeding the girl had any connection to her Jabbba-the-Hut-like appearance? While the girl gulped down that fifth hotdog, it never crossed the mind of this dingbat of a mother that four franks might have been plenty?

What is disgusting about people like this is that, because of their own stupidity, they feel self-righteous about bringing the State further into the lives of the rest of us.


I just flicked on the TV, and there is some show on called "Coma."

Now, that sounded action-packed. I just hope it was a movie or a special, and not a series!

How Old Are You Now?

The other night I was out with some of my coursemates when I noticed the head of one of them pop up and study me for a moment. His eyes regarded me with a contemplative, calculative gaze. I was certain that his companion had just asked him, "How old is that old man in our program, anyway?"

I pictured the rest of the conversation going as follows:

"Well, he looks to be about 65 -- but that would be really old to be doing a Master's."

"On the other hand, he acts like he's about 25."

"Wait a second, we could..."

"Average them! He's 45!"

(As I understand it, when faced with two or more numbers whose meaningful relationship to each other one cannot fathom, it's always OK to average them. Then, at the very least you have turned several inscrutable figures into one, representing a clearcut decrease in confusion. Choose the method of averaging that looks most likely to produce the final figure that backs your pet theory.)

Weird Science

So, I write a little article on the history of science for Along with the usual nice e-mails, I get one person telling me the Earth really doesn't move and that the stars rotate around it -- does he have any idea how fast they'd have to be moving? Another "proves" to me that the Moon's gravity can't cause the tides, since it turns negative part way to Earth -- that's why things fall back to Earth, isn't it? -- and so it can't affect the oceans.

Oh No!

I've found someone who is as fond of weird and puzzling goings-on as I am:

"This was strange. After almost getting killed a few times during the afternoon, I retreated to the relative safety of my apartment, but by nightfall was bored enough to venture back out in the storm. I was a block away from some really big fallen trees what looked like a truck and a few guys working to clear the road. Assuming it was the city, I started walking down there to get some photos and see if I could help. A cop car pulled in to the other end of the street, and all of a sudden the truck starts hauling serious ass, zooming down toward me in reverse and dragging the tree in the pic — which wasn't small — from some chains. This huge muscle dude jumps out, screaming, "Go! Go! Fucking go!" and unhooks the tree, leaving it smack dab in the middle of the road. Then he jumps back in and they speed off. The cops had pulled somebody over and were totally ignoring all this. I was standing …

Mission Accomplished

It's a good thing we won that war in Iraq a couple of years ago, otherwise US troops might still be dying there.

Window Cleaning

When I walk down the street and see people inside their house, cleaning their windows, I imagine that they like me so much that that they can't stop waving.

Holiday Fun

Well, this is a bit old, but worth checking: the Hughes family Christmas. (Via Gene Healy.)

Not an ID Card, Not an ID Card...

Radley Balko expresses his relief that some new legislation would not create a national ID card.

Breaking the Rules

Getting on the escalator at the underground station tonight, I noticed a sign reading:


Well, I was standing on the right, I was holding the handrail, and I certainly had no stroller. But I wasn't carrying a dog!

Luckily, no one noticed. But I'm thinking of getting something small -- a rat terrier? -- so that I can avoid trouble in the future.

Democrats come to believe individual votes don't count

So they sabotage entire voting blocs as a result. Or, at least, that's one explanation for their behavior.

My Most Interesting Article Ever... one click away.

Chew On This

Topologically speaking, the inside of your throat, stomach, and intestines are outside your body.

From the Land of Beads and Breasts

Greetings all contiguous, colonial, and other (that would be Hawaiian and Alaskan) Americans, from the Land of Eternal Corruption, aka the Big Easy, home of naked breasts and big beads:

It has been reported by our local rag, The Times Picayune (, that the members of our esteemed (I don't bother with quotation marks around that word since no one could possibly mistake the sarcasm) state legislature have expressed dissatisfaction with the current limits on legal bribery they may accept from lobbyists.

A legislator may not receive a ticket to any event that is worth more than $100. Unfortunately, with the cost of the New Orleans Saints football tickets being what they are, that won't get you a seat outside of the Superdome Nosebleed Section. Yes, woe and alas, the cap on their bribery has not kept up with inflation.

So they actually say in public, that they would like a seat "a little close to reality." Those people wouldn't know re…

The Sky Is Falling!

I walked out of the house this morning, and tiny white things were falling out of the sky! They were fairly light and quite cold.

Does anyone have any idea what they are? Is it safe to walk outside when they are around?

Writing from the Provinces

Below, Bob wishes that someone blogging here lived in a country other than the US. So do I, so do I!

Some people mistakenly think that I live outside the US, simply because I live in the UK. Not true! I live in an overseas province of the US. This is obvious whenn you consider the fact that, if the UK were an independent nation, it would have its own foreign policy, based on its own national interests. Instead, what happens here is that our colonial administrator, Toby Bear or something of the sort, whenever faced with a question related to foreign policy, flies to Washington and asks George Bush what to do.

George, of course, has no idea, but he asks Dick Cheney, and then tells our administrator to do that. And our fellow complies. So there you have it.

Get Medieval on Your Argument

People always make fun of medieval scholastics arguing about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. But I want to see the actual arguments! Wouldn't that be fascinating?

Natural Rights and Rapists

I don't know if this has to do with lascivious libertarians, or just that fact that 99% of the discussants are academic males, but for some time I've been painfully aware that whenever a person wants to make a point about legal rights, he will always use an example involving a woman getting raped. I myself always had this initial motivation as well, until I noticed the trend. Now I always use a guy getting mugged instead; the point almost never hinges on rape per se.

Doctors and Abortion

I recently heard on the news that some group of "medical professionals" is lobbying Parliament to abolish all abortion laws in the UK, claiming that such issues should be private matters between a patient annd her doctor.

Why does anyone take doctors seriously when they pull this crap? (The same sort of thing goes on with doctors and hanndguns in the US.) Look, you bunch of overtrained technicians, you're experts on matters like the safest way to abort a 4-month-old fetus or how to best treat a gunshot wound. The increased weight that should be given to your opinion about whether abortions or handguns should be legal, simply because you are a doctor, is exactly nada.

The Best of All Possible Worlds

In response to my LRC articles on Christianity, a frequent objection runs like this: If God is omnipotent and benevolent, why is the world such a terrible place? I'd like to sketch a brief response that, on the one hand, is just the familiar free will answer, but on the other is (I hope) a bit deeper. (To get the full context, you should read my views on natural law and miracles.)

I claim (with Pangloss) that this really is the best of all possible worlds, just like we would expect from the God of Abraham. In order for the material universe to be intelligible, it must obey certain simple laws. And in order for everything else to work out just right, certain intemediate things have to happen.

For example, I used to be suicidally depressed. But I do not bemoan one moment of my life, especially the wrongs others have committed against me. (I do wish that I hadn't myself done bad things, so in that sense I regret the past, but what I'm saying now is that I've learn…

Foreign Reporting of the Tsunami Toll

Don't get me wrong: I completely understand why it happens. But I still felt a bit uncomfortable when I'd see headlines such as, "TSUNAMI KILLS 100,000--Four American tourists missing."

I wonder if other countries are similar in this respect, or if it really is the self-absorbed USA? Gee, if only someone on this blog lived in another country...

What Are the Main Types of Law in Britain

1) Common Law
2) Criminal Law
3) Jude Law

I just saw Closer last night. I recommmend it very highly. At first I found the rapid cuts between scenes that take place months or years apart was disconcerting. But the director maintains a steady rhythm with the cuts, so that after a while I settled into his pace. And this is another movie, like Eternal Sunshine and The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, that illustrates Susannne Langer's theory that the primary effect of cinema is to create a virtual dream.

A Book About the Non-Existent

As noted by Jim Henley, this one is a great irony: There's a new book out called The Neocon Reader.
After spending the last 3 years denying their own existence, the neocons have collected a book of their writing!

Let's Go Somewhere Together... So I Can Check My Blackberry

It's amusing to watch people come into a pub together and then immediately devote themselves into checking their cell phones, digital organizers, etc.

You Can Feel It Working

An ad for Glaviscon says "You can actually feel it working to relieve your distress."

What would it mean if it was relieving your distress but you couldn't feel it doing so?

why me?

For the last couple of weeks here in ole Miami Beach, the weird cycle has been on super high. Sometimes I wonder if I am just a magnet for weirdoes, freaks and oddballs but some of it hasn't even involved me personally. However, a couple of them have been really irritating.

The first incident that alerted me to something freaky being up is the tagger incident. About ten days ago, right after dinner, I hear this spraying sound just outside my kitchen window. I honestly thought it was the weird black guy who occasionally used to sit on my stoop changing his underwear and spraying it with cheap perfume. Ghastly smell. Figuring it was time to put an end to it, I walked over to find nobody there but the sound continued. Then, I imagined it was someone urinating under my air conditioner again. Nope. It was a graffiti "artist" spraypainting his tag on the side of my white van. We looked at each other for a moment. He ran. I ran. He slowed down around the first corner but heard …


The Pittsburgh Steelers have a receiver named "Plaxico Burress." What sort of name is Plaxico? It sounds like some space-age building material.

Under the Tuscan Sun

I saw an add for the pay-per-view showing of this movie. The ad slogan was: "Life offers you a thousand choices. All you have to do is take one."

Could there be a better indication that this movie should never have been made? I mean, is the above supposed to be an intriguing plot summary of the movie, one that lures the viewer to purchase the film?

Denying Responsibility

I'm presenting at LSE next week, and here is how I'm listed on the events web page:

Thursday, 27 January 5:00 - 8:00 pm
Eugene Callahan
Mises Institute
Does Economics Suffer from a Confusion of Categorically Distinct Inquiries?

Then, in March, I present at the Mises Institute, and here is how they list me:

"Ideal type Theory: Its Development and Application" Gene Callahan (London School of Economics)

Obviously, both groups are quite sensible, and want to make sure that all blame for what I say falls on the other one.

Tick Tock

I fell asleep in my bedroom in Colindale last night for the first time in a month. When I went to bed, I didn't even notice if my alarm clock was in my room, let alone running. When I first awoke, I looked for it to find out what time it was. Once I located it, the sound of its ticking seemed to boom throughout the room, preventing me from getting back to sleep for 20 minutes. Yet, the clock was in the exact same place it had been all night.

Random Thoughts

* For those of you who also use PCs, let me ask you this: Have you ever "upgraded" your software online, and been happy with the result??

* You know what I want to see? A movie that follows the protagonist around, and we see that he really needs to get somewhere in order to avert disaster. He's zooming along in his car, and then all of a sudden--a cop blocks the road and commandeers (is that the word?) the car. The reason I say this is that you always see such scenes from the POV of the cop, and you're always relieved that the cop gets to chase the villain in the civilian's car. The camera never follows up on the poor sap who got ordered out of his car at gunpoint.

* I'd always like to watch a movie in which we watched two competitors who had cool theme music. E.g. when you're watching Top Gun and Loggins starts singing, you just know Tom Cruise is gonna smoke some Russkies. But what if the camera switched to the Russkies, and all of a sudden th…

Back in the UK

While walking to LSE today I was mindlessly staring down at the sidewalk when I noticed, at the foot of a bank building, a slab of concrete with the phrase "Basement Smoke Extract" inscribed on it with raised metal letters. I walked around the two sides of the building's perimeter that I could access, and found a similar slab every few feet.

There were no vents in the slabs, and no other apparent connection to extracting basement smoke.

Any suggestions?

I do think it's a nifty product idea: "And I'll take a can of Basement Smoke Extract as well."

Ideal Types and the Historical Method

A number of significant social theorists, including Max Weber, Ludwig von Mises, and Alfred Schutz, have contended that the proper method of historical analysis employs ideal types to comprehend the past.

For example, Schutz, one of the foremost exponents and developers of the theory of ideal types, held that they are not merely the constructs of the social theorist, but also constitutive of the everyday social world. Except for the case of the "pure" Thou-orientation that occurs in face-to-face encounters, all of our relationships with and understandings of other people are mediated by the use of ideal types of varying degrees of anonymity. (The concept that one way of classifying ideal types is according to how anonymous they are can be made clear with a simple example: we might, in order of decreasing anonymity, regard some individual as an instance of the ideal type "Englishman," "early-twentieth-century Englishman," "early-twentieth-century Lond…

between scylla and charybdis

I just came across this aggravating website. Poor Jessica Worrell cannot live with her father because the American government refuses to let him live here. He overstayed a visa once. He has a daughter, wife and job waiting for him so he is no slob. Jessica, in turn, is not allowed by the Australian government to go live with her father because her health care costs are allegedly too much for their system to handle. She has a mental disability.

The choices for Jessica seem to be either to go without her dad and possibly suffer from even more mental trauma that could shut her down permanently or for her father to come here as a fugitive...unless there is enough uproar for somebody in government to champion their cause which brings us back to that website. They are asking for us letter-writing cranks to pester the government enough to send a champion. So if you happen to be part of the few, the proud, the cranky visit Jessica's website.

Tsunami Relief

A couple of days ago, my oldest son brought home a note from school urging students bring in any of a number of items -- diapers, candles, flashlights, batteries, etc. -- and donate them to help tsunami victims in Sri Lanka. The school plans to ship all of the goods received to Sri Lanka at the end of this week.

After reading it, I found myself somewhat conflicted. On the one hand, I think it's is admirable to help people in distress, and I want to impart that idea to my son. On the other hand, this way of going about helping them seems so damned inefficient. Scores of parents are going to individually head out to stores and buy these items at retail prices. Their kids will haul them to school, where someone will have to package them all up, and then the school will have to pay to ship this fairly small collection of goods to the Indian Ocean.

Wouldn't people who want to help out get a lot more bang for their buck by simply giving money to some agency that can buy large quanti…

Urban Pants

OK, I just don't get the gig with the fad among inner-city youngins for wearing one's pants so that the waistband is down around one's privates. I'm pretty fashion tolerant, but this strikes me as using a piece of clothing in a nonsensical way, similar to wearing shoes on your ears or a hat stuffed up your ass.

And most puzzling of all are the street dealers who adopt the style. I mean, if you had a job that involved periodically fleeing the cops, wouldn't you want to dress so that you didn't have a waistband around your thighs?