Showing posts from 2006

You Know What I Hate?

(I knew you've been wondering.) It's when some marketing department (like Vonage's this morning) writes "Save up to 50% or more on your phone bill!" Aargh! You can write "Save up to 50 %" or "Save 50% or more," but combining the two makes no sense!

The Iraqi Name Game

is sorted out here . (Via Jim Henley.)


Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Patriot Act. On an email discussion group of Austro-libertarians some were lamenting the inability of our efforts to do anything to check State power. Others were saying that we had to keep plugging away with articles and PhDs etc. I for one said that there had been modest gains on tax and inflation rates, at least since the 1970s. In response to my naivete, someone said I was ignoring the curtailment of civil liberties under the "Bush gang." Someone else chimed in--and I can't remember the exact quote--to say that we were now living in an Orwellian state. This struck me as a bit much. If we're trying to be "realists," as the cynics who questioned the efficacy of our writing efforts professed to be, then we're not in an Orwellian state. Winston in 1984 wasn't on a fairly accessible email discussion group talking about the best ways to eliminate government.

Putting the Economics Back In Christmas

Ever since Slate rejected my submission, I must attack every economics piece it runs...

And Justice for All

While following up on a link from an LRC article, I saw this nice statement from Ann Coulter. (She has a JD, ya know.) The odds of an innocent man being found guilty by a unanimous jury are basically nil. Now I'm no JD holder, but don't many courts in the US require a unanimous jury opinion for conviction? Isn't that the whole deal with a hung jury ? Sooo, is Ann Coulter really saying the odds of an innocent being convicted in our great nation are basically nil??? Not only is that naive, it also contradicts our alleged rule to let 10 guilty go free rather than falsely imprison 1 innocent. Seriously, if someone wants to clarify her claim, please chime in. Even though she likes to say shocking things, this statement is so palpably stupid that I want to give her the benefit of the doubt.

A Fast Year

A friend, whom I just had dinner with in London, mentioned that his friend was a faculty member at CalTech with an unlimited travel budget. One year he took such advantage of that fact that he was moved to calculate his average speed for the year as a whole, which turned out to be something like 70 miles per hour.

Down with Male Body Image!

This ad makes me irrationally happy. I gotta say, I love seeing a product blatantly marketed at men telling them that they're ugly and unsexy and everybody thinks so, thus they need X.

Trump thinks he's special

So I don't know if you heard, but Miss USA had been drinking underage, hanging out in bars in NYC, and Trump, who owns the pageant, was considering firing her and it was a big media deal. So on The View, Rosie O'Donnell had a few things to say: O'Donnell, co-host of the ABC television morning talk show "The View," said on Wednesday's show that Trump's news conference with Tara Conner had annoyed her "on a multitude of levels." "Left the first wife, had an affair, left the second wife, had an affair. Had kids both times, but he's the moral compass for 20-year-olds in America," the comedian and actress said to roars of audience laughter. "Donald, sit and spin, my friend." Trump lashed back at O'Donnell on the TV entertainment show, "The Insider," criticizing everything from her looks to her former television talk show and magazine. "Rosie attacks me personally? I know her fairly well because her show

Nitwits on NPR

As readers of this blog know, I've been frustrated at The Economist 's pro-war idiocy (and I don't mean that as a pleonasm--I'm saying their pro-war writings happen to be idiotic). Just to show how fair and balanced I am, I'll mention two liberal D-U-M dumb things I heard on NPR this morning. (1) On a story about how the wage gap has increased between men and women, the reporter concluded, "At this rate, it will take over 50 years for pay parity between the sexes." Umm, if the disparity increased last year, "at this rate" we will never have pay parity. Of course you can say, "Oh, they're using a longer time frame." OK, but I bet if you go back 50 years and see what the "wage gap" was then, that we've more than halved it since. You folla? (2) The anchor was interviewing some visiting scholar to an organization (not sure if university or think tank) in CA I believe, who apparently is an expert on Iraq. She was

Colbert's Bold Performance

Stephen Colbert was far braver than I would have been at the White House Correspondents dinner, as described here. I encourage you to take the time to actually watch the clips. The ending film clip is a bit slow, but be sure to see Helen Thomas' great question. Thanks to Rachael for the tip...

Another Dumb Excerpt from The Economist

From the December 2, 2006 issue (p. 31): The speculation grew to fever pitch this week as the [Iraq Study Group] decamped to the Reagan Building to complete its interviews and debate its final draft...The NYT reported that the group will recommend a gradual withdrawal of American troops, though it will stop short of laying out a timetable, and it is not clear whether the withdrawal will be to bases inside Iraq or out of the country altogether.

Michael Chertoff Lies

Here : "The main cause of terrorism is weakness." Sure. That's why the terrorists keep attacking, you know, Luxemborg, and Andorra, and San Marino.

The Da Vinci Hoax

Caution, there are mild spoilers in this blog post. If you plan on watching/reading the Da Vinci Code and don't know what the "code" is about, you should skip this. (It's not that interesting anyway.) . . . . . OK. So the big secret is that Jesus had a child before leaving the earth. Now forget the machinations of the misogynist Church and so forth. Does Jesus of Nazareth strike you as a guy who would get someone pregnant and then split? Even if you don't think He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, certainly you can concede that He was fairly clever and would have known His ministry could lead to His death. I.e. don't get a girl pregnant if you think your mission is to challenge the Pharisees. Now you might say, "Didn't Jesus abandon the disciples, even according to your sacred book?" Yes that's true, but I think it's a far cry from training grown men for three years and then sending them out to spread the gospel, ve

Even Latin Texts Are Doing It!

Distorting the history of science, that is. The Cambridge Latin Course, Book II, in describing ancient astronomy, claims: "The idea was also put forward that the Earth was round, rotated on its axis and circled the Sun with the other planets. After the end of the Roman Empire in the fifth century AD, this idea was forgotten until Copernicus rediscovered it in the sixteenth century." Whew! What a tangle. First of all, who thought to call it one idea that "the Earth was round, rotated on its axis, and circled the Sun with the other planets." That sure looks like three ideas. And it's important to separate them, because: 1) "the Earth was round" -- Essentially every educated person in the Greek and Roman world believed this idea. But so did essentially every educated person in the Middle Ages. ( Here you can see a medieval model of the Earth -- a sphere!) And if we might find a case or two of an educated person in the 8th or 9th century who doubted it,

Get Your Info about Prostitution Here!

This post sort of fits its title, but I figure that although there may be more suitable titles, they are less likely to get Crash Landing as many hits from Google as the above is. In any case, I'm just back from the UK, where the top news story is that a serial killer has been targeting prostitutes in the town of Ipswich . Two things on the British news coverage of the case struck me as odd: 1) Announcers kept asserting that the case was changing the public's attitude about prostitution, creating a groundswell of support for legalization. Now, I: a) Am in favor of legalizing prostitution; b) Consider it, in the realm of human vices, a fairly mild indulgence; and c) Certainly do not wish to see prostitutes murdered. Nevertheless, I found the "reasoning" here weird. If a person, before these murders, thought prostitution was a genuinely criminal activity, properly illegal, then why should these killings make any difference to his opinion? Would it make any sense, if a

Baby Signs are really catching on!


The Rise of the Spite Right

Barry Loberfeld has a good LRC today. Some of you may find the points obvious, but I thought he crystallized some things that have been bothering me for years.

I Don't Want to Start an Argument, But...

Can someone please explain this response to Gene and my critique of Hoppe? Is Heinrich (I know him, btw, so it's all good) saying that our position relies on someone demonstrating a preference for being coerced? Gene, did you think that's what we were doing?

Yes, they really are pro-war.

When arguing with some "conservatives," I hear something like, "C'mon, we're all for peace. It's just we are more realistic than you are, and know that peace comes with strength." That's hard to square with this news story (which my wife brought to my attention). After the media interest, the homeowners association backed off and let the lady keep her peace wreath up. What's really funny about this story is that the head of the HA basically made himself dictator by dissolving the parliament.

The Social Function of Call and Put Options

Is at your fingertips...

Four Easy Pieces

How America's Iraq policy is made .

We Don't Want to Pigeonhole the Chap

Three prostitutes have been murdered in the same, small area of the UK over the past few weeks. The announcer on BBC said something like, "The signs indicate that the same person committed all three murders, a serial killer, perhaps." You know, just because he murdered three people in quick succession is no reason to jump to conclusions about the fellow.

Pet Peeve

I'm not a big fan of when someone comes into my office to show me something or ask a question, and actually puts his finger on my computer monitor.


Today's featured coupon on the Nashvile Scene's website. And I was really hoping for a lunch special!

Whoa! Talk about an Imposition!

Jim Henley alerted me to the presence of a new nutjob organization called the 910 group . At their web site, I found: "Thwart attempts to impose Sharia Law. The ultimate goal of Islamofascists is to impose Islamic “Sharia” religious law upon us all. Groups could monitor and block every Fabian effort (imposing Sharia in small bites) like demands for prayer rooms and allowing headscarves in schools." So allowing people to wear what they like on their heads is a way of imposing Sharia law! Who knew? Today I plan to "impose" the wearing of black overcoats on others by putting on mine before I go out. "The US Airways story removing Moslem imams from a flight resulted in a barrage of denunciations from Moslem advocacy groups like CAIR with no one to give a “fair and balanced” rebuttal. What is needed is an “Anti-CAIR” media team that can praise the justifiable concern of airline passengers for their safety and demand that Moslems understand that concern. There m

A Black Confusion

My post below about Barack Obama and the ensuing comments led me to contemplate the swirling confusions surrounding the use of the term "black" and "African-American" in our language. Just the other day, my son, who has had the preferability of the term "African-American" drilled into him in school, asked me, about Ghana, "Aren't most people there African-American?" "No," I said, "most of them are African-African." On the other hand, Americans who actually have recently moved here from Africa, such as my Egyptian friends at the deli down the street or my economic mentor, Israel Kirzner , are never called "African-American." So, is African-American really a racial classification? Well, it's not that either, because someone whose ancestory is mostly of non-African origin can still be "African-American." A lot of the same problems surround the word "black" as well. One of the commenters

Mo Media

For those who resisted the urge to listen to the mp3 of my talk on free trade, now you can watch it in wmv format. Such discipline!

Celebrity Couples

Do you think the gossip journalist or editor who coined the term "TomKat" is particularly proud of him or herself? Certainly that person should feel superior to whoever came up with the repugnant "Brangelina." (When googling to make sure I wasn't botching these terms, I came across "Bennifer" which is pretty clever too, though I hadn't heard it before.) I suspect that the only reason my wife Rachael and I haven't been inundated with paparazzi is the difficulty in coining a catchy name for us. Rabob? BoRa BoRa?

An Actual Empiricist Seconds My Views

Thanks to Dave Lull for sending me this Times article where Bryan Appleyard complains about Stephen Hawking. (Gene, I think you'd like this stuff.)

I Love the Terrorists More Than You!

Your 'Do You Want the Terrorists to Win' Score: 96%   You are a terrorist-loving, Bush-bashing, "blame America first"-crowd traitor. You are in league with evil-doers who hate our freedoms. By all counts you are a liberal, and as such cleary desire the terrorists to succeed and impose their harsh theocratic restrictions on us all. You are fit to be hung for treason! Luckily George Bush is tapping your internet connection and is now aware of your thought-crime. Have a nice day.... in Guantanamo! Do You Want the Terrorists to Win? Quiz Created on GoToQuiz Take that, Radley Balko .

Accident Avoidance

Accidents occur when two motor vehicles meet at the same place at the same time. (Yes, yes, I know, it could be a vehicle and a rock, a vehicle and a tree, etc. In fact, Wabulon's worst vehicular accident was a one vehicle crash occurring at 0 miles per hour! [Tell 'em, Wabulon.]) So, it seems to me that the obvious way to avoid having an accident is: Stay away from other vehicles! That's why I like to find big, empty "pockets" in the flow of traffic and settle into them for as long as they last. And why it always baffles me to see one car following another down a mostly empty away at a distance of about ten feet. Not, you know, coming up that close to pass the car in front and then going around it. No, the guy in the back just settles in, at 60 miles per hour, a car length or so behind the leader. What in the world is that about? Maintaining a proper following distance -- maybe 60 feet-- would result in the rear driver arriving less than one second later than

I Get Hawkish on Stephen

Now I liked A Brief History of Time and of course the whole wheelchair / voice enhancement stuff is touching, but I'm getting sick of Stephen Hawking. If he wants to shoot his mouth off to the press about event horizons, fair enough; he's got me there. But a few months ago he was talking about science vs. religion and his remarks were just D-U-M dumb, and he does it again in this story concerning colonization (which my wife brought to my attention). OK, first some geek quibbles: In Star Trek the warp drive doesn't take you somewhere "instantly." And although it relies on matter/antimatter annihilations, it also allows faster-than-light travel. So what Hawking is talking about in this article would be a far cry from "Star Trek propulsion." Another quibble: A nuclear war couldn't "wipe us all out." It would destroy modern civilization, perhaps, but it wouldn't exterminate the human race. I suspect his remarks here are less bas

Barack Obama

Many people are touting Obama as possibly the first black president. He doesn't have a chance. Not because he's "black" -- that's in quotes because he looks to be about 60% or 70% white in ancestry to me -- but because of his name. Far too many Americans are so stupid and uninformed that they will confuse "Obama" with "Osama," and be sure that the al Qaeda leader is running for US office.

The Phenomenology of the Social World

I've just been back into the book with the above title, by Alfred Schutz, who was an attendee at the renowned Mises seminar in Vienna. It struck me that he could have boosted sales quite a bit by instead entitling his work, "The Social World -- It's Phenomenal!" An opportunity lost.

A Question for Closed Borders Libertarians

What if someone proposed a policy of sending out armed federal agents to arrest people who applied for welfare? Or who cashed their Social Security checks? Or who used their WIC vouchers? Would you get behind that program?

The Brightest Minds of Our Era

Gene and me! (See it's not as arrogant if I include another.) Gene takes our old friend, Victor Davis Hanson, out to the woodshed in this piece, and I live up to my role as fat cat apologist in this one.

Get Out the Vote!

People are always worrying about enough voters showing up at the polls on election day. Well, after this last election, I came up with the perfect fix: lottery elections. What the government could do would be to award large cash prizes for various categories of voter: the ballot with the most winning candidates, the ballot with the most losing candidates, the ballot closest to the mean ballot, and so on. And this move would target precisely the people whom its hardest to get to vote now.

"Heh, heh, you shoulda heard what you just said..."

True story: A few days after initially posting an econometrics query on an email List, I received the following (sincere) question: "Did you find out more about your Wiener filter?"

BTW T-Mobile Sux

I offer the above lemma without proof. It is left as an exercise for the reader.

Sympathetic Customer Service Agents

Lately I've dealt with more than my fair share of 1-800 customer service people. There must be some new philosophy sweeping the profession, because they all "sympathize" with my situation. For example (and I'm not making this up), "Oh yes Mr. Murphy, I can totally understand how that would be frustrating if you moved into a new house and your cell phone didn't get any reception. I can see why you'd be calling us."

The Economist Sets a Low Bar

I was reading last month's Economist and came across this passage that struck me as hilarious. Like Bill Kristol, the writers for this magazine can say the most ludicrous things and yet somehow sound perfectly reasonable while doing so. Case in point: In this maelstrom, what can the Americans do? Since this summer they have defined their military "main effort" as the build-up of the Iraqi army and police. Although the police have proved a disappointment...the army is a qualified success. Though plauged by poor discipline, inefficiency, corruption and desertion, it has so far remained politically reliable. And although not nimble or numerous enough to prevent low-level, day-to-day killings, it is probably now strong enough in most cities to prevent the militias and insurgents from simply taking over. P.S. As ridiculous as that is at first reading, read it a second time. Note the two qualifiers ("probably" and "most") in the last sentence.

At the Airport

So a man is at the airport check-in line with a large creature under his arm. Security comes up to him and says, "What's that under your arm?" "A vulture." "Mister, you can't bring that bird on a plane." "Oh, no, you're wrong -- my ticket says I'm entitled to board with one carrion item."

happy non-voter here

Just cause I'm a non-voter doesn't mean I have a complete and total disinterest in election returns this evening: I honestly hope enough Democrats win to make the Republicans stop spending money like Democrats

Bats in My Belfry...

and flying squirrels in my attic. That's right, the attic of my house in Pennslyvania is apparently infested with flying squirrels. We found our third inside the house last Saturday night. It was perched on a curtain rod. It launched itself at the ceiling, wacked its head, and fell to the floor. Then it climbed up the curtain to try again. I finally got past it to open the indow it was near, and it leapt out into the night.


1) In the Wikipedia entry on "mirror," I found: "A mirror is used for inspecting parts of one's body which are difficult or impossible to see directly, such as the face, neck or the whole body. This may be to checkphysical appearance (including clothing, make-up, hair, etc.) or to control applying make-up, shaving, cutting hair, fixing one's tie, etc." Did the author of this article think there would be someone who had just bought a new house, and found a strange, reflective object in his bathroom, who said to himself, "What in the world is this thing? Let me log onto the Internet and go to Wikipedia to discover what I could possibly do with this thing?" 2) I bought a bag of pistachios at a gas station today. On the back of the package, I found: "Allergy warning: This product contains pistachio nuts." Is there some allergy sufferer out who might buy a bag of pistachios unaware that the bag would contain pistachio nuts?

Mo Media

What a treat! (Or is it a trick?) Another exciting Murphy talk, filled with all sorts of compelling analogies and jokes, available at the Mises archives. ("The Five Most Common Myths on International Trade," at the bottom.)

Andy Rooney on Iraq

I hope this link works here, but anyway here's a nice little clip from Andy Rooney. I've been monitoring this whole situation as closely as anything in the "public realm," and I think there was a definite shift in public opinion on the war around 2,000 US deaths. The first big blow to Bush's popularity was Katrina, but even then I don't think it was acceptable in any circle to say we should bring the troops home. But now, more and more, I'm seeing signs that it's fashionable for this to be one's position.

{No) Pasaran II

Answer the problem came with—cogent reason: Flip the coin twice. HH repeat two flips HT grade is A TH grade is B TT repeat two flips Comment by a friend to whom I gave P. I—insufficient reason: This solution is unnecessary. On Day One, the students had no reason to expect that the coin—if unfair—would have either particular bias. Independently, they had equally no reason to expect either particular assignment of heads and tails. Therefore, on the day the students were required to decide whether or not to take the course for credit, the prospect of a simple single flip sufficed to guarantee the promised outcome. (“Cogent reason” and “insufficient reason” refer to the two extreme philosophies for the assignment of probability. (But you knew that?))

(No) Pasaran I

The problem as I received it: A professor announces on the first day of class that he doesn’t believe in grades, but the deanery insists; therefore he guarantees every student equal chances of receiving A or B, the grades to be assigned at random. Anyone who is unhappy with this should not take the course for credit. Doomsday—and the professor gets out his little black grade book. He is about to flip a coin for each student, giving A for heads and B for tails, when he thinks: I didn’t merely promise that each student had the same expectation as every other; I promised an equal chance of A or B. What if this coin—or any coin—is not absolutely fair? What to do? See P. II for answers.

Lancet Study Fine

Says this fellow , who has spent two years studying their technique.

Fatwa (in words!!) on Kristol

Incidentally, fatwa is a pretty interesting concept for private law thinkers. But anyway, here I just mean it in the I'm-a-typical-American-and-can't-find-Kuwait-on-a-map sense. Recently Bill Kristol wrote an article containing the following concession: Democrats hyped last Sunday's news stories breathlessly reporting on one judgment from April's National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)--that the war in Iraq has created more terrorists. More than would otherwise have been created if Saddam were still in power? Who knows? The NIE seems not even to have contemplated how many terrorists might have been created by our backing down, by Saddam's remaining in power to sponsor and inspire terror, and the like. Did y'all catch that? Kristol is here admitting that there might be more terrorists now than before we invaded Iraq!! And he's acting like the war hawks never claimed otherwise!! I don't have the time, but somebody ought to comb through his archives

Fun with English

Bird Gods From ESPN writer Jayson Stark, commenting on Yadlier Molina's game-winning home run last night: "But not even Endy Chavez could leap high enough or far enough to keep this ball from landing in the Cardinals' Game 7 pantheon." So the Cardinals have a temple honoring all of their gods -- or is it just all of their "Game 7" gods? -- just over the left field fence in Shea Stadium? Why would the Mets allow that? No wonder they lost! Of course that is to take Stark literally. But what would he mean figuratively? The home-run ball has now become one of the Cardinals' gods? Or perhaps it just landed among the Game 7 gods, maybe hitting one of them right in the pantheon? Ouch! Dick Blumenthal Before He Dicks You On the radio today, I head Connecticut Attorney General Dick "Is There a Camera Around I Can Jump in Front of?" Blumenthal declare: "The electrical industry in Connecticut is now a regulatory black hole." Does the Dickst

Another Note from a Muslim Correspondent


Dangerous Dave Barry

This "FIRE" site explains that a PhD candidate was told to remove a "patently offensive" Dave Barry quotation about the federal government. The guy should post some Thomas Jefferson quotes and see what happens.


My friend Ed Stringham talks on TV about his study of drinking .

A Note from a Reader

Sometimes, you get a note that makes the effort seem worthwhile, after all: ******** Dear Mr. Gene Callahan, I just read your subject article online and when i saw a link to email you, i felt compelled to write a few lines. I hope you will have the time to read. I am an Indian national, working in Saudi Arabia. And I am a muslim. Recently, I have changed my plans about savings and started spending more. Because i think i won't live long enough to enjoy the benefits of my savings. I feel I will be killed soon by American violence - if it is not by American soldier or bomb, then it will be another bomb/bullet which was triggered in direct reaction to American actions. I am not a jihadi. I am not even religious. But the fact that i was born a muslim qualifies me for such a death. Day in and day out i hear debates about why killing Americans is justified. About how this world can only be saved by destroying America. About how we are doomed unless we act against America. But

Maybe we should vote for them?

LRC ran a great James Bovard article on how the liberators of Iraq actually didn't bend over backwards to bring democracy (forget electricity). Here's a good quote from Paul Bremer, former American overlord of Iraq (I know I know, that wasn't his actual title): In a postwar situation like this, if you start holding elections, the people who are rejectionists tend to win.

give me my parking decal dammit!

A few weeks ago, the city reminded me--in a letter mailed to my home--that my neighborhood parking decal expires at the end of October. They asked me to mail-in my renewal form instead of huffing it over to their office. Yesterday, I got my reply! In the mail! They want me to FAX them proof that I live at the address where they have sent me all these letters.

A Watershed in History

My six-year-old son today asked me, "What's a blog?" I gave the response I suually do: "It's a web log." He came back, "What's a log?" He is the first person I've met who had heard of a blog without having heard of a log. Soon, we will hear, "Oh, a log -- that's a kind of paper-based blog."

The Futility of Violence

You shortsighted libertarians agree with me that initiating violence is wrong, but you still believe it's a good thing to forcibly punish true "bad guys." Well what about this story ? Oh wait, don't tell me: This just proves the sentence wasn't harsh enough. If we executed bank robbers, you wouldn't see this type of thing.

Taliban Devise Ingenius Defense

My wife tipped me off to this hilarious article ... I was trying to think of a clever blog title, but I couldn't beat "Can't smoke 'em out?" that one of the news agencies used.

It Will Get Worse...

From MSNBC : "Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, briefing in Baghdad on Thursday, attributed the rising casualties to insurgent violence that coincides with the current Islamic holy month of Ramadan, as well as more aggressive operations in Baghdad." “'We assume it will still get worse before it gets better. We expect violence to continue to increase over the next two weeks, until the end of Ramadan,' Caldwell said." Well, given the whole war has been 3 1/2 years of "getting worse," I'd say we're seeing an example here of military intelligence at its finest.

Nice Meadow!

My friend Roderick Long has launched the Center for a Stateless Society , which, even if nothing else comes of it, has a really nice photo on the top of their home page.

Moral Clarity

After Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle crashed his plane into a Manhattan apartment building today, nothing could be clearer than this: Manhattan should now bomb the Bronx until it is reduced to a pile of burning rubble. Anything less would show a lack of "resolve" on the part of Manhattan.

Predictions: 2 out of 3 in 3 days

Well I recently made 3 predictions. Three days have gone by, and already two of them have been addressed by news stories ( #1 and #3 ). Yeah yeah, I know the casualty numbers have been disputed, but does anybody doubt my target will be reached by 2016? And if the Army right now is saying they're there until 2010, in plain English that means at least 2020.

More on the Rule of Law (under the Sea)

It's ironice that Gene just posted about this, because I am about to make a similar post. We have been in a hotel until 2 days ago (we just closed on a house). We haven't rented a movie in ages, and my wife bought our son The Little Mermaid (the DVD, not an actual organism). So I'm man enough to admit that I watched it (quite eagerly) last night. There was a great part where Ariel (the dimunitive mermaid) signs a contract with the witch, and Ariel's father comes in and tries to blast the witch with his trident. But the witch holds up the contract and the bolt bounces off, and the witch says triumphantly, "This is a perfectly legal contract." You can fill in the blanks. I thought it was great.

The Rule of Law Secret Thoughts

James Bovard on how "law" in the US now means the secret thoughts of George Bush .

Democratic Governance

A correspondent wrote in suggesting that elections offer some redress to the tendency towards fascism exhibited recently by the US and UK governments. I agree with him in that democratic elections do impose some constraint on the behaviour of rulers. But that constraint is very much vitiated by the control of an opinion-making elite over what options are available to the electorate. For example, in 2004, roughly 50% of the US electorate was opposed to the Iraq war. But the two major parties each offered candidates who supported the war, only differing in how they proposed to conduct it. The most viable candiate to express the anti-war view, Howard Dean, was sabotage by the widespread media "exposure" of his "instability." Now, I don't suggest that there was some coherent conspiracy to defeat Dean. There is no need to postulate such a conspiracy if one recognizes that the elite in question travel in the same social circles, attend the same parties, find their o

"Military Style Planning"

As we wait to move into our new home we've been in a Residence Inn, and I've watched more than my fair share of shows on the Food Network. Anyway this host was doing a documentary on the banquet they have after the Grammys, and she was trying to express the enormity of the task. "300 lbs. of tuna, 6,000 tomatoes, etc. etc." She talked about how many chefs would be involved and so forth, and then said, "...getting ready for a task that will require military-style planning." Can someone please explain to me why the military has a reputation for being excellent planners? Don't, say, experimental scientists have to really think things through before starting a project? Don't oil companies engage in long-range planning?

Rumsfeld quote

This is from Newsweek's excerpts from Woodward's book: "They [the enemy in Iraq] don't have parliaments and bureaucracies and real estate to defend and interact with or deal with or cope with. They can do what they want. They aren't held accountable for lying or for killing innocent men, women, and children. "There's something about the body politic in the United States that they can accept the enemy killing innocent men, women, and children and cutting off people's heads, but have zero tolerance for some soldier who does something he shouldn't do." I think the "something he shouldn't do" is Rumsfeld's term for things like raping a young girl and shooting her whole family (except for the brothers that happened to be out at the time). And how many of you American readers pay taxes to the Iraqi insurgents?

Murphy Double Play

An article against the war, and, for something different, an article against the war.

Letters from the Brownshirts

I've received about 100 letters in response to my " Welcome to Fascist America " article, about 90% positive, including notes from an ex-Marine and an ex-official from high up in the Reagan administration. But what's almost amusing is the general tone of the other 10%, which runs, "Fuck you, you Communist traitor, go to hell!" As if they were trying to illustrate my point by showing the fascist spirit in its full glory!

Letters from the Insane

In response to my recent column at, I received: *********** As it turns out Mussalini and Tito regarded as the co=operators of 'facisim" in the 1920's were quite sure they would get the support of Hitler when discussions regarding the masses were in doubt. Look what happened to the super-star Micheal Jackson, a prodigy of the facist movement, created right here in America in the early 60's. The civil right leaders at that time were unaware of the plot to create a story which later would be carried through by the Japanese , another society that keep its masses homogeneous throughout recent history, and still does today. What about another great american hero of the 40's and 50's , i foget his name, but recently praised by the Japanese outgoing PM, ""love me tender"" , totally setup up by the Russians, in a deliberate move to carry out idealogy that was being kept secret, that started in the 1920s and 1930s. So what is

We Now Take You to...

intermission , over at Patrick Hughes'.

I Welcome You All...

to the Fascist States of Amrica !

Give me your tired, your poor...

...your muddled asses...

Ali Gene in a Welsh Garden

Yo, yo, yo, shoutin out to the Crash Landing massive that me's back. I had to do a little time inside, you know, I'se went down for a bit, but I'm out again. What I wants to talk to you about today is when I went to see me main man, that diamond geezer Professor Callahan, out in Wales. Well, I'm waitin' for 'im and lookin' at the nice bit o' greenery you sees above. And there's these two Welsh blokes next to me, and I says to 'em, "What sort a garden is that?" And one of the wankers tells me, "Not garden." So, I says to 'im, "Look, I can bloody well see it's a garden, I just want to know what sort a garden it is." And the other Jobby says, "Not garden." These Welsh is really lost the plot.

The Good War?

Many opponnents of the War on Iraq think that the War on Afghanistan stands in sharp contrast to the former. I've always been skeptical of that position. I recall that, just before the invasion, the Taliban offered to turn over bin Laden to the US if the Bush administration would give it (them? Is Taliban singular or plural?) evidence tying bin Laden to 9/11. That seemed a perfectly reasonable position to me, and I worried that it was more the possibility of oil pipelines than any danger posed by the Taliban that led Bush to ignore the offer. Now Eric Margolis, who has extensive experience reporting in the region, confirms my suspicions. An excerpt: "Pakistan’s efforts to make the Bush Administration understand it was supporting Taliban to maintain order in Afghanistan, keep the Russian-backed Afghan Communist Party in check, and to block Indian and Iranian influence there, fell on deaf ears. "So was ISI’s insistence that Taliban had no knowledge or part in the 9/11 at

Curious Amazon Result

Following up on a blog link, I came across this book: The Truth about Conservative Christians: What They Think and What They Believe The weird thing is that the top book to pair with this in the "Better Together" selections is Cite Right: A Quick Guide to Citation Styles--MLA, APA, Chicago, the Sciences, Professions, and More (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing) . Say what? Are people who are especially interested about what Christians believe also extremely concerned about citation styles?

Defeat Is Not an Option in Iraq...

it's an inevitability. You have to be very brainwashed by some cult (e.g., US as the nation of divine destiny) to think that merely "being determined" that you can lift a ten-ton rock by hand will impress the boulder at all.

"Why don't you teach at Hillsdale anymore?"

A lot of people have been asking me just that. Well, I'm not legally allowed to talk about it, but maybe those who are curious should, hmm, I dunno, read this article.

That Train Thing

Traveling from Cardiff to London yesterday I heard someone talking on his mobile phone say, "Yeah, that so-called train thing." I immediately became quite nervous. I had been fairly certain I was on just a plain-old, straightforward train. Was I really on a so-called train thing? In what sense was in not really a train? What effect would the difference have on my journey?


When Michael Oakeshott was in Cambridge at the same time Wittgenstein (and Popper) were. When asked what he thought of Wittgenstein, he answered, "There were a number of Austrian comedians in Cambridge in those days."

When Can We Criticize the War Effort?

This piece was almost a blog post, until I decided to foist it on a larger audience...

"The Rule of Law"

This morning at aout 2:30 AM I was awakened by a sound like someone running a lawnmower right outside my window. I looked out and saw a police helicopter hovering about half a mile away, right over the centre of Cardiff, its searchlight casting -- for faults in the clouds of delusion? It stayed there until about 3. I would guess the copter may have kept, oh, say 100,000 people awake for that time. Can you imagine if you or I, and not The State, had tried this stunt? We would have been shot out of the sky -- even if we had some urgent reason for being there, say, we were searching for a missing child. Of course, if our child was missing, we could beg The State to send up its helicopter -- and it might or not. But notice how far this is from "the rule of law." You or I are never permitted this acivity, no matter the circumstances, while The State can do it whenever it declares it to be "necessary." Different rules apply to our masters than to you or me.

Seen on a Menu

(I'm not making this up.) Welsh Faggots Two tasty Welsh faggots served on a bed of cracked pepper mash topped with carmelized onions and dark gravy. If our friend Sal finds out about this, he's over to Wales in a flash: not only are there two of them, but they're tasty, and they're already in bed !

Thieves and Killers

In an effort to convince voters that they can kill just as well as the Republicans, Democrats hosted a we're-against-the-Bush-war-but-don't -get-us-wrong-we-aren't-going-to-pull-the-troops-out party. As usual, critics said that it's inappropriate to criticize the Pentagon in the midst of a war. (I think I'll write a whole article ranting about this...) But here's a good line: "Today's stunt may rile up the liberal base, but it won't kill a single terrorist or prevent a single attack," Sen. Mitch McConnell said. I just love how the goal has been transformed--note Kerry's campaign promises--from defending America to killing terrorists. In the economic realm, it would be as silly as Teddy Kennedy saying, "These supply-side antics won't get a welfare check to a single unwed mother, or get a single household head a job." (P.S. The more I think about it, the more analogous I think that example is.)

Overheard on the Street

One chav to another: "You remember that bloody girl from last night -- what was she, Portugese, or Dutch, or Bulgarian, or Finnish or somefin?" Reminded me of the London newspaper headline: "Fog halts all transportation across Channel; Continent isolated."

Welsh Rare Bits

* Many phone booths in the UK have a chicken bone in them. Reason unknown. * I learned of this from a poster hanging over a urinal trough in a Cardiff pub today, and folks, this is real, and you can see I'm not making it up here . There is a cellphone service in the UK that, for a fee, will, if you send them your postal code, text you "honey alerts." As far as I could tell from the pictures in the loo, this means that, if in your postal code, there are some really drunk women rubbing their breasts together, you will get a text telling you where you can go to gape at them. * In a football match today (listen, you bloody Yanks, that means soccer) I swear I saw a referee push a player down. Can you call a foul on the ref? * The person checking me in to my hotel told me I was not allowed "to smoke, eat, or drink alcoholic beverages" in my room. I responded that on 2 out of 3 she was absolutely safe: I had never smoked or eaten alcoholic beverages in any room. *


Traveling from England to Wales by train, I immediately knew I had crossed the border when all of the towns had English and Welsh names posted, which inspired: I've got the runs From that dodgy pie And I understand Not one word passing by They say it's English But it taxes my brain Where the towns have two names Where the towns have two names I want to feel Sunlight on my face But the clouds don't let in Even a trace I want to take shelter From that Welshman with a cane Where the towns have two names Where the towns have two names

The Onion on Taxes

"With e-filing, the government's seizure of nearly half my assets was quicker and easier than ever this year." Read more .

A Suggestion for Brevity

From now on, Bush should just discuss countries that he wouldn't invade...

Good Work, Boys!

According to Brendan O'Neill , the US is now justifying its continuing presence in Afghanistan as part of the "war on drugs"! Of course, it was the US invasion that kicked drug production into overdrive. And that invasion was justified by how bad the Taliban were, and, of course, the Taliban were there due to the previous US intervention! It would be nice to live in the land of Cockaigne, where roasted squabs fly into the workers' mouths, and government interventions are not subject to the law of unintended consequences. But since we don't, you'd think people might eventually learn that.

A Tool of the Devil

When I read news accounts of the Crusade-launching Pope, I was suspicious. It occurred to me that in context, perhaps he was clearly not endorsing the remarks he had quoted concerning Islam's founder (as opposed to just saying that after the fact). Naturally I didn't bother looking up the full transcripts myself; that would have required some effort. Instead, I waited for LRC to link to an article (by Justin Raimondo) on it. And don't worry, after defending the Pope Justin comes round to why Bush is a Krazy Eyes Killa. If you're curious, you can read the first 10 paragraphs or so and then relax about the Pope. (BTW the subject line of this blog post was how one of my first born-again friends classified the Pope when I first went to college.)

Exceedingly Significant and Beautiful

A renowned devotee of Terpsichore Had a fourteen-inch dildo of hickory, Which she rubbed with bay rum, Belladonna, old cum, Oil of myrrh, and hot coffee with chickory.

Exceedingly Beautiful and Significant

There was an old man of Popocatepetl Who reeked both of muscone and nepetal. When they asked, Won't you wash? He replied, Holy gosh, I worked hard for this odor, and keep it I'll.

Pail Challenge

Remember those old chestnuts like, "You are given a 7-quart and a 9-quart pail; return from the well with exactly one quart"? For a>b, give the set S in terms of a and b of all possible returns from the well. Design a parametrized production system (alphabet plus rewrite rules) or, equivalently, a Turing machine to derive and return any member of S. For extra credit, generalize to any (finite) number of pails a[i]. Does an infite number of pails add anything interesting??

The Geneva What?

A few weeks ago I read an LRC column (by Chris Floyd I think) talking about how Bush people are worried they'll be prosecuted for war crimes. At the time I thought that was ridiculous, but after reading this news story I'm not so sure. Ah, isn't it nice to live in a land of freedom and justice, where a major news article has lines like this? As part of the administration's efforts to protect intelligence officers from liability, Bush last week called for Congress to approve legislation drafted by the White House that would exempt CIA officers and other federal civilian officials from prosecution for humiliating and degrading terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. Its wording would keep prosecutors or courts from considering a wider definition of actions that constitute torture.

Polar Bear Question

Why are polar bears white? Cuddlesome white arctic animals are striving to evade the notice of predators, but polar bears? Then why?

Random Processes Create Order

Random Processes Create Order wb 060916 Random processes, equipped with suitable constraints or interspersed with appropriate refiltration shape towards order. No news there. The best example: natural selection. Here’s a simple case: I travel a drab, industrial stretch of a local road from time to time, where no one ever tidies up. Recently something left a mess of wood trash scattered all over the westbound lane. Next visit, it was all still there, but the lie was improving; now it’s all neatly over in or near the ditch, and the lane is clear. Every time a vehicle passed over, it would bat the trash hither and yon. Some pieces landed outside the thoroughfare; the crowning of the road gave a sufficient bias so that little or none crossed over into the eastbound lane. The exiled trash remained in exile; the rest awaited further instructions. Thank you, Mr. Darwin.

Moslems Object

to the Pope calling Islam a violent religion, and they promise to slaughter Christians as well as each other until the Pope takes it back. (Moslem leaders also took umbrage at the Pope's suggestion that some of them have a full human head growing from their crotch.)

Guess the Secret Solution!

I was buying food at the Hoboken train station yesterday. I asked for a swiss cheese omelette, which comes with toast and home fries. The sullen man at the counter said, "We're out of home fries." "Can I get it with french fries instead?" A solemn nod was his only reply. "Well, what if you just serve me the eggs and toast, and take a little off the price?" Angered by my stupidity, he shouted, "That's what I was going to do even without you asking!"

Have a Drink!

My friend Ed Stringham proves that drinking is good for your income . (Having been on Bourbon Street with Ed, I'm certain he's hoping he's right.)

America's Finest

Horrible as these allegations are, the thing that really kills me about this is that the kid is getting threatened from his "buddies"--you know, the ones who are being all they can be. I also didn't much care for the dad's advice to his son. But then again, I didn't even like college fraternities, so I certainly wouldn't "get" the military culture.

Your First Day at a British University

2.00 pm Meet in Auditorium Room 2.18 • Welcome by Head of School • Introduction to Postgraduate Department • Free shots • Introduction to Research by Postgraduate Research Studies Co-ordinator • Dissertation/thesis loans • One more to soothe the first day jitters? • Postgraduate Representatives 2.45 - Sherry in the faculty lounge 3.00 - Inductions for research students and taught schemes 3.15 - Thirsty, mate? 3.30 - Research Unit Inductions 3.45 - Let me stand you a pint, yeah? 4.00 - Lecture on the state of modern Europe and brandy tasting 4.30 - Slip off for a quick nip 4.45 - Library Induction and introduction to the ales of Britain 5.00 pm Wine and Cheese Reception for all new Postgraduates 6.30 pm Get together at the Mackintosh pub -- at last it's time to drink!

What Is PUCK About?

"What is PUCK about? "Imagine you are asleep by a window, with a light breeze blowing the curtains in across your brow. A parade slowly approaches up the street, a parade with music and exotic animals and bizzare stunts being performed. But the parade does not wake you; you merely stir, half-aware of the passing commotion, uncertain what parts of it you are dreaming and what parts are really happening just beyond the window frame. A few minutes later, you awaken, and look out into the road to see if you can catch a glimpse of the rear of the procession. But no, they are gone almost without a trace, only a piece of confetti here and a dung dropping there to keep you from dismissing the whole episode as a dream caused by too much perpperoni pizza. "That experience is what PUCK is about." -- McGanahan Skjellyfetti

Sickos at School

It was disgusting. All over the sidewalks outside my kids school this morning, molesting passers-by, actually trying to grope us as we neared them, were... politicians! Isn't there a law about this somewhere?

The Muddled Medved

Get it here!

Rizzo on 9/11

My friend (and Bob's PhD advisor) Mario Rizzo talks about his personal 9/11 experience in NYC that day .

How To Ruin Your Kid's Life

Today I was preparing a check so my employer could setup direct deposit into my bank account. It occurred to me that it would be really inconvenient if you were named "Void."

Brad Pitt: Let It Begin With Me

I try to resist the oh-so-easy lampooning of celebrity causes, but give me a break, Brad... Apparently Pitt said in an interview that he wouldn't marry Angelina Jolie until restrictions on gay marriage were lifted: Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able. In a related story, actor George Wendt, best known for his portrayal of Norm on Cheers , announced that he would not join a gym until the War on Terror had ended and all Guantanamo Bay prisoners had access to Bally Total Fitness clubs.

I Read Hawking and Gould So I'm a Philosopher

This is a letter to the editor in Thursday's USA Today, entitled "Fact over tradition." (Gene, you'll like this I think.) Gene Kolnowski argues that Pluto should remain a planet because of "tradition." This misses the point entirely, regarding not only this controversy but also for science in general... When Pluto was discovered in 1930, our knowledge of the composition of solar bodies was far less complete. As new information comes to light, it is necessary to modify our theories. If we were to continue to accept other disproven beliefs due to tradition, then other scientific discoveries--such as the heliocentric nature of star systems--would have to be discarded. For centuries, people believed the Earth was the center not only of the solar system, but also of the entire universe. Science is that which is true. The scientific method is the means of discovering the truth. No matter how cherished or longstanding an incorrect belief, it must eventual

Nothing New Here

From the AP : "WASHINGTON - There's no evidence Saddam Hussein had ties with al-Qaida, according to a Senate report on prewar intelligence that Democrats say undercuts President Bush's justification for invading Iraq... "Republicans countered that there was little new in the report and Democrats were trying to score election-year points with it." Well, they have a point there -- anyone with any brains knew five years ago that you can tell Bush is lying when you see his mouth move, so there really isn't much new in another verification of that fact.

Buckwheats for Bucky?

I am of course very suspicious of the government. So when I read a story like this, about the manhunt for Ralph "Bucky" Phillips, I get upset. First, although it makes perfect sense from their POV, it irks me that police hunt for murderers far more thoroughly when it's another cop that's been shot, as opposed to a true civilian. Second, am I being too cynical to infer that the cops took Bucky's grandchildren because they couldn't catch him? (I'm not being sarcastic, I'm really asking if someone wants to argue that this is standard procedure and there was no malice involved.) For those with a real job (i.e. not you Gene), here's the relevant paragraph: Most [acquaintances] believe that when the police, four months into the hunt, arrested his daughter, her boyfriend and Mr. Phillips’s former girlfriend, and the authorities temporarily took custody of his daughter’s three young children, Mr. Phillips went from a man bent on escape, and who they

Subtle Danger in Legislation vs. Laws

One of the hidden dangers in the legislative State--where the rules are set by politicians rather than evolving in a market process--is that phony rules can be enforced. (Related to this, people can pose as police officers and get away with all sorts of scary stuff.) My wife brought my attention to this article, and pointed out that the cops didn't even know what the rules were, but just blindly obeyed these signs.

Wasn't THAT Mission Accomplished a Long Time Ago??

Two things struck me about this USA Today article . First, the "biased liberal anti-American" media led me to believe that everything was fine in Afghanistan; this insurgency sort of came out of nowhere, as far as major media coverage. Second, notice that the general isn't saying, "We're going to pull out in six months." No, he's just saying that if they don't defeat the Taliban in 6 months, the locals won't support them. But our troops will still stick around, shooting and liberating.

After Further Review...The Article Stands.

I've finally had time to read Carlton Hobbs' counterattack on me. We are in the midst of a move so I can't offer a full reply. Suffice it to say, I think Hobbs is crazy if he considers Amanda Taylor to be "pro-market." She wasn't complaining about State intervention making international trade appear profitable, she was rather complaining about things being decided on the basis of profit (rather than energy consumed or some other criterion). Yes, Taylor didn't openly call for government action. (I daresay that she favors anti-pollution laws, though. I would be quite surprised if her solution for the environment was to persuade consumers to boycott smokestacks, though perhaps she's a consistent pacifist or something and this really is her position.) But I never said her article was evil, I said it was dumb. If someone wrote a piece saying, "Consumers should boycott Burger King because monarchy is exploitative," I would consider that a