Showing posts from November, 2007

The Well-Lubed Machinery of Government

" 1787, two days before their work was done, the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention 'adjourned to a tavern for some rest, and according to the bill they drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 8 of whiskey, 22 of port, 8 of hard cider and 7 bowls of punch so large that, it was said, ducks could swim around in them.' "Then they went back to work and finished founding the new Republic." The rest is here .

How Language Changes!

I was reading a book on Jefferson and Burr tonight and read, "Justus Bollman sent a message from his cell to the President's house." 'What?!' I thought. 'He was texting Jeffereson?!' Then I realized he had been in jail at the time.

Republican YouTube Debate

You can economize on your time by just reading the transcripts ( I and II ). If you already know the people, it's pretty easy to reconstruct how it must have looked when it happened. It is really stunning how bad on economics a lot of these candidates are. The best is Duncan Hunter saying we should "buy American" this Christmas season to create jobs. And Giuliani and Romney both refused to take up a questioner who wanted them to end federal subsidies for agriculture, because we need to ensure a domestic food supply. What's funny is, most of the candidates were posturing about how they were going to use the federal government to crack down on the flow of illegal immigrants. So we're worried about foreigners sneaking in illegally, and we're also worried about us not being able to import food legally. Makes sense. I do have to say I was impressed with McCain on illegal immigrants--reminding everyone that they are God's children too--and with Huckabee o

Mission Accomplished!

Sheldon Richman on the new American aims in Iraq : "Finally, the 3.0 agenda aims to get a law passed to let Ba’ath Party members back into government jobs. “This last goal was described by a senior Bush administration official as largely symbolic, since rehirings have been quietly taking place already without a law,” the Times reports." So now one of our war aims is to re-install the government we went to war to expel!

Mike Huckabee Illustrates the Meaning of 'Tautology'

In tonight's debate, a viewer asked,"Do you believe every word of the Bible?' Now, my answer would have been "What the hell business is it of yours?" Huckabee said, "I believe that the Bible is exactly what it is." I guess he's holding some sort of Tarskian theory of truth, whereby "It is raining out" is true whenever it is the case that it is raining out. (Which I've found to be the least helpful philosophical truth ever propounded.)

Ya Gotta Love These Guys!

At NRO Andy McCarthy writes : "The greatest blown opportunity in recent political history[?] I'd have gone with Clinton's chance to take out al Qaeda right after the 1998 embassy bombings — which would have been good for the country, won the 2000 election for Gore, and spared us the Cole bombing and 9/11." But of course, at that time , anytime Clinton acted against al Qaeda, the right screamed "He's just distracting the people from Monica! Wag the dog! Wag the dog!"

America's Great Liberal On Torture

On November 7 Alan Dershowitz--the epitome of a civil liberties loving liberal, in the eyes of many--wrote a WSJ column on "Democrats and Waterboarding" (page A23). A reader took issue and wrote a Letter to the Editor complaining, and on November 14 Dershowitz replied (in the Letters section), writing: Douglas A. Johnson premises his letter to the editor on Nov. 12 on the factual assertion that I am "passionately promoting the use of torture." Did he not even bother to read the column to which he was responding in which I stated unequivocally that "I am personally opposed to the use of torture." [sic on punctuation--Bob] This assertion runs through all of my writing about torture. Being the head of a do-gooder organization does not give one a license to make up the facts. ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ Cambridge, Mass. Wow, them are some strong words. Let me take some ex

Integer Vitae IIIA

.. I.V. IIIA republishes I.V. III without the crappy formatting (my hour on the library computer ran out and then came Thanksgiving). Remember? …, 1010, 1011, 1000, 1001, 1110, 1111, 1100, 1101, 10, 11, 0, 1, 110, 111, 100, 101, 11010, 11011, 11000, 11001, 11110, ... Reprise: .. No other digits ==> binary .. Context free ==> “0” is always 0, “1” is always 1 ==> no minus sign even for negative integers .. Extrapolation, and considering that log2(21) = 4+ suggests a unique total unsigned representation .. Pairs, e.g. “0” “1”, “110” “111”, suggest radix or at least some kind of positional notation .. Aha: radix, base -2 .. In I.V. II, I mentioned, “Arithmetic? Looks dicey, but simple algorithms must exist, because indeed this is a familiar radix system (successive positions indicate successive powers of the so-called base).” Well, I know you have been slavering over that ever since (unless you worked it out for yourself). Subtraction is just a dialect of addition, really, and for

Keeping the love in the rEVOLution.

Gene is always telling me that some Ron Paul supporters are giving the others a bad name with their behavior on web sites. I take action .

Your freedoms are half empty or half full, depending.

This is really interesting. From LRC I saw this article on the alleged "forced vaccinations" in Maryland, which makes it sound as if the Gestapo are at your door. So I tried to find coverage of the story from a more mainstream news outlet, and this was the best analog. What's really amazing is that they're both basically reporting the same flow of events, but the latter story wouldn't alarm most people. "Oh sure, there were technically fines and jail time, but c'mon, it was for the kids, and nobody was really going to throw parents in jail. That was just to get them to comply."

US/Iraq "Deal"

The opening paragraph of this news story is rather chilling: BAGHDAD - Iraq's government, seeking protection against foreign threats and internal coups, will offer the U.S. a long-term troop presence in Iraq in return for U.S. security guarantees as part of a strategic partnership, two Iraqi officials said Monday. So it's not a conspiracy theory, it's now front page news, that the current people running Iraq would not be able to maintain their rule without US troops. When other countries do this, it's usually called a "puppet government." And isn't it a rather odd "deal"? "Okay, tell you what. If you agree to provide us with security, we agree to let your troops stay here and provide security." It's almost as if the US government likes to have its troops stationed around the world...

"Electability" Measure

This guy emailed me in response to one of my columns, and he's made an interesting analysis . I haven't checked his results, but he's backed out the implied conditional probability of someone winning the general election once becoming the Republican or Democratic nominee. Al Gore is an astounding 100%, while Ron Paul leads the Republicans (as of early November) at over 40%. Any theories?

Rudy's Inappropriate Laughter

Check out this clip starting about 0:55 into it. Giuliani gets some tough questions about his placement of the command center (which turned out to be disastrous on 9/11), and he starts laughing like a schoolgirl. Is that his tell? This will be useful if he's the next president. And seriously, what's the deal with the laughing? Is he amused because of Wallace's "backward" charges? I.e. is Giuliani thinking, "This is a riot! My chief advisor urges me to place the command center in lower Manhattan, and now I'm being criticized for that decision! Heh!"

Now, That's a Valid Comparison

In the course of ridiculing the plan by some Ron Paul supporters to hire a "Ron Paul Blimp," Jason Linkins write, "But why stop there? Why don't we raise some money to buy Ron Paul his very own kangaroo?" Man, I just hate arguments like this. I have no idea if the idea of a Paul blimp is sensible or not. But, look, it's based on a tested advertising idea that many corporations apparently feel seems to work. So it's certainly not patently stupid, like the kangaroo notion. The thing is, for people who are too dull or lazy to examine the analogy, a "pundit" like Linkins can do this with anything : "Clinton supporters plan to buy ads on billboards ! Oooh, why don't they just buy signs on the sides of atoms and advertise there?'

A Consistent Materialist

"Hate, Im so full of it and I love it. That is one thing I really love. Some time ago, I used to believe in humanity and I wanted to live a long and happy life... but then I woke up. I started to think deeper and realized things. But it was not easy to become existential... knowing as much as I know has made me unhappy, frustrated and angry. I just can’t be happy in the society or the reality I live. Due to long process of existential thinking, observing the society I live and some other things happened in my life... I have come to the point where I feel nothing but hate against humanity and human race. "Life is just a meaningless coincidence... result of long process of evolution and many several factors, causes and effects. However, life is also something that an individual wants and determines it to be. And I'm the dictator and god of my own life. And me, I have chosen my way. I am prepared to fight and die for my cause. I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who

How to Become a Professional Newsman

Say things like "lodge bombs at you."


In this article , detailing how firemen will now be used as spies, the writer says, "Americans have given up some of their privacy rights in an effort to prevent future strikes." Do you remember when you did this? When you voluntarily "gave up" some of your rights as part of your "effort to prevent future strikes"? That's funny -- I don't either!

Integer Vitae III

Establishing Property Rights in a Commons

After reading this blog post on the North Atlantic cod fisheries, I had a quick thought on how to privatize the resource fairly: Create a corporation with ownership rights over the fish resources and give everyone currently fishing an area shares in the corporation in proportion to their current catch. UPDATE: The point here was don't privatize the commons through one of these shite schemes where some state pretends its the owner and then auctions off the commons, which is snatched up by some large statist corporation, which sells the right to fish there to the current users who really already own it.

Weird Pennsylvania Laws, Part II

I think I detailed the weird liquor laws out here in an earlier post but I can't find it right now. (Basically, it is legal to buy up to 12 beers or more than 23 beers out here, but illegal to buy between 13 and 23!) However, tonight I found ann even stranger situation: there is a fireworks store in Matamoras, Pennsylvania, that Pennsylvania residents are not even allowed to enter . (I got around this by not having updated my driver's license in so long that it says I still live in Connecticut.) Apparently, the fireworks it sells are so dangerous that they are only suitable for the yahoos out in Ohio. (They are illegal to even transport through New York, the state about two miles away from the store.)

The Philosopher as Dickhead

I just read this profile of Peter Singer . I've always consider him an ass, but I had underestimated him -- he's really a gargantuan ass: "Singer himself gives 20% of his Princeton professor salary to nonprofits, principally Oxfam. To lead an even minimally moral life, he argues, we’re all obligated to give at least that much." Wow! What a coincidence! The absolute minimum that anyone can give to charity and still be considered morally decent just happens to be exactly the amount Singer himself gives ! Man, did he luck out! Cause, you know, just 1% less and he would have had to condemn himself. So how did he arrive at that figure? From one of his "two overarching principles": "If we can prevent something bad without sacrificing anything of comparable significance, we ought to do it.” It's not right, he claims, for Americans to enjoy luxuries while others starve. You know what? Eighty percent of the salary of a tenured full professor at Princeton plu

Bob on Nobel on

Article here .

Undervalued Dollar?

Perhaps in an unintentional response to my post , in which I asked how much Tyler would have made if he practiced as his alter-ego preached and shorted T-bonds three years ago, Tyler Cowen writes today: I know full well that in most sensible intertemporal models the U.S. dollar is overvalued and must fall further to set right the trade balance. But these same intertemporal models don't explain business cycles or unemployment very well (they do at times, but that's it), so why should they explain currency values? Nor do these same macro models command the full loyalty of Krugman and other pessimists in different settings. I do know that purchasing power parity predicts long swings in exchange rates to some crude extent, and right now I'm dead set against family summer vacation in Europe. So I will accept this dare and assert that the U.S. dollar is undervalued in world currency markets. Now, as I understand the above, Tyler's argument boils down to his blind int

Pollster Zogby Thinks Ron Paul Can Get 15 to 18 Percent in NH

He apparently said this to an astounded Sean Hannity. For those who don't check these things maniacally, Paul is now polling at 8% among likely Republican voters in NH ( pdf ). However, that's misleading because as everyone knows, RP supporters are "spammers," i.e. they fanatically vote for their candidate more so than other supporters do for their guy or gal. I.e., people can tell a pollster they'll likely vote in the primary, but I bet more Ron Paul supporters actually do it.

Americans Drop Out...

of 2008 presidential race .

It's Just My Belief, Not a Fact

While perusing a thread discussing whether or not Mitt Romney's Mormonism should be relevant to his presidential candidacy, I found myself marveling at the contortions Americans go through in dealing with such issues, in their effort to appear non-judgmental in making a judgment. Many of the posters seemed to hold something like, "I'm open-minded, and would never vote against a person of any faith -- as long as that faith means no more to him than his choice of necktie." One poster even asserted that "a person's religious faith... passes inspection as long as they... understand that faith is a belief, not a fact." In other words, she'll vote for someone as long as their ideas are an incoherent jumble, and they are able to "believe" something without thinking that it is a fact! "I believe it's raining out, but I know that, factually speaking, it is not."

Don't see Lions for Lambs...

...unless you want Robert Redford to lecture you for 88 mins. Here's a good Slate rip that gives minor spoilers. If you want a real political thriller with an anti-war hawk bent--basically, what the ads promised Lions would be--then rent The Sum of All Fears , from a few years ago.

Ron Paul, Underdog

This is a great video, the best compilation of how the smug media downplays Ron Paul. And man, just look at how professional this thing looks! The Internet (and computers generally) is amazing. (Originally saw this on LRC.)

How rich would Tyler Cowen be?

I found an old post by Tyler Cowen at top economics blog Marginal Revolution, written almost three years ago, that caught my eye. It's titled "If I believed in Austrian Business Cycle Theory". He lists: 1. I would think that Asian central banks, by buying U.S. dollars, have been driving a massive distortion of real exchange and interest rates. 2. I would think that the U.S. economy is overinvested in non-export durables, most of all residential housing. 3. I would think that we have piled on far too much debt, in both the private and public sectors. 4. I would think these trends cannot possibly continue. Asian central banks may come to their senses . Furthermore the U.S. would be like an addict who needs an ever-increasing dose of the monetary fix. This, of course, would eventually prove impossible. 5. I would think that the U.S. economy is due for a dollar plunge, and a massive sectoral shift toward exports. Furthermore I would think it will not handle suc

Why Ron Paul Is No Average Politician

Say what you will about his policies, you have to admit that Ron Paul is not afraid to be the lonely man standing up for principle. Check out this interview with Wolf Blitzer, starting at 5:18 into it. (Originally posted on LRC.)

"Will we run out of oil?" is the wrong question.

Look at my serious blog for details.

The Fate of the Ron Paul Revolution?

My oldest son asked me today, "Dad, if Ron Paul comes close to winning, do you think he'll be beaten to death with benches?" What's the historical reference he's making? A free subscription to Crash Landing to the first ten readers to get it right. (Of course, given the paucity of comments lately, I'm not sure there are ten readers.)

Panarchy in the UK!

My political philosophy has made it onto Wikipedia . Now, when someone asks, "Are you a Democrat or Republican," and I say, "No, I'm a panarchist," and I get a blank look, "I'll say, 'Look it up on Wikipedia.'" By the way, this is one of my two great re-inventions. When I first arrived at panarchism , I had no idea others had done so before me. My other great re-invention was to come up with the Sieve of Eratosthenes one afternoon at work.

The "Cost" of Our Freedom

Here a nitwit sounds off on the bombing of Hiroshima. He writes "America has forgotten what it cost to keep her citizens free, but this article provided a crucial history lesson we needed." Yes, in the bombing of Hiroshima, it "cost" America maybe a hundred thousand Japanese lives "to keep us free." As though Japan in 1945 posed any threat to the freedom of American citizens, and as though the death of Japanese civilians was a "cost" Americans were paying! "Granted, the unleashing of an atomic weapon was horrible, but he was acting under an order that ultimately saved more lives than it took." Per the calculations of those who, after the bombing, sought to justify this war crime. Luke Wagoner, of course, has no idea what the trade-off in lives was, but simply chooses to believe the bombers. "Honor the man for having the courage to do what was necessary." Just as we should honor Adolph Eichmann for "doing what was neces

NH Attorney General Threatens Woman Pledging to Return Her Gov't Paycheck

This is an interesting story...

Bush Weighing Pros and Cons of Giving Souls to Prisoners

Or wait, not quite. Rather, US officials are considering granting more rights to Guantanamo detainees . (It would be great at a press conference if someone asked, "What does the expression 'this is a privilege, not a right' mean to you?")

Integer Vitae II

Remember these? …, 1010, 1011, 1000, 1001, 1110, 1111, 1100, 1101, 10, 11, 0, 1, 110, 111, 100, 101, 11010, 11011, 11000, 11001, 11110, ... Here are the integers from -10 to +10 listed in the usual way--in sequence and in ascending order. So “0” is 0 and “1” is 1. If the encoding is context-free, then “0” is always 0 and “1” is always 1. In fact, this is true. So nothing represents minus sign (or plus sign). We have some sort of binary system which represents the integers without the use of signs; and judging by this modest sample, it represents all the integers uniquely, just like more familiar numerations. The fact that log2(21) = 4+ (just edging into the five-digit numerals) supports these hypotheses. Arithmetic? Looks dicey, but simple algorithms must exist, because indeed this is a familiar radix system (successive positions indicate successive powers of the so-called base). Most familiar is base 10; reformers have pushed base 12; computer geeks use base 2 (binary), base 16 (hexa

Good Riddance

Just fifty-three years too late .

Yet Another...

senseless, running-related death . People, it's time we unite behind a national war on jogging .

Military spending is out of control

The Pentagon Orders 12 New Imperial Walkers "PORTLAND, OR. Nov. 2, 2007 - The Pentagon has ordered twelve new Imperial Walkers for special duty in Iraq, and in preparation of possible military escalations with Iran. The Imperial Walker Program had been under secret development until recently when the US government accidentally tortured a US scientist working on the program. The scientist was subjected to water boarding and confessed he had indeed leaked documents to the press. Since then, critics of the program have grown, including some in Congress."

US Woman to Middle East: "Do what we want or else!"

From this page you can listen to an NPR story about a gas station that bills itself as "terror free," i.e. they don't rely on Middle Eastern oil. (At the end of the piece the company admits that it does use oil from the Middle East, but that what's important is "the message" we send. I guess the message is, we're idiots and liars.) Anyway, early on in the segment they interview a customer of the station. Now listen carefully. When she is explaining why it's a good idea, her initial reason is that these Middle Eastern countries don't "do what we want them to." Then I think even she realized how awful that sounded, so she started talking about innocent people.