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Showing posts from 2005

Good Physicists, Bad Game Theorists

(Don't worry, this has nothing to do with evolution.) I've heard several times that the Los Alamos scientsists were a bit dark as the Trinity Test approached:

To break the tension, Fermi began offering anyone listening a wager on "whether or not the bomb would ignite the atmosphere, and if so, whether it would merely destroy New Mexico or destroy the world."

Now can anyone in the class tell us why it is a weakly dominated strategy to bet that the world will be destroyed?

New Year's Eve in Milford, PA

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The Bashful Gene

OK, folks, I promise I'll stop soon, but before the year ends I need just one more evolution fix.

I don't have the Dawkins book I've been reading with me now, so I can't quote directly, but in it he recaps the argument he made in The Selfish Gene: humans are "really" just survival machines for genes, which discard us when we have served their "purpose." He even presents a little song he penned celebrating this fact for a conference.

Now, I've gotten a few letters on my recent columns to the effect, "Leave the biology to the experts." But my point has been that the biologists have not been leaving the philosophy to the experts, and, indeed, have often not even recognized when they have left the realm of biology and entered that of philosophy. One thing philosophers are trained to do is sort out bad arguments from good ones. So let's see which category Dawkins falls into.

The form of the argument is: X and Y are closely related entities…

Linnaeus, Darwin, Callahan

Like the appearance of certain comets, once in a great while when I'm arguing with someone I realize I am wrong and change my mind. I think Gene has stumbled onto something quite brilliant (and I am not just throwing that term around flippantly) in this LRC article on Intelligent Design.

I think Gene is saying the following: The Darwinists claim that the first living cell gave rise to all terrestrial organisms through an undirected process of mutation and adaptation through natural selection. The ID people object to this and claim (a) that certain steps in the process are wildly improbable and hence (b) an intelligent designer must be controlling the whole thing.

Now Gene's point is that there is an element of truth (and hence, falsity) in both camps. For what if God set up the initial conditions of the universe such that the "improbable" steps had to occur? In that scenario, the Darwinians who watched a video of the origin of life would come away vindicated, but the I…

New Blog

My friend Sheldon Richman has a new blog -- check it out.

In other news from the blogsphere, Will Willkinson has a great quote from Anthony de Jasay on envy.

This Isn't Going Where He Wants It To...

A fundamentalist reader contends that one has to believe a literal account of Genesis or think Jesus was lying when in Mark, chapter 10, verse 6, he said: “But from the beginning of creation, God made [humans] male and female...”

What's remarkable about this is that it is does not jibe with a literal reading of Genesis 1 or 2!

In Genesis 1, we learn that on day six: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

So that's not the beginning -- that's day six! Of course, maybe Christ didn't literally mean the beginning...

Then in Two we read:

"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made."

"And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof.
And the rib, wh…

Big Time

Thanks to Dick Clark (who surely must be busy as we near the New Year), I now have a Wikipedia entry.

Catching Up on LRC

Rather than clogging up the blog every other day, I've consolidated. Here are my 3 latest LRC columns:

(1) A response to Norman Podhoretz's defense of George Bush's honesty on WMD.

(2) My reaction to the Intelligent Design ruling.

(3) Some quick thoughts on the torture/domestic spying stuff.

More From the Lovers of Reason

The Passion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

From this article, where this physics graduate (so an expert in evolutionary biology) refers to Intelligent Design (ID) proponents as "nuts" and "people without scientific backgrounds," you wouldn't know that ID is endorsed by plenty of people with PhDs in relevant areas, such as chemistry, geology, etc.

Mark my words, folks: If one had to choose between the Bible thumpers and the extreme Darwinists, I think the former are closer to the truth. I'm not saying the Genesis account is a perfect description of what happened, but I believe that within 50 years, the theory of common descent will finally break under the mounting pressure. Don't listen to that old codger Gene. I hear he's an alcoholic.

Mythical Marketing

Earthlink is running an ad campaign where their employees (actors? I don't know) say things like, "I believe in an Internet without identity theft," or "I believe in an online experience without viruses." In the meantime, mythical beasts such as unicorns and giants and fairies are shown cavorting near their cubes. Doesn't this imply that these people will believe almost anything, and that we shouldn't give their beliefs any credence at all?

Bush Had Faulty Intelligence From FBI...

...when he said that domestic spying was limited to known Al Quada operatives. Either that, or he was just lying.

Crash Landing,

now your all evolution site.

Dawn of the Dead

I saw a Discovery Channel show mentioning that, while we have found lots of dead giant squids, no one has ever seen one alive.

It prompted a Popper-style "bold conjecture" on my part: There never have been live giant squids! The ocean just emits giant squid corpses from time to time.

More on Evolution

I get everyone mad at LewRockwell.com.

Must Read

Michael Kinsley on torture. (Hat tip to Jim Henley.)

Also, see Kinsley on Roe Vs. Wade. On this topic, the "right to privacy" angle has always struck me as disingenuous. If you really believe in a right to privacy, Roe supporters, then tell me which is more private:
1) A person who grows a pot plant in their fenced-in backyard and then smokes it in their bedroom; or
2) A person who goes into a large hospital and has an operation involving numerous medical personnel, herself, a fetus, and, to an extent, whomever got her pregnant.

Pretty obviously, 1) is a lot more private. Yet we never see the Roe defenders trying to extend the principle to that scenario.

And one more: let's hear it for the Second Vermont Republic.

The Evolution of Bull

Over in Talk Origins, in their Post of the Month(!), are some seriously silly statements about science:
"If evolution was wrong, it would not be accepted by scientists."

Right, just like if geocentrism was wrong, it would not have been accepted by scientists for 2000 years, and if phlogiston theory was wrong, it would not have dominated chemistry for a century, and if there was no ether, that concept would not have been used to explain light for 100 years, and scientists never would have spent several decades ridiculing the theory that beer fermentation depended on a living organism...

Defending evolution is one thing, but the above is silly science worship. (I'll also note that the folks at Talk Origins seem to blur the difference between the theory that life evolved from a common ancestor over hundreds of millions of years, the evidence for which I find compelling, and the sub-theory that it evolved solely by natural selection of random mutations, a far shakier propositio…

Follow-Up To Mercer on Christian Forgiveness

For those interested, here is my follow-up (it's about 7 posts down) to Ilana Mercer's column in which she states that Christians should only forgive those who are truly sorry.

Interesting Article on Evolution/ID

I must confess I clicked on this because I thought it was going to ridicule Intelligent Design theory (and I like to get angry at writers with whom I strongly disagree). As you can see, I was pleasantly surprised. It sounds almost corny, but I really think music may contain the mysteries of the universe. I mean, what the heck is it for? What does music do?

Another point that would buttress this guy's argument is that some Christians imagine heaven to be singing the praises of God (to His face) for eternity. Now if you're a skeptic you might think, "That sounds boring." But that's because you're not really taking the theist position seriously. Imagine if you were literally in the presence of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent Being. What better use of your time could you devise than announcing all of His achievements, including logic, mathematics, beauty, love, truth, the laws of Nature...Well, I could go on and on. (Ha ha, get it?)

Prove That You're Free...

...by voting! (No, of course I'm not trying to influence your vote. Think of me as a union rep who carts busloads of immigrants to the polls and gives them cartons of cigarettes. "What's the analog of the cigarettes?" you ask. Well, if you vote for Gene or me, Gene will begin posting serious items on this blog. Promise.)

Murphy Twin Spin (or is it Double Play?)

When you're as productive as me, sometimes different articles coincidentally run on the same day...Here's a stuffy economics piece on the alleged threat from China, and here's an insolent one on Bush's foreign policy.

That Damned Global Warming!

WorldNetDaily, 13 December 2005

"A weather expert says December 2005 is on pace to become one of the 10 coldest in more than 100 years, despite claims at a global conference on climate change this week that the Earth is getting warmer."

(Hat tip to Benny Peiser.)

Shy, Sexy Robot

Cell Phone Laws, Part II

I recently came up with the following thought experiment: In a place where driving while using a hand-held phone is illegal, get a toy cell phone. Then drive around with it held up to your ear. When you get pulled over, show the officer at your window that you weren't using a cell phone, but just playing at it. What will happen?

When I ran this idea by TT Tom, he speculated, "You'll be shot for annoying the cop that much." But seriously, what is the legal status of such behaviour? I imagine that you can do the exact same actions as if you were on the phone, but not be subject to any penalty.

WTF?

On the radio today, I learned that Sharper Image is featuring a life-size, robotic, chattering chimpanzee head as a holiday gift suggestion. You know, the expression "WTF" is over-used, but some things really seem to necessitate invoking it.

Democracy at Work

The NY Times of Dec. 4 reported that the NYC council is contemplating raising the number of terms they can serve to three, after voters had declared they wanted them around for no more than two. Advocates of eliminating term limits want the council to "work together as a unified body." They criticize council president Gifford Miller is "unable to control his members"! Why, I thought there were various people on the council so that they each could represent their constituents,, nnot so that one person could control them all -- naive me.

Besides the council members who want to keep their jobs, the change is strongly supported by "union leaders and party bosses," who want to establish longer term relationships with council members. Hey, it's a real drag having to re-bribe new councilors every few years!

For Christmas, You Can Get Me...

Big PDF on Spontaneous Order

Can't vouch for the quality of this article on spontaneous order, but if you're unaware of the term, you might give it a look...

More on national income

Kevin Carson on why increasing national income is not a proxy for increased liberty:

'But any number of things, good or bad, can cause an increase in national income. The monetization of the subsistence and barter economy, caused by expropriating the producing classes and coercing them into the labor market, can show up as an exponential increase in "national income." If somebody figures out how to suck air out of the atmosphere, bottle it up, and sell it back to workers as an alternative to suffocation, that'll probably kick the "national income" up a few notches. Not everything that increases "national income" is good (these people have heard of the broken window fallacy, right?).'

Read more.

Conservatives on drugs

We have an election in Canada. The Conservative Party has recently issued a "tough-on-crime" policy plank which supports ridiculous mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers, and promises an end to decriminalization of marijuana talk.

I've put together a compendium of conservatives on drugs. That's a double entendre, and the other entendre will come soon enough. I think you see where I'm going with this...

Congressional Priorities

Congress has more important things to consider than the gutting of the Constution and hundreds of US casualties a month in foreign adventures, like the Bowl Championship Series.

Also, discover who reallly killed Kennedy.

Missing the Point

I entered New York state today and noted the sign saying, "No using hand-held cellphones while driving." I was struck by how odd this law is. I mean, I've always found the tricky part of using the cell in the car is dialing, because you need to look away from the road. Isn't that just as hard on a phone set in a little holder by the stick? On the other hand, the part of using the two that's different, the talking, is no problem for driving when using a hand held at all -- at least no more than holding a cup of coffee or a sandwich.

And why don't we have a law against changing the radio station or rewinding a CD while driving? (Note: If you are a New York State legislator, please be aware that the previous sentence is an example of sarcasm.)

More on WWII

Rudy Rummel reports new death-by-government figures for China:
Civil War-Sino-Japanese War 1923-1949 = 3,466,000 murdered
Rule over China (PRC) 1949-1987 = 76,000,000 murdered

Boy, the US sure did the Chinese a big favour by "liberating" them from the Japanese and handing them over to Mao, didn't it?

Home improvement

Human Action

I was browsing through a book on Budhhist philosophy the other day and found: "Human action has an aim. That which is aimed at is an object, i.e., that which is desired."

This Misesian style of analyzing action is common in the history of philosophy -- you can find it in Aristotle, in Kant, in Augustine, in Aquinas, and, apparently, in Buddhism. It is only those indoctrinated in the scientistic philosophy trendy at the moment who find Mises's approach quirky or idiosyncratic.

Buy Something Day

British friends, today I urge you to go out and buy stuff. It doesn't matter what, just anything will do.

Why?

Today is marked by the crazies as Buy Nothing Day in your part of the world (and Japan). Yesterday was Buy Nothing Day in the U.S. and Canada (my neck of the woods).

But don't worry, you won't be alone. I will go and buy stuff here in solidarity with you. Maybe some garbage bags, maybe a cup of tea, maybe a hat or a scarf, or this t-shirt. Hey, every day is a good day to enjoy capitalism.

Mercer Misunderstands Christian Forgiveness

In this piece I believe Ilana Mercer misunderstands the Christian approach to forgiveness. It is true that God is just. However, Jesus bore the punishment for everyone else's sins--that's why Christians say "He died for our sins." (Someone used the analogy that God is a judge whose own child comes before him in court. Because He's just, he still levies the fine, but because He loves His child, He gives the child the money to pay the fine. Just so you're not confused, in this analogy the child is us, not Jesus.)

There are plenty of Biblical passages where Christians are instructed to forgive, regardless of the contrition or not of the trangressor. Also, one can forgive without "forgetting," in the sense that you could still not let a murderer babysit your kids, even though you forgave him for his previous crimes.

It's particularly interesting that Ilana (we know each other--I'm not using her first name because she's a woman) took th…

Oh no! We're headed back to Bentham

I don't know how Austrian this is. I bet it probably isn't very Lionel Robbins-ish. He, after all, said "every mind is inscrutable to every other, and no common denominator of feeling is possible." If he's right, then measuring happiness is ridiculous. Maybe you think so, too.

My dissertation at the LSE was on the economics of happiness. Somewhere along the way I guess I was convinced that we could measure happiness or, at least, give a 'good enough' account of it. And, since some prominent economists--especially Richard Layard who let me use a manuscript version of his book "Happiness" as I was doing research--are using happiness data to plump for more statism, I thought throwing a wrench into those works would be a good idea.

A synopsis: We're (Westerners) wealthier, healthier, and more educated, but we're no happier than we were 60 years ago. People call this a paradox. They don't really bother too much about the fact that something…

Oh No! We're Headed Back to Smith

I attended the Southern Economics Association meeting over the past weekend. There, I had a very distressing conversation with two young "Austrians." Both of them were advocating wealth maximization as the proper normative criterion for policy evaluation. This is a regression to the views of Adam Smith, and an idea that I should have thought was utterly discredited by the work Menger, Mises, Hayek, Kirzner, and Rothbard.

The two problems with wealth maximization as a norm are:
1) The notion of "society's wealth" is itself incoherent. We can say how wealthy an individual is because he potentially could sell his assets on the market, and we can make a good guess as to what amount of money their sale would bring. But who is "society" going to sell its assets to?
2) It recommends any policy that increases some measure of wealth, whatever the means it employs. I have no doubt that the US could increase the material wealth available to residents by forcing une…
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Well, There Is That

Laughter Alert

Julian Sanchez -- look, there's a link to him over to the right side of this page, OK? -- has directed our attention to Overheard in New York. Check out this thread, and learn what Vicodin can do for you.

Or, in another sample:
Guy #1: What time is it?
Guy #2: One o'clock.
Guy #1: What? How long has it been one?
Guy #2: Less than a minute?

What P.M. Jaworski Said

Some time ago, I was walking down Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. I stopped at a news agent's -- wait, what do we call them again in the States? -- and browsed the headlines. Most were about the Kobe Bryant rape case.

About half a block later, I came upon a restaurant with a sandwich board outside of it listing the day's specials. The lunch special was the "Kobe Burger."

The burger you just can't say no to.

You can't make this stuff up

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Yes, you read correctly. Have some Ranch Chicken, and become aware of the Vegan lifestyle.

My front porch

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I wake each morning and go to school with this as my first sight out the door. "Liberty." Sweet.

Some days, I'm wearing this to drive the point home:

Who's the Funniest?

Google ads

An ad on my own page caught my eye. It said something about the Jaworski Family album, and I was intrigued. I'm sort of curious about my past family, and if anyone has any info stored somewhere on my family tree.

The website turned out to have all sorts of "Jaworski" references. But they wouldn't let me take a closer peek inside any of the supposed "Archives" or "family photos" and so on. In fact, there appears to be an "International Jaworsk Family News."

Wow.

And then I saw this as the address bar:
http://www.ourfamilynewsletter.net/official.asp?name=Jaworski

Changing the variable after "name=" to some other nifty things yielded (just as I suspected) this, this, and this.

Ha ha ha. Stupid web shells.

Some good news

What must be a rarity in the news biz, a paper reports on someone using a gun to defend herself! Said the would-be victim who kicked royal ass: "He was 6 feet tall," she said. "He could have done something horrible my granddaughter and me. That's exactly the reason you need to learn how to handle (a firearm) and keep it with you." In more good news today, Canadians don't trust their government. Or so says a poll. What's amazing isn't that "only" 27 per cent of Canadians trust their government to do the right thing mostly or always, but that a full27 per cent do trust the rogues. Have a quarter of my fellow Canadians been hiding under rocks the last little while? Why isn't this number hovering around 10 to 12 per cent (the percentage representing civil servants and politicians)?

In cool news, it turns out that there are about 2,000 Canadian-specific words. You can take a look at a few of them here. Just the other day, for instance, I wa…

Sexuality and Onions

Julian Sanchez wonders if it's OK for parents to give their children a drug that "cures" them of homosexuality. In pondering the point, he writes: "If you really and genuinely (at the end) prefer one gender, are you really likely to resent that you don't (anymore) prefer the other?"

That reminds me of a joke Jan Lester told me.

A man hates onions, but, unfortunately, lives in a country where they are a part of almost every dish. His doctor, who knows about the man's dislike and the troubles it causes him, during a check-up is pleased to inform the fellow, "I've got a solution to your problem!"

"What's that?" the man asks.

"There's a new drug out. If I put you on it for a few weeks, you'll love onions!"

"But I don't want to love onions!"

"And why not?"

"They're disgusting!"

methinks the lady doth protested too much this time

I normally don't read Tom Palmer's blog unless someone mentions that he's posted another one of his hysterical but hilarious rants, so I was quite amused this morning when I saw that Jeremy Sapienza over at Anti-State.com had not only linked to the latest barrage of drivel but also had quite a lot to say about it. Then I got to the part where Sapienza complains about Palmer censoring Sapienza's rebuttal to mistaken accusations (or outright lies?) Palmer has made about Sapienza. Shame, shame Tom: a good argument consists of two honest players.

William the...

My oldest son was playing Age of Empires this morning, and had taken the role of William the Conqueror, invading England. It occurred to me that it must have been really discouraging to the English people when they heard "William the Conqueror" was on his way -- no wonder they lost! If only it had been "William Who Was Stopped at the Cliffs of Dover" or "William Who Took Sussex but Then Was Routed," I'm sure the English would have put up a much better fight.

Around the Yard in Pennsylvania

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More Price Gouging!

We saw gas for $2.39 a gallon the other day -- after seeing it over $4 2 months ago. I want to say I think it's disgusting how the consumers are price gouging the oil companies. As soon as supply rose, they ruthlessly slashed prices without any concern for the welfare of the millions of employees and shareholders in the oil industry. Congress should pass a "Windfall Savings" law to tax away the money they selfishly have saved.

Embarrassed...

One day a fourth-grade teacher asked the children what their fathers did for a living. All the typical answers came up -- fireman, mechanic, businessman, salesman, doctor, lawyer, and so forth.

But little Justin was being uncharacteristically quiet, so when the teacher prodded him about his father, he replied:

"My father's an exotic dancer in a gay cabaret and takes off all his clothes in front of other men and they put money in his underwear. Sometimes, if the offer is really good, he will go home with some guy and make love with him for money."

The teacher, obviously shaken by this statement, hurriedly set the other children to work on some exercises and then took little Justin aside to ask him, "Is that really true about your father?"

"No," the boy said, "He works for the Republican National Committee and helped re-elect George Bush, but I was too embarrassed to say that in front of the other kids."

(Circulating the Internet via e-mail.)

El Presidente

This article makes me think of my son, Clark. He's 2 weeks shy of one year old. Bob and I carry every item he could possibly need, and attend to his every need, because he can't. Oh, but Clark doesn't wear a watch. He does wear a pacifier, though.

Intelligent Design and Falsification

Some critics of Intelligent Design theories say that they are not falsifiable. However, ID says, "Mechanism (organ, etc.) X is too complex to have evolved by random mutation and natural selection." Therefore, it can be falsified by showing that X could have evolved that way.

Critique of Private Law

I don't think it's worth a rebuttal (or is it a rejoinder?), but anyway here's a funny critique of my article on private law. (Be sure to note the connection between my stance and the hunger blockade of Iraq.)

Socialist Awards

Items Attended

Sitting in my logic lecture today, I noticed that the lecturer, Colin Hawson, was standing in front of a sign reading, "Do not leave any items unattended." Well, there were quite a few items in the room, and between attending to all of them I caught very little of Hawson's talk.

hey Fred!

Wilma dropped in for a spell. She was a fun ride while she lasted and left some light disaster porn in her wake. The hangover was annoying. In my case, four days without electricity and a couple of days with no landline phone and a mobile that worked intermittently.

I captured some moments in pixels...for you, dear readers.

But my favorite moment will last only in memory. In the middle of the storm, I watched a fellow walk down his steps dressed only in shorts, shoes and a BIKE HELMET. A cigarette was dangling from his mouth a la Keith Richards. In his arms was a rotten jack-o-lantern. He walked to the middle of the intersection, lifted the pumpkin over his head, and then smashed it on the street. Without checking his grand work, he turned around and nonchalantly walked back up the stairs into his apartment.

The Illusion of the "User"

Go Back to Cutting Up Newpapers...

...for your ransom notes. In particular, don'tuse your color printer.

What Word?

What unusual word occurs most frequently in book titles in your library? I think in mine it's "leviathan":
Leviathan
Crisis and Leviathan
Escape from Leviathan
Against Leviathan
Murder on the Leviathan

As Ye Reap, So Shall Ye Sow

My eight-year-old son is apparently writing a mystery tale entitled The Gelato Murder, which takes place in the back streets of Florence, and the last words of which are "Bomb Bawerk."

The Decline of Religion

In the cathedral in Truro, Cornwall, I found a pamphlet reading: "One day at a time... A service of music, dance and thanksgiving for lovers of Country annd Western Line Dancing."

Worship in our cathedral to to the sounds of Garth Brooks!

Cornwall

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Cat Let Out of Bag

The UK government currently is proposing to ban smoking in all pubs. Their latest scheme would allow smoking only if a pub provides a sealed room with "self-closing doors" for nicotine fiends. The Times yesterday reported that a confidant of Patricia Hewitt, the health secretary, said, "The aim is to make them as unpleasant as possible."

That pretty much blows the government's cover story, that its motivation for taking this step is concern for the health of non-smokers. If no significant amount of smoke enters the non-smoking area, no further health benefits possibly could come from making the smokers' ghetto "as unpleasant as possible." No, it's obvious the purpose of the measure is to punish smokers for affronting Blair's Puritans by enjoying tobacco.

Dropping the Bomb

plumber's crack pipe

I had a little plumbing problem a month ago. The snowbird upstairs returned from her real home and decided to wash her dishes. The water emptied into my closet. She called Empire Plumbing which is a local company that runs a lot of advertising on TV. They came over and determined the old drain pipe in my ceiling is cracked. They would get back to me the next day with an estimate and the charge for the estimate was $150. It took them TWO weeks to get back to me with an obviously inflated $1750 (not including replacing the ceiling.) Yes, I called them several times to only be told "the estimate guy is out." I found another company which would do the repair and replace the sheetrock for hundreds of dollars less.
I got to thinking. Why did Empire so obviously not want to do the repair? Do they just make their money off estimates? Not a bad business that but how long can you pay for relentless ads on those amounts?

kids just being terrorists

So I'm watching the lastest example of what must be Al Qaeda's best method of jerking the US around: the closing of the Baltimore tunnels. Last week an abandoned backpack closed down some of Los Angeles' mass transportation systems and we all heard about the NYC subway threat of a few days earlier.

I have no idea who is behind these "acts of terror". I have no idea if they are even related, but I do know it is costing Americans millions of dollars to deal with these non-problems. It would be so easy for foreign or domestic terrorists to seriously harm the economy without having to spend very much time or money. Just call a plausible threat into Al-Jazeera or forget a backpack on the El in Chicago and the harm is done. Cheap and efficient.

Meanwhile, an actual bombing basically goes unreported in the Media. After a passing mention in the national news outlets, the tragic story of the University of Oklahoma Suicide Bomber is almost undetectable outside the Blogosph…

Finishing Sentences

A friend of mine was recently telling me about some identical twins who are so close to each other that they often finish each other's sentences. I said, "But you do that with mine a lot!"

Puzzled, he asked, "I do?"

"Sure -- I get about half way through a sentence, and you say, 'Shut up, Gene.'"

More From the Lovers of Reason and Science

Okay okay, I know there are plenty of Bible-thumpers who say silly things regarding Darwin, but c'mon, this Alter piece in the August Newsweek is just ridiculous. After explaining that intelligent design theory is "unscientific" (presumably because it makes no falsifiable claims), he says that it performs worse in the lab than medieval alchemy. (Apparently it was demonstrated in someone's laboratory that the universe was not designed by an intelligent creator.) But my favorite argument is from the beginning, where Alter shows that intelligent design proponents threaten national security (duh):

Lest you think this is merely of academic interest, consider the stakes: the Pentagon last week revealed that it is spending money to train certain scientists how to write screenplays for thrillers related to their specialties. Why? Because the status of science has sunk so low that the government needs these disciplines to become sexy again among students or the brain drain …

Hampstead Heath

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Scenes from Hampstead Heath in London.



Picture Time!

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Eamon, frog, Adam, Lili (TT Tom's daughter), and Emma in Pennsylvania.

The garden of the house where I'm living.

And again.

Looking out my bedroom window.

My Bizarro Twin

My wife discovered the "Bob Murphy homepage." The guy's an economist, yep, teaches an honors class, yep, writes popular commentaries on economics, yep, is for inflation and against tax cuts...Wait a second!!

The School Janitor Knows Where Your Kid's Desk Is...

"...Do You?"

Have you seen these stupid posters at the airport? So you're telling me that if John Smith goes up to the janitor and asks, "Where's Billy's desk?" the janitor will say, "It's in room 304, fourth row, 2nd from the left"?

Yes, the janitor knows where a particular kid's desk is, in the same way that in a Hitchcock movie all of the guests at the deserted mansion know where the killer is--i.e. in the house with them. But they don't know which particular person is the killer.

(I know, I know, I'm getting too epistemological with the poster that just wants everyone to be an involved parent. I should stop blogging and go play catch with my son.)

The Principled Castro

My lovely wife Rachael alerted me to this article on Gitmo...Notice that, like Hillsdale College, Fidel Castro refuses to accept government funding!

In 1905, in part because of the Platt Amendment, there was an uprising to which the United States responded by occupying Cuba for three years. A 1934 treaty reaffirming the lease granted Cuba and her trading partners free access through the bay, modified the lease payment from $2,000 in U.S. gold coins per year, to the 1934 equivalent value of $4,085 in U.S. Treasury Dollars , and added a requirement that termination of the lease requires the consent of both governments, or the abandonment of the base property by the United States....
Since coming to power, Fidel Castro has only cashed one rent cheque, while steadfastly refusing to cash any others, because he views the lease as illegitimate.

Wallace and Gromit Fire

Shocking news here: The warehouse containing 30 years of Wallace and Gromit clay models burned to the ground yesterday.

If I were the police, I'd be investigating Gumby's movements during the day very carefully.

FAQ on Anarchy

I gave this talk at the most recent Mises University...

Different Frames

At the cafe this morning, two men sat down and began ordering breakfast for themselves and their absent companion, who they knew was on his way. The waiter, only seeing to of them, kept trying to squeeze what they were asking for into an order for two, and was getting confused because he couldn't make it fit. Finally, one of the men said, "There are three of us." Immediately, the confusion cleared.

I think many misunderstandings are like that -- we hear each other's words fine, but we are using two different frameworks for understanding what is being said.

The First Edition

I've been reading Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle. (If the title seems daunting, realize it just means the book on ethics dedicated to his son, Nichomachus.) On the back I saw the heading, "Reviews from the first edition." I expected to see something like:
"That Macedonian bastage better flee town before the Athenians commit a second crime against philosophy but good."

But I guess they didn't mean that first edition.

The Minarchists' Dilemma

Libertarians in favour of a minimal state typically base their case for the state on a public goods argument, e.g.: "Everyone would like to be protected by defense and law enforcement. But it's not possible to make those goods exclusive, so that only those who can pay for them are able to use them. Therefore, they must be provided by a state that taxes everyone for their provision, or there will be too little of them. To keep the resulting state minimal, we need a watchful populace."

But this case crumbles like a house of cards at the slightest touch of a finger to its weak point: Minarchists are asking the populace to solve a much worse public goods problem than the one they started out with. If people cannot work out a solution to the problem of petty criminals' depredations that handles the issue of free riders, then how in the world are they going to solve it when it involves defense against a state to which they have surrendered all of the large weapons, all lega…

Seen Around the Web

Take a tour of my old neighborhood.

Zod is running for president in 2008. (Hat tip to Rob Dodson.

Harriet Miers has plenty of experience. Knowing George Bush.

Exercise tips from the same site:

Aerobic Equipment

There is a vast array of equipment designed to simulate aerobic activities such as running. These machines are essential for those of you who live in cloud cities where the only streets are those made of vapor and traversed by wizards. Otherwise, go outside for God’s sake.

And did you know there is a sport called chessboxing?

Will Wilkinson make fools of those blaming Bush's "economic libertarianism" for the New Orleans disaster.

The cat's out of the bag.

What's up with Thomas?

And I thought this was a joke at first. (It's not.)

Shortest Tale in Western Literature

Cuando desperto, el dinosauria estaba alli.

(When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.)

-- Augusto Monterroso

Come? Un topo!

Quiz for our readers: what is being "re-worded" below:

X: What wilst thou make or cause, to perform or carry out? thou wilst not kill me unlawfully and with malice? Assistance, assistance, ho!
Y: What, ho! Assistance! Assistance! Assistance!
Z: How now! Any of several kinds of black, brown or grey, long-tailed rodents, resembling, but larger than, the mouse? No longer living, for a coin of silver, no longer living!
Y: O, I am killed by violence!

Prize for the first to answer: a one year supply of veeta-vita-veja juice!

ride it like a Ford?

For the last several weeks in the South Florida market, Ford Motors has been running an advertisement that is driving everyone I know completely nuts. Where to begin describing it? The Reggaeton-like soundtrack? The bikini clad women who appear older than the teenaged male protagonist? The incessant lyrics that sound like they are singing "ride her like a whore" while all you see in the frame is a crotch shot? The 700 times it is broadcast a day? The "Spanish" version with the poorly enunciated Spanish? There's something to hate for every member of your family. The only group that could possibly like it is the pre-teen Hispanic boys segment who think that they will get invited to beach parties where twenty-something harlots will succumb to their great taste in cars and trucks...when they finally get a learner's permit.

So fed up with reaching for the remote every time the advert appears, I emailed Ford to let them know how vulgar and low class I think the co…

the chinese ministry of google

Here's the latest reason why I've been looking for an alternative to Google. I haven't found the perfect one yet, but I'm getting warm.

Has Italy Been Doing a Little Conquering?

AltaVista offers me the following:
"Study Italian in Italy
Language courses in Italy - selected universities and academies. Courses and programs in Madrid,
Barcelona, Salamanca and Marbella. Links and information."

On the topic of language, Umberto Eco tells (in Mourse or Rat?) of being given a copy of a book translated into Italian without having the original. The translation said that the first American scientists gathered to create the A-bomb began by conducting corse di treni. He was immediately suspicious as to why "persons who were supposed to discover the secrets of the atom wasted their precious time..." by racing trains. He changed the text to read the Italian equivalent of "training courses," and recommended the translator be fired.

Buckley for Pork

My new article on LRC.

Also, see who will be our new Secretary of Defense.

My New Neighborhood

Folks, I'm now a Muswell Hillbilly.

Book Review

Now up at the Independent Institute web site: my review of Michael Oakeshott: An Introduction.

Planning Ahead

I attended LSE's induction for new PhD candidates on Friday. (See, Jan, even LSE knows that induction is cool.) Our schedule was annnounced,, and we were told that the deadline for submitting our dissertations is September 30, 2009.

I immediately asked for a one day extension.

Why Did Blair Side with Bush

At This Rate, We'll Be at Negative One in a Few Months

Windows XP

I'm having my first experience using Windows XP. My initial impression is that Microsoft has decided that it is futile for it to challenge Apple on the "ease of use" front, and that it has chosen to lock-in its advantage on the "incomprehensibility of use" dimension instead. E.g., whereas clicking on the little style box in the toolbar in Word formerly dropped down a list of styles from which you could choose, now it presents you with... well, I can't comprehend what.

Good work, Redmond!

Chelsea v. Liverpool

Went to see this football match with my friend David last night at a pub. It was action-packed: in only 92 minutes of play, there were three shots on goal! The announcers were an Englishman and a Scotsman. The sort of thing I heard them saying throughout the game was something roughly like this:

E: Well, Chelsea is really putting on the pressure now.
S: Gree, aiy, oon kenny graws by inkly wee doon griscombe.
E: Yes, Angus, as you say, if the Liverpool striker gets another yellow card, they're in deep trouble.
S: Doan mekely a gong tee ave it scummin mee nutmeg.
E: Well put, Angus, well put.

Not for personal use

You see, if you're stationed abroad, witnessing and committing atrocities, you might as well find a way to make it pay. See here.

Bush Stunned

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing. He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed by a car bomb."

"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the president sits, head in hands.

Finally, the President looks up and asks...

"How many is a brazillion?"

(Thanks to Dick the Weasel for passing this on.)

Competitive Gardening

Back in the UK. On the Heathrow Express, the TV showed one of those "interesting little factoid" things, saying that gardening is the most dangerous sport in the UK.

Well, duh, if you're going to treat it as a sport, those rakes, pitchforks, etc. are going to hurt a lot of people.

The Scary Natalie Portman...

Wouldn't I Be the First to Know?

Oliver Sacks wrote about a patient who had gone blind from a brain tumor, but didn't know it He apparently continued to "see" things that he made up to go with the sounds, smells, etc. around him.

When the staff in the home he lived in tried to tell him of his condition, he replied, "That's ridiculous -- if I was blind, wouldn't I be the first one to know about it?"

How Many Bushies Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

Ten.

Generate Your Own Fairy Tale

Here:

My ring and shoes vanished under the guise of morning.

I saw the devilish look in the serpent's eye as his spiny tongue wrapped around my body. My legs felt as if they were being stabbed with a thousand tiny needles.

After I took the needle from its place, I pryed my father's bones from the floor and put them in my satchel.

As I reached the mountain's top I took my father's bones and held them to the ground. The people of the earth relinquished their skins and flesh taken over the years of people passing over their home. The skins attached the bones and rose, forming into the figure of a man I knew from when I was young.

I saw the familiar clearing with my father’s chopping block and the axe he used for splitting wood on the ground beside it. Home. I ran through the trees, the wind in my ears, my breath leaving my throat in heavy huffs, my feet slapping the earth beneath the trees of these woods, these woods that had stood between myself and my home for so long.

Kids These Days

Computer lingo permeates the vocabulary of today's children. My kids and their friends "X out" someone from their (non-computer) games for mis-behaving. They "delete" non-digital things -- "Delete the orcs from the woods, and pretend there are trolls instead." The other day, my six-year-old asked me if I had seen her "painting utilities." I finally figured out she meant her brushes and so on, by analogy with the utilities on our Macintosh.

Time Passages

The most recent round of tinkering with daylight savings time seems to me, without having given the matter much thought, to be mostly a nuisance -- all sorts of electronic devices are going to have the time wrong in November and March for years to come. But it reminded me of a complaint I saw in the newspaper during the last round of tinkering.

This fellow wrote a letter to the editor, the gist of which was that God had arranged day and night during Creation, and man shouldn't be fiddling around with God's work. I really couldn't get my mind around what the fellow thought was happening -- did he believe that the US Congress was adjusting the Earth's orbit so as to actually alter day and night? Or, was it that, while creating day and night, God had also decreed that the middle of the first be called "noon," and of the latter "midnight"? Then what about all those people who don't speak English? Are they guilty of some form of temporal sinning?

And t…

katrina the scapegoat?

Shall we point some fingers at the folks who didn't bother to put fingers in their crummy dike?

Induction

Wittgenstein writes in On Certainty:

"And it would be just the same if the pupil cast doubt on the uniformity of nature, that is to say on the justification of inductive arguments. - The teacher would feel that this was only holding them up, that this way the pupil would only get stuck and make no progress. - And he would be right. It would be as if someone were looking for some object in a room; he opens a drawer and doesn't see it there; then he closes it again, waits, and opens it once more to see if perhaps it isn't there now, and keeps on like that. He has not learned to look for things.

"But imagine people who were never quite certain of these things, but said that they were very probably so, and that it did not pay to doubt them. Such a person, then, would say in my situation: "It is extremely unlikely that I have ever been on the moon", etc., etc. How would the life of these people differ from ours? For there are people who say that it is merely extre…

Insect Repellent

What if you spray Off right on a bug? Is it filled with self-loathing?

GOVERMENTIUM

From http://www.crazyshit.com/display_lit_c.php?ltid=42 (link not worksafe!):

A major research institution (MRI) has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest chemical element yet known to science. The new element has been tentatively named "Govermentium."

Govermentium has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 225 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 313. These 313 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since govermentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of govermentium causes one action to take over 4 days to complete when it would normally take less than a second.

Govermentium has a normal half-life of 2 years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons e…

Nice Shootin', Tex!

Who's the Sovereign?

The Brits storm an Iraqi jail to free two of their soldiers, releasing 150 Iraqi prisoners in the meantime.

So who is the sovereign power in the newly "freed" Iraq? Hobbes would have an easy time with that one.

Eminent Domain

Left-wing interventionists may be sincerely motivated by the desire to help the poor. But, as I pointed out in Economics for Real People, to strengthen the state in the interest of helping the poor is a fool's game. "The powerful" aren't called that for nothin' -- they're going to capture whatever mechanisms of power are put in place and use it for their own ends.

Witness the Kelo decision, where the homes of poorer residents were seized for private development. Wikipedia notes that when the case came before the Supreme Court, "The NAACP, AARP and the late Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference... signed an amicus brief arguing that eminent domain has often been used against politically weak communities with high concentrations of minorities and elderly."

Too late, my friends! If you had stood up for the property right of a restaraunt owner or landlord to reject customers for any reason whatsoever, maybe you would have had a…

Recent Hurricane Activity in Florida Is Typical of Earlier Periods

Here:

Lucky Florida

Records show the AMO was cool from 1900-1925, warm from 1926-1969, cool from 1970-1994 and warm since 1995.
Climatologists look at those dates and realize a generation of Americans is virtually blind to the true threat of hurricanes, having never experienced a major hurricane firsthand, at least until last year's four Florida hurricanes.

"During the time when so few hurricanes hit North America, we as a society framed decisions about land use, construction standards and other aspects of our lives around the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico," wrote FIU's Willoughby last fall. "Built into those plans was the unstated assumption that hurricanes would continue to stay away from our shores as they had for the last third of a century."

Another expert said the hurricane seasons of the 1940s, in the heart of the last AMO warm phase, would stun today's Floridians.

"Imagine variations of 2004 occurring every year for 10 years,&q…

American Affluence

Overheard in a Gap store near the campus of Michigan State: "Instead of buying new clothes for tonight, I guess I could just do my laundry."

Important Message from a Reader

Just received this e-mail, coming from an unknown top-level domain:

Dear People of Earth,

We Plutonians are deeply offended by all this blabber about Pluto not really being a planet. Cut it out now, or suffer the consequences.

Sincerely yours,
People of Pluto

Is global warming causing stronger hurricanes?

Dr. William Gray, the world's foremost hurricane expert, says: "And, the people that say that [global warming is increasing hurricane activity] are usually those that know very little about hurricanes."

In an interview, Dr. James O'Brien, hurricane expert at Florida State, was asked "Do you think that global warming has had an affect on the intensity of hurricanes?"

His answer?

"Absolutely not. All of the people who are hurricane scientists or teach about hurricanes at the graduate level that I've talked to agree with me."

Hurricannes were stronger in the late 19th century than today:

Accumlated Cyclone Energy (combines the numbers of systems, how long
they existed and how intense they became) -
http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/E11.html

1969-2003 1877-1901

ACE ACE
1969 158 1877 73
1970 34 1878 181
1971 97 1879 64
1972 28 1880 131
1973 …

Pro-Price-Gouging Legal Defense Fund

Visit it here.
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