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Showing posts from 2007

I am the Champion, My Friends...

If you want to do well in LRC's rankings, just make sure "Ron Paul" is in your article's title.

Gene, does this mean my article is 1/52 as cool as your Fascist America one?

Tough Times for the Big Guy

God has been going through some Cambridge changes, man.

(Hat tip to Roderick Long.)

More Fish Tales

My wife said, "I'm thinking of getting beta fighting fish."

I told her she should wait for the release version.

Rousseau on Rawls

John Rawls is most famous for his "veil of ignorance," which, in short, says that a just polity is one that everyone would choose if they had no idea of whom they would be in that society. As Anthony de Jasay has pointed out, this basically says, "If you make everybody the same person, we'll agree on political matters!" But, giving more evidence of Rousseau's genius, he anticipated and answered John Rawls 200 years before Rawls wrote:

"If there were no differing interests, we should scarcely be aware of the common interest, which would never meet any obstacle; everything would run by itself, and there would no longer be any skill in politics."

Day One in Iowa

Yesterday marked the start of eight days of Ron Paul Christmas. I met three fellow Ron Paul supporters in Chicago and we drove together to Iowa, through farmland and five hours later, into Des Moines. Aside from bumper stickers on out of state vehicles, the first candidate signs to be seen where the Huckabee and Paul campaign office signs, side by side. Inside the Ron Paul office, right now sprawling and very busy, at least 20+ volunteers were doing various things. After grabbing a bite to eat, I joined in and helped stuff literature (which we'll be handing out door to door in the coming days. Everyone was in good spirits and the talk around the office everywhere was surprisingly intellectual. No shortage of nerds at Ron Paul HQ, as it should be.

At 8 PM we headed over to the Marriot where Ron Paul greeted us and gave an inspiring speech. There were hundreds of students in attendance. When Ron Paul told us that this movement would outlast the election, regardless of the fi…

The "Conservative" Response to Paul on Slavery

OK kids, let's walk through this. In the past, I've heard "conservatives" get furious over the suggestion that the Civil War wasn't about slavery. Rush Limbaugh once was talking to a kid who called in who was a history buff, and Rush said, "What was the Civil War over?" The kid said slavery, and Rush commended him on a job well done. After all, Rush explained, it was revisionist leftists who tried to blame everything on "economic forces" and who couldn't just accept the fact that Americans were willing to go fight and die for moral principles.

Now, in an effort to criticize Ron Paul, people (some who are conservative, though I don't really know about the Morning Joe crowd) are ripping him for allegedly blaming the war on slavery. (That's asinine, by the way, since Paul follows DiLorenzo's take on this issue closely. I.e. Paul was saying that Lincoln didn't need to fight a war to free slaves; he wasn't saying Lincol…

Ron Paul and the Economics of Slavery

Wow, this was a hot button one. I got the usual email about not fighting Hitler, of course. I always love that argument, since I don't think the US should have fought World War II.

Fish Tales

My daughter said to me today, "My goldfish are turning white."

I responded, "What do you expect? You moved them out of Brooklyn to Milford, PA. Of course they're turning white -- they can't dance anymore, they want mayonnaise with their fish food, and they watch ice hockey instead of hoops."

Only for readers over 18

Kids, don't try this. But for those with the legal authority to make life-altering decisions:

I have had a cold for a good two weeks now; it's really annoying. Anyway, I mentioned to my wife that I have a hard time swallowing big pills, and that I chicken out and have to hold the NyQuil gelcap in my mouth for a few seconds while I build up the courage to swallow it. She asked, "Aren't you worried it will start to dissolve in your mouth?" and I scoffed.

Well one thing led to another, and before you know it she has out her cell phone to act as a stopwatch while I hold a NyQuil in my mouth with some water. After 7 minutes I decided just to bite the thing to see how bad it was.

I kid you not, it was quite possibly the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted. You know how if you take an aspirin or something with a chipped edge, you can taste it and it's a bit gross? That is like a shower compared to a fire hose, when you try my NyQuil experiment.

Incidentally, …

English Analysis of Financial Situation

This is pretty entertaining, but mostly because of how much more "outrageous" British TV is. This show would be canceled if it were American because of the frequent references to mortgages for an "unemployed black man" as the foundation of the subprime crisis.

Magazine Cover of the Year

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Tim Russert Shows He's a Dolt

By using two of the worst weasel terms in our political vocabulary: "Islamic fascists" and "moral equivalency."

Folks, there's no such thing as "Islamo-fascism," and "moral equivalency" is used to smear anyone who criticizes anything America does, by saying any criticism at all is the same as saying "America is just as bad as X," where X can be "the USSR," "the VietCong," "Castro," or "al Qaeda,"

Ignorant American

I was reading a WSJ story today and was stunned to learn that Afghanistan has a larger population than Iraq. (It's 31.9 million compared to Iraq's 27.5 million.)

Umm, does this shock anybody else? I guess I kinda pictured Afghanistan as a few dozen goatherds and opium growers. And Taliban.

Dana Perino Slips Up in Responding to Helen Thomas

What's amazing in this exchange is that the White House spokeswoman, in mere seconds, switches from saying that the very idea that the US kills innocents is an offensive falsehood, to the fact that the US deeply regrets its killing of innocents. It's similar to when Giuliani said he had never heard of Ron Paul's theory of blowback, and then elaborated that it reminded him of the Saudi prince and Democrats who hold the same theory.

Just to be clear, I understand that these two and their supporters would clarify and evade any "gotcha" from me; Perino obviously would say, "I meant that if Thomas were claiming that the US intentionally killed innocents, it was offensive," and Giuliani would say, "I meant that I never expected to hear that from a fellow Republican, especially one seeking to be Commander in Chief." But it still disappoints me that people on YouTube can think "Giuliani schools Ron Paultard" or "Perino ownz Helen Tho…

My first dramatic role, in a US Government production

This is a great documentary about American patriotism. I have a guest appearance at around 45 seconds. I know some of you will think I sold out, but the money was too good and I have a kid to feed.

Who Are Those Guys?

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Someone hacked National Review!

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You Gotta Love This Stuff

In his article "Down With Primitivism: A Thorough Critique of Polanyi," Murray Rothbard first writes:

"Let us never forget that the existing primitive tribes are precisely the ones that didn't progress and remained in their primitive state. To infer from observing them that this is the way our ancestors behaved is nonsense and apt to be the reverse of the truth, for our ancestors presumably behaved in ways, which quickly advanced them beyond the primitive stage thousands of years ago. To scoff, therefore, at the idea that our ancestors among primitive tribes engaged in barter, and then in monetary exchange, etc., on the basis of the magic and games indulged in by present-day primitives, is a blunder of the highest order."

Rothbard is rejecting trying to figure out ancient hunter-gatherers by looking at how modern hunter-gatherers live. Now, that would seem to be one of the best ways to make progress here, and Rothbard's reason for rejecting seems capricious (…

Notes on Rousseau

I've been reading Rousseau's The Social Contract. First of all, in only a few pages, it is clear that Rousseau is a brilliant political thinker. Right away, he knows to whom he's talking -- Hobbes and Locke. And he shows why the theories of the social contract presented by the two of them cannot be quite right -- very successfully, I think.

His argument against being able to voluntarily place oneself in slavery is wonderful. To be a slave means to cease being a moral agent -- if the master says, "Eat those schoolchildren," the slave is obliged to do it. But this is impossible -- the slave's moral agency cannot be alienated, no matter how much he wants to do so. I believe Rousseau is right. Libertarians should not interfere with "voluntary slavery contracts," but they should treat them as nonsense -- as if you agreed to sell me "all of the galaxies that will never be reached by humans." Two people can clown around and claim they have this ag…

More Gregynog Photos

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My new favorite blogger: Glenn Greenwald

I became aware of him when he had written some very fair Ron Paul articles, along the lines of "the guy has extreme views, but he's not a nutjob." If you're looking for someone who is very big on backing up his claims, and who appears to be very meticulous, you've found your man. Check out this recent post on what "winning" in Iraq looks like--make sure you read the stuff at the bottom about permanent military bases. I love when people dig up quotes from years ago to confirm my suspicions.

Didn't We Win That War in 2001?

Our ally, Australia, announces that we are currently losing the war in Afghanistan. Six years later. How long did it take the USSR to give up? (By the way, the USSR was trying to defeat the 'Afghani freedom fighters', which is what we called them when they were fighting someone else, with over 108,000 soldiers [at maximum strength]. We're trying to do it with 33,000.)

How to Handle, 'He didn't lie -- it was bad intelligence!'

Over at Unqualified OfferingsDoug writes:

'Now, it might be possible that the US Congress were all in on Bush and Cheney’s lies before they made them, but I find it much more likely that the the current administration, like the previous one, was relying on imperfect information provided by poor intelligence work.'

I respond:

Fine, let's grant that for the sake of argument, Doug -- they still lied! Why? Cause what they should have said was, 'We're very suspicious that Iraq is continuing their weapons programmes.' In the face of many conflicting intelligence reports (e.g., Scott Ritter saying, 'Nope, no WMDs') that is the strongest thing they were entitled to say. Instead, they said, 'We know for sure Iraq has WMDs and WMD programmes'. That's called lying, Doug.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -- Psychic?

The Really Amazing Aspect of Paul's Campaign

"In what has amounted to an unprecedented, spontaneous emergence of supporter generated revenue and public relations, Paul’s campaign now has millions of dollars to spend in early states--and all the Congressman had to do was sit back and watch Sunday’s online counter creep upward."

Read the rest.

McCain Legend Debunked

Matt Welch does a gretat takedown of the McCain legend. My favourite: the Des Moines Register says that, although McCain was imprisoned and tortured for five years, he 'never talked'. Well, it turns out that, rather than holding out for five years, it was actually four days before McCain broke. And where do we find that obscure bit of information? Is it slander by some McCain opponent? No, it's in books written by John McCain!

Collingwood on the Immeasurability of Feeling

Collingwood notes (I'm obviously having a 'Collingwood Week') that the problem with trying to quantify feelings is not just that we can't stick a ruler or scale in our minds, but is even worse: As you move along a range of feeling the feeling changes in kind, not just in degree. You can add four times the heat to a substance and measure four times the temperature (if you are starting your scale at absolute zero). But if at the first temperature you had a nice toasty feeling, at the second you won't have a feeling four times as nice and toasty -- you will have the agonizing feeling of being roasted alive. And if you halved the original temperature, you wouldn't get a nice, toasty feeling that was only half has intense as the one you had to start, you'd get an entirely different feeling of freezing. No reducing the amount of 'warm, toasty feeling' will ever arrive at the feeling of being cold.

"Who is the Master?" Frank Caliendo

Of impressions, that is. I used to think Kevin Pollak was the best, and I still like his Captain Kirk and Christopher Walken, but Frank Caliendo (below) has got to be the best of all time. This collage is a bit too quick in the beginning, but just give it a few minutes, it gets really good. Also, this excerpt is probably at least a few years old; he's gotten better since then, especially his George Bush.

This post is for real--anti-Ron Paul bias

In contrast to my mock outrage below (regarding Yahoo!'s spam filter), here I am truly amazed. Ron Paul broke his own Republican single-day fundraising record hours ago, and yet CNN doesn't see fit to mention it on their front page. I even went to their politics page, and it's not there. Instead they feature stories on Sonny Bono's widow getting married, and oh yeah, a story about "Debate viewers to be 'dial-tested.'"

Yeah, that's more significant than someone raising $4.75 million in one day. I can see why they wouldn't even mention it on their political coverage page.

Willful Blindness

I was talking with someone the other day who said to me, 'I know al Qaeda says they attack us because we have troops over there, but that seems implausible to most Americans.'

'Why, then, do you think they attack us?'

'I think they want to return to the 8th century.'

I see. It's plausible to think that al Qaeda members believe they can reverse 13 centuries of history, but implausible to think that they believe guerilla warfare might drive off foreign troops! And it's not like al Qaeda has done this before or anything! It's not as if they spent a decade in Afghanistan fighting the USSR, or anything like that.

This is immoral, willful blindness. Now, we all have our shortcomings and blind spots. (Well, not Wabulon, but you get my point.) However, it's one thing to overlook the fact, say, that your son breaks antennas off of cars. But it's quite a bit different when this blindness has alreay gotten a million people killed.

Gregynog

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Just back from the 2007 British Idealism Conference at Gregynog. (No, it's not said 'greg-EE-nog', it's said 'greg-u-NUG'.) How was the conference? Ideal, of course!

Some photos courtesy of Chris Rolliston (I will shrink them to fit soon!):

I have dinner with Colin Tyler, James Connelly, and Chinatsu Kobayashi. The bloody Brits wouldn't give me one of their funny hats!


My dissertation advisor, David Boucher, chats with Stamatoula Panagakou. Colin told David, 'That's the ugliest jumper I've ever seen.' David replied, 'It's not ugly, it's festive'.


A view of the grounds.


Whoa! Did I just hawk up a sidewalk oyster or what?! Steve Buckel is clearly disgusted.

Just When You Thought It Couldn't Get Worse...

Your country has been invaded, occupied, and even though it's still occupied... now someone else is attacking it. Pretty soon, we'll just turn Iraq into a place any country can practice military maneuvers.

Steam Engines and Scholars

I saw a show about steam engine enthusiast Fred Dibnah on the telly today. A couple of things struck me in the commentary:

1) Someone being interviewed talked about Victorian times being the era of 'well-built buildings.' Maybe that's true -- but you're sure can't determine it by just looking around you at the buildings built now and those built then. That's because your samples aren't the same. For today's buildings your sample is essentially 'all buildings,' while for Victorian buildings your sample is 'the best constructed victorian buildings.' A little Welsh miner's shack built in 1850 just ain't around anymore!

2) These folks were waxing all nostalgic about the beauty of steam presses, etc. Of course, for the sentimentalists of the 19th century, those were the dark Satanic mills! (The site linked to capitalizes 'Mills', perhaps thinking that Blake meant James and John Stuart.)

More mainstream bias against Austrian ideas!

I am working on the study guide to Human Action. Before I send in the chapters, I email them to myself just in case my computer blows up (or my son decides it's thirsty).

Last night I emailed myself the attachment with the subject line "ha sg chap xvii". And can you believe, that Yahoo! routed it to my spam folder?! When will the mainstream start taking us seriously?!

I Could've Predicted Fama Would Say Something Dumb

In an effort to broaden my horizons, I've started perusing the blog Marginal Revolution. (For the record, the reason I personally don't get too high-falutin here on Crash Landing is that that's what God invented mises.org for.)

Anyway, I was intrigued by the interview with Eugene Fama to which Cowen linked. But Fama says something pretty dumb, in commenting on the alleged "irrational exuberance" of markets:

Well, economists are arrogant people. And because they can’t explain something, it becomes irrational. The way I look at it, there were two crashes in the last century. One turned out to be too small. The ’29 crash was too small; the market went down subsequently. The ’87 crash turned out to be too big; the market went up afterwards. So you have two cases: One was an underreaction; the other was an overreaction. That’s exactly what you’d expect if the market’s efficient.

Huh?! I hate when really sharp proponents of a worldview talk like this; you see Darwinians…

Bad News

Notes from across the Pond

* I passed a strip joint that was offering Christmas specials! Celebrate the birthday of Jesus with a lapdance!

* OK, British laddies: If you go out with messy hair, that's cool -- you were in a rush, you care about other things more than appearance, you forgot, etc. But if you spend a half-an-hour every day to make your hair look messy, you are a twerp.

* I don't get cricket! I walk to the lounge, and the score is 99-1. I go out again an hour later, and the other team is up 428-99.

Locke the Room?

My friend had left the research students room at EUROS in Cardiff without telling me if he was coming back. I was going out, and didn't know the custom: would he have his keys with him or not? Should I locke the room? Well, if men in the state of nature are still governed by natural reason and law, then that's OK. But what if they are in the war of all against all? Then, I would have to hobbes the room -- probably triple lock it and plant a mine by the door. But if they all feel mutual compassion, maybe I should just leave it open and 'rousseau the room'.

Life in a politics department is full of dilemmas.

Murphy Twin Spin

An article reviewing Peter Schiff's Crash Proof, and an op ed on privatizing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The Mighty Aphrodite

'[The Greeks] habit of representing their gods in vividly realized human form was not a piece of theology, it was a piece of poetry. When they described or portrayed Aphrodite, for example, they did not think they were describing or portraying a magnified and non-natural woman who, by the exercise of something like will, but a superhuman will, brought about the various events which together made up her realm, namely, the events connected with sexual reproduction. They did not think they were describing or portraying a person who controlled these events, they thought they were describing or portraying these events themselves, regarded generically as natural events, or events not under human control, and specifically as sexual events. The human or quasi-human figure of Aphrodite is merely the poetical way in which they represented these events to themselves.'

-- R.G. Collingwood, An Essay on Metaphysics (emphasis mine)

Permutations, Derivative Hierarchy

PERMUTATION GROUPS 1-4 – DERIVATIVE HIERARCHY

1
1 2
1 2 3
1 2 3 4
1 2 4 3
1 4 2 3
4 1 2 3
1 3 2
1 3 2 4
1 3 4 2
1 4 3 2
4 1 3 2
3 1 2
3 1 2 4
3 1 4 2
3 4 1 2
4 3 1 2
2 1
2 1 3
2 1 3 4
2 1 4 3
2 4 1 3
4 2 1 3
2 3 1
2 3 1 4
2 3 4 1
2 4 3 1
4 2 3 1
3 2 1
3 2 1 4
3 2 4 1
3 4 2 1
4 3 2 1

Does this have any important mathematical significance? Well, no, not really. Yes, it shows clearly why there are n! permutations of n, but you knew that already. So why bother with it? Because, think of this list, not of 1-4, but 1-infinity. Can you visualize it? It is infinite in a rather complex way.

A Minor Inaccuracy

'Instead of being arrested, as we stated, for kicking his wife down the stairs and hurling a lighted kerosene lamp after her, the Revd James P. Wellman died unmarried four years ago.'
(Correction in a US journal quoted by Colin Dexter.)

All aboard!

I think Gene's piece is an excellent representation of the bare reasoning underlying the pro-life position. This analogy captures the moral dilemma well, in my opinion. Bob is not so sure. He writes in the comments:

I realize this was an LRC piece, and not a submission to the Journal of American Philosophy, but I still think you made this way too blunt.

First, the extreme libertarian position probably IS to have the legal right to kick the guy off your ship. I'm virtually certain that's what Walter Block (of non-Crash Landing posting privileges) would say.

Second, let's make the analogy closer. Suppose the person coming aboard was certain to go around ripping up the sails, or was so heavy that the ship couldn't get to the original destination. Or suppose the owner of the ship had just watched that early Nicole Kidman movie and was afraid the guy coming aboard was a nutjob.

There are plenty of scenarios where even intuitively, most people would think it OK for the sh…

A couple video links

1. NPR brings a bar into a studio and gives Stephin Merritt a picture and phrase for inspiration, locks him in for two days and makes him write a song. Video here. Song here. Very cool stuff. (hat tip to Julian Sanchez)

2. A couple of blogs are posting the latest philosophical attack ad, this one against Immanuel Kant, who is getting hit hard in this election. It remains to be seen whether we have free election or a deterministic one.

An English Grandmaster in Tehran

Nigel Short, former challenger to the World Chess Championship title (against Garry Kasparov) writes a very interesting article about his experience coaching the Iranian national team.

Unfortunately for Iran, the most qualified, moderate people are the ones most likely to emigrate. They do so in massive numbers. Several friends have left the country and many others will follow. It is not only the lack of freedom (on the internet, even social networking sites such as Facebook are banned) but also the lack of good job opportunities that drives them away. With weak private enterprise and a large state sector, jobs are created by such inane expediencies as tearing up parking meters so graduates may write out tickets. How very Soviet. Read the rest here.

Meanwhile, I Solve the Abortion Question

"Do you have Prince Albert in a can?"

"Then better invade his country!!"

Or something like that. A teenage kid calls Bush and gets threatened by the authorities.

HT2LRC

Cooperation in the Trenches

From Browning and Zupan's microeconomics textbook:
"The situation along the Western Front of World War I can be represented as a repeated-game prisoner's dilemma. In any given locality, opposing units could either "cheat" (shoot to kill) or "cooperate" (withhold fire or shoot in such a way as to miss). Cheating was the dominant strategy for both sides. This is so because weakening the enemy through cheating increased the cheating side's chances of survival. Cheating by both sides however, resulted in an outcome--heavy losses inflicted on both sides for little or no gain--that was inferior to the one produced by cooperation. And opposing units interacted with each other for what appeared, at least to them, indefinite periods of time.

The diaries, letters, and reminiscences of the trench fighters testify to the "life-and-let-live" (that is, cooperation) equilibrium that eventually emerged. One British staff officer touring the trenches…

American Gangster is Awesome

If you are on the fence about this movie, I heartily recommend it. Some day I may write a review for LRC, so for here I'll just say, it's awesome. I don't know how anybody can support the Drug War after watching this.

Sign at the Cardiff U. Graduate Centre

'Fancy walking, making new friends, and keeping fit?'

I would like to take up this 'fancy walking' business, I think.

In a Cardiff Pub

The Polish barmaid was befuddled by my American accent. Behind me, sitting at a table, a fat Welshman sang along to a traditional, Welsh song. The Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now' came on the jukebox. I marveled as the crooning of Farrokh Bulsara, a gay Zoroastrian from Africa, filled equally the ears of a confused Polish exile, a lonely, wandering American, and a fat, singing Welshman.

Ominous... For Us

From BBC News, after news that Iran has halted its nuclear programme:
"I view this report as a warning signal that they had the programme, they halted the programme," Mr Bush told a news conference. "The reason why it's a warning signal is they could restart it."

Yes, it would be a precondition of restarting something to first stop it, wouldn't it?

Triple Twirl

Select an object having approximately uniform density throughout and in the shape of a rectangular solid with no two sides equal. Almost any hardcover book will do nicely.

Let the three axes between the centers of opposite pairs of faces be labeled X, Y, Z: the X-axis is the longest, the Z-axis is the shortest, and the Y-axis is intermediate.

Pick up the object in both hands along one of the axes and toss it gently into the air, twirling it about the axis. About the X-axis it will rise, fall, and twirl stably, and about the Z-axis likewise. About the Y-axis it never will, no matter how carefully you toss it. Try it if you don’t believe me. It’s quite mind-boggling to experience.

Now, come back here and explain, please.

Secret Sex Tips

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Who else thinks this blog is sorely lacking in the advertised sex tip department? Yeah, me too. Unfortunately I'm not a sexpert, but at least I can offer links, which will make us somewhat honest. Here's what I'm getting the sex toy friendly folk on my Christmas list this year:


The iBuzz vibrates in time with your music, and includes attachments for men and women.

Merry Christmas. And now, back to Ron Paul posts.

Gotta Love Internecine Warfare

This article about the in-fighting among libertarians made me laugh out loud. I realize every partisan must think this way, but I was pleased to see that even the insults from "my side" were much more accurate than vice versa. For another thing, Justin Raimondo had the courage to use his name, whereas the "Rockwell is the devil" guy was a wuss. More proof that I picked the right team.

Ron Paul's Christmas Vacation

I don't know all the details yet, but it looks like I will be spending 9 days around New Years (December 27th to January 4th) in Iowa fighting on the ground for the Ron Paul campaign's "Christmas Vacation", going door to door and asking people to join their ballots to the cause of liberty. I will blog the trip here.

Classic sketch: "Argument to Beethoven's 5th"

(hat tip to Lew Rockwell)

Apple Falling Down on the Job?

Apple's reputation rests on building 'user-friendly' systems. But of late I've been very annoyed with the poor quality of Apple error messages. I was trying to send an e-mail yesterday and the Mac mailer complained 'One or more of the "To" addresses appears to be invalid.' 'One or more'? How about telling me which 'one or more'?! The programmer who wrote the message generated because a specific address parsed wrong. So let the user know where the problem is!

Similarly, I was backing Garage Band files up to a CD and got the message 'The total size of the files you have selected exceeds the capacity of the target CD.' (I quote from memory here.) The programmer who wrote that one had just done a subtraction of the total size of the selected files from the CD capacity to see if they would fit. In other words, he had the precise amount of the excess sitting right there in his code when he wrote the error message. So, is it a propriet…

Excellence in Balderdash

Lately I've been listening to talk radio whenever I'm in the car, so that means during the day I hear Maha Rushie. He was talking about the faddish health kicks etc. and how they are based on the desire to live forever. He waxed philosophical and said something like:

'Folks, we are all going to die. No one has ever disproven this.'

If you've listened to Rush, you can imagine how he said this, too. It was sort of a "let me make it 'mathematical' just as icing on the cake, because I'm both a master of wisdom and of formal argument."

But of course this is nonsense. Rush thought he was saying "there has yet to be someone who has lived forever" but the strict wording he used (which I may not have reproduced perfectly above) made a more accurate test, "Is there anyone who hasn't died?"

And of course, there are over 5 billion people who are pending counterexamples to Rush's empirical claim that everyone dies.

BTW, of cours…

Sick, Sick, Sick

The mainstream right in America is more fascist every day. Take a look at this thread. The New Republic carefully fact-checked their Scott Beauchamp stories once questions were raised about their veracity. (It was difficult to fact check at all because Beauchamp was an anonymous writer serving in a combat zone.) They finally decided that, while they had good evidence that Beauchamp's stories were at least partially true, they couldn't be sure, and they retracted. Good, honest journalism.

The wingnut brigades descended on the comment section of the stories like flies, slandering and insulting the TNR staff in every way possible, accusing them of publishing "obvious falsehoods," "slandering the troops," etc. And realize, these are the same people who had decided the stories were false the day they appeared, with NO FACT CHECKING AT ALL.

This is fascism at work, folks. There is no attempt at discussion, just vicious bullying of anyone who departs from the party …

Two Religious Points

Two quick points:

(1) I may have said this before; I can't remember. In any event, I think perhaps the single goofiest argument for atheism is when they list some implications of the existence of God (whether it's his allowance of the Holocaust or whatever), and then conclude, "I don't want to believe in a God like that."

They say this with self-righteous huffery, as if they've just blown up their silly theist opponent. In any other argument, this would be such a childish stunt that it wouldn't even occur to anyone to try it. "You think if the US hadn't entered World War I, then Hitler wouldn't have come to power!?! Well I don't want to believe in a historical narrative like that. QED."


(2) The Catholic Church has been responsible for some terrible stuff, I grant you that. (BTW I was raised Catholic but am no longer one; I'm simply trying to correct a common simplification.) And then there's all the Galileo stuff; maybe…

Now he's gone too far!

I watched Mike Huckabee's phone call with God stunt (see below) very closely, but I don't think he crossed the line. (If he hadn't said that God didn't take sides in the election, it would have been clearly inappropriate. As it was, I think it was just a bad joke.)

But LRC linked to a statement in which Huckabee said Jesus must endorse capital punishment because He didn't argue against it while on the cross. By the same logic, Jesus must not only agree with capital punishment for murderers, but also for religious heretics.

The fact that Huckabee is so flippant about our (meaning his and mine--I'm not trying to convert all Crash Landing readers) Lord while He was bleeding to death... I have to agree with Lew Rockwell that "this guy gives me the creeps."

The Well-Lubed Machinery of Government

"...in 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 on th…

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 excer…

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 the sak…

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 wh…

How to Become a Professional Newsman

Say things like "lodge bombs at you."

Idjit

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 plus boo…

Bob on Nobel on Forbes.com

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 Cowenwrites 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 intuition t…

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...

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 such an unexpecte…

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 necessary&q…

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 (hexade…

Good Riddance

Yet Another...

senseless, running-related death.

People, it's time we unite behind a national war on jogging.

Military spending is out of control

Image
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.

I don't need to check; I know I'm right.

In preparation for a possible op-ed on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), which was established after the OPEC embargo to act as an added buffer, I asked an expert about whether the private industry saw it coming. I explained that I needed to know so that I could take my defense of the free market one of two ways:

* If the private sector people did anticipate the embargo, then I would explain that Nixon's price controls and high tax rates would make it pointless for speculators to build up inventories before the crisis hit. So SPR isn't necessary, we just need to unleash the market to do its job.

* If the private sector did NOT see the OPEC move coming, then I would explain that this isn't a strike against the market and FOR the government; after all, the planners were caught off guard too. So the question going forward is, okay, now that we realize OPEC could do this again, who is most likely to prepare for it better? Private speculators who are risking their own mo…

A Whole Lotta Passin'

Trinity College wins a football game with a last play that included 15 laterals. (Scroll down in the story for the video.)

New Intransitive Verbs

I've blogged before about my annoyance at a store clerk asking me, "Can I help?" Well the practice has spread to the US, and now I've encountered an even worse intransitive use of a transitive verb: I asked for ice in a supermarket the other day, and the cashier said, "We're out. Try the gas station up the road -- they might have." Two days later, I heard the same usage: "Oh, he might have."

We've become so busy we can't afford the time to say "it."

Dead Again

This story is pretty amusing. These rural Germans, from an area "Halloween isn't very well known," mistook a costume-zombie for a murder victim. But what puzzled me was this: "Police told the man to remove his make-up after which he was allowed to continue his journey."

Were the police afraid that the passengers in his car would again mistake him for a dead man if he left the makeup on? That they'd get another phone call: "This time he's been murdered for sure!"

There's a Moon Out Today

When I was working for MECA Software, I recall going for a walk along the Saugatuck River with a colleague who was about thirty or so. As we strolled along, he suddenly exclaimed, "Look at that! The moon is out in the daytime!"

I really didn't know what to say. What I thought was, "Yes, just as it has been for about 720 periods of several days each earlier in your life."

Starbucks and Corporate Social Responsibility

Another Townhall column. Man, the people commenting there are a lot cruder than the geeky ones at Mises.org!

Michael Medved is a Joke

Look at this ridiculous open letter to Ron Paul. I can't believe I used to like this crowd of "thinkers" when I was a teenager.

David Horowitz spouts more drivel...

Here:
"Anyone who links Islamic radicalism to the terrorist campaigns that are being waged against America, Europe and Israel and against non-radical Muslims in places such as Darfur, is automatically labeled an 'Islamophobe.'"

Has anyone, anywhere, ever so denounced someone else? Is there anyone who denies that these terrorist campaigns are linked to radical Islam? Sure, there are some of us who argue that it's not OK to kill millions of Moslems because a few of their fellow believers commit terrorist acts, but that's a slightly different point.

Integer vitae

Here is a small sequence of the integers around zero listed in the usual way--in sequence in ascending order. So the only question is: What &$#@*&!*$ numeration (system of representing numbers) did I use?

…, 1010, 1011, 1000, 1001, 1110, 1111, 1100, 1101, 10, 11, 0, 1, 110, 111, 100, 101, 11010, 11011, 11000, 11001, 11110, ...

Tales of Israel's Occupation of Palestine

If these stories are true they're pretty disgusting. (Link originally on LRC.)

Hulsmann Says Murphy Is the Next Rothbard

Well, not quite. If you start listening to