Showing posts from March, 2008

I'm from the Government, and I'm Here to...

Jeremiah the Prophet

Here are verses 16-18 of the Book of Jeremiah:

"Make mention to the nations
Yes, proclaim against Jerusalem,
That watchers come from a far country
And raise their voice against the cities of Judah.
Like keepers of a field they are against her all around,
Because she has been rebellious against Me," says the Lord.

"Your ways and your doings
Have procured these things for you.
This is your wickedness,
Because it is bitter,
Because it reaches to your heart."

From our comfortable vantage point, Christians today can chuckle at the Old Testament Jews, who had fallen into wickedness and no doubt despised Jeremiah's haughty lectures. I wonder what the average Jewish person felt when he heard such self-righteous condemnation of his people? I bet it felt something like this:


Yesterday I found a bar of soap, unwrapped, lying on Court Street. What scenario could have resulted in it coming to rest there? Was someone washing his hands on the sidewalk, dropped the soap, and didn't notice?

On a sign at the World Trade Center railway station: "If it looks like a suspicious activity, it is a suspicious activity." Is this an attempt at defining what suspicious means? (I.e., it's a matter of appearance.)

Sure, John Goes, but where does he go?

And lastly, who was Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus Augustus Herculeus Romanus Exsuperatorius Amazoncius Invictus Felix Pius?

Guess what folks? Economists don't know what's going on, either.

I posted a question with the subject line, "Is the Fed inflating or not?" to a Listserv of professional economists. After about 30 replies, I still don't know what the answer is.

Here is a plausible argument stating that in today's environment, Treasuries are actually safer investments than "cash" at the bank. (HT2 Pepe.) Soon the nominal yield on short-term Treasuries may be negative; institutions might actually give the government $1000 in cash today, in exchange for a promise of $995 (say) in three months. Why? Because if they keep it in the bank earning a better zero rate of interest, they could lose it when the bank collapses.

Man oh man.

Hating Moslems

If anybody doubts for a second that a lot of the remaining support for the "War on Terror" is driven by hatred of Moslems, just go look at wingnut comment threads, like this one. Harvard just announced female only gym hours, based on the fact Moslem women complained that they did not like exposing themselves to men while wearing gym clothing. It's only six hours per week -- seems pretty reasonable to me. But the crowd at LGF sees it as a final barrier to the defeat of the West falling. A few samples:

"Next, they plan to have a "bomber vest" making class, and then a "decapitations: the right and wrong way to kill a jew" seminar."

Yup,, cause, you know, asking for some privacy while you work out is just like killing Jews, isn't it?

"Harvard welcomes their new Muslim overlords!"

"Islam is a perfidious pigsh*t cult."

Nice, huh?

And, as Thoreau points out at UO, Christian women have been asking for such separate hours for years …

What Are They Teaching at My Alma Mater?

Former UConn player Josh Boone, after a Nets victory: "We're just outscoring teams. That's not going to get us into the playoffs, since we have a lot of road games left."

I'm pretty sure outscoring teams is the key to success on the road as well as at home. Although he is the professional, so maybe he knows more than me.

Now That's Sick!

Hey, I know the area governors are making sexual adventure more popular and out in the open these days, but let's not get carried away. Today, I got an e-mail from a fan site that read, "Talk to Mike Schmidt or Jim Kelly while he signs your item."


An Old Topic That Keeps Poppering Up

A friend wrote me, mentioning that in a discussion group to which he belongs, some recent findings contra the dominant global warming theories led group members to declare those theories were now "falsified," and, per Popper, honest scientists ought to drop them post haste.

My reply:

It is a truism that Marx is better than the Marxists and that Freud is better than the Freudians. But it is a truism because it is so often true. Just so, Popper is better than (most of) the Popperians. Unlike your list mates, Popper knew that scientists always face a choice between rejecting the theory and the experiment. When confronted with the odd orbit of Uranus, scientists were not obliged to reject Newtonianism, but could "reject" the experiment instead. (Of course, in this case, they didn't exactly "reject" it, but sought another explanation for it -- what they "rejected" was the straightforward interpretation that their data falsified Newton's theor…

The Catholic Front of the Tenth Crusade

The Vatican threatens massive retaliation against any Islamist attack. Excerpt:
While the Islamist threat to the Vatican was widely publicized, less attention was paid to the Vatican response. Any attack on the person of the pope or Catholic holy sites would be met by “massive, disproportionate retaliation,” warned Monsignor Arcimboldo Bugiardo, Prefect of the Congregation for Armaments, speaking to this reporter behind one of the pillars of Bernini’s famed Colonnade, which surrounds St. Peter’s Square. “These people have no idea who they’re screwing with,” he said. Msgr. Bugiardo would neither confirm nor deny widespread reports that the Vatican city-state has acquired an independent nuclear deterrent--purchased, sources suggest, from Eastern-rite Catholic Ukrainians in 1992, at the insistence of the hawkish Pope John Paul II. “I have nothing to say about that,” the priest said. “I am definitely not saying that under the right circumstances, the dome of St. Peter’s could open up lik…

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Now I Know How Keynesians Felt in the 1970s

This is blowing my mind. The more I think about this, the more perplexed I become. Unless the Fed is just making this stuff up, M1 has been virtually flat for three years; see this graph.

Now here's what's crazy: The Fed has cut the fed funds target 300 basis points since September. At the same time, everybody is in panic mode, so you would certainly think that the demand for liquid assets (such as, um, reserves on deposit with the Fed?!) would skyrocket.

How is this possible? How can the yield on loans of overnight reserves with the Fed be dropping, when people want liquid assets and M1 is flat or even falling over the last few months?!

NB, you might be tempted to say, "What are you talking about? It's a rush to safety, so the fed funds rate is falling just like other Treasury yields."

But no, the fed funds rate refers to loans made between two banks; the government isn't involved on either end. So if banks are afraid of each other because they don't …

Cantor set III

I think it’s time for Captain Recursive to take the podium. (If you don’t think so, but would like to, see Kleene, S. C., “Metamathematics” or any number of more recent texts, most having the word “computable” in their title.) To begin with, it is important (for reasons some of which will appear below) that recursive sets be defined in the context of a well defined superset. Always, recursive sets and other related kinds of sets are taken to be subsets of numbers (Mr. Goedel and others have convincingly demonstrated that pretty much everything can be realized as numbers of some sort or other), and we shall do so. We’ll use “~” to indicate the complement of a set.

A recursive set is one whose membership is computable, in the strong sense that, given a number n, there is an algorithm (a computer program, if you will) which, in finite time, outputs the answer to the question, is n a member of the set.

A recursively enumerable set is one whose membership is computable, in the sense that the…

Cantor set II

My comment in response to Andy Steadman's comment summarizes the answer to the challenge in Part 2 of "Cantor set":

Andy, you got it. The Cantor set is the numbers whose ternary representation contains only 0s and 2s, no 1s. Of course, if you then convert all the 2s to 1s and interpret the result as binary, you see at once that the Cantor set is just as numerous as the whole real interval [0,1].

By "ternary representation" I mean what we mean by "decimal representation," only base 3:

1/3=0.1, 2/3=0.2, 1/2=0.111..., 2/13=0.011011011..., etc. using digits 0,1,2.

Binary, of course, is the corresponding representation base 2:

1/2=0.1, 1/3=0.010101..., 2/3=0.101010..., 3/7=0.011011011..., etc. using digits 0,1.

These are members of the Cantor set (base 3):

0.222..., 0.002220220002202, 0.000220002200022...

This is not:


The "compatible representation" for this predicate--"ternary has only 0s and…

Seconding Gene's Point

Gene wrote about this a while ago (and I can't find the post to link to it)... Lately I have been getting rejected on my initial attempts to pass through the spam filters on emails or blog posts. I.e., the symbols that only a human can read? I can't read them.

If I had recently watched Blade Runner it would make me wonder about myself...

Kudlow Gets It Half Right

I explain over at LvMI.

Big Oil Bribes Ocean Robots

If these smug scientists turn out to be wrong--and there honestly are some serious chinks developing in the "consensus" story; I've actually been reading journal articles!--it's going to be hilarious. In any event, here's the NPR story on the mysterious oceans that aren't warming up like the models say they should.

Constitutional Originalism

Here's Univ. of Chicago political scientist Stephen Holmes: "To satisfy rivalinterests and muster majority support, participants at the Federal Convention incorporated conflicting and ambiguous provisions into the Constitution..."

In other words, often there was no original intent other than "Let's get the damned thing passed!"

Gee whiz

Excerpted without commentary (hat tip to Thoreau at UO):
"I must say, I'm a little envious," Bush said. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.""It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks," Bush said.

Get Your Sugah Here!

Over at the LRC blog, Karen De Coster has fully bought into the latest bit of paranoia circulating there, namely, that there is something significantly different about taking your sugar as fructose rather than as sucrose and fructose is the result of a government plot, calling high-fructose corn syrup an "awful poison."

Well, let's have a look at Wikipedia:

"Fructose (also levulose or laevulose) is a simple reducing sugar (monosaccharide) found in many foods and is one of the three most important blood sugars along with glucose and galactose. Honey, tree fruits, berries, melons, and some root vegetables, such as beets, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and onions, contain fructose, usually in combination with sucrose and glucose."

So, also avoid those "awful poisons" such as berries, melons, beets, parsnips, and onions, please!

Wikipedia continues:

"Studies that have compared high fructose corn syrup (an ingredient in soft drinks sold in the US) to sucrose (c…

Mad Man Defends His Call on Bear Stearns

Jim Cramer notoriously told an emailer who had asked (a week before the crunch) whether to pull his money out of Bear Stearns:

Dear Jim: Should I be worried about Bear Stearns in terms of liquidity and get my money out of there? --Peter

Cramer says: “No! No! No! Bear Stearns is not in trouble. If anything, they’re more likely to be taken over. Don’t move your money from Bear.”

Like Bush's ever-evolving defense of the Iraq invasion, Cramer hasn't batted an eye. You see, what he meant was, once the Fed bailed out Bear, it would be fine. And that wouldn't even have been necessary, if the Fed had simply bought $200 billion worth of Fannie Mae paper, as Cramer suggested.

I admit I'm not an expert on the financial sector, but I think someone saying that Bear is "not in trouble" was definitely wrong. I don't think you can really get around that.

Gettin' the Point Across


Surprisingly Candid White House Spokeswoman

I can't believe Perino said she was under explicit instructions not to talk about the dollar. And, she used it as her excuse to not answer the question, implying that she realized it was a ridiculous stance.

I Stand Corrected

I justified my half-hearted article on the Fed by saying, "Well, of course I couldn't talk about abolishing the Fed; no mainstream place would've covered that kind of crazy talk." Oops.

Good Things at LRC Blog!

See -- I'm not alll negative! Lew is quite right to mock Jim Cramer.

Murphy and Hoskins on the Fed

I join forces with an ex-Fed president for this one. Auburn and Cleveland together, now ya know you in trouble.

Martin Feldstein: Houston, We Have A Problem

Feldstein says this could be the worst recession since WWII. I told you so back in October. (That is, after I told you not back in January of 2007.)

The Feminist Cocoon: a cursory dissection

Kerry Howley at Reason (ht: Julian Sanchez) on the feminist wing of the blogosphere on legalizing prostitution in the wake of the Spitzer scandal:

I find this incoherent precisely because I share all the poster’s intuitions about problematic cultural norms. Of course sexism restricts autonomy in all sorts of ways that deserve consideration when discussing the prevalence of prostitution or the choice to enter sex work. Of course it’s deplorable that sexually adventurous young women are constantly told they are “degrading themselves” by seeking out various experiences, that every bit of enjoyment eats away at some secret store of purity. This whole tradition–the idea that women need be preserved in glass so as not to “ruin” themselves, lest they diminish their sexual value by “giving it away”–restricts the lived autonomy of women in ways I can’t even begin to articulate. None of the slut-shaming makes sense unless you assume women live to give themselves to men in their purest possible …

Mrs. Spitzer

Why do politicians force their spouse to stand around next to them on TV while they reveal humiliating circumstances about their lives? No one brings their spouse in to quit their privaqte sector job.

Cantor set

Hi there! This post est divisa in partes tres.

Part 1: This post is divided into three parts, of which this is the first. The Cantor set is a subset of the real numbers (they are also known as the "real line"). More specifically, it is a subset of the interval from 0 to 1 (and, though extremely porous in a strange way, contains just as many numbers as the whole interval). In case you hadn't figured it out, Part 1 was the introductory part, and doesn't ask you to do anything. The Cantor set is named after Mr. Cantor; reference to it occurred in the commentary upon at least one of my previous postings.

The Cantor set can be found this way, starting with the real numbers between 0 and 1: Delete the middle third. That leaves two 1/3s, first and last. From each of these, delete the middle third. That leaves four 1/9s. Exactly, delete right-open intervals, so that after the first step, the two intervals remaining are [0,1/3) and [2/3,1). This persnikkety point can mostly be …


Filled with remorse after being caught using hookers, Eliot Spitzer tries to devour his own mouth:

It'll Be More Like Five Trillion!

Pentagon drone doubts the Iraq War will cost three trillion.

'That number “seems way out of the ballpark to me,” said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell. But, he told reporters, “I’m not an accountant. I’m not an economist. And I think that those who are have questioned the methodology of this particular survey.”'

Well, not the economists who wrote it! And was it really a "survey"?! That would seem to be a very odd way to estimate the cost of a war.

And why is this even news? The administration just came out and essentially said, "I know you are, but what am I?" Who are these "those who are" folks?

Oh Boy!

Over at the LRC blog, Lew Rockwell writes: "On cable TV this morning, the AP investigation finding drugs in drinking water got a lot of attention. No one mentioned, needless to say, that these water systems are all owned and run by government."

1) One might think, just reading the above, that it has been found that the government is putting drugs in the water supply. Nope, people take the drugs and piss the unabsorbed residue into the water supply.

2) Maybe one reason "no one mentioned" that the water systems are all "owned and operated" by the government is that they aren't? There are many private suppliers of water, and the very AP article Rockwell cites makes it clear that the drugs are in their water as well. (See the mention of "major California suppliers.")

3) Given that the drugs are arriving in the water from our urine, they surely would show up in well water samples as well -- the AP just isn't testing those.

Next up at LRC: "G…

The WSJ's Funny Definition of Freedom

From the March 10 editorial:

Meanwhile, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is embracing greater economic and political freedom. He has bravely assisted the U.S. fight against narco-traffickers, and he now wants to link his country more closely to America with a free-trade accord.

Now I Can Die

I have finally been reviewed by David Gordon. Unfortunately it was a puff piece.

Nixon: We Must Replenish Our Precious Bodily Fluids

This is a Cold War tale that you probably didn't learn in grade school. (HT2MR.)

Hillary Clinton, more shrikely than not, according to Raimondo

Whatever the faults of Justin Raimondo, of which we may now add to the list Obama worship, you can always count on him to sprinkle his articles with hyper-linked portals to sometimes strange and magical worlds.

Today I found myself on the shrike's home on wikipedia.

This feathered creature impales its insect victim on thorns, "help[ing] them to tear the flesh into smaller, more conveniently-sized fragments, [serving] as a "larder" so that the shrike can return to the uneaten portions at a later time." Possibly the first inventors of the shish kabob! Are there any other such culinary oddities in the animal kingdom worthy of mention? Or even better, what other ornithological metaphors can we work into a political discussion? Cleverness is appreciated. For example, McCain being a hawk is too easy. I tried to find a peaceful vegan bird for Kucinich, but nothing turned up.

Here is the shrike's song. And yes, that is a mouse being impaled in the photo.

We Need the Government... regulate trade with aliens. (HT2MR.)

I love the premise of the article--how would we conduct trade with aliens?--but after that it's all downhill. Here's a good quote:

Hickman [the journal article author] proposes establishing a "solar system monetary union" or publicly administered "planetary clearinghouse" under which interplanetary merchants could operate.

What's ironic is that this is one area where market anarchy would clearly be preferable. By stipulation, our terrestrial governments can't touch the aliens (we're just exchanging intangible things over the electromagnetic spectrum), and so you've taken away their only advantage, i.e. aggression.

(Well, I suppose if the aliens developed feelings for some Earthlings, our governments could threaten to harm them if the aliens broke any of our rules.)

I'm forwarding this to Ed Stringham. If he gets a pub in the prestigious Astropolitics, all I'm saying is he better thank me in…

A Paradoxical Death

Is this really possible? Not that the shark could be so big: can a fish drown?

Fantastic Wired Article on Netflix Prize

This article (HT2 my wife) is great on several fronts. Lone rebel against well-funded teams, common sense versus computing power, and a company funding research in order to make more profit. Great stuff.

Real Estate Music

I've been selling real estate in Brooklyn the last few months. My broker and I composed this little dittty:

Riders on the lease
Riders on the lease
Dump the trash out if you please
Don't make copies of the keys.
Like you claimed upon the phone:
You must live alone
Riders on the lease

You know there's a disco on the road
The dancers squirmin' like a toad
Paint the walls by May
If you want to stay
If extra appliances you hide
Then your stay will die
Disco on the road, yeah

Girl ya gotta love this plan
Girl ya gotta love this plan
Sign it with your hand
Make me understand
The lease on you depends
Your stay may never end
Gotta love this plan, yeah

Armentano on UFOs

I tried to think of an antitrust pun but nothing worked. ("DT doesn't trust the feds on Martians!" Ugh.) Anyway, here is the piece that got him fired from Cato. I have held all sorts of crazy views over the years, so I certainly don't think any less of Armentano for writing this. In fact, since he knows how crazy it sounds, I really respect him.

But it probably helps that he's retired from teaching and presumably can afford to get fired.

CORRECTION: Gene is right, upon further review, it was wrong for me to use the verb "fired." I think I picked that up from the LRC blogger where I stole this from. (Cosmic justice, I guess: I hadn't given a hat tip because I forgot, and so now I won't mention the person who misled me.) And just to clarify, I am not condemning Cato's decision necessarily. The point of my blog post was to praise Armentano for writing something that would make people roll their eyes.

A Daily Meditation

Folks, this meditation really works -- check it out!

More MSM Censorship

Hiding the existence of Ron Paul's brother.

Islamofascism Awareness