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Showing posts from November, 2004

Heard on the News

In an interview with an American officer in Iraq -- I quote from memory, but the one word that really caught my ear I'm sure I recall correctly: "We found a cachet of arms, including chemical weapons, in a house used by the resistance in Fallujah."

It's nice that the resistance is using such distinctive, high quality weapons!

An interview with a "terrorism expert" -- again, from memory: "The likelihood of a nuclear terror attack is more likely than not."

Well, we now know that it is probable that there is some measure of the probability of such an attack. Now, I wish he'd tell us what that probability is.

What Playing Occupier Does to People

What? There's a War?

AP story:

"WASHINGTON - Fueled by fierce fighting in Fallujah and insurgents' counterattacks elsewhere in Iraq (news - web sites), the U.S. military death toll for November is approaching the highest for any month of the war."

There's a war in Iraq? A war? Didn't the US win that war like a year-and-a-half ago? Then how could it still be going on?

Explanations sought.



Shouting Out Greetings...

to the LSE massive, to the Lew Rockwell massive, to the Connecticut massive, and to the Brooklyn posse.

Hear me now: Dis here is Ali Gene, checking out dis blogging business me hear so much about, at the invitation of me main man, Gene Callahan.

Lemme tell you how I meet Gene. One day, me getting on the tube. Dis man, him have his bag on a seat, but when him see no other seats available, him take it off so I can sit. "Respect," I say to him.

"One love," him say back.

"RCBC," me tink, "dis man talks some Rasta language!" So, I begin to reason wit him a bit. "What book you reading dare?" I ask.

Him tell me someting dat sound like "L and M Tree Logic."

"What kind of crap book dat?" I ask him.

"Oh, I'm reading it for my course at LSE."

"Me tink dat big-time college filling your head wit some foolery, man, because trees, dem not have any sort of logic. Dem not tink at all, man. Dem some sort of vegetab…

do the Amazon limbo

Moving across the country--as well as being costly--has forced me to acknowledge that hoarding "stuff" is just not going to cut it anymore. My belongings have become a very heavy ball and chain so I've made the once-frightening decision to unload a lot of it because there's no way I'm not moving again and it ain't coming with me. I've started by selling books and CDs off on Amazon.com and will eventually move on to eBay. Amazon despite being a little more expensive than eBay is better for unloading books with one amusing exception. Even if you price your product lower than everybody else, there will be someone who comes along and prices it lower than you, even if it's only by a penny. Fine, I understand that. What has made me cackle is the "battle" I'm having with one "HA Books" company. They priced their copy of a book I have for sale at a penny less than me. When I discovered this, I underpriced them by a dollar because they …

discharging pedal energies

I lucked out and managed to get a last minute free ticket (thanks Jean!) to the Kraftwerk concert happening a few blocks from my Miami Beach home. Without thinking about it, I rode up on my bicycle which is the fastest way to get around my neighborhood. Only later when the band performed Tour De France (one of two versions)did I realize I had selected the most appropriate mode of transportation to the show. I also felt like a big dork. At a little over two hours the show was fairly entertaining and I would've enjoyed a bit more, actually. My only real complaint was that this was at a theater instead of a big dance hall. Then again from the looks of the stiffs in attendance, it would've been pointless.

Falsification Falsified: The Case of Copernicus

An anonymous commentator, whose intials might be JCL, responded to my criticisms of Popper at some length. I am partially responding with this post, although I am also using it to start work on a paper I have to write on the philosophy of science.

Note, this post will not be completed in one swoop, but will probably take several days to finish. On to the argument:

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I wish to suggest that the history of the Copernican Revolution falsifies falsificationism. The basic idea of Popper's doctrine is that no amount of positive evidence can confirm a universal theory, but a single negative piece of evidence refutes it.

The main problem with his theory is that this is not how science works. The first point to address is whether that is a valid criticism of a philosophical theory. It could be said that the actual practice of scientists may be flawed, and it is the role of philosophy to mend the error of their ways. But such a view relies on a misunderstanding of what philosophy…

Exploiting Eugen

Here is yet another article in which I contribute nothing of my own, but merely summarize Eugen von Bohm-Bawerk's critique of a particular theory of interest. Even if you are already a true believer in the Austrian theory of interest, I bet you will learn a few things from reading Bohm's critiques.

Some people feel that I lavish too much attention on dear old Eugen. What can I say? He is my favorite economist. (And in any event, my hero is much cooler than Callahan's hero, that Michael HotShot or whatever his name is.) At least be thankful that I'm posting economics articles again, rather than ones on metaphysics.

Jonah Goldberg Shows Off His Erudition

I hadn't looked in to see updates of how "well" the war in Iraq is going in some time, so I stopped by a site I used to write for, National Review Online. There, I found Jonah Goldberg writing:

"The scientific method, which has been part of our culture for more than a century, systematically roots out flaws and seeks new insights."

Well, yes, four centuries certainly is more than a century! And four centuries is really a rather conservative estimate. One could plausibly argue that science dates to Aristotle, Archimedes, Galen, Ptolemy, and so on -- making the correct figure over two millenia. Of course, that's more than a century as well, isn't it?

Michael Oakeshott: An Introduction

I'm reading an excellent new book by Paul Franco with the above title. Since I am commissioned to review it, and I can't say too much about it here, but I'd like to share a few choice passages:

In describing Oakeshott's philosophical influences, Franco mentions F.H. Bradley. He says that bradley "lived a fairly reclusive life in Oxford, never teaching, but occasionally coming out at night to shoot cats in the college precincts."

Well I suppose everyone needs a hobby!

A bit later, he quotes Richard Rorty:

"Since the anti-empiricism and the anti-foundationalism on which analytic philosophers now pride themselves was taken for granted by nineteenth-century anglophone philosophers such as T.H. Green and Bernard Bosanquet, one might be tempted to say that analytic philosophy was a century-long waste of time."

Ouch!

Another Police Tale

After reading my blog post about the
police looking for the Colindale station, my friend Jasmine El-Mulki sent me the following story, which I share with her permission:

"I was reminded of a phonecall I recieved when I was working for a Swiss insurance company this summer. A policeman from the Federal Traffic Office called me one day, giving me a plate number from Bern, wanting me to check the corresponding car for insurance, a routine request. I couldn't find any customer of my company with that plate number, so I apologised to the officer. He then asked me if it was possible for me to check among all Swiss insurance companies.

"'But don't I need to call the Federal Traffic Office to do that? And isn't that where you are calling from?'

"Yes, he said, he was fairly new on the job and had forgotten that point."

Maybe a hockey game will break out...

A couple of "boxing matches" soured the Pacers/Pistons and Clemson/South Carolina games over the weekend, but think of the possibilities: "brawl at Indy ends race early when various drivers beat the lap leader to death with tire irons", "Kentucky Derby horses gang up on jockey" and "synchronized swimmers at Olympics tweak noses in underwater melee".

The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I recently rented and watched the above-named movie a few days ago. A great film. I once thought very little of Jim Carrey, but I've come to believe he is an excellent actor when a director keeps him under control. (See The Truman Show for another example.)

Susanne Langer was, in my opinion, one of the most under-rated philosophers of the 20th century and probably the greatest philosopher of aesthetics. She held that each major art form had its own, distinct primary effect, although works could also generate secondary effects characteristic of a different form. The primary effect of literature is to create "virtual memory," that of painting to create "virtual space," and that of music to create "virtual time." Movies, she said, create a virtual dream.

If anyone wants to understand what she meant by that, I can't think of a better movie to watch than Eternal Sunshine.

Bad Boy, Eamon!

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Never play with Daddy's stash!

How Popper Went Wrong on Confirmation

Karl Popper is famous for declaring that theories can never be confirmed, only falsified. It seems to me he is wrong about this, and his error turns on viewing falsification and confirmation as all or nothing affairs.

But they are not. As pointed out by Duhem, Quine, Lakatos, Feyerabend, and others, no theory is ever so thoroughly falsified that there is no way to rehabilitate it. The Duhem-Quine thesis notes that, given an experimental result that apparently refutes a theory, one can always change an auxilliary hypothesis instead of the central tenet of the theory, and so rescue the theory. For example, Copernicus did not regard the absence of observed parallax in the stars as refuting his heliocentric theory. Instead, he simply moved the sphere of stars ten times as far away as it was previously thought to be. As my history of science lecturer, John Milton, pointed out, in this respect a Popperian has to regard Ptolemy's model as scientific and Copernicus's as unscientific, …

Violence Breaks Out in Baghdad

Check out this AP story:

Gee, that's surprising! People seem to object to having their country occupied and piecemeal destroyed by foreign troops.

Let's Move to an Island!

I have given up hope that the US will be reformed through the political process. The deck is stacked against liberty. Only through secession--itself inspired by examples from abroad--will freedom spread in the region currently called the United States of America.

Here is an interesting start on this topic. Yes, right now it's just chit chat, but at some point it will become a reality. If nothing else, once we start colonizing space, there will definitely be libertarian settlements.

But how will these places protect themselves from neighboring governments? Read the book. Oh, you'd rather a nice story? Okay.

Black Writing

In Borders today, I saw a section of books with the heading "Black Writing." And, when I browsed through a few of them, I found that all of the writing in them was, indeed, black.

But, on further inspection, so was all of the writing in the books I examined from other sections. There must have been something particularly black about the writing in that one area, but I can't grasp what it was.

Two Thumps for Bible Thumpers

I managed to offend just about everyone in this article. I got negative mail from both atheists and devout Christians.

Mission Really, Really, Really Accomplished

President George W. Bush announced today that, with the destruction of Fallujah, the "Mercan" mission in Iraq is now "really, really, really accomplished."

"When, on May 1, 2003, I announced "mission accomplished" in reference to our invasion of Iraq, I was speaking truthfully. We had accomplished the mission of getting me a great photo op."

"With the capture of Saddam Hussein in December, 2003, we had really accomplished our mission, meaning, in this case, that I gained a 5% boost in the polls with his capture."

"In June, 2004, when we returned 'sovereignty' to Iraq -- meaning that the new Iraqi government can do whatever it wants that we approve of -- we had really, really accomplished our mission. By saying that, I'm pointing out that my poll numbers went up another 2%."

"With the conquest -- but not the subjugation! -- of Fallujah, we have now really, really, really accomplished our mission. And once we p…

Sign of Drugs

I stopped at a pub last night that had two large signs up warning that no drug use would be tolerated on the premises.

I think this is pretty much equivalent to two signs saying, "Looking for drugs? There'll be a lot of them around here."

Trafalgar Square

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Admiral Nelson stands atop his pillar in Trafalgar Square.


A fountain in the square catches the morning sunlight.

Cambridge

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I took a quick trip up to Cambridge, to visit my friend, Canbridge University economist Paul Lewis, and then attend Tony Lawson's Critical Realist workshop. I arrived in the evening, so Paul gave me a whirlwind tour of the campus and then treated me to a lovely dinner.


The gate to King's College in Cambridge.

The first item on the agenda of the workshop is drinks from 7:30 until 8:00. Just before 8, when the evening's talk is to start, most people fill their wine glass one last time before sitting down. After the lecture, it's... off to the pub! Paul told me that drinking accompanies all activities at Cambridge.

King's College

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Some shots of King's College in London, where I'm studying the history of science:



Picadilly Circus on a Saturday Night

We were passing from the Picadilly Underground Station south toward Leicester Square, down a wide pedestrian thoroughfare. It was packed with people. Suddenly, we heard fireworks going off, in the middle of this throng of pedestrians. People began screaming and sprinting for cover. Several more rounds were launched -- some sort of bottle rockets sending bright arcs just over hundreds of heads.

We picked up our pace, trying to get out of the area. We had to stop at a crosswalk, and as we stood there, from inside the McDonald's across the street, three or four minutes after the first rocket had gone off -- hey, they had to finish their Big Macs! -- about seven or eight cops raced into the street. Well, not so much raced, as kind of strolled, at a very leisurely pace. They seemed to have no interest whatsoever in finding out who was shooting bottle rockets in the crowd. In fact, they came to a stop about fifteen feet from the entrance to McDonald's, and just stood together in a c…

My Tropical Neighborhood

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Two shots from my street, both taken in early November:




What Did I Say Wrong?

I was in a shopping district near my home, where I thought I had seen a shoe store. However, I could not locate, so I stopped someone to ask where it was.

"Excuse me, is there a shoe store nearby?"

He looked at me in a puzzled manner.

"A shoe store," I repeated.

"You want to buy shoes?"

"Yes." What else would I want the shoe store for?

"I think there's one down that way," he said, pointing.

Not wanting to waste time in case he was wrong -- he didn't seem very sure about whether there was or not -- I asked another passerby.

"Is there a shoe store nearby?"

He was taken back. "You want to buy shoes?"

Now, I'm sure there was something wrong with the way I was asking my question -- I just don't know what. "Shoe shop"? "Footwear store"? Advice welcomed.

Every Summer We Could Rent a Cottage in the Isle of Wight...

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...if it's not too dear.

Over the weekend, I took a trip to the Isle of Wight, to visit my friend, Paul Birch, and tour the island.


Paul smiles by the seaside.

Now, despite the fact that Paul is my friend, I must warn you, I fear he's a somewhat fishy character -- although he claims to be an astronomer, when I asked him to show me his telescope, it turns out he doesn't have one! I bet he has no astrolabe either.

On the ferry out to the island, the passengers were shown a safety film. As usual, no one paid any attention to it. It occurred to me that such films would draw more attention if they actually showed footage of horrendous accidents, e.g., the ferry sinking, bleeding passengers, people screaming as they sunk into freezing water, and so on. That would get the customers' attention, wouldn't it?

The Isle of Wight itself is not heavily populated, and is full of picturesque rural scenes.


A rural barn on the island.


Another country scene.

It is also geographically qu…

Civil Liberties Stripped

Beyond the titillating nature of this news story, I draw your attention to the official who claims that 98 percent of the people involved didn't mind. But if you read the article closely, this seems to mean 98 percent of those who volunteered didn't mind!

Causation Treatment

Today, you can go somewhere to receive treatment for alomost any habit you have, e.g., gambling, drinking, drugs, sex, and so on.

Well, the Scottish philosopher David Hume said that the idea we have that certain events "cause" others arises merely from habit. So I'm considering opening a "Causation Rehab Center." Clients will come in and we will ask them things like, "How many times do you posit a cause-and-effect relationship per day?" and "How long have you been using induction?"

Then we will do things like roll one billiard ball toward another, but first crazy glue the stationary one to the table, or fill it with explosives, and so on. We'll get 'em off the stuff soon enough.

My Hatchet Job on Reagan

True story: When I was in high school, my aunt showed me the Statistical Abstract of the U.S. and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I was amazed to see that federal revenues really did go up under Ronald Reagan. But then I started crunching the numbers, and my intellectual honesty forced me to conclude that the '80s were not a true test of supply-side principles. I drew on this experience for this article.

What Should Have Happened in the US Election

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The above is the work of Roderick Long. Visit his excellent blog to see his original post.

Apartheid... and Iraq

I watched a very moving film last night called Amandla: A Struggle in Four-Part Harmony. It was about the role music played in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. (And the music was great as well.)

During the course of the movie I reflected on the parallels between what I was watching and the US invasion of Iraq. One dissident mentioned that the South African prison wardens would strip political prisoners naked to humiliate them. Sound familiar?

The filmaker interviewed former members of the "riot police," one of whom said that they "had" to use heavy weapons during protests, or some of the police might have been hurt. Just like how the US and Britain have "had" to employ aerial bombing and heavy artillery in populated areas, to minimize their own casualties. Because of such tactics, Iraqi civilian deaths are running about 100 to 1 ahead of US military deaths. The soldiers all volunteered for a job that they knew entailed the possibility of going…

Hayek Society

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I, Jan Lester, and Pete Boettke listen to Larissa Price discussing property rights at a meeting of the LSE Hayek Society:



(Photo courtesy of Peter Jaworski.)

Democracy

My friend Jim Henley cites the perfect quote to sum up the US election results: "Democracy is the theory that the people know what they want and deserve to get it - good and hard." -- H.L. Mencken

Settled In

Well, I'm finally looking the right way when crossing the street.

That means that I probably will be hit by a car within a day or two of arriving back in the States.

Oriental City

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My soul captured by a wild spirit of adventure, I walked several blocks further down the main road through my town (Colindale) then I have during the first month I've been here. There I found... Oriental City!



Oriental City is a giant mall devoted to things from eastern Asia. There is a store with a huge supply of Chinese ceramics, several shops selling Oriental bric-a-brac, a Japanese beauty parlor, and a Sega center that is a confusing jumble of lights from giant game screens and the sounds of cars, shots, kicks, and dying.

A little farther in I found an Asian supermarket as large as a Walmart in the US. I wandered the aisles for a few minutes, surveying the unfamiliar items. Some of the prices were astronomical: whelks were selling for 65 pounds a kilo, while "surf clams" went for 68. I saw little fruits from Thailand called "rambutan" that looked like they were covered with tentacles. My favorite item was "dried salted witch." So that's what t…