Thursday, March 31, 2005

send us more jobs you lazy foreigners!

In the April 2005 issue of Wired they printed the value of the jobs leaving and entering the US via "outsourcing" and "insourcing." The amount of $$ going out totaled $43.5 billion. The amount of $$ returning to the US through insourcing of jobs from other countries? $61.4 billion. A balance in our favor of nearly $20 billion. Hooray!

Scientific Facts

A reader sent me an interesting note in response to my recent post, "Evolution: A Fact?," interesting because it clearly expresses the "received view" of science, the one we all were taught in whatever formal science courses we took in school.

He contested the idea that all scientific facts are open to revision with an example: "By fact I mean: when I hold this pencil over the desk and let go, it falls to the desk."

But did it? Or did the desk, and the rest of the Earth, rise up to meet the pencil? Before I go any further with this point, let me introduce another quote: "I don't think there were all that many facts supporting geocentrism."

Now, my correspondent might want to claim that it is the plain and indisputable evidence of our senses that tells us that the pencil falls towards the Earth, rather than the Earth moving towards the pencil. But, if he consistently relies on this sort of argument, he will wind up as an Aristotelean physicist, defending geocentrism! After all, one of the most convincing arguments for geocentrism was that it is plainly evident to our senses that the Sun is moving and the Earth is stationary. Galileo, in making his case for heliocentrism, devoted a great deal of effort to demonstrating that our senses could mislead us about such matters.

And, in fact, per Newton's theory of gravity, the Earth does move up towards the pencil, if only a minuscule distance -- Newton's theory is one of mutual attraction, so that the pencil is attracting the Earth even as the Earth is attracting the pencil. Although I don't know that this specific argument was actually made, an Aristotelean might very well have rejected Newton's theory based on our clear perception that the pencil is moving and the Earth is not.

He goes on to say: "If there are no 'indisputable' facts as you say, then I'm out of my league, but you must be talking about philosophy. I'm talking about hard science, where we must have some facts."

This is a common way to attempt to maintain the Enlightenment view of science in the face of recent developments in the philosophy and the history of science -- dismiss philosophy as an ivory tower enterprise with which "hard science" need not be concerned. Now, it is true that the practicing scientist does not necessarily need to be familiar with the ideas of the philosopher of science to do his job. Nor is it the philosopher's business to dictate correct practice to the scientist. However, as soon as one begins to talk about the meaning of scientific results, their truth value, and so on, one is, willy-nilly, engaged in philosophy. Indeed, the question of what makes some activities "hard science" and others not is a philosophical, not a scientific, one. (We can't answer it scientifically because trying to do so assumes we already know what makes an answer scientific -- but that is the very question on the table!) The dismissal of philosophy of science as irrelevant noodling about only results in the adoption of a philosophy of science that has not been critically examined.

As I noted at the top of this post, my correspondent's view is representative of the notion of science commonly forwarded in science education. Science, properly regarded, is a coherent, worthwhile, and, at least to me, fascinating enterprise. But when it is portrayed as the sole route to truth and knowledge, it is placed in a role it cannot live up to, to the detriment of other ways of comprehending human experience.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

My Satorial Style

Last night, fellow Crash Landing blogger TT Tom told me that the way I dress is "post-modern-neo-retro-classical."

Miscellaneous Murphy

Here's a link to some of my excellent, yet hard-to-classify, writings...For those who have previously sampled the treasures at my website, be sure to check out "Explaining Exodus," which is brand new. (Zoinks!) It continues in the tradition of my LRC articles (1 and 2) devoted to alienating atheists and fundamentalists alike.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Monday, March 28, 2005

Evolution: A Fact?

Arthur Silber, over at The Light of Reason, writes: "Keep in mind the essence of this conflict: evolution is not 'just a theory,' it is scientific fact—supported by mountains of evidence, which grows almost every day."

Arthur doesn't seem to understand the nature of scientific facts. In 1500, it was a "scientific fact," supported by "mountains of evidence," that the Sun revolves around the Earth. The evidence was so overwhelming that basically there was not a single natural philosopher in Europe who doubted it. In the 19th century, a famous physicist (Maxwell?) said that no theory in science was as well-confirmed as ether theory.

One day, the "fact" of Darwinian evolution will seem as quaint as ether theory or phlogiston. I have no idea what will replace it -- most likely not Biblical creationism! -- but it will be replaced.

Diamond Reviewed

My full commentary on Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel is posted on

Sunday, March 27, 2005

We Have a Winner!

Our own Peter Jaworski has won the 2005 Felix Morley Journalism Competition. Peter is now $2500 richer, and is definitely getting the next round at the George IV. Not only that, they even succeeded in making him look thoughtful in the photo they took!

Congratulations, Peter.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Man of Get Real

I was walking through Sears the other day and noticed a kid's pajama top that depicted a very muscular Superman shredding a bunch of chains that had been fastened around his upper body. For some reason, this really bothered me, and (as is my wont) I shall now burden you, gentle reader, with my objections...

First of all, who the heck tries to capture Superman with chains? These things weren't coated with Kryptonite, mind you; they looked like regular metal chains.

Second of all, how did these moronic criminals get the chains on in the first place? Was Superman sleeping? Or did he let the bad guys fasten the chains for kicks, then rip them apart for the benefit of the guy taking a snapshot for the Sears catalog?

The only scenario I can think of is this: Terrorists storm the Daily Planet and start tying people up, not with rope, but with chains. This includes Clark Kent, who obviously must bide his time. After the terrorists look the other way, Kent ducks into the john, turns into Superman (without disturbing the chains) and then flexes his pecs and biceps and snaps the chains off.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Odd NYC Street Signs

Driving south on the FDR, about fifty yards after the exit for the Triboro Bridge, you can see a little green street-name sign, like the kind used at the intersection of two local roads. The sign pointing in the direction you are heading says "FDR Drive," while the orthogonal sign says "Triboro." But you've passed the exit, and can't possibly take a right for the Triboro without scaling several metal railings each a couple of feet high.

In my old neighborhood in Brooklyn, if you head south on Columbia St. between Kane and DeGraw you will pass a sign for a cross-street called Butler. But where the sign is located, the east side of Columbia is a solid wall of brownstones. The west side is bordered by a page-link fence, beyond which are rows and rows of containers unloaded from the ships that dock in the nearby East River. What's more, the sign for Butler St. is fairly new, while its obvious that the brownstones and shipping yard have been there for quite some time.

How Rich Are You?

How rich are you? >>

I'm loaded.
It's official.
I'm the 50,367,565 richest person on earth!

Or maybe Bob is, technically, since I have no income.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Just in case there was any question that the FEDS are stupid...

So, there's this DEA agent giving a gun safety lesson to a class of 4th graders. He announces that he is the only one professional enough in that room to use a Glock 40, and then promptly shoots himself in the foot. See the video. It is almost unbearable to watch, like witnessing someone in the most embarrassing moment of his life. After shooting himself he announces that this is just another example of why we shouldn't play with guns.

Now for the killer, this happened over a YEAR ago. But not until the video made it to the Internet in the last few days was he suspended.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Another Science Experiment to Try with the Kids

Isaac Newton, early in his investigation of optics, apparently took a bodkin -- a thin dagger, as I understand it -- and slid it between his eyeball and the bones of his eye socket. He then pressed it against the back of his eyeball at various places to see what visual effects were produced.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Last Propagandist

As I've mentioned elsewhere, the popular history of science is often pretty bad. However, I believe I've located the worst work of popular science ever written: Michael White's Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer. A entirely typical error: White writes that Descartes "did not contrive experiments to support his [scientific] theories." Luckily for me, I have been reading Descartes' Philosophy of Science by Desmond Clarke at the same time as White's book. Clarke notes that, in 1628, Descartes gave up metaphysical writing because, as "the correspondence suggests," "the burden of experimental work precluded any other writing" (emphasis mine). He returned to metaphysics in 1634. In other words, for six years, Descartes basically did no work except experiments. And he performed experiments at many other times in his life as well.


Around Town with Sandy

Barrister David Goldstone and Sandy Ikeda at Ye Olde Chesire Cheese.

Dr. Elaine Sternberg and me in Bloomsbury.

The dome of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

My Irish Heritage

From The Onion:
"1939 - James Joyce reads the first couple of pages of Finnegans Wake, then returns the novel to his shelf with the intention of finishing it sometime soon."

Read the rest.

How My Kids Honor Their Dad

Well, sort of honor...

schadenfreude again hahaha

Just when DC thought it was safe to pour oodles of federal money into the Massachusetts money shredder (AKA "the highway bill") the consultant hired to oversee the "Big Dig" (AKA Central Artery Tunnel) admitted he no longer felt safe in a tunnel that was being flooded by numerous leaks. When will people learn? Not by the April 22 Congessional hearing on the tunnel I bet. I predict at this point that Congress will bail them out, throw oodles more monopoly money on the situation and then call it a grand day for government boondoggles! What does Congress care? It's not their money they are burying under gallons of water--just mine and yours.

yeah yeah yeah

I used to own a map of all US counties and would color in every county I had been in. I could probably recreate it if I had a new map. I was surprised to see that I had not been to every Florida county.

bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

Play a game with God

The Philosopher's Magazine has two interesting little games you can play. The first is 'Do-it-yourself-Deity,' the point of which is to construct your own deity out of various possible characteristics. Try omnipotence and omniscience and omnibenevolence and stir. Try to see just how consistent your deity is.

When you've done that, take your Deity through 'Battleground God.' Here you take whatever conception of God you have, and see if your God can go through a series of questions without taking any bullets, or logical inconsistencies. Have fun, and avoid blasphemy.

(And I've lived in Virginia, and Vermont. Visited Florida, Washington D.C., Alabama, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, North and South Virginia, Georgia, California, Tennessee, and Connecticut. I think that's about it.)

Well I can't be the last person at Crash Landing to...

bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

Tax Cheat Who Reads Rand

The "biggest tax cheat in American history" is a fan of Atlas Shrugged. I always knew that crazy Russian would cause trouble...(Link from Hornberger's LRC article.)

I don't want to be the last person in the blogsphere to....

bold the states you've been to, underline the states you've lived in and italicize the state you're in now...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Resurrecting Roosevelt

Tell me, is there any reason that we should listen to the grandson of FDR pontificate on Social Security?

For the life of me, I cannot figure it out.

But if for some strange reason people do listen to these descendents of authority, could someone please find the great great great great great great grandson of James Madison and persuade him to come out in defense of liberty?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Beyond Bitching

The citizens of Mexico do more than complain when the gov't offends them. Read it here.

Baby Poops

All right, since Rachael has dragged this blog down to the level of baby poop stories, I'll share my best one. My oldest son, Eamon, was about nine months old. My wife Elen, her sister, Eamon and I were driving through Killarney National Forest in Ireland. We were in a mountain pass a couple of thousand feet above sea level, on a lonely highway, many miles from the nearest town.

That was when Eamon decided to let loose one of the most foul, messy BMs of his life. It went up his back, down his legs, and, at least as I recall it, over his hair. We pulled over along the side of the road. Gingerly, we placed the lad on the hood of our rental car. While two of us guarded him from rolling off the hood and tried to keep him calm, the third adult cleaned him up. (I don't recall who got which assignment -- I think I've blocked about 15 gruesome minutes there from my recall.) His clothes were beyond salvage, and we stuffed them into a plastic grocery bag along with his diaper and the wipes we used to clean him.

But now we had a problem. The bag was far from airtight, and it stunk to high heaven. And we had quite a ways yet to go before we arrived at a town. Fortunately, we had pulled over across the road from the only building for many miles in either direction -- a small cafe, one that was closed. I noticed that they had a pile of garbage sitting outside their kitchen door, obviously waiting to be picked up. I reasoned that one more tiny bag would make very little difference to the cafe or the trash collector, while leaving Eamon's load with the rest of the rubbish would spare us an hour of misery. So I took the bag, trotted across the road, and placed it atop the rest of the garbage. As I crossed back to our car, I saw that Elen and her sister were laughing.

I turned around. It seems that almost as soon as I had dropped the bag, a dog had slunk out of the forest and grabbed it in his mouth. I saw him triumphantly bounding off into the woods with his prize. My, he must have been sorely disappointed when he opened his steal.

Now, That's a Talent!

Sandy Ikeda and I visited the British Museum today. (By the way, did you know that the "Elgin Marbles" are not a bunch of little, multi-coloured glass balls for use in a children's game?) One Greek vase we saw depicted a number of satyrs having a wild night out on the town. Among the various activities illustrated, the most striking consisted of one satyr pouring wine from a jug, into a cup that a second satyr was balancing on the tip of his quite erect willie.

That struck me as the sort of thing that has absolutely no point other than showing the ladies, "Hey, babes, look what I can do!"

Science Experiments to Try with Your Kids

The 17th-century English physician William Harvey was the first person to propose that the heart is a pump, acting so as to circulate blood throughout the body. In defense of his radical idea, he offered various bits of evidence, as well as tests his readers could try for themselves. Among the latter, he suggested opening up the chest of a live animal, cutting a small piece from the bottom of its heart, and then sticking one's finger into the heart through the hole one had made. Then the reader would discover that the creature's heart exerted pressure on his finger from all sides, demonstrating its pump-like action.

Why not duplicate Harvey's experiment at home with your own kids, and maybe several of their school chums, so as to give them a first-hand taste of science at work?

Saturday, March 12, 2005


In the spirit of P.M. Jaworski's last post, I've decided to complain about nightlife (instead of the government), one of the subjects other than anti-statism this blog is supposed to cover. Oh wait! Anti-statism isn't even listed! Neither is bitching or complaining!

Anyway, why does my baby regularly have a bowel movement at 5 am? Do you know how much easier it would be to get him to go back to sleep if he just ate and dozed off again? Noooo, he has to launch WWIII in his diaper, often attacking his onesie and sleeper as well, and we have to get up, turn lights on, strip him down, clean him up, and redress him, and by this time, he's cooing and smiling and ready to play. Repeatedly telling him that "We do not get up at 5 am in this house" does nothing. Nothing! My nightlife is more active now than it was when I was a college freshman.

Friday, March 11, 2005

London Culture

I've had enough. All this politics talk, how can you stand it? What we need is a little more culture, and a lot less anti-statist bitching and complaining (although, really, this sort of complaining is just what we need more of).

In the interest of your calm state of mind, enjoy Symphony 3 (Organ) by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Composed by Saint-Saens, and conducted by Alexander Briger. I recorded it today at the Royal Festival Hall.


tasty sweet tidbits about the business world

When head of Nestle S.A. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe made a few interesting comments the other day it was a total shock. Go ahead and click the link. All his statements concerning the responsibility of the large corporation for community welfare are on the money, so to speak. Real gems! Not only am I sure that the purveyors of social guilt and wealth redistribution are shocked to see someone speaking candidly about business based community welfare but I was equally shocked to see someone in that milieu finally speak the truth: Businesses do not take away from the community. They ADD to it, baby, and any philanthropic efforts made by the business should be with the idea that these efforts will benefit the business in the long run. After all, it's the stockowners' money they are playing with. I wasn't at the speech he made at Boston College's Chief Executives' Club so I wonder if he mentioned that currently such philanthropic efforts are profitable mostly from a public relations point of view. If we were more honest about all of this nonsense, not only will businesses benefit more, but the community will benefit greatly too...instead of just the social guilt crowd.


The advertising on the New York City subway trains is over 50% for career training -- "Earn an MBA," "Learn Computer Programming," "Become a Well-Paid Truck Driver," and so on. On the other hand, I don't ever recall seeing an ad like that on the London Underground.

Are New Yorkers more in need of training than Londoners? More interested in career advancement? What's the explanation?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Just when you thought it couldn't possibly get any worse

If you can get through the second paragraph of this story about child prisoners in U.S. prisons in Iraq without crying, you are a stronger person than I am.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

apples and oranges

regarding hot and cold water blending to become just right, reducing the offending temperature is often as effective as increasing the the flow of the water from the direction that will acheive that just right feeling. This inverse relationship becomes a crucial variable as there is typically a limit of the amount of hot or cold water that can be dispensed at any given time due to the size of the valves, water pressure, the max and min temps available. On the water baloons and knives mix, I suggest first try hot water baloons mixed with a prudent dispersal of cold water baloons before taking the knife/water baloon hypothesis to the laboratory for testing.

In Hot Water

Okay, this post will convince you that I am either brilliant or a moron...Anyway, the other day I started wondering: Why is it that when you increase the amount of cold water coming out of a faucet, the hot water no longer hurts? (I.e. if you're washing your hands and you originally have too much hot, you don't need to reduce the amount of hot water to stop the pain, you just need to increase the flow of cold water.)

What is heat, after all? It's random movement of molecules. So at first glance, it's not immediately clear why the addition of cold water will mitigate the damage caused by these rapidly vibrating molecules. Think about it like this: If somebody is throwing knives at you, you don't eliminate the danger by having someone stand right next to him and toss water balloons too.

I'm pretty sure I've figured out the solution, but I'll leave it to the class as an exercise.

Arresting Donkeys

It's bullsh*t enough that the gov't can impound cars after a serious road accident, but when they start impounding donkeys, it's absurd. (This episode took place in Colombia, for those of you who may be puzzled.) The saddest part of this little article is when it says that the owner of the donkey walks to the impound yard to feed his pet. Pobrecito!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Hey, Everyone Makes Mistakes

Sometimes, I am so disappointed in the human race that I think I might die from it. Case in point. It seems that 50% percent of Russians would vote for Stalin if he were running for president of Russia today. I hate to sound like the gangster who is shocked, nay, SHOCKED, to discover there is gambling happening on the premises, but, truly, I AM shocked.

What the fuck is wrong with people? Must we adore perpetrators of mass murder? Stalin murdered millions of Ukrainians by starvation, all the while exporting butter to Western Europe to prove how wealthy Russia was. After all, if you can export your butter, you must have tons of the stuff lying around. (And let's not forget, that under Communism, you can have all the guns and butter you want.)

One standard bearer of freedom (if you aren't familiar with sarcasm, look it up)actually says that Stalin simply made a mistake. Since when is the purposeful murder of innocent men, women, and children, not to mention the enslavement of tens of millions more in labor camps, simply a mistake?

Hey, all you morons who feel a certain nostalgia for Communism, get a grip, Communism equals Death!!!!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Heathers and Monetary Theory

My wife and are big aficionados of Netflix, and lately we've been catching up on some "classics" that at least one of us hadn't yet seen (e.g. Risky Business and Ferris Bueller's Day Off). The other day we watched Heathers (Wynona Rider, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty).

As I thought the first time I saw it, it had such promise in the beginning but then went in a direction for which I did not care. I thought J.D. was so damn cool when he fired those blanks at the football guys, but I thought he was so damn evil when he...(well, I don't want to spoil anything).

Anyhow, my worst disappointment was when Wynona Rider's character asks him the lunchtime survey question: "You've just inherited $2 million, but aliens land and will blow up the world in 2 days. What do you do?"

The suave J.D. says, "That's got to be the stupidest question I've ever heard." So at this point, I thought he had read Ludwig von Mises The Theory of Money and Credit. J.D. then goes on to say that he'd paddle out into the middle of a lake and strum his guitar or something poetic and sexy like that.

But what I kept waiting for him to point out was: WHO THE HECK IS GOING TO ACCEPT YOUR MONEY IF THE WORLD IS GOING TO END IN 2 DAYS?!?! I mean, nobody's response to the poll was, "Well, I dunno what I'd do, but if I were scheduled to work on those days I guess I'd have to do that..."

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Bob Warns Gene

Sorry folks, I must destroy the unanimity that we've come to love at Crash Landing. In his post "Israel Warns Palestine," I think Gene makes at least two mistakes. (I'm neglecting his [different] misspellings of Palestinian.)

First, Gene claims that it is unreasonable for Israel to insist that the Palestinian leadership crack down on suicide bombings (or else the peace deal is off), because after all, Israel has been unable to prevent such attacks despite years of strong suggestions (with tanks, etc.).

But so what? Is it really so unreasonable to assume that Palestinians might be more inclined to listen to other Palestinians who say blowing yourself up to hurt Jewish kids at discos is immoral and stupid? Who's more likely to persuade Arabs to stop car bombings in Iraq--a Moslem cleric or Condoleeza Rice?

Second, I must confess that I thought Gene was going to take the post in a totally different direction. Think about it: Israel declares that if Palestine doesn't stop suicide bombings, then the peace is over.

Rather than criticizing this stance as unfair, I thought Gene was just going to say, "Duh!"

Genetic Tendencies

Continuing the tradition of inter-blog discussion between Crash Landing and the Austro-Athenian Empire, I'd like to comment on a post by Roderick Long on genetic tendencies. Roderick considers whether or not probabalistic tendencies arising from human biology are compatible with free will. He writes:

"Suppose I have an innate tendency to choose X over Y. Now that might mean that although I won't always choose X over Y, I will do so in, say, 75% of future instances. But that too seems incompatible with the free will axiom; if it's already settled that I will choose X over Y 75% of the time, then I’m not really free to plan my future conduct."

However, can't the existence of such tendencies be made compatible with free will if they are viewed as applying to populations rather than individuals? I believe so, if the tendency is not taken as exerting some “drag” or "force" on any individual’s decision. In such a view, decisions are freely made, but, given human nature as it is, 75% of people typically choose X over Y.

For example, people obviously (if we accept free will) are free to choose earthworms or fine steak for dinner, but most of them are so constituted that they will choose the steak. Thus, we might theorize that there is a 99% tendency to choose the steak, without any implying that any specific actor is compelled to choose steak 99% of the time.

To Grandmother's House We Go!

My three month old son and I spent the last week in South Carolina, visiting my parents. They became very attached to Clark, for obvious reasons.

So in love were they, in fact, that they insisted on buying an enormous toy that he won't be able to enjoy for months. I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but the box is almost the length of my coffee table. We flew down there, so in order to get it home, I checked it as a piece of baggage at the airport.

But wait! Look a little closer!

Inspected by the TSA. Clark and I got selected for extra searching. Not a fun thing anytime, but especially annoying since I was alone with him. The thing that upset me the most was that they actually searched Clark! They patted down his whole body--and get this--even opened his tiny fists! I asked if they would like to check his diaper, and loudly announced that I was going to put "first frisking" in his baby book. Good thing that type of joke doesn't get you arrested...yet.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Black Market Creation

So there's all this talk of a consumption tax. And hey, Greenspan is for it so it must be good, right? Anyway, at one point in the article, it says that if the income tax went away, the national sales tax would have to be something like 27%! That number makes me gasp. But then I thought, "Well hey, I bet a HUGE black market would develop," and you know what? That would actually be kinda cool. It's not that I want to buy a car on the black market--the prospect makes me nervous. If America were to switch to a consumption tax, then Uncle Sam's cut would become so obvious. Right now, the bulk of taxes that an individual pays are just lifted right out of your paycheck before it ever reaches your hands. How much do you feel that? But if you have to shell out an extra thirty percent (minimum, including state sales taxes) every time you make a purchase, you're gonna feel it, and it is going to be painful. It would be nice if everyone winced when the gov't backhanded them. Sometimes it's just so lonely to be an anarchist, you know? You sit around hating the gov't, surrounded by a world of people who love it. A consumption tax would be a nice wake up call. Hit em where it hurts!

Bad Reporting or I Just Don't Get It?

An interesting trend is for amateurs to use their own computers to discover prime numbers. I don't have a link, but some young guy found one sometime within the last year, and now some guy has found the newest, biggest prime. (I saw this story linked at LRC.)

I wonder what other sorts of applications are out there for this type of thing. With the advance of the Internet, and computing power in general, I bet we'll see more and more of this outsourcing of computation. Sorta like Ronald Coase's explanation for the optimal size of the firm--it wouldn't have made sense for NASA in the '70s to farm out computations to private individuals to run on their calculators, but it will become more and more feasible for organizations to delegate chunks of computations to people to run on their PCs.

Anyway, this quote from the article troubled me:

It took experts five days to work out that Dr Nowak's new number was indeed bigger than the previous biggest prime, discovered last May by an American. His number has 7,816,230 digits.

Does this seem right? I could believe that it would take five days for experts to determine that Nowak's claimed number is indeed prime, but I find it difficult to believe that it takes mathematicians five days to determine which of two numbers is bigger. If any knowledgeable reader out there wants to set me straight, feel free.

Israel Warns Palestine

In one of the London papers a couple of days ago, I saw a headline that read something like, "Israel: If Palestine cannot stop suicide bombings from happening, then the peace deal is off."

But what does this really mean? After all, Israel has occupied Palestine for many years now. If stopping the bombings were simply a matter of willpower or good intentions on the part of the sovereign entity for the area, then why didn't Israel stop them a long time ago?

Now, it would be quite reasonable for Israel to demand that the new Palistenian government make a "good faith effort" to prevent attacks on Israeli targets, or, failing to have done so, that it should hunt down the perpetrators. But to demand that the Palistinian government "stop the bombings" is utter rubbish. It appears to me as, perhaps, the declaration of a pre-condition for peace which the Israeli government knows cannot be met, so that the failure to meet it can be held up as another example of what dirt-balls the Palestinians are, and how Israel tried its best, but really had no choice but to shoot rockets into their cities and drive tanks down their streets.

(By the way, I have no opinion about which side is most to blame for the Israeli-Arab wars, about the justice of various claims as to land ownership in the area, about whether Yassir Arafat was a good guy or a villain, etc. However, despite my lack of knowledge about and opinions on the area and the ongoing conflict there, I know bullshit when I see it. And to require that the Palestinian government stop all suicide bombings directed against Israel, despite the fact that they are all being carried out by deranged individuals supported by a handful of criminals, is bullshit.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Happy Birthday Molinari

Thinking of helping to smash the state? Of course you are!

How about by commemorating the birthday of a guy who tried that in the 19th century, and had to run away from Napoleon III?

Today marks the birthday (in 1819) of Gustave de Molinari, a radical market anarchist who was friends with Frederic Bastiat. How radical? According to the Mises Institute, Molinari was the first to suggest that the State could be totally done away with. From bricks to mortar. Including the poh-lees! (Now, if full-out anarchism isn't your cup of tea, you can go here.)

Check out the Molinari Institute run by Roderick Long, another radical for liberty who edits the Journal of Libertarian Studies.

Dear Condi

Lloyd Axworthy, former Canadian minister of foreign affairs (amongst other things), rips into Condoleeza Rice and the Bush administration in an open letter over Ballistic Missile Defence. The missive seeps with sarcasm. Here's a few lines to get you reading:
I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.

But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.

A Poignant STR Sticker

I like the top one...It is as "duh" as the slogans of the war supporters.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Cambridge Again

I was back up in Cambridge Monday night for Tony Lawson's Realist Workshop:

My suite at Caius College.

The dining room at Caius College.

A parterre garden on the grounds.

Cambridge is so progressive that even the duck couples are interracial.

Smoking Bans

Radley Balko nails the real impetus behind smoking bans:

"I bring this up to point out the absurdity behind the rubric that we're banning public smoking to save lives. That's just shit. The real reason we're banning smoking is what you might call the "Kevin Drum's Drycleaning Bill" argument.

"It goes like this: Non-smokers don't like cigarette smoke. They don't like that it gets in their hair, and their clothes, and makes their eyes watery. But they also really, really dig bars that allow smoking. Bars they don't own. Bars they didn't invest in. Bars whose livelihood doesn't depend on them. But that's not important.

"Instead of starting or patronizing or investing in smokeless bars or restaurants, it's just much easier to pass a law that forces the places they already like to conform to their needs, to bend to their will, to serve them on their terms, and under their conditions. In short, they want to use the state to force everyone else to adopt their cleaner, more politically correct, more fashionable habits, and at the same time rid their lives of the hassles and inconveniences they feel are caused by the people who don't.

"Put more simply, it goes something like this: "I like to drink. So we shouldn't ban alcohol. But I hate smoking. So let's ban it!"

The whole post.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Runs, Squirms, and Squeals

I'm reviewing Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel at present. While I don't think his overall thesis works, it is a fascinating book, a cornucopia of interesting information. For instance, did you know that a single wild plant is the ancestor of our modern vegetables cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, brussel sprouts, brocoli, and cauliflower, all produced by human breeding of the original?

Or, did you know what the 14 animals of over 100 pounds that have been domesticated by humans are?
  • Sheep
  • Goat
  • Cow
  • Pig
  • Horse
  • Arabian camel
  • Bactrian camel
  • Llama and alpaca (thought to be one species)
  • Donkey
  • Reindeer
  • Water buffalo
  • Yak
  • Bali cattle
  • Mithan

Curry and Empire

In discussing English cuisine the other day -- while I was swallowing an awful English soup -- my friend Michi said, "Bad food is necessary for empire."

I concurred. If the English hadn't been able to offer great curries overseas that were vastly superior to domestic fare, how would they have ever gotten colonial administrators to go to India?

Open Source Software and Skin In the Game

I have been tinkering in the Haskell programming language recently. Trying to up my game, I have begun reviewing and working on issues in th...