Thursday, April 30, 2009

Feed Mayonaisse to Live Tuna Fish!

So, on Facebook, I was discussing with Tennyson McCalla, who was bemoaning the move to put TSA personnel as bag inspectors on the New York City subways, how I had never encountered any searches anywhere in the four years that they have been going on there.

Then, today, I was getting on the subway to go to Yeshiva University (more on that next post) and I thought, 'You know who I do see all the time -- this group of Bolivians playing guitars and flutes that's in front of me right now.'

And then I had one of those 'Doh!' moments, and thought 'How obvious -- have the Bolivian musicians do the searches!'

I mean, they're already far more ubiquitous than the present inspectors, they're much friendlier than those TSA folks, they can entertain you, while they search you, with their colorful native ponchos and the haunting, mystical sounds of their ancient Andean melodies such as 'El Condor Pasa', and they will do the job just for tips!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Merely a Coincidence?

People who bought the Brill Razorcut 38 hand push lawn mower also bought plenty of books on Christianity. (Try putting it in your shopping cart yourself if this link doesn't work -- out of the 11 related products they offer me, 6 are books related to Christianity in some way.) Perhaps, in the end times, the Brill will come in handy... for mowing down some heathens?!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Those Nutty Germans

I was falling asleep last night reading Leo Strauss on Martin Heidegger, and after a page of stuff like "the being of being is in existential time but not of it", (I'm making that quote up, but that's what it seemed like to me at the time), and I wonder what makes them write like they do. It's as though they get in the grip of some idea, and get so excited they completely forget how to write. Now, they fact that they are in the grip of this idea means that they're often worth reading, but the fact that it made them forget how to write can make it excruciating.

Methodological Individualism

Danny Shahar makes an interesting post on methodological individualism.

Happy Charles Krauthammer Day!

I have to admit, the leftists are more clever than their right-wing opponents. It's too bad they don't know how market economies work.

This guy celebrates "Charles Krauthammer Day" (HT2 Brad DeLong) because back on April 22, 2003, Krauthammer said:
DR. KRAUTHAMMER: Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We've had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven't found any, we will have a credibility problem. I don't have any doubt that we will locate them. I think it takes time. They've obviously been deeply hidden, and it will require that we get the information from people who know where they are.

If you're looking for anthrax and VX gas, which can be hidden in a basement or a closet, in a country the size of Germany, you can understand how in five weeks we might not have stumbled across them.

I understand that from the Austrian point of view, Americans appear rather naive. I can assure you that from the American point of view, Austrians appear rather cynical.


I do not want to get sucked into a foreign policy debate; feel free to call me an idiot or a French-loving commie in the comments. I just want to remind everyone that we were clearly told that Saddam HAD WMD IN HIS POSSESSION, and that that's why we had to invade Iraq pronto. After the weapons didn't turn up, there was a lot of optimistic revisionist history going on, a la "Bush never said Saddam had WMD, he said he was developing the capacity for them. So I guess you think we should have sat back and let Saddam butcher those people?"

So to repeat, maybe it was a good idea to invade, maybe not. (Personally, I think not.) But what is NOT up for debate is whether the official reason was the clear and present danger of existing stockpiles of WMD. If you doubt that, then please explain why Krauthammer said the above.

Just Sayin'...

that these are trendy phrases I've heard too often:

"How [fantastic/nice/scary/cool] is THAT?" -- Well, I don't know... perhaps you'll tell me.

"It is what it is." -- Yes, and so is everything else.

"Just sayin'..." -- Much like 'teh', it was funny once or twice, but now, the 500th time...

"Not so much." -- See note above.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Did US Execute Japanese Soldiers for Waterboarding American POWs?

I am reluctant to take anything from the Huffington Post at face value, but unless Begala is making all this up, it seems the "quit your liberal bellyachin'" pro-waterboarding hawks are in an awkward position. Apparently US judges hanged Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American POWs during World War II. But then again, it's not really torture if you're doing it to spread your system of government all over the world, as opposed to imposing your form of government all over the world.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Secession Tiff

There's an interesting little flame war between various libertarians at The Liberty Papers on the issue of secession. The level of invective is amazing, as is the desire to score a point by making up whatever history will support one's views.

Let's start with Sandefur: "Excuse me, Congressman, but the United States did not 'secede' from Britain. The nation had a revolution."

Um, say what? The American colonists did not overthrow the government of the United Kingdom! They seceded from it. Has Sandefur not noticed that King George III was still right where he was at the beginning of the War for Independence -- on the throne?! That pretty much the same MPs were in Parliament? That there were now two nations were there had been one? (Of course, Sandefur is right in noting that the colonists did not view their secession as legal.) And, I'll note, Sandefur is way over the top in imputing neo-Confederate motivation to his opponents -- most of them, I think, simply wish that there was a right to secession, and so are willing to imagine one back into history. Why, oh why, Mr. Sandefur, do you immediately call what Ron Paul says "lies," and totally discount the possibility that he is sincerely mistaken? Are Governor Perry's remarks really 'disgusting', rather than just, perhaps 'mistaken'?

Now, although Sandefur is not very accurate here, one Jeff Molby comes along to show you can be even more wrong:

"'Secede' means to withdraw from an organization.
"'Revolt' means to renounce allegiance or subjection.

"They’re synonyms."

Well, whether or not 'secede' and 'revolt' are synonyms, in political science, 'secession' and 'revolution' aren't, and that's what was being talked about. A revolution tries to replace the existing state with something else, while secession tries to form a new and separate entity.

Now Stephan Kinsella chimes in:

"The states of the US obviously have a constitutional right to secede, since the federal government is merely an agent of limited powers created by compact of the original 13 state-parties, and that compact (a) never denied the right of states to leave the union; (b) the states never gave up this right; and (c) the feds were never granted the power or authority to stop the states from leaving. It is quite obvious that there is a constitutional right to secede.

"As Kevin Gutzman discusses in ch. 3 of Virginia’s American Revolution: From Dominion to Republic, 1776-1840 (as well as in his 2004 Review of Politics article “Edmund Randolph and Virginia Constitutionalism,” Virginia (in addition to two other states) retained the right to reclaim the powers they were delegating to the Federal Government (that is, to secede) in case those rights were perverted to their oppression..."

The language in NY, RI, and Virginia was not a claim to a right of secession -- it was standard Lockean language about the right of the people to overthrow a corrupt government, not of a state to secede. Both the Federalists and anti-Federalists were quite clear that this was a union, not a confederation (although for that reason the Federalists were pro and the anti-Federalists anti the constitution), modeled after the 'indissoluble' union of England and Scotland in 1707, in which two sovereign entities merged to become one, obliterating the sovereignty of the two separately. The Federalists repeatedly declared that any ratification that included a right to secession was 'no ratification at all.'

In an episode that's pretty much a nail in the coffin for those who fantasize that the US Constitution inherently contains a right to secession, in New York State, a proposal was actually floated that would allow the state to leave the union after 10 years, should certain amendments to the constitution not pass. As Akhil Reead Amar notes, if the US Constitution already implied the right to secede, why in the world would anti-Federalists want to tack something on to their approval of the proposed constitution that made that right limited as to both time and circumstances?! But even that limited right to secede was too strong for the Federalists, and was removed from the final ratification.

All that being said, I think it would be better if the American states did have a legal right to secession -- but they clearly don't right now.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Reader Service Alert

It seems like it's a good idea to avoid Yaari, which apparently will continually spam everyone in your address book as soon as you sign up.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Outsource This

More American Workers Outsourcing Own Jobs Overseas

The 'Irrationality" of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics

If you search the net a bit you can find many claims for the "irrationality" of relativity and quantum mechanics. I've just picked two at random here, but there are thousands like this:

"Near the origin of relativity is the claim that the velocity of light is determined by the receiving point. Effect supposedly precedes cause. Everyone knows something cannot be caused after it occurs. That claim is not allowed anyplace."
-- Here.

"The Natural Philosophy Alliance (NPA) is devoted mainly to broad-ranging, fully open-minded criticism, at the most fundamental levels , of the often irrational and unrealistic doctrines of modern physics and cosmology; and to the ultimate replacement of these doctrines by much sounder ideas developed with full respect for evidence, logic, and objectivity."
-- (The group's site is down right now, so no link!)

Now, certain "Austrians" have, quite detrimentally to the greater acceptance of Austrian economics, linked such crank physics to the Austrian programme in economics. This rejection of mathematical or physical findings due to their "irrationality" is a phenomenon which has arisen again and again in the history of science and mathematics. In every single case given to us by history, it later became clear that the "irrationality" was entirely that of the "rationalist" critics, who were unable to extend their own thought processes to embrace the rationality of the new mathematical or physical findings.

Here are just a few cases which some advance in physics or mathematics was deemed "irrational" by numerous "rationalists" at the time it occurred:

Irrational numbers: It is said that the Pythagorean who first discovered that the square root of two is irrational drowned himself.

Negative numbers: How can there be less than zero of something?

Imaginary numbers: Hey, they're imaginary, aren't they?

Heliocentrism: Critics of Copernicus said his model was crazy -- which, from the point of view of Aristotelean physics, it was.

Action at a distance: Huyghens and Leibniz, amongst others, chided Newton for re-introducing "occult" forces into science.

What is quite striking is the each new wave of critics of the advance of science and mathematics holds as 'a priori' conditions of 'rationality' precisely those physical and mathematical findings of earlier generations that were previously held to be the height of 'irrationality'! Surveying this process, we can easily discern what is occurring: for many people, intellectual growth has ceased by, say, 20 or 25. Whatever concepts they have absorbed by that point in their lives are deemed 'rational'. Any new concepts they encounter after that point are 'irrational'.

Relativity and quantum mechanics, as shown by the great Ernst Cassirer in what is, perhaps, the best book on the philosophy of science I have read, entitled Determinancy and Indeterminancy in Physics, are as fully rational as -- and, in some ways more rational than -- ealier paradigms of physical investigation. What's irrational is to reject the findings of modern science because they strain your brain.

MNR, Cult Founder

You know how you can tell something is a cult? When people start talking about 'deviations' that make people 'unacceptable'.

I Didn't Start the Flame War!

Congratulations Are in Order

Bob's new book is out, and is number 90 on as of this writing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

And People Wonder Why Libertarianism Isn't More Popular?!

Benjamin Friedman over at Cato writes, with his head a foot up his arse:

"As Peter Van Doren pointed out to me the other day, the right way to think about this problem is that pirates are imposing a tax on shipping in their area."

Right, Benjamin and Peter -- and "the right way" -- and notice, this is THE right way, and any other view is sentimental claptrap! -- to look at rape is that rapists are just "imposing a tax" on women walking through the park at night.

And then there's this revelation"

"The reason ships are being hijacked along the Somali coast is because there are still ships sailing down the Somali coast."

I think I'm getting the hang of this! The reason women are raped in parks at night is that those durned broads keep on a' walkin' through 'em! They must be asking for it, or something!

Machlup Redux

Since I mentioned Fritz Machlup a couple of posts down, it occurs to me that I might relate to you how a good friend of mine (who shall remain nameless unless he chooses to reveal his identity in the comments section) is nagged by the idea that he killed this great social theorist. It seems that my friend slipped a paper he wrote under Machlup's door one evening, and the next day Fritz was found dead. My friend's worry is that Machlup took one look at his paper and decided, 'Well, if this is the sort of thing I have to look forward to from here on out, it's about time for me to call it quits!'

Glenn Greenwald on Hypocritical Right Wingers

Since I just blogged about hypocritical left wingers (when it comes to the police state), in fairness I'll link to this funny Glenn Greenwald column in which he rips all the people complaining about the Department of Homeland Security...who were cheerleading its creation during the Bush years.

I especially liked that Greenwald specifically exempted "the small faction of Ron-Paul/Bruce-Fein/Bob-Barr conservatives who stayed true to their limited-government principles during the Bush era."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Anthony Gregory: The Waco Butchers Are Back

This is a thoroughly depressing article. But he's right. An excerpt:
Over the last eight years, muckraking liberal journalists dissected every word and deed of the Bush regime, but under Clinton very few were bothered about the unambiguously atrocious nature of the federal raid at Waco. They did not care that Lon Horiuchi, the sniper who murdered Vicki Weaver at Ruby Ridge in August 1992, had been brought to Waco. They were not jumping up and down about Janet Reno using internationally banned chemical warfare on American children. They did not condemn the FBI for using explosives in addition to flammable gas and then lying about it. They were not concerned what it meant for the militarization of law enforcement, and did not ask why David Koresh, who had befriended federal agents, was friendly with local law enforcement, and had opened the Davidian home up for inspection, was simply not arrested when he was jogging or visiting the bar. The liberals did not wonder why the excuse for the raid shifted from a meth lab to illegal gun ownership to child abuse. They assumed that, as much as the government might have messed up the raid, the fault was primarily that of the victims. The fact that the Davidians were different and armed – though no more armed than the average Texan – was enough to dismiss their suffering and excuse the death of 80 Americans, many of them children, at the hands of law enforcement.

Many mainstream conservatives also backed the administration after Waco, but the weak reaction by the left-liberals, who Americans rely on as the outspoken critics of police abuses, was more important...

When Democratic administrations murder, the law-and-order right is often split. The left is in denial or supportive. And the press tends to spin the story to make the administration seem soft.

The headlines today emphasize Obama’s rhetorical shift from the "war on terror" and his superficial changes in detention policy. The media push the notion that Obama has cut military spending, when he is doing the opposite.

Still Annoying, Fifty Years Later

The late, great Fritz Machlup wrote an essay on how annoying he found it to see the word 'methodology' (the study of methods) used when what was meant was the simpler, less pretentious 'method' (how something was done). I just ran across an article on the price of General Tso's chicken in Brooklyn where the author talks about the 'methodology' of his survey -- of Chinese restaurant prices!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Origin of Those Silly Quotes?

We all have heard thew numerous complaints about people using quotation marks for emphasis. But I was just struck by a plausible notion of how this started. I was looking at a sign that included some trade-marked phrase, e.g., try new Tried Detergent with miracle "super-whitening doodads". I occurred to me that people could have seen this use, and, not understanding the quotes indicated a trade-marked phrase, have thought that they were there for emphasis.

Any thoughts?

Dawkins Versus Socrates

‘We are survival machines-robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.' -- Richard Dawkins

I paraphrase Socrates:
'Should I say I am now sitting here because my body is blindly programmed by its genes... [But this] should fail to mention the real causes, which are, that the Athenians decided it was best to condemn me, and therefore I have decided that it was best for me to sit here and that it is right for me to stay and undergo whatever penalty they order. For, by God, I fancy these genes of mine would have been in Megara or Boeotia long ago, carried thither by an opinion of what was best, if I did not think it was better and nobler to endure any penalty the city may inflict...'

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Dawkins Trick

Here's how to be a superstar in the world of Darwinist extremism, like Richard Dawkins: You write 50 pages of shocking text taking a metaphor like 'the selfish gene' quite literally. Then, you slip in one sentence saying something to the effect that, 'Of course, this is all just a metaphor!' Then you go back to writing as if it were literally true for another 50 pages.

It is as though one kept insisting that snow is black, very, very dark, reflects no light, and so on, and then paused once in a while and wrote, 'Of course, I know that snow is really white!' Calling snow black is not a metaphor, it's a simple falsehood. And so is calling genes 'selfish'.

Furthermore, 'Dawkins’s crude, cheap, blurred genetics is not just an expository device. It is the kingpin of his crude, cheap, blurred psychology'. (Mary Midgley)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Animal Cooperation

"No one who has heard of evolution has any business to suppose, as Hobbes excusably did, that calculating prudence is the root of all social behaviour. Now that we know how complex the social life of other species can become when their intelligence does not make calculation possible, we know that there is no such single root. Ethological comparison strongly confirms, what an unprejudiced view of the human scene has always suggested, that motivation is complex. There is no short cut to understanding it. In each case we have to look at the detailed evidence." -- Mary Midgley

So how in the world could someone, post-evolution, write this?
"Society is concerted action, cooperation. Society is the outcome of conscious and purposeful behavior... Within the frame of social cooperation there can emerge between members of society feelings of sympathy and friendship and a sense of belonging together... However, they are not, as some have asserted, the agents that have brought about social relationships. They are fruits of social cooperation, they thrive only within its frame; they did not precede the establishment of social relations and are not the seed from which they spring.

And this?
"In order to comprehend why man did not remain solitary, searching like the animals for food and shelter for himself only and at most also for his consort and his helpless infants... The factor that brought about primitive society and daily works toward its progressive intensification is human action that is animated by the insight into the higher productivity of labor achieved under the division of labor."

Social cooperation amongst primates stretches far, far back before any of them had any "insight into the higher productivity of labor achieved under the division of labor"! And this fact was very well known by the time Mises wrote the lines above. How could he have believed this?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Mystery mails

I regularly, these days, receive mails with no subject and no body. Does anyone know what the purpose of such mails might be?

Friday, April 03, 2009

We Have Named the Enemy (Abstractly)

I was listening to NPR and they were discussing how the military was having trouble getting equipment to its troops in a certain region in Afghanistan. The correspondent said something like, "Supplying the troops has been made more difficult by..." And here I thought, "Whoa, are they going to admit that they are meeting fierce resistance from rebels?"

But instead she finished the sentence, "...the deteriorating security situation."

Awww, what a fake out. It sounds serious if your military is being hampered by actual enemies who are sabotaging supply lines. But if it's just a deteriorating situation, no biggie...

More Evidence of Just How Smart Dem Critters Is!

This one from Roderick Long.

My favourite quote from the comments:

"Researchers in Tokyo report that elephants are able to do math and scored 87 percent in basic math tests.

"It's bad enough our students can't compete with Asian students, now we can't even compete with Asian elephants."

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...