Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Crisis in Economics

A book review I never got to use:


In June of 2000 a group of French university students published a petition protesting the narrow scope of the economics they were being taught, calling for educators to adopt a more “pluralist” approach to the subject. This book consists of nine documents or “manifestos," including the original petition, forming the basis of the “post-autistic economics” movements, as well as 43 brief essays by prominent academics discussing the movement. As it is impossible to do justice to such a diverse body of material in a brief review such as this one, I will simply draw attention to particular highlights and general themes in the book.
The four bullet points of the student's petition are:
1. We wish to escape from imaginary worlds!
2. We oppose the uncontrolled use of mathematics!
3. We are for a pluralism of approaches to economics!
4. Call to teachers to wake up before it is too late!
(Yes, each item really ends in an exclamation point.)

Read the rest.

Trivia Time!

What sports league included such teams as the Duluth Eskimos, the Dayton Triangles, the Evansville Crimson Giants, the Tonawanda Cardax, the Oorang Indians, the Rock Island Independents, and the Kenosha Maroons?

Find out here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ron Paul Dreamin'

James Ostrokowski:
"Of course, I care about Florida only as it affects the Revolution. Oddly enough, regardless of who wins tonight, there are positive ramifications for Ron Paul.

"If McCain wins, then Romney is toast and we can start the one-on-one against a candidate with a long list of flaws.

"If Romney wins, the race remains chaotic and unpredictable with a deadlocked convention at least possible. A Romney win gives Huckabee some encouragement so he will stay in and split the delegates in Southern states. Also, if Romney wins, McCain and Huckabee will have difficulty raising money which also helps Ron Paul."

OK, so McCain has won. If everyone else is really done, then you can tally all of their voters in his column, and the Florida results read:

McCain 97%
Paul 3%

So now let's start "one-on-one against a candidate with a long list of flaws." With his current lead, I think we can catch him by the 2060 election!

More Paul Paranoia

Tom DiLorenzo, at the Lew Rockwell blog:

"It was OK for the MSM (main-stream media) to cover Ron Paul's campaign as long as there was no voting taking place. After all, they have to have SOMETHING to talk and write about, and all the other candidates sing the same old boring tune. But once the voting started there has indeed been a complete MSM blackout."

Google News, as of a minute ago -- I have snipped out the "non-MSM" hits):

Results 1 - 10 of about 25,822 for ron-Paul:

* Plugged In
Atlanta Journal Constitution, USA - 8 minutes ago

* Ron Paul: GOP Rivals are Fake Conservatives
KXMC, ND - 12 minutes ago

* Technical Risks of the US Protect America Act
Slashdot - 13 minutes ago

* Joel Connelly: You can get anything you want . . . with Ron Paul
Seattle Post Intelligencer - 15 minutes ago

* Republicans Near Caucus Participation Goal
WMTW, ME - 21 minutes ago

* McCain, Clinton Top National Poll
AHN - 42 minutes ago
Ron Paul (R-TX) with 5 percent, and Alan Keyes with 1 percent. Three percent of voters surveyed said they supported other candidates while 8 percent said ...

* We're Gonna Need Plenty Of Popcorn
Tampa Tribune, FL - 43 minutes ago

* Early vote opens in White House sweeps
Hope Star, AR - 45 minutes ago
... former US senator Fred Thompson (who withdrew from the race Tuesday), former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul. ...

* Republicans near caucus participation goal
Boston Globe, United States - 51 minutes ago
Ron Paul was in Maine on Monday,

* It’s all or nothing in Florida GOP race
MSNBC - 2 hours ago
“I thought all of them were good; I don’t have a serious problem with any of them – except maybe Ron Paul” whose position on the Iraq war Westbrook ...

* McCain, Romney Make Last-Minute Appeals in Fla.
Washington Post, United States - 2 hours ago
Ron Paul of Texas.

* Illinois Survey Finds Obama, McCain Ahead
AHN - 2 hours ago
Ron Paul (R-TX) received 7 percent...

* GOP hopefuls dark in Super Tuesday states
CNN Political Ticker - 3 hours ago
And Ron Paul has purchased airtime in Hawaii, which votes February 19, and his home state of Texas, which weighs in March 4.

* Arlo backs Paul
Austin American-Statesman, TX - 3 hours ago
... Singer-Songwriter Arlo Guthrie” as it says in the headline on the announcement from the campaign) is backing Republican Ron Paul for president. ...

* Slashdot Founder Questions Crowd’s Wisdom
New York Times, United States - 3 hours ago
“A lot of these community news sites are all about Ron Paul,” he said. “Ron Paul may be a valid candidate. But what that is really demonstrating is that you ..."

In short, Google finds 15 MSM stories covering Paul in the last three hours, including stories from CNN, The NY Times, The Washington Post, and MSNBC. In the last week, 25,819 stories mentioned Paul, including 257 from CBS, 38 from ABC, 45 from NBC, 113 from CNN, and 83 from Fox News. Wow, for staging a "complete blackout," the MSM is doing a pretty lousy job of it!

DiLorenzo says, "It will be interesting to see how much longer it takes the internet to break up this monopolistic political conspiracy."

I don't know the answer to that, but I can assert that it only takes it a few minutes to break up nutty political conspiracy theories!

Karen De Coster, Notable Even Amongst the Insane

Pretty much the entire blog is showing severe symptoms of a cult mindset on all Ron Paul matters. They react to any criticism of Paul just like I saw the Church of Scientology doing years ago to any criticism of L. Ron Hubbard:
1) Make no effort at all to find out if the criticism has a basis in fact, e.g., no one at the blog asks, "Did Lew Rockwell really write those newsletters?" No, because there's no time to do that, being busy with 2 and 3:
2) Viciously smear the reputation and character of anyone who reports bad news (in Scientology we used to label them 'suppressive persons' and the Church would dig up (or make up) any tawdry detail from their past that they could); and
3) Invent far-fetched conspiracy theories to explain the "attack" on their messiah, e.g., the American Psychiatric Association was out to get Hubbard, or the "Cocktopussy" is out to get Paul.

But the chief fruitcake in this regard is far and away Karen De Coster. For instance, she sees it as a sign of a conspiracy that Julian Sanchez knew about his own article on the newsletters in advance of publication: "The Beltway-Kochtopus libertarians and their junior blogger understudies have been trying to put Lew in the gas chamber of ideas [Help! My ideas are being gassed!] for a very long time now... This is the kind of thing that these guys used to keep under wraps, but nowadays, they revel in the glory of their lynchings a bit too openly for their own good. For instance, this little squirt couldn't contain himself two days prior to his article launch."

And she adopts the classic "I wasn't even there AND I fired the shot accidentally" defense of Lew Rockwell:
"The burden of the newsletter content is on Ron Paul, the man whose name graces the covers, and shame on you scoundrel "libertarians" for automatically drawing the assumption that Lew Rockwell must have, had to be, surely was involved in writing those passages that have you all so horrified."

Lew would never write that stuff AND there was nothing wrong with it anyway! And Karen, no one "automatically drew the assumption" (and I thought conclsusions were drawn, while assumptions were made) that Lew was the author -- Sanchez and Weigel interviewed lots of people who were around at that time and those people told them Lew was the author.

Here, De Coster sees a dark conspiracy to ignore her blog:
"The round-up of Lew Rockwell continues. [Lew must have gotten loose out on the range again and be-a stampedin'!] I find this post interesting, especially since my extensive blog post is not to be found here. Of course -- I'm not taking the standard pc, lynch-mob line, thus I do not get the Reason honor badge. Ahem."

De Coster apparently didn't note that David Gordon, John Derbyshire, and Athena Kerry also did not take "the standard pc, lynch-mob line," and yet appeared in the list. Perhaps Reason was seeking out sane supporters of Paul so as not to make him look any worse?

She actually resorted to trashing the careers of people like Weigel and Sanchez: "I don't feel I have to follow anyone's politically-correct bullshit line for one moment. I am very well-employed outside of the libertarian clique that consistently attempts thought control, hence my ability to say whatever the hell I want, and I don't care what the other bozos think or say about any of it. Being employed far outside of the libertarian/academic inner circle leaves me free to tell the Kochtopus to kiss my well-employed behind."

DeCoster doesn't seem to notice that, along with the "beltway libertarians" she hates, she's also impugned the integrity of everyone who depends on the Mises Institute for making a living, since they must all be "thought controlled" by money as well.

Here, she hallucinates that this piece by Brian Doherty, which doesn't mention Sanchez or Weigel once, even indirectly, is giving them the "Mother of All Spankings."

DeCoster latest display of advanced Turrets appeared yesterday, suitably chopped up since almost every word written by her is nutty and worthy of comment:

"Junior Member of (T)Reason"

The "Bible-belt-way libertarians" are owed our allegiance! To criticism them is treason!


No one has been able to show a single thing in the Sanchez/Weigel piece was a lie. But let's just keep calling it mendacious until it sticks.

"Says 'Let's Get Over Ourselves'"

"David Weigel, the opportunist"

Just who is running a "smearbund," Karen?

"who put his name on an article"

Perhaps he "put his name on" the article because he co-authored it? Or is that a lie, too?

"full of anecdotal, unsubstantiated lies"

Well, apparently everyone they talked to substantiated everyone else's claims. I can see De Coster in a court of law: "Your honor, the claims by these dozen people that they saw my client kill the victim are merely anecdotal -- none of them have photos, do they? -- and each person's story is totally unsubstantiated, except, of course, by the other eleven liars.

"from "unnamed""

Why is 'unnamed' in quotes here, Karen? Are you doubting that they really were unnamed? And here's a named source who knows Lew wrote most of the newsletters. Are you willing to call McElroy an "unreliable" member of the "smearbund," Karen?

"and unreliable "sources," says: 'The Ron Paul campaign has captured much of the libertarian imagination and the controversies about his newsletters have alienated various sides of the libertarian thinksophere. We need to get over ourselves. The arguments over who wrote what in 1989 or 1990 are less important than whether the Senate retroactively legalizes and forgives international surveillance.'"

So what Weigel is saying is that he wishes people would stop arguing so divisively about the newsletters. That would be people like you, Karen. He is not apologizing for his article.

"I bet some people really wish they could turn back time and erase their moments of instability and imbecility."

But what if "the moments" turn out to have been one's whole writing career?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Keynesian Corner

Here is my recent Townhall piece. As always, skim the comments. Aren't these people supposed to be Rush Limbaugh fans and support the free market? Man.

The Least Particle

"I am so in favor of the actual infinite that instead of admitting that Nature abhors it, as is commonly said, I hold that Nature makes frequent use of it everywhere, in order to show more effectively the perfections of its Author. Thus I believe that there is no part of matter which is not - I do not say divisible - but actually divisible; and consequently the least particle ought to be considered as a world full of an infinity of different creatures."
-Georg Cantor

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Greek Bay Packers

The New York Giants were inside the Green Bay five-yard line, maybe at around the two. The Packers jumped offside. Normally, that would be a five-yard penaty, but inside the defensive team's five, it's half the distance to the goal line. The teams line up again. Green Bay jumps offside again. Half the distance.

"Hey," I said to my friend Sandy, with whom I was watching the game, "the Packers are implementing the Zeno strategy!" I figured, they knew the Giants were going to score and take the lead unless they did something desperate, so they intended to continue jumping offside forever, allowing the Giants ever closer to the goal line but never able to cross it.

That whimsy brought up an interesting point: What could be done about a team really trying to implement such a strategy. Say, there's twenty seconds left in a game, and the team trailing by four has a first-and-inches to the goal line. The defensive team figures there's no way to stop each of four successive QB sneaks from getting the ball in the endzone, in which case they lose. And so they jump offsides the first moment the offensive team lines up, intending to do so forever -- meaning, until everyone gives up.

What can the officials do about this? Is there a response available within the current rules?

More realistically, what if a team just has a tired offensive unit it wishes to rest for a while, and a desire to flummox their opponent. On x-and-inches to the goal, why not jump offsides 10 or 20 times in a row? Certainly, the odds of giving up a touchdown are only changed minutely by a series of sub-centimeter advances towards the goal line.

By the way, the Wikipedia entry is excellent in explaining why the notion of a limit from calculus does not solve Zeno's paradox:

"A suggested problem with using calculus and mathematical series to try to solve Zeno's paradoxes is that these solutions miss the point. To be precise, while these kinds of solutions specify the limit point of infinite series, they do not explain how such a series can actually ever be completed and the limit point be reached. Thus, calculus and mathematical series can be used to predict where and when Achilles will overtake the tortoise, assuming that the infinite sequence of events as laid out in the argument ever comes to an end. However, the problem lies exactly with that assumption, as Zeno's paradox points out that in order for Achilles to catch up with the Tortoise, an infinite number of physical events need to take place, which seems to be impossible in and of itself, independent of how much time such an act would require if it could actually be done.

"Indeed, the problem with the calculus and other series-based solutions is that these kinds of solutions beg the question. They assume that one can finish a limiting process, but this is exactly what Zeno questioned. To be precise, Zeno started with the assumption that a finite interval can be split into infinitely many parts, and then argued that it is impossible to move through such a landscape. For calculus and other series-based solutions to make the point that the sum of infinitely many terms can add up to a finite amount therefore merely confirms Zeno's assumption about the landscape (geometry) of space, but does nothing to answer Zeno's question of how we can actually (dynamically) move through such a space."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Reagan Record

So I was listening to Sean Hannity after picking my son up from his "school" (it's only two days a week). Commenting on the Obama / Clinton sniping during the recent debate, Hannity said something like, "Where do these two get off distancing themselves from the ideas of Ronald Reagan? He won the Cold War--what's wrong with that? He gave us the longest peacetime economic expansion in history. Why is that bad?"

That's amazing. Reagan won a war and simultaneously had a peacetime expansion. No wonder Hannity likes him.

St. Petersburg's Finest

"The St. Petersburg Times (Florida) reports on a 75-year-old grandmother who was arrested for "disorderly conduct" because she refused an officer's orders to move her car while she waited for coffee and fries at the drive-through window of her local McDonald's. The officer was behind her in line and (presumably) wanted to get his food but Jean Merola was parked where a McDonalds employee had told her to wait for her order and she wasn't budging. Merola wascuffed for what she estimates was an hour, searched, booked, fingerprinted, photographed and her car cost $160 to reclaim from impound. In explaining why she didn't "respect" the police officer's demand, Merola said, "I guess I felt he wasn't a police officer. He wasn't there to help me, he was there to be mean to me." If only more people reached that moment of wisdom and, then, generalized it to the entire force."

From Wendy McElroy.

The Apotheosis of Ron Paul

I've wanted to comment on the recent revelations about the Ron Paul Newsletter, but I've been busy with school and being a host to my Brazilian cousin in the past week. I had heard of these newsletters awhile back, but was convinced that the staffer who wrote these racist remarks, which I had never read, was promptly fired, end of story. I've browsed for many years now, since I was in highschool, and aside from an article on immigration that I felt was extremely offensive (and I emailed Lew about) I haven't seen anything very objectionable printed. I find it unsettling that Lew Rockwell was apparently responsible for the newsletters and has not explained or apologized for them.

Unearthing these newsletters is not a smear, just journalism. This is newsworthy and I think libertarians ought to be grateful that it was Julian Sanchez and David Weigel who dug it up. I volunteered for the Ron Paul campaign, but the libertarian movement is more important than the campaign. Ron Paul seems like a great guy, someone everyone my age wants to be their grandpa, but ultimately I don't care about his campaign if there's any chance the movement will suffer in the long run because of it. For the sake of freedom and classical liberalism we should never fear facing the truth. Libertarian philosophy distinguishes itself from other political perspectives precisely because of its unique claim of moral highground. The Ron Paul campaign has been enormously successful in spreading libertarian ideas and I've seen, on the ground, the outlines of how the movement intends to spread politically. That is ultimately the important thing.

Don't drink the kool aid.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I Told You This Would Happen...

'Well, yesterday was interesting. My Hispanic cleaning lady told me that "she would like to be for Obama, but he's a dangerous Muslim." She was sure of it and had heard it on the radio many times. . .'

From Andrew Sullivan.

Eamon, Eco, Romo

Eamon relaxes on the couch with some Umberto Eco while Tony Romo plans next season in the background.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Give peace a chance.

So when Hillary Clinton is sworn in, can we all be friends again?

I've found it!!

I truly was not looking for things about me... I had googled "Lew Rockwell" to see what the top chatter was (for obvious reasons), and one of the first hits was Jonah Goldberg's "Farewell" piece in which he referred to me as a "no-talent ass-clown." Ahhhhh. I couldn't find this a week after it first ran, and assumed they took it down.

(BTW Jonah links to an article that is no longer up. When I entered the real world I asked that my angry young man articles be taken down to protect the innocent.)

No remodel

I stopped by to remodel the nearby Korean restaurant yesterday. It was dark and shuttered. The sign on the door said: Sorry, not open for remodel.

What's the next term?

Here's one of those sequence questions that testers love so much:

What is the next term of this sequence?

0, 1, 2, 8.252 x 10^2466, ...

Here, "10^2466" means "ten to the 2466th power." The corresponding term is necessarily slightly approximate, since it contains 2467 decimal digits.

Ugh! I've Had It

The final straw: "Last week, a statement was prepared by Ron Paul’s press secretary Jesse Benton, and approved by Ron Paul, acknowledging Lew Rockwell as having a role in the newsletters. The statement was squashed by campaign chairman Kent Snyder."

Man, Paul's behavior regarding these newsletters has been awful. His "I don't know who wrote these" is about as slippery as a politician can get. Everyone who was around libertarianism in the early 90s knows Lew was in charge of these and knows Rothbard and his crew were into race-baiting back then. (By the way, notice that the longer Lew has been away from Rothbard's influence, the more decent he's become? I personally have found him very affable, and I can't imagine him putting out material like this today. Just shows what hanging around Rothbard can do to you.)

Paul's got a decent message, but he's the wrong vehicle for delivering it.

Paul Performance

Ron Paul finished second in yesterday's Nevada caucuses with 14% of the vote. That's a great accomplishment on his part, and I'm happy he achieved it.

Still that is the highest level he will ever reach in a GOP primary. I said why that was so months ago: 2/3rds or 3/4trs of the GOP voters still largely back Bush's "war on terror." The best any candidate fundamentally at odds with that position can expect to poll among GOP voters is about 20%.

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, a state some nutjobs said Paul would "win in a landslide," or at least win, he got 4% of the vote.

But at least he still beat Giuliani.

Nice Device

I got on the elevator in my apartment building tonight and, for the first time, noticed a little sign below the floor buttons. The largest type on the sign read, "WARNING: Do not overload."

I think it's very nice of my elevator to offer me such helpful, succinct, personal advice.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Languages of Europe


(Hat tip to Radley Balko.)

Paul Paranoia

As I've said before, I think Paul is the best candidate we've seen in quite a while. But the level of paranoia displayed by some of his supporters is disturbing. When the MSM (mainstream media) said Paul had no chance to win, this was said to be an attempt to suppress his campaign. (Instead of just being the truth, which is, Paul has no chance of getting the GOP nomination.) He is doing better than they initially predicted, which is great.

But now that the media are acknowledging that, from Nick Bradley we get this: "Although Paul as at 9% in the latest ARG poll in nevada, a statistical tie for third pace, the AP is raising the bar as high as possibly can [sic] for Paul in Nevada -- they wouldn't want a top 3 finish in NV to be seen as a success. Now, the MSM can dismiss a 2nd or 3rd place finish by Paul in NV as a 'suprising [sic] disappointment,' not a 'surprising showing.'"

You see, if the MSM says Paul will do well, that is also an attempt to undermine his chances! In fact, if the MSM eats breakfast in the morning, that is part of a secret plot to portray Ron Paul as a racist!

But wait! Bradley himself writes, "And since low turnout is expected in Nevada, Paul could do very well."

Bradley is himself an MSM mole at LRC! They're coming to take me away, eeeh-ha!

Ya Gotta Have Faith

Great post from Roderick Long on the meaning of 'faith.'

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Digging Through the Photo Archives...

I liked these (click for a larger image):

Sunset at Valentino Pier in Brooklyn.

High noon at Park Place in Cardiff.

A distinguished looking fellow in Cardiff gets shit-faced.

Camilla Boisen hard at work in the research students' room at the Cardiff U. School of European Studies.

Boerum Hill and Park Slope in Brooklyn at sunset.

"Any Niggers in There?"

And other questions asked by the Chicago police.

(Hat tip to Radley Balko.)

Monday, January 14, 2008


CNN reports that new Spamalot cast member Clay Aiken said, "The first time I saw it I thought it was the stupidest thing I'd ever seen in my entire life."

Clay, your first impression was totally right. While CNN claims, "The show is based on the film 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail,'" that is true only if "based on" is taken to mean "is a gross, de-based bastardization of."

And look, I don't even think MP&THG is a great movie or anything. But at least it was genuinely funny at many points. Unlike Spamalot.

Ron Paul Christmas in Iowa/SC photos

Dan Johnson and Willian Thoburn showing fists of liberty in front of the Constitution Coach.

Jordan explains to us how to eat pizza and drink coke at the same time.

Dogtor Ron Paw and his entourage outside of our small HQ in Vilisca, Iowa.

Without internet, we could only catch up on news or watch youtube videos after someone went to town and downloaded everything first. We're probably watching Ron Paul on MSNBC here.

Dr. Paul talks to a crowd after the Iowa caucus results are announced. He stayed and shook everyone's hand. When things were settling down, I asked him for a story about Murray Rothbard. He told me before he decided to run for the first time, Rothbard was the first person he called. Rothbard was very excited about his running and gave him strong encouragement. We discussed his excommunication from Ayn Rand's circle and Ron Paul's seeing a Mises lecture, but only briefly. I also asked him if Rothbard and him had any arguments about anarchism, but he would only say that they "had some minor disagreements" and laughed.

Now in South Carolina, on the day of the debate, Ron Paul is walking through Broadway at the Beach, greeting people and walking in shops.

Posing for Mr. Republican.

Dr. Paul signs my constitution.

Shaking hands with Dr. Paul

Dr. Paul shaking hands with some friends from our camp and talking about the previous debate, about foreign policy and his rivals mimicking his message. He mentioned McCain's "make it 100" comment that he would later throw back at McCain during the debate.

Same conversation from my camera, Drew Dahlin and Zachariah Wiedemann. We all drove together from Iowa.

Zachariah's McCain impression.

Anarchists campaigning for Ron Paul

I'm recently back from an almost three week trip campaigning for Ron Paul. As a philosophical anarchist and defiantly proud non-voter, I should first state my reasons for going.

The United States government has grown into a tremendous beast. Nearly half of our wages and earnings are taxed before or while we spend it, our property, actions and decisions are ensnared in a dense and growing web of regulation and the loot taken from is used to finance destruction at home and abroad; I don't subscribe to the view that man is an island, common in libertarian circles due to the unfortunate influence of Ayn Rand.

The political world operates on an ideological track and an "activist" track. The American revolution was fought by men with an intense interest in the ideological foundations of liberty and men who were willing to act upon those ideals, fighting the British and eventually striving to set up a government in which our God-given rights would be practically preserved. Seven years ago, Bob Murphy audaciously predicted that 1% of the population would be market anarchists by 2007. Having talked with many "Ron Paul" revolutionaries, while that number has probably not yet been reached, it has surely gone up by many orders of magnitude, because of the political activism associated with Ron Paul's campaign. What we did in Iowa and later in South Carolina was rational evangelism, combined with political acumen. I met a number of market anarchists on the trip, many of whom did not believe there were so many. Add the number of people who are anarchists philosophically and there is definitely over 1% of the current population that are market anarchists. The ideological aspect of campaigning for Ron Paul is the strongest and most vibrant aspect of the campaign.

I do confess, however, that in the process of campaigning I got caught up in the politicking and began to get a little too optimistic about the short term possibilities. I still think it is possible for Ron Paul to get elected, but I think the groundwork has not yet been laid for it to be very likely. It's not even that we need a majority, because we don't, but a strong and tireless minority, of maybe 5%, to sow the critical brushfires of liberty.

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Callahan Pubs

"Reconciling Weber and Mises on Understanding Human Action," American Journal of Economics and Sociology.

“Ideal Types and the Historical Method,” Collingwood and British Idealism Studies, Vol. 13, No. 1, 2007. (Not yet online, but here's the journal web site.

Peaches' 85th Birthday

Our friend Peaches just had his 85th birthday. Anthony asked him what he wanted for his birthday, and he said, "A trip to Atlantic City."

The birthday boy reads The Onion while waiting for the van.

Inside the Tropicana.

Anthony, Peaches, Duke, Jamie and Steph at the table.

Peaches was greeted by cries of, "Dominick, where have you been?" when he reached the craps table. He sat down, bought $500 of chips, and went right to work, not budging from his seat for five hours.

Three desperados at the craps table: Elijah, Duke, and Jamie.

At this point, the casino shut me down, informing me that photography inside is illegal. The worry about photos seemed excessive, but not as excessive as what I would encounter a little later:

Jamie gets some health food on the way home.

Just after taking that photo, I was shut down for the second time, by the counter guy at KFC. He must have thought my photos would reveal the Colonel's secret recipe, or something. "If Osama can make KFC, the terrorists have already won!"

Back in the bar at the end of the day. Peaches came home $1900 richer than when he left, and bought rounds for the house.

Culture of Congestion

Check out my friend Sandy Ikeda's blog on urban issues at The New York Sun.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ron Paul's CNN Explanation

In the last post I said I might comment more on this, when I had more information and some perspective. But I will say that I think it looked a bit absurd for Ron Paul to say to Wolf Blitzer (part I and part II) that he had no idea who wrote those things. I am fully prepared to believe that he didn't write them himself; after all, it's not even his style. But that's all the more reason that he should have been really upset when it was brought to his attention, and at that point he certainly should've found out who was responsible.

Incidentally, I am glad Paul didn't name names. I think that would've appeared that he was trying to make a subordinate fall on the sword for his own (Paul's) political prospects. It's just that I think instead of saying he didn't know who wrote it--which makes it sound like either an obvious lie or that he really wasn't so bothered by those newsletters in the first place--he could've said something like this:

You know Wolf, this stuff is over a decade old. Yes, at the time of course I figured out who was writing this stuff, since I didn't agree with it and it was going out under my name. But I'm the one running for president; there would be no point in me subjecting someone else to these attacks. I take responsibility for what happened, it was an oversight on my part, but this is ancient history. My supporters know that I am the champion of the individual and abhor racism and all forms of collectivism. Let's please move on and discuss the real threats that black Americans and other minorities face today. Believe me Wolf, they're not endangered by my newsletters from 20 years ago!

Those Newsletters

I am still digesting all of this stuff; I may or may not comment on it later. In the meantime, though, I do want to bring up something that doesn't make sense. Presumably the timing of the TNR piece was no coincidence. And yet, if the goal were to handicap Paul in the NH primary, wouldn't it make sense to run the article on Monday the 7th, rather than Tuesday the 8th? If I were trying to sway voters, I would've built in a day for the URL to be emailed around, the media to pick up on it, etc.

Any thoughts?

I Defend Unions


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Brilliant Cooking Advice

On cooking couscous, from
"reduce heat to lowest setting, cover and cook (no peeking!) until liquid is absorbed"

And how the heck can you tell the liquid has been absorbed without looking?

I.e. versus e.g.

It is really annoying when someone confuses "i.e." with "e.g." If you are unsure, just say "in other words" for the former and "for example" for the latter. It really is important. When I read such dolts (i.e. those confusing the two) I want to take drastic measures (e.g. chew a NyQuil).

Those Biased, MSM Polls...

put Paul at between 8 and 10 percent in New Hampshire, and he actually got 8% -- maybe the MSM is biased in favor of Paul?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What good is religion?

Here is an interesting blog post about evolutionary explanations for religion. I just skimmed the comments, so maybe I missed it, but I do believe that not a single person suggested that people in all times and all regions of the world tend to believe in a higher power because...there exists a higher power.

As always, I'm not trying to make the case for theism in this short blog post. This is just another hilarious example of how really bright people overlook a very obvious point. (For an analogy, nobody would be puzzled at the "evolutionary advantage" of widespread belief in the heliocentric model. And note that for most people, belief in this model doesn't convey an advantage at all--even sailors don't really need to believe it in order to accurately steer.)

One last caveat: I realize there is a distinction between organized religion and faith in God. But the existence of God would certainly shed light on why so many people throughout human history have believed in Him.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Plugging the Lacuna in my SPR Argument

I earlier linked to an Investor's Business Daily op ed in which I called for privatizing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. In that article, I glossed over the exact incentives that would propel private speculators to stockpile oil above ground--rather than cause producers merely to slow their extraction in the present.

Well that hole has been plugged. You may now sleep better at night.

Friday, January 04, 2008

More on Rothbard's Made-Up History

I blogged a bit recently about Murray Rothbard's essay, "Down With Primitivism: A Thorough Critique of Polanyi," that periodically veers off into the ridiculous. In reviewing a book (referenced below), I was just struck by another problem in the text. Rothbard writes:

"Moreover, the life of the savage, as Hobbes put it, is 'nasty, brutish, and short.' His life expectancy is very short, and his life is ravaged by all manner of disease, disease that he can do nothing about except give food to witch doctors to utter incantations."

Oops! It turns out that the life span of a "savage" was about the same as that of the average Englishman in 1800, and the "savage" was far healthier, as shown by his greater height, and worked far less to achieve about the same level of material well-being. (Source: A Farewell to Alms by Gregory Clark.) But why let facts get in the way of scoring polemical points? And note the invocation of a fake authority to back the point -- what in the world did Hobbes, without the benefit of the succeeding 300 years of advances in our historical knowledge, know about the condition of "savages"?

And, of course, it turns out that primitive people have extensive knowledge of healing herbs and so on, and can do a lot more than "utter incantations" to cure diseases.

And, although I analyzed the following statement a bit in the earlier post mentioned above, its arrogance continues to gall me:

"First, it is absolutely illegitimate to do, as Polanyi does, and infer the history of pre-Western civilization from analysis of existing primitive tribes. Let us never forget that the existing primitive tribes are precisely the ones that didn’t progress—that remained in their primitive state. To infer from observing them that this is the way our ancestors behaved is nonsense—and apt to be the reverse of the truth, for our ancestors presumably behaved in ways which quickly advanced them beyond the primitive stage thousands of years ago."

1) Homo sapiens sapiens emerged at least 100,000 years ago. Agriculture began about 8,000 years ago.That means, far from "quickly advancing" beyond "the primitive stage," everyone's ancestors remained in that stage for most of our species' history.

2) Most people who switched from nomadism to agriculture did so through no perspicuity of their own, but because they happened to live next to someone else who had learned agriculture. For instance, there is no evidence that the ancestors of Rothbard or me ever invented agriculture independently.

3) And for those people who did invent it independently -- as far as we know, Near Easterners, the Chinese, West Africans, Meso-Americans, and New Guineans, with the Ethiopeans and Asian Indians as question marks -- it seems likely they did so under environmental pressures. Remember, settled life was a very bad deal until 1800, making all but the very rich worse off than most hunter-gatherers. You'd only make that deal from necessity.

Those Unscientific Polls...

turned out to be exactly right! Zogby polled Ron Paul at 10% in Iowa on the second, and, lo and behold, he got 10%. And all those charges of "MSM bias"? It turns out the MSM correctly perceived Paul as a minor candidate. The folks who have been trying to trick people into believing Paul could win -- and I don't mean Bob or John, I mean some senior libertarian figures -- have been saying "He'll surprise everyone in Iowa and show how wrong the MSM is!" Well, the MSM was saying "He might get third" -- I guess he "showed them" by finishing fifth, behind the dead on the podium Fred Thompson. So now those same people are saying "This is a great finish!"

Horseshit is horseshit even when it's in support of someone with whom I largely agree.

(Just to be clear: I wish there was some chance Paul could win -- but, as I said two months ago, there isn't any such chance.)

Thursday, January 03, 2008

BlueCross BlueShield: Drop Dead Murphys!

I am a consultant now so I had applied for an individual (family) health plan. My son has a heart murmur that has never required any treatment or medication; the doctors didn't even hear it until several months after he was born. This is an excerpt from the single sheet we got from BlueCross:

Dear Mr. Murphy,

Thank you for your application for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee individual health care coverage.

Unfortunately, we cannot approve Joel's request due to medical information provided. We terminated our underwriting process once we determined that the following would result in our declining coverage:

Medical records document that Joel has been diagnosed with congenital infundibular pulmonic stenosis.

However, should the need arise, BlueCross and BlueShield reserves the right to continue the underwriting process and possibly cite other conditions as grounds for declining coverage.

I realize there are probably BS government regulations that make this profitable for them (rather than, say, offering a policy with a rider excluding his condition, or charging me higher premiums), but even so, that letter is outrageous. Did they have a contest for who could write the most insulting, infuriating letter to potential clients?

Article on Frum, Interview on Anarchy

Today's article continues my spat with David Frum over the gold standard. And I forgot to post this interview from Thanksgiving on "The Political Cesspool" radio show. I think I had had some wine by that point in the night, so my answers come from strange angles sometimes.

Iowa Update; South Carolina

Our group has been sequestered from the internet, in the boondocks, for the last week. I only have a couple minutes to post an update. The caucus is tonight and there's a strange energy in the air. On the ground everything looks positive, though the media, even locally, is not giving Paul the credit he deserves. There may be a lot of talk about the "surprise" in Iowa, but on the ground there are high expectations and we should not be surprised.

There is a good article on the Ron Paul students at The New Republic, if someone can find it, if you're curious about what's happening. After this, I'm headed to South Carolina with some other Ron Paul Republicans (and a few anarchists) for their analogous student efforts. I started out a skeptic, even when Dr. Paul was doing well, but I'm beginning to think it could be possible. Apparently even Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are starting to feel the strength and truth behind the Ron Paul revolution...

He's catching on, I'm telling you!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The First Day of a New Smoking Ban in Portugal...

the chief enforcer of the ban breaks it.

No Advance to Report

I have carpal tunnel, and typing is painful for me. Thus, every five years I try voice recognition software. It has always proved more painful than typing.

This semi-decades attempt was with iListen, supposedly the best Mac voice recognition out there. I did a half an hour of training, and the software tells me we're good to go.

I open a Word document and say, "A farewell to alms" -- the title of a book I'm reviewing. On screen appears "they have yet to evolve as"! The software achieved a match rate of 0%, a truly remarkable achievement.

UPDATE: A sentence after some additional training: "Aspects of libertarianism utilitarian signed the Senate haunted concrete check fee to tyranny cite and thing he has narrow concept the is the contending that rest, nation the to Mr. respect utility, such matters still true strictly is for and true eans this would be."

Reading Between the Lines

Walter Mead writes:
"For the past few centuries, a global economic and political system has been slowly taking shape under first British and then American leadership. As a vital element of that system, the leading global power -- with help from allies and other parties -- maintains the security of world trade over the seas and air while also ensuring that international economic transactions take place in an orderly way. Thanks to the American umbrella, Germany, Japan, China, Korea and India do not need to maintain the military strength to project forces into the Middle East to defend their access to energy. Nor must each country's navy protect the supertankers carrying oil and liquefied national gas (LNG).

"For this system to work, the Americans must prevent any power from dominating the Persian Gulf while retaining the ability to protect the safe passage of ships through its waters. The Soviets had to be kept out during the Cold War, and the security and independence of the oil sheikdoms had to be protected from ambitious Arab leaders like Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and Iraq's Saddam Hussein. During the Cold War Americans forged alliances with Turkey, Israel and (until 1979) Iran, three non-Arab states that had their own reasons for opposing both the Soviets and any pan-Arab state.

"When the fall of the shah of Iran turned a key regional ally into an implacable foe, the U.S. responded by tightening its relations with both Israel and Turkey -- while developing a deeper relationship with Egypt, which had given up on Nasser's goal of unifying all the Arabs under its flag.

"Today the U.S. is building a coalition against Iran's drive for power in the Gulf. Israel, a country which has its own reasons for opposing Iran, remains an important component in the American strategy, but the U.S. must also manage the political costs of this relationship as it works with the Sunni Arab states. American opposition to Iran's nuclear program not only reflects concerns about Israeli security and the possibility that Iran might supply terrorist groups with nuclear materials. It also reflects the U.S. interest in protecting its ability to project conventional forces into the Gulf.

"The end of America's ability to safeguard the Gulf and the trade routes around it would be enormously damaging -- and not just to us."

My corrected version of Mead's text:

For the past few centuries, a global economic and political system has been slowly taking shape under first British and then American leadership. As a vital element of that system, the leading global power controls world trade over the seas and air while also ensuring that international economic transactions take place in a way that profits it. Thanks to the American umbrella, Germany, Japan, China, Korea and India are not allowed to maintain the military strength to project forces into the Middle East to defend their access to energy. Nor can each country's navy protect the supertankers carrying oil and liquefied national gas (LNG).

For this system to work to our advantage, the Americans must prevent any power except themselves from dominating the Persian Gulf while retaining the ability to protect the safe passage of ships through its waters. The Soviets had to be kept out during the Cold War, and the authoritarian rule of petty despots over the oil sheikdoms so that their families can plunder the national treasury for their Swiss bank accounts had to be protected from ambitious Arab leaders like Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and Iraq's Saddam Hussein. In fact, Iran can't be allowed to "project force" into its own waterways!

Today the U.S. is building a coalition against Iran's drive for power in its own backyard, where only we are allowed to have power.... American opposition to Iran's nuclear program not only reflects paranoia about Israeli security and the fantasy that Iran might supply terrorist groups with nuclear materials. It also reflects the U.S. interest in protecting its ability to run the world.

The end of America's ability to safeguard the Gulf and the trade routes around it would be enormously damaging — and not just to us WSJ op-ed writers! It will also be very damaging to US oil company executives, and Republicans everywhere.

Zeno for the computer age

If you wish to better understand Zeno's worry about the continuum, you could do worse than to consider loops in software. Case 1: You...