27 December 2007

The Carter News Network?

CNN headlines its summary of the presidential candidates' statements on Bhutto's assassination, "Assassination shocks, outrages U.S. presidential candidates." This actually would be reminiscent of Jimmy Carter, who was shocked that the USSR would invade Afghanistan. Who would have thought they'd be capable of such thing?

To the credit of most of the candidates, only two said that they were shocked, Obama and Dodd. These are, I'm sure, the two candidates most likely to claim the mantel of Jimmy Carter.

One World

I enjoyed this video of Australian aboriginals doing their interpretation of Zorba's dance from Zorba the Greek.

People reached Australia about 50,000 years ago. Zorba was made in 1964 in Crete. Basketball was invented in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891. Here we have a video of aboriginal people dancing to Zorba's theme in front of a basketball hoop.

Does He Have A Mouse In His Pocket?

I have no no strong or learned reaction to the Bhutto assassination. I do have a strong reaction to Mike Huckabee's reaction, though:
With about 150 supporters crowded around a podium set up on the tarmac of Orlando Executive airport (and about 20 Ron Paul supporters waving signs outside) Mike Huckabee strode out to the strains of "Right Now" by Van Halen and immediately addressed the Bhutto situation, expressing "our sincere concern and apologies for what has happened in Pakistan."
I do get that Americans are the new Jews and thus everything bad that happens is our fault, but why exactly are "we" apologizing to Pakistan? Instapundit says that Huckabee is Jimmy Carter, but I don't remember Carter apologizing to Afghanistan because the Russians invaded. I don't remember him apologizing to Egypt because some fundy wackjobs killed Sadat.

Huckabee -- a bigger doormat than Jimmy Carter.

25 December 2007

Christmas Wishes

As we finish out the year, let's keep an eye on icasualties.org, which tracks coalition military fatalities in Iraq. Through this morning, there have been 17 military fatalities this month, with 11 of those due to hostile action. If this trend continues through the end of the month, December will have the lowest fatality rate of any month since the invasion.

We should all take a few minutes to thank, if only in our hearts, the 4204 coalition soldiers, sailors and marines who have fallen in the liberation of Iraq, those who were seriously wounded and their families. Those of us who are able to do so, and particularly those of us who have supported the war from the beginning, might want to consider making our thanks somewhat more tangible. Here is one list of charities that will make efficient use of donations.

Have You Ever Noticed

That it's hard to find staples at Staples because everything is labeled "STAPLES?"

Winning Is Losing

Welcome to the 'Don't Divorce Me Club' (Kyung Lah, CNN, 12/24/07)
In the corner of a small Japanese restaurant, a dozen dark suited businessmen gathered at a large table.

A Japanese couple walk through a park filled with cherry blossoms in Tokyo.

Smoke hovered over the dinner and beer disappeared as quickly as it was poured.

At first glance, it looked like a typical Friday night post-work scene played out all over Tokyo's taverns.

But then your eyes stop on a poster-sized sign propped up next to one of the middle-aged men. It reads:

Three Golden Rules of Love:

• Thank you (say it without hesitation)

• I am sorry (say it without fear)

• I love you (say it without embarrassment)

All the men at the table stood up. Equally spaced out and still wearing their stiff black suits, they chanted in unison, "I can't win! I won't win! I don't want to win!"
Of course, losing is also losing, but at least this way you can say that you lost intentionally.

Merry Christmas

To those of you who believe in that sort of thing (which, oddly, includes most of you who claim to believe in nothing at all of the sort). For you, our traditional Christmas Carol:

We three Dunnoist bloggers are;
On Christmas we sit at the bar,
Gin and tonic, so ironic,
Rubbishing Jehovah.


O stars of gases, fusion displays,
Stars, a source of gamma rays,
Nowhere leading, us unheeding,
Wholly natural displays.

Born a primate on Africa’s veldt
Born a monkey without a pelt,
Despite endeavor, die forever,
Even in the Bible belt.


Received wisdom I decry,
My own reason I live by.
Prayer and praising, just navel gazing,
Better to worship π.


Religions are all the same to me,
Just an excuse for bigotry,
Hating, lying, killing, dying,
Blinding the bourgeoisie.


Glorious now behold Us rise;
From the muck we’ve made us wise.
Alleluia, Alleluia,
We deserve the Nobel Prize.


23 December 2007

Movie Views

We went to see I Am Legend today. It's well worth seeing albeit unrelievedly bleak; the bleakest mainstream Hollywood movie I've ever seen. It's even religious.

But it's also the first movie I know of that takes the position that what the world really needs is 6 billion fewer humans, more or less. There is, at the end, in the background a perfect Gaian touch that will unite religious and environmental zealots in wishful sighs.

21 December 2007

Crimes and Cover-Ups

Ever since Watergate, we've been told that "it's not the crime, it's the cover-up," meaning that we could forgive the President breaking into the Democratic campaign headquarters, or Monica Lewinski, if only he hadn't lied about it. Everyone's heard this advice, hardly anyone follows it.

Right now, though, we're being treated to a particularly interesting controlled experiment testing this theory. Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds both took anabolic steroids in violation of law and the rules of baseball. Giambi more or less confessed and came clean. He was voted the come-back player of the year two seasons ago and continues to pursue a lucrative baseball career.

Barry Bonds is screwed.

So at least in this instance, this advice turns out to be good. It's better to confess than to cover-up. It might work particularly well in this case. "Confessing" was embarrassing for Giambi, but he wasn't in any danger of going to jail and not in serious danger of incurring severe penalties from baseball. Lying to grand jury, on the other hand, is very bad if you get caught. Even if Bonds isn't convicted, we'd have to say that he's in worse shape than Giambi.

Why don't people follow this advice. Maybe their stupid or evil. But I think that they're just loss averse. Loss aversion is one way in which people are, in the economic sense of the term, irrational: we are risk averse to gains but risk preferring when it comes to losses. If you ask people whether they'd rather have $500 outright or a 50% shot at $1010, most people will just take the $500. We're risk averse. On the other hand, if you ask people whether they would rather just pay $500 or take a 50% shot at paying $1010, most people will take the bet. We're loss averse and our loss aversion outweighs our risk aversion. (Cognoscenti will recognize the work of Kahneman & Tversky in this hypothetical.)

Barry Bonds, faced with the choice between certain embarrassment immediately or a relatively small chance of severe legal penalties in the future, chose the latter. He's loss averse.

20 December 2007

11 December 2007

I Know I've Been Busy...

Fears of al-Qaida link as blasts kill up to 67 (Ian Black, The Guardian, 12/10/07)
Two car bomb blasts, one a suicide bombing, killed dozens of people in Algiers yesterday, fuelling fears of a north Africa-wide al-Qaida front targeting national and international interests.

The near simultaneous attacks at the end of the morning rush hour were believed to be Algeria's deadliest, with as many as 67 people killed.
...But I'm surprised I missed our invasion of Algeria.

04 December 2007

As Long As It's Not For Your Children

Want to Go 'Green'? Stay Married: Divorced Households Have Negative Impact on Environment, Study Finds (Ashley Phillips, ABC News, 12/3/07)
Environmentalists who are thinking of getting a divorce may want to reconsider, a new study at Michigan State University finds.

Households in which a divorce occurs have a greater negative impact on the environment in terms of efficient use of resources than the households of married couples, according to research that will be published this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The reason is simple — it's all about efficiency, says Jianguo Liu, lead author of the study who has the Rachel Carson chair in ecological sustainability at the university's department of fisheries and wildlife.
We've known for a while that children of divorce do worse on a host of measures than children whose parents don't divorce. What do people determined to divorce do about that fact? They lie to themselves about it: they just want me to be happy. This always raises the question, have these people ever met a child? Anyway, people are just perverse enough to choose divorce in spite of their own children but avoid divorce "for the children." Soon the Greens start lobbying to get rid of no-fault divorce?

There was, of course, the woman in the news recently for having chosen sterilization "for the children." Apparently she needn't have bothered; two or three can live as (carbon) cheaply as one. And if the one's Al Gore, it's apparently two or three hundred.

17 November 2007

Darwin Disproved?

I've been amused by the complete lack of discussion, in all the usual places, of this experiment. To summarize, in 2004, geneticists found some fairly long stretches of DNA that are identical among humans, rats and mice. This means that these genes have not been subject to any viable copying errors or mutations over millions of years. Since as far as we know all genes are equally subject to change, that would seem to indicate that these genes do something rather important such that any change is selected out. Because genes that important must to something interesting, scientists excised them out of some lab mice to see what they would get. What they got was, so far as they could tell, perfectly normal mice. The ultraconserved genes don't seem to do anything at all.

To put it in a nutshell, if this is right than the theory of natural selection has to be wrong. One experiment is obviously not enough to bring us to that conclusion and yet we might want to get ready for the possibility that one of the pillars of modern thought is about to come crashing down.

10 November 2007

But Can They Duplicate That Sweet, Sweet Guilty Aftertaste?

Seattle soda-maker promises ham flavor will be kosher (AP)
Jones Soda Co., the Seattle-based purveyor of offbeat fizzy water, said Friday that it was shelving its traditional seasonal flavors of turkey and gravy this year to produce limited-edition theme packs for Christmas and Hanukkah.

The Christmas pack will feature such flavors as Sugar Plum, Christmas Tree, Egg Nog and Christmas Ham. The Hanukkah pack will have Jelly Doughnut, Apple Sauce, Chocolate Coins and Latkes sodas.

"As always, both packs are kosher and contain zero caffeine," a Jones news release noted.
The rules for land animals are simple: Jews can eat them if they have a completely split hoof and chew their cud. Pigs have split hooves but don't chew their cuds. Jews being Jews, we're already arguing about whether a pig genetically engineered to chew its cud would be kosher.

05 November 2007

Shakespeare and Relgion

The poet's basic Christianity is very beautifully expressed in Measure for Measure, where the genuinely saintly Isabella reminds Angelo, the self-righteous Pillar of Society, of the divine scheme of redemption and of the ethical consequences which ought to flow from its acceptance as an article of faith-ought to flow but, alas, generally do not flow!
Alas, alas!
Why, all the souls that were were forfeit once;
And He that might the vantage best have took
Found out the remedy. How would you be,
If He, which is the top of judgement, should
But judge you as you are? O, think on that;
And mercy then will breathe within your lips,
Like man new-made.
These lines, I would say, express very clearly the essence of Shakespeare's Christianity. But the essence of Christianity can assume a wide variety of denominational forms. The Reverend Richard Davies, a clergyman who flourished toward the end of the seventeenth century, declared categorically that Shakespeare had "died a papist." There is no corroborative evidence of this, and it seems on the face of it unlikely; but almost anything is possible, especially on a death-bed. What is certain is that Shakespeare did not live a papist; for, if he had, he would have found himself in chronic and serious trouble with the law, and vehemently suspected of treason.... (The casuists of the Roman curia had let it be known that the assassination of the heretic Queen Elizabeth would not be a sin; on the contrary, it would be registered in the murderer's credit column as a merit.) There is, therefore, every reason to suppose that Shakespeare lived a member of the Church of England. However, the theology which finds expression in his plays is by no means consistently Protestant. Purgatory has no place in the Protestant world-picture, but in Hamlet and in Measure for Measure the existence of Purgatory is taken for granted.
I am thy father's spirit, says the Ghost to Hamlet,
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confin'd to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purg'd away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul;
freeze thy young blood;
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start
from their spheres....
In Measure for Measure, Claudio gives utterance to the same fears. Death is terrible not only in its physical aspects, but also and above all because of the awful menace of Purgatory.
Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison'd in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendent world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and incertain thoughts
Imagine howling! 'tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature, is a. paradise
To what we fear of death.
In King Lear, the poet presents us with another world-picture that is neither Catholic nor Protestant. Purgatory exists, but not hereafter. Purgatory is here and now.
I am bound
Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears
Do scald like molten lead..........
Whatever else he may have been, Shakespeare was not a precursor of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Indeed, during the years of his artistic maturity-the years that witnessed the production of Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, and King Lear, he would seem to have passed through a spiritual crisis that made any facile kind of positive thinking or positive feeling impossible.

-- Aldous Huxley

The National Pixie Counsel Strikes Back

Of all the dumb things people I disagree with say -- obviously, an innumerable list -- this may be the agonizing nails on the chalkboard worst:
Fighting Talk [John Derbyshire]

David: Is it really correct to call Ron Paul an "anti-war" candidate? He's not against war, which is what "anti-war" means; nor even against this Iraq war, which is what we all suppose it means in today's context. He just thinks that the U.S.A. ought not go to war without a declaration of war from Congress. Which is, after all, what the Constitution says.
Here's what the Constitution actually says:
Article I, Section 8: The Congress shall have power ... To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.
It does not say that "Congress shall have the power to invoke the powers of our dark Lord by enacting the ritual words of power 'The United States hereby declares war.'" Congress has authorized every war we've been it; it has recognized it, funded it, passed resolutions about it and threatened to walk away from it. It has declared war in every sense but the ritual (other than in five specific cases). When the Framers wanted officials to use a particular form of words, they said so; what they wanted from the war powers clause was to make clear that Congress must agree to our waging a war. When Congress makes clear it does agree, by, say, authorizing the use of force in advance of the war, it is silly and childish to suggest that it hasn't done what the Constitution requires.

04 November 2007

Total Number Of Natural Resources Exhausted During All Of Recorded History?

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have discovered metal-rich sedimentary deposits in a New Hampshire lake that grow faster than any other deposits found in the United States. Understanding the environmental conditions that aid in the creation of the structures, which contain copper, iron and other heavy metals, could be helpful in discovering new metal sources.

01 November 2007

That's Two

The American Prospect argues for abolishing the Air Force, an argument that the Secret Blog has also made. Hard to imagine this juggernaut being stopped....

21 October 2007

If we wanted to do something about global warming, we would.

We are committing the fallacy of composition when we argue from the premise that every man can decide how he will act to the conclusion that the human race can decide how it will act (for example, with regard to the rate of increase of population or the choice between war and peace).... This, or a similar fallacy, is committed whenever we assume, without adequate reason, that we can speak about groups in the same ways in which we can speak about their members, that we can spedak of a nation having a will or interests.... Of course, it may be possible to do this; there may be predicates applicable (in the same sense) to a group and to his members, but this cannot be assumed without evidence. It may also be possible to introduce a different but useful sense in which a predicate normally applied to individuals may be applied to a group; but if so, the new sense must be explained.
J.L. Mackie, "Fallacie," p. 173, as quoted in Hardin, Collective Action (1982), p.1.

06 October 2007

To Bedevil Naive Darwinists?

Purpose of appendix believed found (AP, 10/6/07)
Some scientists think they have figured out the real job of the troublesome and seemingly useless appendix: It produces and protects good germs for your gut.

That's the theory from surgeons and immunologists at Duke University Medical School, published online in a scientific journal this week.
"Purpose," huh? Nobody here but us teleologists.

04 October 2007

Trees, Meet Forest.

Student takes his C to federal court: Judge dismisses suit against UMass (Jonathan Saltzman, Boston Globe, 10/4/07)
Marquis, a 51-year-old paralegal seeking bachelor's degrees in legal studies and sociology, filed a 15-count lawsuit in US District Court in Springfield in January after a teaching assistant graded a political philosophy class on a curve and turned Marquis's A-minus into a C. Marquis contends that the university violated his civil rights and contractual rights and intentionally inflicted "emotional distress."

Marquis - who salts his comments with "strike that" - acknowledged he was alarmed the C might lower his grade point average and make him less attractive to a law school.
But suing over a grade doesn't make you less attractive to law schools?

03 October 2007

Have You Ever Taken A Series Of Logical Steps

Secessionists meeting in Tennessee (Bill Poovey, AP, 10/3/07)
Separated by hundreds of miles and divergent political philosophies, the Middlebury Institute and the League of the South are hosting a two-day Secessionist Convention starting Wednesday in Chattanooga.
... only to end up in Transylvania?

29 September 2007

"Organizations are mental entities capable of thought."

Like any self-respecting suitor for the reader's favor, we begin by making explicit our intentions. Our aim in this essay is to examine an idea that, although generally familiar, as not been developed in sufficient detail to permit its considered use in the theory of organization. This is the idea that organizations are mental entities capable of thought. In short, we wish to make what we can of the idea that organizations are minds....

[P]ragmatists ... define mind as being present wherever ideas are found within the matrix of the natural and social world. Mind is not so much a substance with intellective powers as it is a process of forming ideas.... Clearly distinguished from the concept of mind is the concept of brain.... Also to be distinguished from the concept of mind is the concept of intelligence. Intelligence is the ability to maintain a working similarity between mind and nature.
Sandelands and Stablein, The Concept of Organization Mind, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, vol. 5, pp. 135-161 (1987).

15 September 2007

We're Never Our Own Worst Critics

From the Wall Street Journal review of Alan Greenspan's new memoir:
In "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World," published by Penguin Press, Mr. Greenspan criticizes both congressional Republicans and President George W. Bush for abandoning fiscal discipline.

The book is scheduled for public release Monday. The Wall Street Journal bought a copy at a bookstore in the New York area.

Mr. Greenspan, who calls himself a "lifelong libertarian Republican," writes that he advised the White House to veto some bills to curb "out-of-control" spending while the Republicans controlled Congress. He says President Bush's failure to do so "was a major mistake." Republicans in Congress, he writes, "swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose."

Many economists say the Fed, by cutting short-term interest rates to 1% in mid-2003 and keeping them there for a year, helped foster a housing bubble that is now bursting. In his book, which was largely written before much of the recent turmoil in credit markets, Mr. Greenspan defends the policy. "We wanted to shut down the possibility of corrosive deflation," he writes. "We were willing to chance that by cutting rates we might foster a bubble, an inflationary boom of some sort, which we would subsequently have to address....It was a decision done right."
I'm not a libertarian Republican (although I do have occasional intrusive libertarian impulses) and I'm copacetic with several of the big spending bills that I'm sure Mr. Greenspan opposed. Nor do I think that a bad policy becomes good because it's cheap. But I agree with Mr. Greenspan that the Republican Congress was corrupted so that it started to look exactly like a Democratic Congress. I don't know, though, that that was why the Republicans lost last year or what improvement there could be in changing a Republican Congress for a Democratic one.

But note the different ways Mr. Greenspan approaches the tough decisions he had to make, balancing benefits and costs, with his bright-line approach to criticizing Congress and the President. Politics, and life for that matter, are the art of compromise. Criticism is the assumption of perfection.

14 September 2007

My Fortune, She Is Made

Dear Sir/Madam,

Please can I have your attention for a moment? Would you
like to work online from home/temporarily and get paid weekly? Our
Company M & N Incorporation plc is a company based in Uk and we are into
Manufactures of Fabrics and Textiles with numerous customers home and
abroad. We produce various clothing materials, batiks, assorted
fabrics and traditional costume you will be glad with our produces. We
need a representative in the states who will be in charge of all our
payment from the United States clients/customers.

Because most of our customer from the states pay through certified
cheque, cashier cheques, money order and Credit cards which are not
negotiable here in UK? This brings our quest to employ a credible and trustworthy
fellow as our representative to handle our payments. This would not
affect your present job but serve as another stream of income to your
good self. Being our representative and assisting us in processing the
payments from our clients,we will pay you weekly salary and shall earn
about 10% of every payment you assist us with because due to the fact
that we cant cash the US Credit card, money order upon receipt here in
the UK immediately, in the past we have lose about 75,000 USD of net income
each month because of money transfer delays. Your task is to
coordinate payments from customers and help us with the payment
process. You are not involved in any sales. Our sales manager sells
An "A" for concept, but a "C-" for execution.

10 September 2007

We Remember

Photo courtesy Ann Althouse.

Professor Althouse says that this is a mournful glow. I have to admit that I don't see that.

04 September 2007

They Really Do Think We're Stupid

From the Des Moines Register:
God's will is for Iowa to have the first-in-the-nation caucus, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson told a crowd here Monday.

"Iowa, for good reason, for constitutional reasons, for reasons related to the Lord, should be the first caucus and primary," Richardson, New Mexico's governor, said at the Northwest Iowa Labor Council Picnic. "And I want you to know who was the first candidate to sign a pledge not to campaign anywhere if they got ahead of Iowa. It was Bill Richardson."

Several people in the crowd snickered after Richardson made the comment.

03 September 2007

Schism, Not Atheism

Christopher Hitchens, discussing Mother Teresa's dark night of the soul:
She tried her best to believe. Her atheism was not like mine. I can‘t believe it and I am glad to think that it is not true, that there is a dictator in the heavens. So the fact that there is no evidence for it pleases me.
Hitchens couldn't be any clearer that his atheism is not the result of firm materialism, but stems from his politics. He can't accept "a dictator in the heavens."

30 August 2007

Do All Dogs ...

Find wheels to be an offense against G-d and nature, or just mine?

29 August 2007

Hey There, Socialist

Originally, I was going to write a post about how the United States in 2007 is the Socialist utopia, as seen from 1900 -- and that's all true. But then I ran across the Socialist Party platform of 1916 and, although we're all socialists now, one party has clearly out done the other in boldly grabbing the mantle of the turn of the last century Socialist Party:
Socialist Platform of 1916

In the midst of the greatest crisis and bloodiest struggle of all history the socialist party of America re-affirms its steadfast adherence to the principles of international brotherhood, world peace and industrial democracy.

The great war which has engulfed so much of civilization and destroyed millions of lives is one of the natural results of the capitalist system of production.

The socialist party, as the political expression of the economic interests of the working class, calls upon them to take a determined stand on the question of militarism and war, and to recognize the opportunity which the great war has given them of forcing disarmament and furthering the cause of industrial freedom.

An armed force in the hands of the ruling class serves two purposes: to protect and further the policy of imperialism abroad and to silence by force the protest of the workers against industrial despotism at home. Imperialism and militarism plunged Europe into this world war. America's geographical and industrial situation has kept her out of the cataclysm. But Europe's extremity has been the opportunity of America's ruling class to amass enormous profits. As a result there is a surfeit of capital which demands the policy of imperialism to protect and further investments abroad. Hence the frenzy of militarism into which the ruling class has made every attempt to force the United States.

The workers in Europe were helpless to avert the war because they were already saddled with the burden of militarism. The workers of the United States are yet free from this burden and have the opportunity of establishing a working class policy and program against war. They can compel the government of the United States to lead the way in an international movement for disarmament and to abandon the policy of imperialism which is forcing the conquest of Mexico and must, if carried out, eventually plunge the United States into a world war.

The working class must recognize the cry of preparedness against foreign invasion as a mere cloak for the sinister purpose of imperialism abroad and industrial tyranny at home. The class struggle, like capitalism, is international. The proletariat of the world has but one enemy, the capitalist class, whether at home or abroad. We must refuse to put into the hands of this enemy an armed force even under the guise of a "democratic army," as the workers of Australia and Switzerland have done.

Therefore the socialist party stands opposed to military preparedness, to any appropriations of men or money for war or militarism, while control of such forces through the political state rests in the hands of the capitalist class. The socialist party stands committed to the class war, and urges upon the workers in the mines and forests, on the railways and ships, in factories and fields, the use of their economic and industrial power, by refusing to mine the coal, to transport soldiers, to furnish food or other supplies for military purposes, and thus keep out of the hands of the ruling class the control of armed forces and economic power, necessary for aggression abroad and industrial despotism at home.

The working class must recognize militarism as the greatest menace to all efforts toward industrial freedom, and regardless of political or industrial affiliations must present a united front in the fight against preparedness and militarism.

Hideous as they are, the horrors of the far-stretched battle field of the old world are dwarfed by the evil results of the capitalist system, even in normal times. Instead of being organized to provide all members of society with an abundance of food, clothing and shelter, and the highest attainable freedom and culture, industry is at present organized and conducted for the benefit of a parasite class. All the powers of government and all our industrial genius are directed to the end of securing to the relatively small class of capital investors the largest amount of profits which can be wrung from the labor of the ever-increasing class whose only property is muscle and brain, manual and mental labor power.

The dire consequences of this system are everywhere apparent. The workers are oppressed and deprived of much that makes for physical, mental and moral well-being. Year by year poverty and industrial accidents destroy more lives than all the armies and navies in the world.

To preserve their privilege and power is the most vital interest of the possessing class, while it is the most vital interest of the working class to resist oppression, improve its position and struggle to obtain security of life and liberty. Hence there exists a conflict of interests, a social war within the nation, which can know neither truce nor compromise. So long as the few own and control the economic life of the nation the many must be enslaved, poverty must coexist with riotous luxury and civil strife prevail.

The socialist party would end these conditions by reorganizing the life of the nation upon the basis of socialism. Socialism would not abolish private property, but greatly extend it. We believe that every human being should have and own all the things which he can use to advantage, for the enrichment of his own life, without imposing disadvantage or burden upon any other human being. Socialism admits the private ownership and individual direction of all things, tools, economic processes and functions which are individualistic in character, and requires the collective ownership and democratic control and direction of those which are social or collectivistic in character.

We hold that this country cannot enjoy happiness and prosperity at home and maintain lasting peace with other nations so long as its industrial wealth is monopolized by a capitalist oligarchy. In this, as in every other campaign, all special issues arising from temporary situations, whether domestic or foreign, must be subordinated to the major issue—the need of such are organization of our economic life as will remove the land, the mines, forests, railroads, mill and factories, all the things required for our physical existence, from the clutches of industrial and financial freebooters and place them securely and permanently in the hands of the people.

If men were free to labor to satisfy their desires there could be in this country neither poverty nor involuntary unemployment. But the men in this country are not free to labor to satisfy their desires. The great industrial population can labor only when the capitalist class who own the industries believe they can market their product at a profit. The needs of millions are subordinated to the greeds of a few. The situation is not unlike that of a pyramid balanced upon its apex. Oftentimes this pyramid tumbles and industrial depression comes. There was such a crash in 1907. If the capitalist owners had been willing to get out of the way, industry could have been revived in a day. But the capitalist owners are never willing to get out of the way. Their greeds come first—the people's needs, if at all, afterwards. Therefore, business did not quickly revive after the industrial depression in 1907. Mr. Taft was elected to bring good times, but in four years failed to bring them. Mr. Wilson was elected to bring good times, but not all of the measures he advocated had the slightest effect upon industry. The European war has brought to this country tremendous orders for military supplies and has created a period of prosperity for the few. For the masses of the people there is but an opportunity to work hard for a bare living, which is not prosperity, but slavery. As against the boast of the present national administration that its political program, now fully in force, had brought prosperity to the masses, we call attention to the statement of the federal public health service that $800 is required a year to enable a family to avoid physical deterioration through lack of decent living conditions, that more than half of the families of working men receive less than that amount, that nearly a third receive less than $500 a year, and that one family in twelve received less than $300 a year.

The capitalist class for a great many years has been trying to saddle upon this country a great army and a greater navy. A greater army is desired to keep the working class of the United States in subjection. A greater navy is desired to safeguard the foreign investments of American capitalists and to "back-up" American diplomacy in its efforts to gain foreign markets for American capitalists. The war in Europe, which diminished and is still diminishing the remote possibility of European attack upon the United States, was nevertheless seized upon by capitalists and by unscrupulous politicians as a means of spreading fear throughout the country, to the end that, by false pretenses, great military establishments might be obtained. We denounce such "preparedness" as both false in principle, unnecessary in character and dangerous in its plain tendencies toward militarism. We advocate that sort of social preparedness which expresses itself in better homes, better bodies and better minds, which are alike the products of plenty and the necessity of effective defense in war.

The socialist party maintains its attitude of unalterable opposition to war.

We reiterate the statement that the competitive nature of capitalism is the cause of modern war and that the co-operative nature of socialism is alone adapted to the task of ending war by removing its causes. We assert, however, that, even under the present capitalist order, additional measures can be taken to safeguard peace, and to this end we demand:

Measures to Insure Peace

1. That all laws and appropriations for the increase of the military and naval forces of the United States shall be immediately repealed.

2. That the power be taken from the president to lead the nation into a position which leaves no escape from war. No one man, however exalted in official station, should have the power to decide the question of peace or war for a nation of a hundred millions. To give one man such power is neither democratic nor safe. Yet the president exercises such power when he determines what shall be the nation's foreign policies and what shall be the nature and tone of its diplomatic intercourse with other nations. We, therefore, demand that the power to fix foreign policies and conduct diplomatic negotiations shall be lodged in congress and shall be exercised publicly, the people reserving the right to order congress, at any time, to change its foreign policy.

3. That no war shall be declared or waged by the United States without a referendum vote of the entire people, except for the purpose of repelling invasion.

4. That the Monroe doctrine shall be immediately abandoned as a danger so great that even its advocates are agreed that it constitutes perhaps our greatest single danger of war. The Monroe doctrine was originally intended to safeguard the peace of the United States. Though the doctrine has changed from a safeguard to a menace, the capitalist class still defends it for the reason that our great Capitalists desire to retain South and Central America as their private trade preserve. We favor the cultivation of social, industrial and political friendship with all other nations in the western hemisphere, as an approach to a world confederation of nations, but we oppose the Monroe doctrine because it takes from our hands the peace of America and places it in the custody of any nation, that would attack the sovereignty of any state in the western world.

5. That the independence of the Philippine Islands be immediately recognized as a measure of justice both to the Philippines and to ourselves. The Filipinos are entitled to self-government, we are entitled to be freed from the necessity of building and maintaining enough dreadnoughts to defend them in the event of war.

6. The government of the United States shall call a congress of all neutral nations to mediate between the belligerent powers in an effort to establish an immediate and lasting peace without indemnities or forcible annexation of territory and based on a binding and enforcible international treaty, which shall provide for concerted disarmament on land and at sea and for an international congress with power to adjust all disputes between nations and which shall guarantee freedom and equal rights to all oppressed nations and races.

Working Program

As general measures calculated to strengthen the working class in its fight for the realization of its ultimate aim the co-operative commonwealth, and to increase its power of resistance against capital oppression, we advocate and pledge ourselves and our elected officers to the following program.

Political Demands

1. Unrestricted and equal suffrage for men and women.

2. The immediate adoption of the so-called "Susan B. Anthony amendment" to the constitution of the United States granting the suffrage to women on equal terms with men.

3. The adoption of the initiative, referendum and recall and of proportional representation, nationally as well as locally.

4. The abolition of the senate and of the veto power of the president.

5. The election of the president and the vice-president by direct vote of the people.

6. The abolition of the present restriction upon the amendment of the constitution so that that instrument may be made amendable by a majority of the voters in the country.

7. The calling of a convention for the revision of the constitution of the United States.

8. The abolition of the power usurped by the Supreme Court of the United States to pass upon the constitutionality of legislation enacted by congress. National laws to be repealed only by act of congress or by a referendum vote of the whole people.

9. The immediate curbing of the power of the courts to issue injunctions.

10. The election of all judges of the United States courts for short terms.

11. The free administration of the law.

12. The granting of the right of suffrage in the District of Columbia with representation in congress and a democratic form of municipal government for purely local affairs.

13. The extension of democratic government to all United States territory.

14. The freedom of press, speech and assemblage.

15. The increase of the rates of the present income tax and corporation tax and the extension of inheritance taxes, graduated in proportion to the value of the estate and to nearness of kin—the proceeds of these taxes to be employed in the socialization of industry.

16. The enactment of further measures for general education in useful pursuits. The bureau of education to be made a department.

17. The enactment of further measures for the conservation of health and the creation of an independent department of health.

18. The abolition of the monopoly ownership of patents and the substitution of collective ownership, with direct rewards to inventors by premiums or royalties.

Collective Ownership

1. The collective ownership and democratic management of railroads, telegraphs and telephones, express service, steamboat lines and all other social means of transportation and communication and of all large-scale industries.

2. The immediate acquirement by the municipalities, and the states of the federal government of all grain elevators, stock yards, storage warehouses and other distributing agencies, in order to relieve the farmer from the extortionate charges of the middlemen and to reduce the present high cost of living.

3. The extension of the public domain to include mines, quarries, oil wells, forests and water power.

4. The further conservation and development of natural resources for the use and benefit of all the people:

(a) By scientific afforestation and timber protection.

(b) By the reclamation of arid and swamp tracts.

(c) By the storage of flood waters and the utilization of water power.

(d) By the stoppage of the present extravagant waste of the soil and the products of mines and oil wells.

(e) By the development of highway and waterway systems.

5. The collective ownership of land wherever practicable, and, in cases where such ownership is impracticable, the appropriation by taxation of the annual rental value of all lands held for speculation or exploitation.

6. All currency shall be issued by the government of the United States and shall be legal tender for the payment of taxes and impost duties and for the discharge of public and private debts. The government shall lend money on bonds to counties and municipalities at a nominal rate of interest for the purpose of taking over or establishing public utilities and for building or maintaining public roads or highways and public schools—up to 25 per cent of the assessed valuation of such counties or municipalities. Said bonds are to be repaid in twenty equal and annual installments, and the currency issued for that purpose by the government is to be canceled and destroyed seriatim as the debt is paid. All banks and banking institutions shall be owned by the government of the United States or by the states.

7. Government relief of the unemployed by the extension of all useful public works. All persons employed on such work to be engaged directly by the government under a work day of not more than eight hours and at not less than the prevailing union wages. The government also to establish employment bureaus; to lend money to states and municipalities without interest for the purpose of carrying on public works; to contribute money to unemployment funds of labor unions and other organizations of workers, and to take such other measures within its power as will lessen the widespread misery of the workers caused by the misrule of the capitalist class.

Industrial Demands

The conservation of human resources, particularly of the lives and well-being of the workers and their families:

1. By shortening the work-day in keeping with the increased productiveness of machinery.

2. By securing to every worker a rest period of not less than a day and a half in each week.

3. By securing the freedom of political and economic organization and activities.

4. By securing a more effective inspection of workshops, factories and mines.

5. By forbidding the employment of children under eighteen years of age.

6. By forbidding the interstate transportation of the products of child labor and of all uninspected factories and mines.

7. By establishing minimum wage scales.

8. By abolishing official charity and substituting a non-contributory system of old age pensions, a general system of insurance by the state against invalidism, and a system of compulsory insurance by employers of their workers, without cost to the latter, against industrial diseases, accidents and death.

9. By establishing mothers' pensions.

Something Known, Seen Anew

The 2007 Pocket World in Figures is here and I've been opening it at random. Today, I was struck by the table, Most Air Travel by million passenger kilometers per years. The US was number one, at 1,148,383 (1.15 trillion) passenger kilometers. What struck me was how far behind number 2, Japan, was at 243,982 (244 billion) passenger kilometers.

In other words, compared to other nations, we are uniquely populous and rich. I knew that, but seeing it in this context brought it home forcefully.

Where Do They Find Such Stupid Men

The Taliban attacked a allied convoy in Afghanistan. It didn't go well for them:

US troops 'kill 100 Taliban fighters' (Duncan Hooper and agencies, Telegraph.co.uk, 8/29/07)
More than 100 Taliban insurgents and allies have been killed in a major battle with US-led troops in southern Afghanistan, according to the US military.

The fighting erupted after a convoy of Afghan and US coalition forces came under attack in Shah Wali Kot district in Kandahar province and called in air support.

There were no civilian casualties reported but one Afghan security force member was killed and three foreign troops and three Afghan soldiers were wounded.

The Taliban didn't immediately confirm the account of the battle.
As AOG asks, why do people keep fighting for the Taliban? Also, you've got to love the last line. Somehow, I doubt that any report in the Telegraph from the front in WWII ended "Chancellor Hitler was not available to comment."

I Just Knew This Wasn't About Really Good Crime Solving

New head of Minneapolis homicide unit makes history

28 August 2007

Go Here

and watch this.

Half Of My Management Is Wasted

Charles Williams, of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke, has an interesting article in the September 07 Strategic Management Journal, available, I'm sorry to say, only to subscribers. Professor William's paper deals with what it means to say that an organization "knows" something and how organizations go about transferring knowledge.
The idea that organizational knowledge is tacit and ambiguous has played a central role in research on strategy and organization. [All citations omitted.] Causal ambiguity is inherent to most complex production processes, so firm members often do not understand the root causes of firm performance or the interaction between individual activities. Replication, which is effort towards exact copying of a set of activities, enables the transfer of those activities without the need to understand their causes, consequences, and interdependence. Thus, researches have proposed that firms replicate knowledge to transfer it in the face of ambiguity.

* * *

Most theorists locate organizational knowledge in the actions of the organization. [A remarkably Witgensteinian position -- DGC] Nelson and Winter 'propose that organizations remember by doing. [Emphasis original] Similarly, Spender emphasizes that knowledge is inextricably linked to collective action in organizations. Nonaka also suggests that 'knowledge is deeply rooted in action.' Thus, firms possess knowledge only if they can put it into action.

* * *

These aspects of knowledge suggest two key characteristics of organizational knowledge: causal ambiguity and context dependence. Causal ambiguity arises because knowledge is embodied in the repeated activities of the organization, known as routines. Routines link together the actions of organization members, who may not understand, or even be aware of, actions elsewhere in the chain. Since these chains are long and incompletely understood, no member of the organization will completely understand the relationship between an organization's actions and outcomes.
In other words, organizations, as opposed to the people who comprise them, can only be said to "know" through routine. But because knowledge becomes routine, no one really knows which parts of the routine are the important parts. My wife had two good examples of this. The first is an old joke about a mother showing her daughter how to cook a ham.
"First, we start by cutting off the end."


"I'm not sure, but that's how Grandma taught me to do it." Later, she asked her mother why she had started by cutting off the end:

"Because my pan was too small for an entire ham."
Her other example was from the practice of medicine. Different insurers have different record keeping requirements, so routines are changed to meet the requirements of a new insurer. Later, even if you stop doing business with that insurer, the new requirement has become routine and people keep meeting it, even though no body knows why. (Law, too, is very much like this.)

Superstition, too, is very much like this. A baseball player has a good outing and then tries to replicate whatever he did that day exactly. He eats the same meal, takes the same number of swings in batting practice, even wears the same underwear. His routine is causally ambiguous; he doesn't know which part he can safely give up. Montgomery Ward John Wanamaker supposedly said that he knew that half his advertising was wasted, he just didn't know which half. The problem is that you can't know which half of your daily routine is wasted: there's no telling which portion, if pulled, will start the avalanche.

24 August 2007

Words Fail

Dear Prudence,

My husband and I have separate bank accounts, with a joint account for bills. Since we make roughly the same amount of money, the bills are split 50/50 through the joint account, and the rest of our personal paychecks are for ourselves to spend as we wish. About two years ago, we happily decided together to have a baby. I couldn't conceive, and the doctors put me on a cocktail of hormones. The drugs are not covered by insurance, neither are the ovulation kits and pregnancy tests. This is an expense I have shouldered on my own. It has added up, and I find myself more and more in debt. My husband has seen how much I spend on all of these treatments, but has yet to offer to help with the financial burden. I've tried to be subtle—I once asked him to pick up a pregnancy test on the way home from work, but he has never done it since—but now I just want to scream at him every time I come home with another prescription and he comes home with another man-toy! It's bad enough that I already feel like it's my fault we haven't conceived, but by not sharing in the financial aspects of this process, I feel even more alone. Am I off base to ask him to help pay for treatments for a problem that is "mine"? Or is it just the overabundance of hormones that make me want to freak out on him?

—Barefoot and Not-So-Pregnant
"Marriage" is not the right word.

In Defense Of Michael Vick

Conservatives should be uneasy about what's happening to Michael Vick. Not because dog fighting is a long-standing, time honored feature of western civilization; I'm perfectly content that we find dog fighting morally repulsive and gratified to see how eager people are that our moral sense be enshrined in law. Nor am I defending animal cruelty; so long as we keep the distinction between animal and human firmly in mind, I'm all for cruelty being punished. But Vick is not being charged with cruelty to animals. He's not even being charged with dog fighting. He's being charged with dog fighting in interstate commerce, and there's the rub.

Here is the federal indictment of Vick and his friends. They're being charged with violating 18 US Code § 1952 (Interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises) and 7 USC § 2156 (Animal fighting venture prohibition). These are not federal crimes simply because dog fighting is bad. The federal government has no power to punish acts simply because they're bad. They are crimes only, and only to the extent, that they involve interstate or foreign commerce because the Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce. The Commonwealth of Virginia, on the other hand, has the power to punish acts simply because they're bad, and dog fighting is a crime in Virginia.

Once we've focussed on the actual crimes with which Vick is charged, the indictment and our response to it become troubling. As everyone knows by now, the indictment lists various ways in which Vick and company killed dogs that failed to show the proper fighting spirit. People are outraged by this cruelty. But it's not illegal to kill dogs you own and, in particular, it's not relevant to Vick's guilt or innocence of the crimes charged. The only reason those particulars are in the indictment is to stir up hatred and revulsion directed at Vick and, in that, the government has been successful. (If, in fact, the dogs suffered unduly from being electrocuted or shot or slammed to the ground, then Vick may well have violated Virginia anti-cruelty statutes but that's not at all clear. Shooting, in particular, is the traditional humane method for people who need to put down their own dog. It was sad when they shot Ol' Yeller, but the point wasn't that it was cruel.)

But the government using irrelevant detail to wind up hatred of a criminal defendant wouldn't be a particularly conservative issue if the government in question were the Commonwealth of Virginia. The problem for conservatives is federalism, and paying it more than lip-service. The federal ban on dog fighting is just one of the myriad examples of the Congress using its power to regulate interstate commerce as an excuse to subvert the states' general police power. In the Vick case, the dog fighting was primarily a Virginia enterprise and Virginia was perfectly able to take action. It would not have been stymied by the fact of Vick traveling from Georgia or some of the dogs coming from North Carolina. There's no need, here, for the federal government to act.

There is nothing we do in our modern lives that doesn't, in some way, involve interstate commerce and thus there is no where Congress can't go and nothing it can't do unless we find a way to leash it. Conservatives have to decide if we really care about federalism, a limited federal government and the original understanding of the Constitution. If so, then this case should bother us. If not -- if our expressed concerns about federalism are just a fig leaf to justify particular policy results we favor -- then we're as bad as Congress.

23 August 2007

I'll Never Understand Libertarianism

Glenn Reynolds points us to this article at Reason Magazine on how universities should be pro-intellectual property piracy because information wants to be free. This (hopefully faux) naivete about what Universities are is grating, but I'm more puzzled by the idea of a pro-piracy libertarian. I thought that property rights are the foundation of libertarianism. Authors own their products in the most basic way possible -- they created them. I would expect libertarians to want property rights to be absolute but apparently I would be wrong.

22 August 2007

The Eternal Leftist

Ignorant selfishness marching under the banner of intelligent compassion. (To be clear, I'm referring to the comments, not the post.)

Profit v. Rent

If I were the king of viscera, the one visceral truth I would try to drive home is the difference between accounting profit and economic rent.

Accounting profit is simple. (Well, actually it's not at all simple. But for our purposes here today we're going to ignore the difference between cash flow and income, and depreciation and other things that make the following sentence wrong.) If you have a business, and the business has more money at the end of the year than at the beginning, then the difference is profit. To many people who don't understand the difference between profit and rent, profit seems suspicious. If you didn't have any profit, you could charge less and consumers would have more money. People would be better off. Rich trust fund babies would have to go out and earn their money, rather than just cashing checks eukered from the pocketbooks of honest working families. It's only selfishness that causes sellers to charge more than cost.

Economists look at it differently. Let's consider a business worth $1,000,000 on January 1 and $1,050,000 on December 31. The company accountant (and the IRS) tell the owner that he made a profit of $50,000. He feels pretty good.

[Completely tangential aside: People sometimes object at this point that the owner is paying himself a salary, and that's profit, too. Owners sometimes think this, too. They're kidding themselves. If the owner wasn't working for the company, the company would have to hire someone to do whatever the owner does. The owner would have to go out and get a job. Whatever the owner's market value is counts as a legitimate cost of business and not profit. It's true that, for tax reasons, some owners pay themselves above market rates. But, oddly, I've seen more business owners (particularly restaurant owners) who pay themselves below-market rates because, otherwise, the business would fail.]

An economist would point out that, had the owner taken his $1,000,000 and bought a one-year Treasury, he would have made about the same amount of money with much less risk. The economist then says that it isn't sensible to say that the owner "profited" if he took on more risk without getting more money. For the economist, a supplier of capital hasn't really profited unless he has made a greater risk-adjusted return than he would have gotten from the next best use of his money. Because the word "profit" is taken, and because economist love to confuse, this concept is called "economic rent."

One of the key implications of the concept of economic rent is that capital is an input like any other. It has to be paid for and, if scarce, the price has to be bid up. Riskier investments have to pay more than less risky investments. In this way, capital is attracted to the best (most lucrative) investments first. In other words, much of what is presented as "profit" in accounting reports is better understood economically as a cost that, like the cost of raw materials or machine tools, can't be avoided.

Where this distinction (or people's failure to make this distinction) has bite is when it comes to discussions of regulating or nationalizing some industry for the good of the people. One argument that is always made is that the evil private businessmen are, gasp, making profit and, after regulation or nationalization, the company won't make a profit (or, at least, a outsized profit) and that money can be returned to the people. This is exactly like saying that, for example, the pharmaceutical industry spends lots of money on new pill making machinery and, if we stopped them from spending that money, pills would cost less. In both cases, pills will soon cost nothing, but not in a good way.

Nor does taxation make any difference. If the government decided that it didn't want to pay for the steel it uses to make bombers and so it just stole the steel, the steel is still being paid for, albeit not be the end-user. Since any end-user will use more steel if it's free, the result is that a greater cost is being paid with less return than if the government just paid for it. That is a dead-weight loss. Exactly the same is true with taxation.

Finally, even if we can recognize economic rents when we see them, we still can't appropriate them without shooting ourselves in the foot. Outsized returns are a signal that supply is too limited. It attracts entrants into the market; investors can make more money there than elsewhere. The only exception is when there are barriers to entry that can't be overcome. The most common barrier? Government regulation.

21 August 2007

I Highly Recommend

Zappos.com. We ordered two pairs of shoes Saturday night and received them, with free shipping, Monday morning.

What Did They Cut Off Eight Days After Construction?

Funny, it doesn't look Jewish.

28 June 2007

It's Not You, It's Me

The Secret Blog is now on hiatus, perhaps permanently.

[A partial explanation is here, five comments down.]

25 June 2007

Unclear On The Concept

"The Order of the Phoenix is the most genuine of all the films so far," said Watson. "David wanted to find the truth from within all the characters."

Is This National Sanity Day?

Apparently, the Supreme Court has ruled that a principal who punished a student for a message that can reasonably be interpreted as pro-marijuana won't be second-guessed by the courts and that Americans are allowed to sponsor political ads that actually name politicians running for office; and a court in DC (DC!) has ruled that a dry cleaner's that lost a customer's pants does not owe the customer $54 million.

Taking Bill Murray Seriously

According to Michael Yon, Al Qaeda in Iraq has been busy passing new regulations in regions of the country that it controls. Obviously, they're cutting off the fingers of smokers.
Other AQI edicts included beatings for men who refused to grow beards, and corporal punishments for obscene sexual suggestiveness, defined by such "loose" behavior as carrying tomatoes and cucumbers in the same bag.
This is, oddly enough, the second blogosphere vegetable sex scandal of the last few days. The first came when Ann Althouse suggested that, in a filmed scene staring Bill and Hillary Clinton, carrots and onion rings unavoidably take on psycho-sexual meaning.

But What About The Muslims?

Peter Burnet passes along an email he received from Ali Choudhury, linking to a Washington Post story on the rise of a new conservative Christian party in the Netherlands. "Rise" and "conservative" are something of an overstatement, as the Christian Union party has only six members of Parliament and seems to be more of a Christian Socialist party with righty social leanings. The whole thing is somewhat suspect because the Post insists on referring to the Protestant Church based party as "orthodox."
"People in high political circles are saying it can't be good to have a society so liberal that everything is allowed," said Kranendonk, editor of Reformist Daily and an increasingly influential voice that resonates in the shifting mainstream of Dutch public opinion. "People are saying we should have values; people are asking for more and more rules in society."

In cities across the Netherlands, mayors and town councils are closing down shops where marijuana is sold, rolled and smoked. Municipalities are shuttering the brothels where prostitutes have been allowed to ply their trade legally. Parliament is considering a ban on the sale of hallucinogenic "magic mushrooms." Orthodox Christian members of parliament have introduced a bill that would allow civil officials with moral objections to refuse to perform gay marriages. And Dutch authorities are trying to curtail the activities of an abortion rights group that assists women in neighboring countries where abortions are illegal.
The Christian Union is a pro-asylum party and there is no mention in the article of Islam or the Netherland's problems with Muslim immigrants. Of course, the Christian Union is exactly the sort of party that Muslims could support.

21 June 2007

Where Is Everyone?

Over at the Daily Duck discussing the clash of civilizations. The consensus seems to be that we've got to destroy the village in order to save it.

19 June 2007

Unclear On The Concept

From Reuters, comes news that Great Barrington, Mass, a nice little town just down the highway, has issued its own currency:
A walk down Main Street in this New England town calls to mind the pictures of Norman Rockwell, who lived nearby and chronicled small-town American life in the mid-20th Century.

So it is fitting that the artist's face adorns the 50 BerkShares note, one of five denominations in a currency adopted by towns in western Massachusetts to support locally owned businesses over national chains.

"I just love the feel of using a local currency," said Trice Atchison, 43, a teacher who used BerkShares to buy a snack at a cafe in Great Barrington, a town of about 7,400 people. "It keeps the profit within the community."
I don't mind that the Town of Great Barrington is unclear on the concept of "money" because money is a fairly subtle concept. I don't even mind the whiff of fraud of what amounts to "dollarizing" the Great Barrington economy. I flat out admire the indirection they use about the profit they're going to make from collectors; that is, tourists who buy the BerkShares, take them home and never redeem them. But have these people never heard of coupons?

18 June 2007

Is Science Winning One?

David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy starts a thread that simply assumes (correctly) that the vaccine/mercury/autism link is nonsense and the nuts don't come out to play. Compare this thread from a year ago or the various dust-ups we had on this topic over at BrothersJudd through the years.

Next we have to work on the faulty logic of "religion is an irrational belief; that themerisol causes autism is an irrational belief; therefore, that themerisol causes autism is a religion."

You Be The Judge

People are complaining about the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc. [pdf], that a woman who believed that she was paid less than similarly qualified men because of her sex only had 180 days from the time her pay was set to file a discrimination charge. The relevant portion of the statute is here. You be the judge.
(e) Time for filing charges; time for service of notice of charge on respondent; filing of charge by Commission with State or local agency; seniority system

(1) A charge under this section shall be filed within one hundred and eighty days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred and notice of the charge (including the date, place and circumstances of the alleged unlawful employment practice) shall be served upon the person against whom such charge is made within ten days thereafter, except that in a case of an unlawful employment practice with respect to which the person aggrieved has initially instituted proceedings with a State or local agency with authority to grant or seek relief from such practice or to institute criminal proceedings with respect thereto upon receiving notice thereof, such charge shall be filed by or on behalf of the person aggrieved within three hundred days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred, or within thirty days after receiving notice that the State or local agency has terminated the proceedings under the State or local law, whichever is earlier, and a copy of such charge shall be filed by the Commission with the State or local agency.

(2) For purposes of this section, an unlawful employment practice occurs, with respect to a seniority system that has been adopted for an intentionally discriminatory purpose in violation of this subchapter (whether or not that discriminatory purpose is apparent on the face of the seniority provision), when the seniority system is adopted, when an individual becomes subject to the seniority system, or when a person aggrieved is injured by the application of the seniority system or provision of the system.

15 June 2007

First Thing Let's Do


Over at Think of England, I pointed to this comment, but I wanted to note it here, too, because it is such a perfect example of a point of view that, had I not run up against it time after time, I would absolutely deny that any human being could hold. This is just completely foreign to me:
This interesting article misses a basic aspect of the human experience. For better or worse, we are relative creatures whose sense of identity and well-being is derived through comparing ourselves to others.

If you accept that one of the functions of civil society is to strive to maximize the happiness and well-being of its citizens(which I do), then these charts point to happier people in Europe (as is shown in clinical studies). The absolute scale, once basic safety and survial is accomplished, is almost irrelevant.

Given the comparative nature of human psychology, the bottom 10% in the US will be miserable, and the middle will feel cheated. French peasants in 1789 were presumably materially better off than Kalahari Bushmen, but relatively they were destitute. The absolute prosperity of French peasants did not deter them from revolution.

Granting outsize income to outsize effort may maximize GDP in the short run, but societies can rationally choose to balance maximal overall output with moderating inequality. From the perspective of human happinenss (the only one that actually matters in my book), Europe's model is more successful.
It would be better to make everyone poorer, because the absence of rich people makes poor people happier.

Less Gasoline At Lower Prices

Planet Gore, which is a blog at National Review, points us to a speech given recently by Harry Reid. The National Review blogger does a fine job of pointing out most of Reid's inanities, but doesn't note this familiar pair of complaints:
But as this crisis grows worse it’s nothing but business as usual from President Bush. Maybe this president thinks it’s fine that working families are busting their budgets just to pay for gasoline and heat, but we don’t....

Maybe this president thinks it’s fine to let our children and grandchildren faced the devastating consequences up our climate crisis because he didn’t have the foresight to turn the tide, but we don’t.
The most basic fact of economics, like unto the law gravity, is that supply and price are the same thing. Has the real price dropped? Supply must have increased. Has supply decreased? The real price has gone up. If you want us to use less oil, the price must rise. If you're worried that the price of gasoline is too high, supply must increase.

Only Needs A Few Tweaks

What follows was the naturalization law of the United States (other than amendments to provide that the wives of naturalized aliens were, themselves, naturalized (1855) and open naturalization to those of African descent (1870)) from 1802 through 1906.
[2 Stat. 153]Chap. XXVIII — An act to establish an uniform rule of Naturalization, and to repeal the acts heretofore passed on that subject.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in congress assembled, That any alien, being a free white person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States, or any of them, on the following conditions, and not otherwise:—

First, That he shall have declared, on oath or affirmation, before the supreme, superior, district or circuit Court of some one
of the states, or of the territorial districts of the United States, or a circuit or district court of the United States, three years at least, before his admission, that it was, bona fide, his intention to become a citizen of the United States, and to renounce for ever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty whatever, and particularly, by name, the prince, potentate, state or sovereignty whereof such alien may, at the time, be a citizen or subject.

Secondly, That he shall, at the time of his application to be admitted, declare on oath or affirmation, before some one of the courts aforesaid, that he will support the constitution of the United States, and that he doth absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to every foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty whatever, and particularly, by name, the prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty whereof he was before a citizen or subject; which proceedings shall be recorded by the clerk of the court.

Thirdly, That the court admitting such alien shall be satisfied that he has resided within the United States five years at least, and within the state or territory where such court is at the time held, one year at [2 Stat. 154] least; and it shall further appear to their satisfaction, that during that time, he has behaved as a man of a good moral character, attached to the principles of the constitution of the United States, and well disposed the to the good order and happiness of the same: Provided, that the oath of the applicant shall, in no case, be allowed to prove his residence.

Fourthly, That in case the alien, applying to be admitted to citizenship, shall have borne any hereditary title, or been of any of the orders he of nobility in the kingdom or state from which he came, he shall, in addition to the above requisites, make an express renunciation of his title or order of nobility in the court to which his application shall be made, which renunciation shall be recorded in the said court: Provided, that no alien who shall be a native citizen, denizen or subject of any country, state or sovereign, with whom the United States shall be at war, at the time of his application, shall be then admitted to be a Citizen of the United States: Provided also, that any alien who was residing within the limits, and under the jurisdiction of the United States, before the twenty-ninth day of January, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-five, may be admitted to become a citizen, on due proof made to some one of the courts aforesaid, that he has resided two years, at least, within and under the jurisdiction of the United States, and one year, at least, immediately preceding his application, within the state or territory where such Court is at the time held; and on his declaring on oath or affirmation, that he will support the constitution of the United States, and that he doth absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty whatever, and particularly, by name, the prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, whereof he was before a citizen or subject: and moreover, on its appearing to the satisfaction of the court, that during the said term of two years, he has behaved as a man of good moral character, attached to the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same; and where the alien, applying for admission to citizenship, shall have borne any hereditary title, or been of any of the orders of nobility in the kingdom or state from which he came, on his moreover making in the court an express renunciation of his title or order of nobility, before he shall be entitled to such admission: all of by the clerk of the court, which proceedings, required in this proviso to be performed in the court, in shall be recorded by the clerk thereof: and provided also, that any alien who was residing within the limits, and under the jurisdiction of the U. States be. at any time between the said twenty-ninth day of January, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-live, and the eighteenth of June, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-eight, may, within two years after the passing of this act, be admitted to become a citizen, without a compliance with the first condition above specified.

Sec. 2. Provided also, and be it further enacted, That in addition to the directions aforesaid, all free white persons, being aliens, who may arrive in the United States after the passing of this act, shall, in order to become citizens of the United States, make registry, and obtain certificates, in the following manner, to wit: every person desirous of being naturalized shall, if of the age of twenty-one years, make report of himself; or if under the age of twenty-one years, or held in service, shall be reported by his parent, guardian, master or mistress, to the clerk of the district court of the district where such alien or aliens shall arrive, or to some other court of record of the United States, or of either of the territorial districts of the same, or of a particular state ; and such report shall ascertain the name, birthplace, age, nation and allegiance of each alien, together with the country whence he or she migrated, and the place of his or her intended settlement: and it shall be the duty of such clerk, on receiving such report, to record the same in his office, and to grant to the person making such report, and to each individual [2 Stat. 155] concerned therein, whenever he shall be required, a certificate under his hand and seal of office of such report and registry; and for receiving and registering each report of an individual or family, he shall receive fifty cents; and for each certificate granted pursuant to this act, to an individual or family, fifty cents; and such certificate shall be exhibited to the court by every alien who may arrive in the United States, after the passing of this act, on his application to be naturalized, as evidence of the time of his arrival within the United States.

Sec. 3. And whereas, doubts have arisen whether certain courts of record in some of the states, are included within the description of district or circuit courts: Be it further enacted, that every court of record in any individual state, having common law jurisdiction, and a seal and clerk or prothonotary, shall be considered as a district court within the meaning of this act; and every alien who may have been naturalized in any such court, shall enjoy, from and after the passing of the act, the same rights and privileges, as if he had been naturalized in a district or circuit court of the United States.

Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That the children of persons duly naturalized under any of the laws of the United States, or who, previous to the passing of any law on that subject, by the government of the United States, may have become citizens of any one of the said states, under the laws thereof, being under the age of twenty-one years, at the time of their parents being so naturalized or admitted to the rights of citizenship, shall, if dwelling in the United States, be considered as citizens of the United States, and the children of persons who now are, or have been citizens of the United States, shall, though born out of the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, be considered as citizens of the United States: Provided, that the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never resided within the United States: Provided also, that no person heretofore proscribed by any state, or who has been legally convicted of having joined the army of Great Britain, during the late war, shall be admitted a citizen, as aforesaid, without the consent of the legislature of the state in which such person was proscribed.

Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That all acts heretofore passed respecting naturalization, be, and the same are hereby repealed.

APPROVED, April 14, 1802.
The quasi-patrilineal requirement is a little surprising.

14 June 2007

Today's Meme

Today's meme is completely contrived crises. For the American entrant, I nominate (and it's a doozy) the problem of hunger in the United States:
Hunger and Food Insecurity in the United States

One of the most disturbing and extraordinary aspects of life in this very wealthy country is the persistence of hunger. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that in 2005:

* 35.1 million people lived in households considered to be food insecure.

* Of those 35.1 million, 22.7 million are adults (10.4 percent of all adults) and 12.4 million are children (16.9 percent of all children).

* The number of people in the worst-off households (previously called “food insecure with hunger” and now called “very low food security” households) rose in 2005, from 10.7 to 10.8 million.
If you look very closely, you'll see that the most remarkable thing about hunger in the United States is that no one is actually hungry.

13 June 2007

Labor And Capital

Let's say that you work for me. You dig ditches. You use a shovel, you work 10 hours per day in all sorts of weather, and you dig 10 ft of ditch per day. I pay you $10 per hour.

One day I come to you and say, "For you, I have such a deal. I'll go buy a front loader. You'll sit on a padded seat all day, you'll do nothing more strenuous than move levers, the cabin is enclosed, heated and air conditioned and you'll dig 100 ft of ditch per day. The best news of all? I'll still pay you $10 per hour."

Is that a good deal?

I, Robot

Where's A Cocktail Napkin When You Need One

OJ points us to an AP article on the plummeting federal deficit. I was particularly struck by this passage:
For the year, revenue and spending are both at record levels. Revenue gains are up 8 percent while outlays are up at a slower pace of 2.5 percent, compared to the same period a year ago. Growth in spending has been slower this year in part because of the absence of last year's huge outlays for hurricane relief.

The increase in revenues has been supported by continued strength in corporate profits and low unemployment, which has helped to push individual income taxes higher.

For the 2007 budget year, which ends on Sept. 30, the Congressional Budget Office is projecting a federal deficit of $177 billion. That would be down 28.7 percent from last year's imbalance of $248.2 billion, which had been the lowest deficit in four years.

The federal budget was in surplus for four years from 1998 through 2001 as the long economic expansion helped push revenues higher.
What's weird about this? It completely ignores why the federal government spends money. With strong corporate profits, low unemployment and (although the article doesn't mention this) incomes increasing, not only is there more tax revenue, but there's less need for government handouts. This "float the boats" effect, and welfare reform, are a big reason that the budget has been decreasing, and the deficit has been plummeting, as a percentage of GDP. Now we just need to straighten out social security, and we'll be all set.

11 June 2007

For Those Of You Who Were Unsure

(I've kicked this up to the top, just to make sure that it doesn't roll off the front page while still active.)

I'm a preening little man who spends all my time in front of the mirror admiring my, well, I'm not sure what. Apparently, I also work for the Nazi's in the persecution of other Jews.

And, worst of all, I use invective against my opponents.

Overly Familiar Software

My weather bug now has a popup for today's weather than says, "A thunderstorm on the prowl." "On the prowl?" Unless this is a term of art with which I'm unfamiliar, I'm disappointed. I like to keep my relationship with my software formal.

10 June 2007


Yes, I did get here by looking for Coach singing "Albania." And here it is.

Sex And Class

Nothin' Could Be Finer

Hi Di Hi Di Hi Di Ho





Part II--Nationality Through Naturalization

Sec. 1424. Prohibition upon the naturalization of persons
opposed to government or law, or who favor totalitarian forms of

(a) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 405(b) of this Act, no
person shall hereafter be naturalized as a citizen of the United
(1) who advocates or teaches, or who is a member of or
affiliated with any organization that advocates or teaches,
opposition to all organized government; or

(2) who is a member of or affiliated with (A) the Communist
Party of the United States; (B) any other totalitarian party of the
United States; (C) the Communist Political Association; (D) the
Communist or other totalitarian party of any State of the United
States, of any foreign state, or of any political or geographical
subdivision of any foreign state; (E) any section, subsidiary,
branch, affiliate, or subdivision of any such association or party;
or (F) the direct predecessors or successors of any such association
or party, regardless of what name such group or organization may
have used, may now bear, or may hereafter adopt, unless such alien
establishes that he did not have knowledge or reason to believe at
the time he became a member of or affiliated with such an
organization (and did not thereafter and prior to the date upon
which such organization was so registered or so required to be
registered have such knowledge or reason to believe) that such
organization was a Communist-front organization; or

(3) who, although not within any of the other provisions of this
section, advocates the economic, international, and governmental
doctrines of world communism or the establishment in the United
States of a totalitarian dictatorship, or who is a member of or
affiliated with any organization that advocates the economic,
international, and governmental doctrines of world communism or the
establishment in the United States of a totalitarian dictatorship,
either through its own utterances or through any written or printed
publications issued or published by or with the permission or
consent of or under authority of such organization or paid for by
the funds of such organization; or

(4) who advocates or teaches or who is a member of or affiliated
with any organization that advocates or teaches (A) the overthrow by
force or violence or other unconstitutional means of the Government
of the United States or of all forms of law; or (B) the duty,
necessity, or propriety of the unlawful assaulting or killing of any
officer or officers (either of specific individuals or of officers
generally) of the Government of the United States or of any other
organized government because of his or their official character; or
(C) the unlawful damage, injury, or destruction of property; or (D)
sabotage; or

(5) who writes or publishes or causes to be written or
published, or who knowingly circulates, distributes, prints, or
displays, or knowingly causes to be circulated, distributed,
printed, published, or displayed, or who knowingly has in his
possession for the purpose of circulation, publication,
distribution, or display, any written or printed matter, advocating
or teaching opposition to all organized government, or advocating
(A) the overthrow by force, violence or other unconstitutional means
of the Government of the United States or of all forms of law; or
(B) the duty, necessity, or propriety of the unlawful assaulting or
killing of any officer or officers (either of specific individuals
or of officers generally) of the Government of the United States or
of any other organized government, because of his or their official
character; or (C) the unlawful damage, injury, or destruction of
property; or (D) sabotage; or (E) the economic, international, and
governmental doctrines of world communism or the establishment in
the United States of a totalitarian dictatorship; or

(6) who is a member of or affiliated with any organization that
writes, circulates, distributes, prints, publishes, or displays, or
causes to be written, circulated, distributed, printed, published,
or displayed, or that has in its possession for the purpose of
circulation, distribution, publication, issue, or display, any
written or printed matter of the character described in subparagraph
(5) of this subsection.