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.