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Love songs

No particular reason.

This is Lillian Roth singing If I Could Be With You as a prisoner in one of my favorite movies, Ladies They Talk About. (libertarian point of interest: the movie was pre-code)

Return to me sung by Dean Martin with scenes from Roman Holiday.

I was reminded of this song by this Maaco commercial.


Christians are meek

James Donald explains.

James: Christians have not murdered dissidents for several centuries.

Attila: Not from a lack of interest. They just can't get away with it any more.

James: Christians today conspicuously turn the other cheek, even in cases where they could easily take care of offenders.

Observe all the people who do bizarre and extreme things in an effort to get a rise out of Christians. They don't get a rise. Ask yourself why the Artist does not publicly use the koran for toilet paper the way he publicly uses a depiction of Jesus as a toilet? He refrains because the Muslims would kill him, his parents, and various random people. Christians don't even show up to spit on him. If one Christian in the entire world wanted to do something about it he could quietly roll up and leave a bomb. There is no security to protect against Christian bombers - because the Artist knows he is insulting tolerant and kindly people - no security because the Artist knows that each and every Christian in the entire world will tolerate him in a manner that adherents of other religions conspicuously fail to do.


Obama will cure leprosy

He might. Leprosy:

I wept because, on several occasions, I've been told I can't date someone because her parents wouldn't approve of my race; that in spite of my intelligence, my responsibility, my diction, my future prospects, my talents and my everything else that makes me a good person--and even the fact that I look white--I'm different. It didn't matter whether the parents were liberal or conservative; or whether they were college educated or not: being black made me not good enough.

The example of a black man in the White House will surely go a long way toward eliminating what remains of the social leprosy that afflicts blacks in the United States.

The obese, in the meantime, should despair. They will remain social lepers until humans evolve into sea lions, which is to say, forever.


Dawkins approaches self-parody

This reads almost like a piece from The Onion. With minor adjustments it could be placed into The Onion successfully. He carefully surrounds his points with "I'm not sure" and "perhaps", so his remarks on the pernicious effect of Harry Potter on the young mind are not quite Onion material ... yet.

"I haven't read Harry Potter ... I don't know what to think about magic and fairy tales."

Prof Dawkins said he wanted to look at the effects of "bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards".

"I think it is anti-scientific – whether that has a pernicious effect, I don't know," he told More4 News.

"I think looking back to my own childhood, the fact that so many of the stories I read allowed the possibility of frogs turning into princes, whether that has a sort of insidious affect on rationality, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's something for research." ...

But this stuff comes closer to Onion level (my emphasis):

... Prof Dawkins said: "Do not ever call a child a Muslim child or a Christian child – that is a form of child abuse because a young child is too young to know what its views are about the cosmos or morality.

"It is evil to describe a child as a Muslim child or a Christian child. I think labelling children is child abuse and I think there is a very heavy issue, for example, about teaching about hell and torturing their minds with hell.

"It's a form of child abuse, even worse than physical child abuse. I wouldn't want to teach a young child, a terrifyingly young child, about hell when he dies, as it's as bad as many forms of physical abuse."

Ha ha, take that Theophanes!

# Constant - 12 posts
# Theophanes - 12 posts


The road to the fish bowl

Good piece over at Chicago Boyz about the fate of privacy under the nanny state.

... When we set the State a task, no matter how well intentioned or widely supported, we grant it the power to collect and store the information needed to carry out that task. ... Neither can we let the State keep such information secret. The public needs access to that information to determine if the State performed the task set for it or to determine if it abused its power. ...

People forget that the primary modality for control in a modern tyranny is not the secret police but rather fine tuned control over peoples economic lives. ...

Something of the same system arose in the major cities of the northeast during the early half of the 20th Century. ...

Each year we come up with some innocuous little program that we believe will do some good and we tack it on top of the many, many layers of programs from previous years. At the same time, we rarely terminate any programs. ...

People who wet their pants because the NSA reads their international emails are worrying about the wrong part of government. The NSA can only know who you talked to overseas, the rest of government can peer into the totality of your life.


Why Elections Are So Close

Obama will probably win, but will he get more than 60% of the popular vote? Going by history and by the current polls, probably not. Why not? Generally speaking: what are the Democratic and Republican parties, that cycle after cycle they each garner close to 50% of the vote?

Maybe the question almost answers itself and maybe it's been answered much better than I can, but I'm going to spell out my half-baked theory. First I'm going to rule out what I think is a wrong answer: there aren't, to begin with, two kinds of American in about equal numbers, with the Democratic party arising as the representative of the Democratic type of person.

Rather, each party is a heterogeneous coalition of diverse interests, and the coalition grows or shrinks according to the following principles: if the coalition is too small to win elections, then the coalition will seek out new members, granting concessions to the new members in exchange for their support. But the larger the coalition is, the weaker each interest group in the coalition is within the coalition, and this motivates the members of the coalition to try to expel other members, so as to increase their own influence within the coalition.

These two principles lead to the result that the Republicans and the Democrats are about equally large at any given time. If (say) the Republicans drop to 40% and the Democrats rise to 60%, then in the hope of winning future elections the Republicans will seek to expand the party by granting concessions to new interest groups. Meanwhile, the Democrats, victory assured in the near future, will struggle among themselves over the spoils of victory, and the losers will see little value in remaining within the coalition.

For a variety of reasons, members of each party will take up each other's cause, so that what started as a heterogeneous group of diverse interests will become a more homogeneous-seeming group in which each member espouses a diverse and probably incoherent mix of ideas, an ersatz ideology, which is liable to shift over time as interest groups enter and exit the party.

Of course some states of the Union are heavily Democratic and some are heavily Republican. On the surface this might seem to contradict my thesis, but I conjecture that, were the states to secede from the Union, then within the state the two parties (or whatever remained) would evolve to the point that they were about equally able to win votes. Individual states are heavily Democratic (or Republican) because they happen to be heavily made up of members of the national Democratic (or Republican) Party. We might even so expect that, state by state, the parties seek out (or expel) coalition members depending on their strength within the state, so that they each take on a slightly different flavor state by state. We might, for example, expect Massachusetts Democrats to be more liberal than Texas Democrats. (Though the category "liberal" might itself be susceptible to a similar analysis as the category "Democrat".)


Guru George on Grand Systems

P. George Stewart has a good entry up on the ability of theory to seduce and then imprison the mind because it gives the thinker the feeling of knowing. The whole thing is short and worth reading, but here are some choice passages anyway.

Like Ayn Rand's thought ... the nature of Marxism as a "closed circle", prevents interlocutors from getting a word in edgeways - in order to properly counter any random Marxist or Objectivist point, one would have to explain one's own whole philosophy, which would just be too tedious and impolite in most circumstances.

The situation is made all the more difficult by the fact that these grand systems do have truth flashing through them here and there, sometimes great truth; one always wants to say "yes, but" - in the same breath, one sees a point of agreement, but one also sees complicated rifts of disagreement. ...

The feeling of knowing is too easily bought by these grand systems, possibly at the expense of the possibility of knowledge discovery - precisely because the anomalous is more valuable to the process of knowledge discovery, and showing where we are wrong is often more of a step in the right direction than showing where we are right.


Free speech dying thanks to John McCain

Long before McCain became the lesser evil, he was busy doing more than almost anyone else in American history to curtail the freedom to speak in the US where it matters most: in politics.

Powerful video clip from John Stossel via The Agitator.

Take this lesson and apply it to economic regulation to see how regulation of an industry protects the big business insiders against competition.


The End of Libertarianism

No not really, just another announcement of its end. Here is the announcement, and here is a rebuttal (which seems more than adquate).


My own understanding of words

This captures how I feel much of the time:

There are so many things wrong with the entire statement that I’m about to go all fetal-position and question my own understanding of words.

Here's the particular context, but it doesn't really matter.


Obamapocalypse

Instapunk on Obama good parts version.

Obama's following approaches cult status. He is the kind of political figure who can do absolutely everything wrong, fail at every task to which he puts his hand, and still retain the devotion of those who have projected onto him their wildest utopian fantasies. [...] Obama is a symbol. [...] The optimistic right fears him too little. So does the pessimistic right.

[...]

Obama is a one-man Trojan Horse, an apparent peace offering filled with implacable instruments of vengeance. Nothing could be clearer than that the Democrats and all their allies hate their Republican and conservative opposition. They will not be content with electoral victory. They need annihilation. [...] After Bush, they were no longer interested in governing. They wanted revenge.

[...]

His major acts as an independent adult were to form alliances with a racist black nationalist preacher tied to Louis Ferrakhan, join the inveterately corrupt Chicago Democratic political machine, intimidate his electoral opponents into quitting the race before election day, ally himself with a radical sixties political terrorist for the purpose of funnelling money to 1) educational programs designed to radicalize minority students and 2) a renegade national organization in the business of promoting minority voter fraud and minority access to fraudulent mortgage contracts.

[...]

His internet-based campaign finance "bundling" operation has devised ways of receiving foreign moneys, even from places like Iran, which cannot be called to account. He has succeeded in demonizing all who question his negligible qualifications and dubious political partners as racists. He has been ruthless in using left-wing tactics to suppress and/or libel specific accusers and accusations, including mass phone and email attacks undertaken by his own campaign managers -- and ambiguously sponsored groups whose more extreme statements can be disavowed if necessary.

[...]

So the man who has, apparently, convinced a majority of us that he is the only one capable of bringing us all together is, in reality, the one who has the best possible training in eliminating all his -- and his sponsors' -- political enemies. He will have the full support of a veto-proof Congress as he sets about the task of denying free speech (on "hate" grounds) to his enemies [...]

[...]

No wonder high-profile conservatives are scrambling for cover. It won't be pretty when the Obama DOJ starts investigating Sarah Palin for malfeasance in office as Governor of Alaska.

[...]

Four years of this will not be undone by any congressional electoral rebellion. Pbama's legacy will make Carter's look like the first attempts of an amateur graffiti vandal.

Apocalyptic stuff. We will almost certainly get the opportunity to see how well this prediction pans out.


If only

Debates rotting your brain? Here's an antidote.

(inspired by Cafe Hayek)


sorry


I am getting old

My feeling about the bailout, which I believe is going to pass (though I hope that I am wrong) is that this is the turning point, the beginning of end of the United States. But stepping back, I think this may just be the turning point of my life, when I stop being a young person with hope for the future and become an old person who won't shut up about how bad things are today compared with the happy days of his youth. After all, this isn't really the first time government has deeply disappointed.

Here are four things that could have happened once the bailout was rejected in the House, ranked from best to worst.

1) No more was heard about the bailout.

2) A revised more helpful or at least less harmful bailout was submitted.

3) A revised bailout, no better than the first, and with a bunch of pork and other crap added to appeal to the corruption of the congress was submitted.

4) (3) was done but it was first passed in the Senate and submitted to the House from the Senate, in flagrant violation of the unmistakable intent of the Constitution.

Number (4) is, as we now know, what actually happened.

My problem is not as much with the bailout itself, as it is with what this reveals about Congress and about our government generally. If we assume 200 million adults in the United States, then the price of the bailout, which I will estimate at 2 trillion (not to be confused with the official price tag), is merely ten thousand dollars per adult. Painful but I'll survive - seeing as so far I survived the cost of the Iraq war, which is a sizable fraction of this.

So how do young people focused on hopes for the future turn into old people focused on disappointments of the past? It may be that a person can tolerate only so much disappointment before he breaks. A young person hasn't been on the planet long enough for many of his hopes to be dashed. The longer we remain on the planet, the greater the number of disappointments. Added to this, of course, is the approaching end of one's own life. The less time I have left to live, the less plausible is my hope that things will have turned around by my death.


Economic laws of conservation

I do not have detailed knowledge of this situation, but I am pretty familiar with what might be called "economic laws of conservation", and the bailout violates several of these.

When some crackpot inventor claims that he has created a perpetual motion machine or similar impossible device, and he has a long, detailed argument as to how and why this machine works, you have two choices:

1) You can spend the next several hours or days of your life going through his argument to see whether it is correct. You are likely to get this wrong, because the errors in a long argument, especially one which fooled the inventor, may be subtle and easy to miss.

2) You can point out that a perpetual motion machine violates fundamental physical principles. One example I've seen is a machine which violates the law of conservation of momentum. The inventor claimed that his machine managed to accelerate without pushing back on anything or throwing anything back, which is a straightforward violation of the law of conservation of momentum. Another law which is likely violated by any perpetual motion machine is the law of entropy, the second law of thermodynamics.

One of the economic broad principles that I am familiar with is that, while the market can be wrong, you (whoever you are) are almost certainly unable reliably to do better than the market. Claims that the government will probably recoup its investment and even profit violate this principle.

Another of the economic broad principles that I am familiar with is that the market works by no other means than rewarding wise investment and punishing foolish investment. That is how it works. A more general broad principle, upon which this relies, is that you get more of what you reward. The bailout violates this principle as well. Miron appeals to this principle when he writes:

In contrast, a bailout transfers enormous wealth from taxpayers to those who knowingly engaged in risky subprime lending. Thus, the bailout encourages companies to take large, imprudent risks and count on getting bailed out by government. This "moral hazard" generates enormous distortions in an economy's allocation of its financial resources.

One can go on.

Miron, and other economists who have spoken out against the bailout, have tended to make arguments that I find comprehensible and persuasive, because they appeal to broad economic principles that I am familiar with and have long since accepted. Those who have spoken out in favor of the bailout - well, for one thing, rather than see actual arguments from them I have seen appeals to authority, appeals to hidden knowledge, sky-is-falling warnings that have no actual content but serve merely to shift the reader into panic mode, vehement attacks on those who disagree, and the like. I've seen glimpses, here and there, amidst the ocean of invalid argumentation, of something that looks like an actual argument, but what I have seen has displayed that narrow focus, that missing-the-forest-for-the-trees aspect, which I remember from arguments of the inventors of perpetual motion machines.

Good economics since Bastiat has been largely about noticing "that which is unseen" - i.e., noticing the forest while the rest of the world obsesses over the trees. The arguments against the bailout have that look to them. The arguments for, the ones that I have seen, do not.