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Whatever it is you're doing right now could help Al-Qaeda

If Al-Qaeda did not exist, it would be necessary for the War Party to invent it.

Former CIA Directors: Holder's Investigation Could "Help Al Qaeda"

Bill Maher the Quack

Orac takes apart Bill Maher's views on science and God in light of his winning some sort of Richard Dawkins Award.

09.17.09 Market Thoughts

Almost a year ago, I posted that I was "all-in". After that, the market took a brief detour downhill, but it's well above those levels today. At this point, optimism has returned, and people believe the worst is over. As such, I've put in stop orders.

The Travails of a 30-Something High Achieving Female

HBD Girl writes a familiar story.

This blog will chronicle my journey as a traditionalist secular independent conservative-libertarianish girl living in an ultra liberal part of the United States. In a nutshell, this is the application of my personal and political philosophy to my life and my decisions.

I recently turned 30 years. Hence, the urgency (although not desperation) of finding a mate is upon me. I’m well-aware that I prolly only have 5 years of good reproductive ability left (although I am also saving up money to freeze my eggs, to be discussed later.)

Recently I put together a revised life plan to help me focus on my priorities. Creating a warm & loving family is my highest priority. I want to create an environment that will be conducive to raising curious, playful individuals that are of independent mind, yet can appreciate and cultivate communities.

To reach that goal, I need to find a partner that wants to share in that same journey and shares many of my values.

My prioritized list of traits and values that I’m looking for in a man are:

The list can be found at the link. In urban environments, this is a common situation. There's a paradox at the heart of the story.

(Everything that I'm about to describe involves statements of what is, not what should be.)

Men generally prefer youth and beauty above other factors. By her late-20s a woman's looks are deteriorating rapidly. Her value on the dating scene is dropping fast.

Women, especially high-achieving professional women, generally prefer wealth and status in men above other factors. By his late-20s a man is still gaining wealth and status.

Let's take the example of my friend we shall call Sandra. Sandra was once extremely hot; I'd give her a 9 in her prime. She's also a medical resident so any man worth her time is also either a medical resident, or someone more successful. You can imagine the pool of eligible men being extremely small. Sandra has been waiting for the perfect man for a long time.

She recently turned 31, and though she's still quite good looking, her appearance has deteriorated. Age is a harsh mistress.

The paradox is:

Any man good enough for her is going to prefer someone younger and better looking.

So she's trapped in a race between her own diminishing value and waiting for someone who meets her standards to come along. She could settle for someone less than ideal. Or she could take a chance and wait because her value diminishes every day. It's a race against time and the stakes are high.

I'm not sure the degree to which Sandra realizes these dynamics. I get the feeling she knows exactly what's up and is taking the chance of waiting. She doesn't want to settle.

On the other hand, many women like Sandra have been fooled into thinking that life is like Sex and the City, and they'll have high-value men pursuing them into their 40s and 50s.

HBD Girl does seem to realize the dynamics at play. In a later post, she writes, "If a man isn’t looking for a confident and accomplished woman and instead only values youthfulness then he’s not the one for me. Yay for the bias of self-selection!"

Fedex Plans to Raise Rates Next Year To Counteract Falling Profits

From Business Pundit:

Does this headline make any more sense than a headline:

Fedex Plans to Lower Rates Next Year To Counteract Rising Profits?


Fedex Management to run its company hoping for a gift of golden parachutes from shareholders?

Nobody puts Swayze in a coffin

Well, that's not true anymore. He's like the wind.


The silver lining of yellow journalism

While I imagine most Americans, like most people all over the world, are interested in political sex scandals purely out of tabloid-level interest, that shouldn't make us dismiss them as real phenomena deserving of our attention, and perhaps commentary. I frankly would be happier not knowing about the particular kinds of sex acts sleazy, hypocritical politicians are into, but it's a great way to remind people that legislators are only human. They're just people like us. They are not wiser, more responsible, more focused, or more moral than we are. (In most of these dimensions, I think they're a good deal less than average.) This is an ordinary guy who likes to brag about cheating on his wife. He's not going to solve our problems.

Obama's Health Care Speech Tonight

Obama assures America that there is nothing in his plan that will prevent individuals from keeping the insurance they have.

Then in the very next breath he explains at length how he's going to screw the insurance companies - for instance by compelling them to cover pre-existing conditions.

Decoded: You can keep the coverage you have, BUT we're rewriting it.

His great advantage is that there is not much in the way of principled opposition to socialism in American politics. What politician is willing to affirm that hospital emergency rooms ought to be free to turn away patients who can't pay?

And short of that, you agree with the main thrust of what Obama said more or less explicitly tonight: To each according to his need.

Sympathy for Despots

Thomas Friedman recently stuck his foot in his mouth with an ode to the "leadership" of China:

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.

Unsurprisingly, this has ignited a fair amount of controversy. And yet, I'm not sure he's 100% wrong, although I couldn't quite express why I thought this way.

John Derbyshire finally put into words why I felt a twinge of sympathy for Friedman's rather outlandish position:

A lot of us, including a lot of conservatives (remarks by Mark Steyn and George Will come to mind) feel that we have become so bureaucratized, lawyered-up, regulated, and PC-whipped that great national projects of the past — the trans-continental railroad, the transformation of Manhattan, the interstate highway system, wars we can actually win in less than a decade, . . . — are no longer possible. Our system has seized up somehow, and no innovation much bigger than a hand-held gadget stands a chance.

To us, stuck in this glue-trap, the sheer ability to get things done is bound to have some appeal, even when the agent of it is a brutish and callous despotism like China's.

Yep. A few weeks ago, I complained about our inability to dream of anything big anymore. But I think I undershot the problem, because I was talking about not being able to think of grand, new things. It's worse than that. It's difficult to even imagine building things that are already in existence.

To borrow a phrase from Arnold Kling, my "most wrong belief" is that productivity growth in construction has actually been negative over the last, say, 75 years.[*] I mention this to people, and they tend to chalk it up to improvements in safety standards, but I'm not so sure. It's difficult to even imagine constructing something like that Empire State Building in sixteen months. I'm not even confident we've made positive progress, let alone approaching anything like the growth we've seen in other manufacturing sectors.

And that's private sector. The situation in government is even worse. Subway systems largely built at the turn of the last century are bigger and better than what we can turn out now. Highway construction is a non-starter in urban areas.

So, like Derbyshire, I can see why Friedman gets frustrated. Unlike him, I don't want to see despotism. Deregulating at the national and state level would be a large step forward in allowing things to actually get built. We will still be stuck with the local NIMBYs, of course, but at least progress will be made somewhere. Maybe.

[*] A friend of mine, on hearing a rant from me on this topic, dug up some statistics and found that the total factor productivity growth rate in the U.S., for the construction sector, was -0.02 from 1970 to 1987. So that's something, although I don't know where that statistic came from.

Dragon*Con Breakdance Battle

The highlight of Dragon*Con 2009 was the 3 AM Saturday night breakdance battle between Doctor Manhattan, black-costumed Spider-Man, random rocker dude, and Mario Kart Yoshi. Yoshi won the battle hands down, with a spectacular wall jump flip. Hundreds of people in the lobby quickly gathered around the breakdancers, chanting "Yoshi, Yoshi", until security came to break it up, presumably for fire safety reasons. My friend and I had one of the best views, sitting in the neon-blue lit raised platform bar visible in the background in some of the shots in this video: