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Some Free Books on Philosophy and Market Anarchy...

Hello, my name is Stefan Molyneux, and I am the host of Freedomain Radio, an Internet philosophy show. I have published a number of free books, available as audio books or PDFs, which are available on my website at www.freedomainradio.com/free. My books deal with a rational proof of secular ethics, family resistance to philosophy, how anarchy works in practice, and how to use philosophy to improve your relationships.

If you're interested in the philosophy show, you can get the feeds at http://www.freedomainradio.com/podcasts.html.

Best wishes,

Stef


Market Anarchy Graffiti

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This was my project for the week. The hardest parts were macgyvering a flashlight projecter to blow up the stencils and getting the ladders to not tip over on the uneven river bottom. I only had to do commit a little trespassing to get it done!

It replaces my old sign:
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I know Micha will think it's an improvement.


Knee Jerk Deontology

Spiritual entities were once said to determine what was right and what was wrong. This force was thought to be God. Atheists and rationalists rejected this saying that the mind is best equipped for this duty. In this view, what is right or wrong is best judged by the smart educated people because they are most capable of being rational. Thus we have philosophers of ethicists and people who cruise the internet who tell us what is right and wrong. If you don’t believe me, just look at how many posts deal with right and wrong.

Ordinary people get by on a blend of consequence and principle in which they feel principled themselves and expect others to be that way too but their own behavior is arrived at situationally by deciding what is best at the moment.

Since deciding what is principled is difficult, only the most qualified, and smartest people can decide in advance what is right and by looking back hundreds of years they can also determinine what the correct things that everyone in the past should have done. Many of these people, since they no longer go to church inhabit certain departments of certain big time colleges, as I understand it.

Yet if deontology requires such great intelligence, why is it that the anointed get so emotional when their principles are violated. Since brainpower and thus philosophical acumen are unequally divided, as readers here should know, why would one be more emotional about a deontological error than if someone forgot a phone number or muffed an arithmetic problem?


The answer comes from neuro-imaging and psychologic studies
that seem to show that deontological decisions, despite being based on supposedly intellectual considerations, actually are knee jerk responses that take less mental work than utilitarian decisions. They are feelings individuals invest in. In this way deontology and ideology are similar. The thing that takes more mental work is when you have to weigh and balance the inevitable utilitarian trade offs, having to choose the better of two evils.

How much simpler life was when superstitious primitives only had to ask if God approved of their deeds. If a violation of His will occurred sacrifice or prayer would tend to make things right. No worrying about the morality of racism, patriarchy, homophobia, global warming, and saving the lives of panda cubs. Whereas you used to have to worry about being persecuted for failing to attend church, now you are labeled as immoral if you don’t recycle, or if you drive an SUV, smoke, discipline your children or go fishing. And you wonder why some people are conservatives.


Dictatorship is not all bad

I only ever got to hear my grandfather speak publicly once, at the CMC Athaneum in Claremont, during college. One of the things he talked about was the odd lack of linkage between political and economic freedom, which was a bit of a puzzle to someone who is in favor of both. The freest economies of the twentieth century, he pointed out, were places like Hong Kong and Singapore that had no political freedom.

One of the points I've been trying to make since the beginning of the Iraq invasion is that benevolent despots are not all bad, and depending on the population, democracy can be worse. Specifically, Saddam Hussein, although a power-hungry dictator who happily murdered his political opponents, was not in any way a Muslim fundamentalist. Quite the opposite, in fact, and his Iraq was (compared to other countries in the region) a pretty good place for education, women's rights, gay rights, etc. Today's Iraq, on the other hand, is much more dominated by religious interests.

This interview w/ Jared Polis provides some evidence for my point:

NL: What did you take back from your trip to Iraq?

JP: It was really interesting and very educational for me. I spent several days in Baghdad and several days in Amman, Jordan. In addition to meeting with many different Iraqis and members of our military off-duty and NGO relief workers, I also got the opportunity to talk to several gay and lesbian Iraqis, too, who have a particular plight.

Under the administration of Saddam Hussein, Iraq was one of the more tolerant Arab countries. It's a relatively low bar, but certainly gays and lesbians weren't openly hunted or killed. It was much like it was in Jordan today, where there is a somewhat thriving underground gay and lesbian community that was officially tolerated. But now, really, every gay and lesbian that could flee Iraq has fled Iraq. Anybody who's known, or even suspected, to be gay or lesbian is hunted down and frequently killed by some of the fundamentalist militias there. Most Iraqi gays and lesbians have fled to Jordan. There are a few remaining in Iraq, and a few safehouses do exist, but that only really reemphasized the need, including in this country, to include gender identity protections, because the first to be hunted down in Iraq are those who defy the gender stereotypes--men who are effeminate, or women who are masculine or otherwise suspected of being gay or lesbian.

It's a very real human rights issue that hasn't gotten as much attention as it deserves.

I'm not saying that the democratization of Iraq was a net negative for its citizens (although that may be the case, when you count the costs of war damage). But when you tot up the costs and benefits, you need to include things like this - areas where freedom has, ironically, been reduced by democracy.

Democracy reducing freedom is very counterintuitive to most of us, I think. We've been brainwashed from birth to believe that democracy is the greatest safeguard of human rights, and dictatorships are purely horrible things that ban all free expression. But that viewpoint is naive - some demoses are worse than some dictators in some ways - perhaps even overall.


First Reason to Like One of Them

Well I've found my first reason for liking a presidential candidate this year. Not that I'm trying very hard, being a rational voter. McCain is against bailing out Fannie Mae.

Up to this point I had disliked him due to McCain-Feingold and at least he is not tied to racism like Barack "Trinity Church" Obama , or Ron "Newsletter" Paul was.

I hadn't like Paul for other reasons. His blame terrorism on America stance was a one issue killer for me. The world is more complex than "We'll stay out of everyone's business and they'll be nice".

I still don't have a candidate I like enough to vote for and I don't hate any candidate enough to "vote for the other guy" at this point so it looks like I won't be voting at all. I do think Obama is going to make a mess of the economy but I think that of all the candidates.

This Fannie Mae stance was only a minor sign that McCain gets the economics, but Bush had such "minor signs" before he was elected and he proceeded to screw up the economy more than it already was. He was into bailouts, tariffs and keeping Alan Greenspan around to inflate the currency, for example.

We are in real deep economic trouble and most people don't recognize it. Whoever is president is going to inherit a mess. I wonder how it's going to play out. If it's Obama he might get sainted like FDR did for making things worse. I don't think McCain will get that benefit. Even if he does exactly right things I think he will be blamed for the troubles and may not make a second term.

Note that I think doing exactly the right things is going to make lots of people unhappy, including me. Financially I'm betting they'll do the wrong things because it's the politically expedient thing to do. In fact, I might vote for Obama to increase my odds of being right. Inflation, here she comes.

[Update: When I began writing this post I was thinking about the winning candidates of the Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian parties. I don't particularly like Bob Barr. Yes, it was hyperbole to say "First reason to like one of them". No it doesn't neccesarily apply to Ron Paul, or in fact any of the candidates. In general I was trying to express how jaded I feel about the candidates. Sorry if that lead to any misunderstandings.]


Who's Committing the War Crimes?

Colombia had a recent triumph in freeing hostages from the leftist rebels FARC. If there is any doubt about the debased ideology of FARC the fact that it kept the hostages chained together at the neck continuously for years on end should make one pause for thought. Not CNN. No, they are already trying to interpret these events as a crime committed by the Colombian government.

CNN has just run an article trying to paint the Colombian government as "the bad guys" titled “Colombian military used Red Cross emblem in rescue”. By the third paragraph they are already making claims against Colombia.

“Such a use of the Red Cross emblem could constitute a "war crime" under the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law and could endanger humanitarian workers in the future, according to international legal expert Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association.”

Tough charges, lets see if they hold up. Will this endanger Red Cross aid workers in the future? How?

“It is clear that the conventions are very strict regarding use of the symbol because of what it represents: impartiality, neutrality. The fear is that any misuse of the symbol would weaken that neutrality and would weaken the [Red Cross],"

Yes, they are serious charges and that is a quite reasonable law, but the spirit of the law is that one not use the symbol to impersonate the Red Cross in doing humanitarian work. So the true question should be, “Was there an impersonation of the Red Cross here”.

If you look at the CNN article you will see that they have displayed the Red Cross in their article. No one would bother charging them with a “war crime” because they aren’t impersonating aid workers in doing so. There is no attempt to deception involved.

Well I shouldn’t say that. There is deception involved in their article, an attempt to deceive the public into believing that a “war crime” was committed by the Colombian government. What wasn’t attempted was to deceive any parties that CNN was the Red Cross. Nor was there any such attempt on the part of the Colombian government to do so as we will learn from information later in the article, despite CNNs attempts to magnify a different point of view.

It’s not until we get to the sixth paragraph that we learn.

"The unpublished video and photos of the mission, hailed internationally as a daring success, were shown to CNN by a military source looking to sell the material. CNN declined to buy the material at the price being asked; it was therefore unable to verify the authenticity of the images."

Why the rush to paint Colombia as war criminals if the photos are not know to be authentic?

Buried even deeper in the article.

“"After all these years of guerrilla war, we have become experts in identifying who is before us," she answered. "That's why I said it was very strange to me. I said, 'Well, what is this? A helicopter, a white helicopter. Red Cross? No. France? No.' There was no flag. There was nothing; there was no sign anywhere."

Here they have eye witness testimony from the event stating that there was no credible impersonation of the Red Cross. Was the Colombian government trying to impersonate the Red Cross here or were they trying to do something quite different?

“One of the members, dressed in a dark red T-shirt or polo shirt, khaki cargo pants and a black-and-white Arab-style scarf, also wears a bib of the type worn by Red Cross workers.”

An Arab-style scarf. Well that doesn’t sound like someone trying to impersonate the Red Cross. The Red Cross is not a Muslim organization.

At the beginning of the article we learned.

“The military source said the three photos were taken moments before the mission took off to persuade the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels to release the hostages to a supposed international aid group for transport to another rebel area.”

Were they trying to imitate international aid workers? Do international aid groups transport prisoners for terrorist organizations? I don’t think so. We do know that it’s a common practice for terrorists to pretend they are running ambulances. The Al-Dura affair was an event at which such mock use of ambulances took place. Something we know with no thanks to CNN. In this case the Colombian forces are obviously pretending to be FARC sympathetic operatives pretending to be aid workers in order to transport prisoners.

“Both of Colombia's two main guerrilla armies, the FARC and the smaller National Liberation Army, have been known to misuse the Red Cross symbol, sometimes transporting fighters in ambulances.”

Well, then it’s obvious that there was no impersonation of the Red Cross. From prior reports we know the FARC rebels had been told that this was a prisoner transport operation ordered by FARC leadership. Since it is common practice for FARC to impersonate the Red Cross for transport then what better way to impersonate other terrorists than to use the same tactic. Therefore no “war crime”.

Have no doubt, there was no attempt here to trick anyone into believing the Colombian military personal were actual aid workers doing humanitarian work. The Colombian government was on a true humanitarian mission but that is the exact opposite of what FARC was lead to believe. FARC members were under the mistaken belief that this was just another prisoner transport operation by other members of FARC. There was no attempt to deceive anyone into believing that this was the Red Cross, the Colombian Military certainly wasn’t trying to deceive itself, so there was no violation of the spirit of the law even if a Red Cross symbol happened to be worn.

Now had the Colombian government convinced FARC they were the Red Cross and were planning on actually helping these people with treatment, or by releasing them then certainly there would have been a “war crime” in the sense perhaps that was not intended. That’s a problem with the letter of the law not the spirit. In fact, if anyone, even a bunch of doctors, impersonated the Red Cross to deliver medical attention they would be violating the letter of this law. That’s not the spirit however. The spirit is that the symbol of the Red Cross not be used for military operations like transporting prisoners. The true “war criminals” here are members of FARC.

This CNN story was written with a certain bias, a certain interpretation of events, and I don’t think it was unintentional. The article could have been headlined “Colombian Military Uses FARC’s Abuse of Humanitarian Aid Symbols to Rescue Hostages”, and it could have stressed the important point that no FARC member ever truly believed this was a humanitarian mission. Instead they painted this as war crimes being committed by a US ally. This is far from objective journalism.

How can CNN wonder why they are considered by some of being anti-American, and pro-Terrorist? People are rescued from being chained together at the neck day and night for years and CNN finds a way to paint their rescuers as demons, shame on you CNN. Shame, shame.


Student Who Took Condom Getting Death Threats

I'm linking to this story too trigger a discussion of contracts. Well, maybe not, I just find it ridiculous. I've changed the nouns to protect the innocent.

"A UCF student claims he’s getting death threats for messing with something sacred.

Webster Cook says he smuggled a condom, a small rubber ballon that to planned parenthood members is symbolic of responsible behavior after a volunteer hands it out, he didn’t use it as he was supposed to do, but instead walked with it."

Ok so he took something that he was given freely and left with it disobeying some rule about immediate usage. In this case the condom was suppose to be used in an act of oral sodomy. A kind of symbolic cannibalism.

"Planned Parenthood members worldwide became furious."

Not only were they furious but they wanted it back.

Why? They gave it to him for free and if he used it the way they wanted it would've been ruined by the act. In fact the volunteer had directly put the condom on Webster Cook. Who else would want to use it after that?

The quality of the condoms handed out do not even rise to the level of what is sold in stores. This is a five cent condom not a fifty cent one.

Surely not something to become outraged over even had Cook signed a contract stating that he would use the condom in a sex act. Suppose he had gotten home and thrown the condom away instead of using it in a sex act, thus violating the contract. Surely Planned Parenthood could be indemnified by this wastage of their condom by paying five cents or better yet buying a high quality condom on Amazon or at the supermarket and returning that instead.

"Webster’s friend, who didn’t want to show his face, said he took the Eucharist, to show him what it meant to Catholics."

He wanted to show his friend the condom and perhaps discuss safe sex practices. You'd think planned parenthood would be good with that.

Another article at WorldDaily.com gave even more details on his motivations.

The student senator, Webster Cook, originally claimed he merely wanted to show the condom to a friend who had questions about Planned Parenthood before using the condom for a oral sex act.

So apparently he was planning to use the condom all along, just from home.

"Webster gave the wafer back, but the Condom League, a national watchdog organization for Condom rights claims that is not enough.

“We don’t know 100% what Mr. Cooks motivation was,” said Susan Fellatio a spokesperson with the local Planned Parenthood. “However, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it.”"

Wait a second. He gave the same condom back and they are still not satisfied? I find this puzzling to say the least. Not using a freely distributed five cent condom that you can buy online is a hate crime?

Get real.

If you want to control how your condoms are used then you are going to have to restrict your distribution to members only, put signs up, have them sign a contract first, and supervise the process more diligently. You can even make the pay for the condoms up front if you want.

Once you put the condom on a person though I don't see how you can force them to perform a sex act if they decide not to at the last minute. So even if Cook was a member and all these procedures were followed the most they can do is revoke his membership.

What is especially disturbing is that throughout the middle ages Planned Parenthood used the false accusation of "Stealing the Condom" and "Condom Desecration" to persecute Jews.

"Accusations of condom desecration leveled against Jews were a common pretext for massacres and expulsions throughout the Middle Ages in Europe.[1] At the time, the concept of Jewish condomcide — that the Jewish people were responsible for poking holes in condoms — was a generally accepted Condomist belief."

This seems to be a common practice of non-profits. They set up some taboo that no rational person would give a second thought about and use that to demonize, persecute and lynch anyone who disagrees with their dogma. What better excuse for killing someone and stealing their property than accusing them of stealing a five cent condom or mishandling a book that is full of lies. Hell they'll beat you to death even if they own the book or were the ones that originally handed you the condom.

Hell, in the middle ages they were forcing the Jews to put on the condoms in cannibalistic ceremonies, and at the same time accusing them of smuggling them out for illicit purposes. If you remember your history on the incondomquisition then you will recall that many Jews were forced to become Condomists by the Spanish.


Great white teeth

Spotted at the Boston Herald.


A few thoughts on the campaign against racism

As a kind of convenience, I'll present these thoughts as responses to an article with Micha brought to my attention. These aren't meant to be a comprehensive treatment of the subject, just a few thoughts.

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a post about the intersection of race and crime that dovetails with a conversation I had shortly after learning my friend Brian had been shot last week. I got to thinking about how the economic effects of past racism create breeding grounds for new racism—at once more subtle and more difficult to extirpate.

But how much of the economic misfortune is really caused by racism? There are other causal factors, such as welfare programs creating dependency, absentee fathers failing to bring their sons up right, various effects of the drug war, and so on. Is it even at the root of very much? In other times, minorities have been the object of severe hostility but have succeeded economically. Jewish and Chinese minorities succeeded in the face of severe hostility. My sense of it is that racism accounts for virtually none of the economic misfortune of blacks in America, that racism generally speaking accounts for virtually none of the economic misfortunes suffered by most any ethnic group - in times of sufficient peace. Genocides can, of course, be perpetrated against minorities, for example.

And I even found myself wondering whether, paradoxically, the healthy social consensus about the unacceptability of racism doesn’t make it more difficult to root out in its less obvious but arguably most pernicious forms.

If it's causing problems then maybe it's not so healthy after all. And how much of it is really 'social consensus', at least in any spontaneous sense, and how much is adaptation to the legal environment? As a point of analogy, a lot of people think that selling cocaine is really bad but selling tobacco and alcohol isn't that big a deal and selling caffeine is no big deal at all. This is surely not a spontaneous social consensus but an adaptation to the legal environment. Were the law changed, people's attitudes would change.

This is not to say that the spontaneous social consensus would be that racism is acceptable. There are different ways of being unacceptable. Arithmetic errors, spelling errors, the f-word, inattention in class, and any number of other things are each unacceptable in their own way. There is an element of fear and panic nowadays associated with being thought a racist, which may have a connection, if an indirect one, with the current legal environment.

[...]The disturbing thing here is that while these reactions are at least arguably racist in some sense, they’re not obviously irrational as a kind of statistical heuristic. In light of the facts on the ground—facts that are themselves substantially the product of past racism—they eventually become instinctive.

Well, that's right, they're not irrational, and this is an important point. If you're going to condemn rationality then you've set up a herculean task for yourself, because rationality will reassert itself again and again, and if you condemn it then it will hide itself from the light of day. But the problem here is that you're wrong and your target is right. If you condemn the right and seek to replace it with the wrong, then you don't have truth and reason on your side any more, all you have is (possibly) power. People are going to be much more receptive if you can clearly show that such-and-such demonstrable bias is demonstrably irrational.

If it were limited in context, if it were only a matter of how conscious you are of the guy on the street at night, it might not be a serious problem. But that’s not how reflexive reactions like this work. They tend to bleed over into contexts—the temp agency, the corner store—where they are both inappropriate and destructive.

Do you know this for a fact? Do you know how extensive the effect is? Are you engaging in a bit of mindreading here?

And the contexts aren’t even all that separable: The skittish convenience store owner may have a statistical reason for being more nervous when a group of black or Latino male teenagers walk in, but the atmosphere of suspicion that creates for the vast majority who have no designs on the till is so toxic it’s become a trope.

Tragic to be sure, but if it's rational to be suspicious then if you try to make the owner feel bad for being rational then you're wrong and he's right, and nothing especially good will come of you attempting to "correct" him.

Thinking in stereotypes comes easily to us, and it takes conscious effort to at least keep them cabined away where they will do least harm. And that requires entertaining that uncomfortable thought: I might, in some sense, be a racist.

If you include valid statistical heuristics as racist then I most definitely am racist and will always be racist and nothing you or I or anyone can do will stop it. But if by 'racist' you mean that my heuristic is actually mistaken, then you actually need to prove that it's mistaken. Which is, admittedly, hard work. But it's work you have to do if you want to really induce me to drop that heuristic. It's work I have to do if I want to induce myself to drop that heuristic.

Understand what I'm saying here. I'm saying that you need to prove case by case that there is racism and that it's not necessarily easily to do. A particular judgment may in fact be entirely rational. The mere fact that it employs race does not automatically make it irrational.

It's not good for a person to be mugged repeatedly only by young black men and to be aware of the statistics and yet repeat to himself or herself, 'it's racist to be afraid of the black guy behind me in this dark alley.' That's not virtuous - that's insane, it is a rebellion against a person's own rationality. And it's not going to work. At most it's going to make the person feel uselessly guilty for not being able to help being rational. The Catholic Church gets criticized for something similar: apparently in essence it treats human nature as sinful, and so naturally, all Catholics sin and sin repeatedly, and confess and do penance and are forgiven repeatedly. That, at any rate, is the impression I gather admittedly from some distance.

Which leads me to wonder: Is it possible to be so opposed to racism that it becomes more difficult to root out racism?

Sure. But there's something else: it's possible to be so incoherent and/or unfair about what counts as racism that it becomes more difficult to root out racism. If by 'racism' you mean nothing other than true bias - not statistically justified heuristics but true bias that systematically misleads - then you've made your task easier. But when you fail to distinguish between the valid and the invalid, when you declare off-limits all use of the category of race by the brain to draw conclusions about an unknown person, then you are doing the same thing that lawmakers do when they impose unjust law. What they do is induce a loss of respect for law, for all law, and an increase of fear of law, desire to avoid law, desire to run in the opposite direction whenever the police are around. And what you do if you're not careful in what you call racist is replace understanding and agreement with fear. You make people shut up and shut down when you come around with your inquisition. You will still get people nodding, but they will be nodding the way North Koreans praise the Great Leader. Watch North Koreans and they look like they're madly in love with the Great Leader, but you know and I know that it is not based on understanding and agreement with the Great Leader. You and I know that it is based on fear.

[...] But the variety of racism more common today is more subtle than that, and in a way more pernicious for it, since the overt bigot is unlikely to wield much social power. It’s the subliminal reaction of the manager looking for a new cashier who, for some reason he can’t articulate, just doesn’t think the minority candidate seems quite trustworthy enough. It’s this person who we most want examining his own attitudes. But to do that means being prepared to start from the difficult premise that even he—educated, urbane, kind, and so on—may indeed harbor racial biases. Like Hitler! Like a Klansman!

Maybe he does and maybe you're trying and failing to read his mind. The very hiddenness of the supposedly subterranean racism creates a problem of knowledge. If it's hidden, how do you know it's there? If it's there, to what degree are you exaggerating that it's there? When you start condemning and hunting that which is invisible, then you create a situation that doesn't entirely fail to resemble the witch hunts. Back when they hunted witches, they were also hunting the hidden and the invisible. In fact, how do you seriously propose to avoid this turning into a witch hunt? It may already be already a witch hunt.

Now, there’s an obvious way around this, though it should make us uncomfortable for different reasons. We could make a point of talking about race bias and stereotyping in a more gradated way. At one pole is the Klansman. At another, there’s that “typical white person” who is more guarded and alert walking past a black guy at 1am on 7th and V than he would be walking past a similarly-dressed white person.

There's also the "typical black person". How racist is he or she? Can we (typical white people) even talk about such a generality without risk of being branded racists ourselves? Do we dare make easy generalizations about the "typical black person", as easily as Obama makes about the "typical white person"? Obama makes a generalization about a "typical white person" which you accept without trouble even though he has presented no statistical studies backing up his claim. But if I were to say a bunch of things about the "typical black person", I would be almost certain to be condemned as racist not only if I didn't have statistics to back me up, but even if I did have statistics to back me up. People hear Obama easily talk about the "typical white person" and immediately they recognize a form that they themselves would be roundly condemned for employing in the other direction. Is it any wonder that they feel something is off here? And this obvious lack of fairness is yet another problem with the campaign against racism. This is a serious inconsistency, a serious unfairness, and the rational mind rightly rebels against it.

But think about the defensiveness, even outrage, we saw in response to Obama’s “typical white person” comment:

The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, but that she is a typical white person. If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know (pause) there’s a reaction in her that doesn’t go away and it comes out in the wrong way.

Is this really controversial?

In addition to what I wrote above, here's Instapunk on Obama.

The world has long needed an heir to Teddy Kennedy, a younger master of the art of beiing rich and well connected while condemning everyone who does actual work.

Now we have him. Aren't you happy? I know I am. There's nothing better in life than being lectured about how we're supposed to be by people who have never accomplished a damn thing but getting elected to the public trough.

That is one more explanation of the allergic reaction to Obama's words.

[...] So reservations notwithstanding, maybe there’s something to be said for acknowledging that, as the Avenue Q song has it, “everyone’s a little bit racist.” I’ll accuse myself here: At 2am on 7th and V, I am not color blind. Maybe that bias is defensible at that time and place. That doesn’t mean it’s not a bias, or that it’s not potentially dangerous.

To the extent that it is defensible, then it is not a bias.

[...] The tricky part here is threading our way between, on the one hand, a sort of blunderbuss condemnation that creates a counterproductive incentive for people to conceal their biases even from themselves, and on the other, a lazy complacency about those biases. I don’t know exactly how we do that. It seems beyond grotesque to ask the law-abiding black guy on the wrong end of a thousand suspicious glances to indulge the skittish whites.

I go through something like this myself as a male, regardless of my race. In certain situations I cause caution in people who don't know me for no other reason than I am male, even though I am in fact no danger to them. They don't know that. But how is this in the slightest their fault? The people to blame, if anyone, are the other males who have created this rational response. Those are the only people I can see myself rightly blaming for the caution that people rationally exercise in certain situations around me. Other people like me. To be entirely fair, then, when a young black law-abiding man is treated with rational suspicion, should he not blame, should we not all blame, other young black men who are not so law-abiding? Rather than the ones who have good reason to be suspicious of this young black man who they don't know anything about.

It seems unrealistic to expect the skittish whites to just knock it off.

It's unrealistic because it's unfair - if you like, grotesque - to ask them to shut off their own reason. And meanwhile, what about actual racism? Actual bias? Actual systematically wrong judgments? Are you ready really to prove case by case that this exists? Or do you want to condemn both actual bias and the use of reason as 'racist' whenever an unknown person's race is used as a clue about him? Certainly, it is much easier for you to do the latter, because it is a lot easier to see that race is used as a clue than it is to see whether its use was rational or irrational, statistically justified or statistically unjustified. It's easier, then, to condemn both, because it's hard to distinguish between them. But it creates a problem when you do so.


A dialog

A: The struggle for freedom is the struggle against aggression.

B: The struggle for freedom is the struggle to maximize our possibilities.

A: I'm all for maximizing possibilities, but just because you like two things (freedom and maximizing possibilities) doesn't mean that they're the same thing.

B: So what makes your characterization any better?

A: It fits the examples.

B: What examples do you have in mind?

A: A slave wants to be free.

B: A slave wants to increase his possibilities.

A: But he can increase his possibilities in other ways. He can ask his owner for more possibilities.

B: But he can increase his possibilities even more if he's free.

A: Not necessarily. A free man may struggle more than a slave.

B: If a certain slave truly enjoys more possibilities than a certain free man, then the free man will envy the slave.

A: How so? What if the free man values his freedom more than his possibilities?

B: But how are we to weigh different possibilities except by how they are valued? If a certain free man envies a certain slave, then however happy he may appear from the outside, by his own lights the possibilities he enjoys as a free man are outweighed the possibilities enjoyed by the slave. But if he does not envy the slave, then however miserable he may appear from the outside, by his own lights the possibilities that he enjoys as a free man outweigh the possibilities enjoyed by the pampered slave.

A: Okay, then I will grant that a free man may, in theory, envy a slave. What do you want to conclude from this?

B: If he envies the slave, then he considers the slave more free. I defined the struggle for freedom as the struggle to maximize our possibilities. If the free man thinks that a slave enjoys more possibilities than he does as a free man, then he considers the slave to be freer.

A: This is only if we adopt your notion of freedom as the struggle to maximize our possibilities.

B: Why not? If the free man envies the slave, then the free man prefers the life of the slave to his own life. Why not say that he considers the slave to be freer? Surely the man's preference trumps every other consideration, at least from his own perspective.

A: Slavery is freedom?

B: A particular slave might be freer than a particular free man.

A: But the distinction between a slave and a free man just is that the latter is free and the former is not. That's just what slavery means.

B: Well, then we might need to reexamine the concept of slavery, but if the free man envies the slave, isn't that more important than quibbles about concepts?

A: But we already have terminology for that. We have the word "preference." Why draft the word "freedom" to serve as a synonym for "preference"? It was already doing important work.

B: What can be more important than preference itself?

A: And therefore it's okay to draft the word? By that logic, every word in the language should be drafted to be a synonym for "preference". No more language.

B: You still haven't explained the important work being done by the word "freedom."

A: You agree that there is such a thing as aggression, correct?

B: I'll agree to that.

A: Then there's such a thing as freedom from aggression.

B: And this is what you mean by "freedom?"

A: Pretty much. "Freedom" is short for "freedom from aggression."

B: Aren't you drafting the word "freedom" to do special work for you?

A: I think all I've done is analyzed the received idea of freedom. I think if we look at examples of freedom, they all concern freedom from various acts of aggression.

B: But I've also analyzed the received idea of freedom. Maybe a different received idea.

A: I see you're not going to change your mind. Can we at least recognize that there are two concepts? Must we try to wipe each other's concept out?

B: Agreed. Freedom from aggression and freedom to act.

A: But these can come in conflict.

B: You are referring to the free man who envies the slave?

A: No, I mean that, in order to increase Paul's freedom to act, it is a common practice to aggress against Peter - to rob him and transfer the money to Paul.

B: But by the same token, freedom from aggression can come into conflict with itself.

A: That sounds like a contradiction.

B: Just replace money transfer with police protection. Here, I'll spell it out: in order to increase Paul's freedom from aggression, it is a common practice to aggress against Peter - to rob him and transfer the money to a police department which protects Paul's freedom.

A: I disagree with a tax-funded police force. Do you disagree with tax-funded welfare?

B: Maybe.

A: But on what basis? You advocate freedom to act, not freedom from aggression.

B: Robbing Peter to pay Paul reduces Peter's freedom to act.

A: But it increases Paul's freedom to act. On what basis do you make a choice? If you consistently make the same choice as I do, siding with the potential victim of aggression, then aren't you in fact an advocate of freedom from aggression?

B: Maybe I have a dilemma, maybe I have to choose between Peter and Paul. Are you saying you don't have a similar dilemma?

A: Well, in this case the principle of freedom from aggression dictates that I side with Peter. The principle of the maximization of possibilities does not decide between Peter and Paul.

B: How about this. What if Peter is so rich he can hardly feel the aggression but Paul's life is transformed by the transfer? Peter's possibilities are reduced less than Paul's are increased. In fact, in this case, don't you agree? Isn't the benefit worth the cost?

A: It's still aggression. You've reduced Peter's freedom from aggression in order to increase Paul's freedom to act.

B: But the world is on the whole better.

A: Debatable. What's not debatable is that it's still aggression.

B: Well - so what? So you get to label it 'aggression'. What is so important about that?

A: It's important to Peter.

B: The transfer is important to Paul.

A: You don't feel any guilt? You don't feel the robbery is wrong?

B: The total sum of human happiness goes up.

A: And that defines right and wrong for you?

B: What else defines right and wrong?

A: Apparently you are not a receptive audience. I will address myself to Peter.

Peter: Oh, hi. What's on your mind?

A: You are being robbed. Join me in the fight against the welfare state.

Peter: Yes, you are right, I am being robbed. But what can be done about it? It is more worthwhile for me to lobby the government to rob Paul and to transfer a bit of his wealth to me.

A: Madness.

Peter: No, rationality. I don't want to reshape the world. All I want to do is get along as well as I can. What I'm doing now is the best thing for my own future.

(Nothing really new here. Just an exercise, or a bit of fun for me, or something. And while I leave A defeated and frustrated, I am in fact A.)


Only the Government Can Do It

We've seen the government lose money running gambling organizations like the OTB. Which is surprising enough given that uneducated gangsters can run such operations profitably while incurring the costs of avoiding the law and not being able to openly advertise. But how can they lose money if they feel they can do things like selling 'Zero' chance lottery tickets.

"Through a request filed under the Freedom of Information Act, Fishwick's firm was able to obtain records that showed the Virginia State Lottery sold $85 million in tickets for which no top prize was available. Fishwick says the state should pay $85 million in damages."

Well maybe that idea won't pan out if they have to pay the money back. I wonder if the Virgina State Lottery will be running in the black if they lose the suit. I say "if" because maybe it's perfectly legal.


Speaking of Tomatoes

Here I am in my natural habitat. I'm around 6'1" so you can see the tomatos are already up around 5 foot. Those poles are twelve feet long each. I may have to add a third rung near the top if they go past the 6 foot mark. I've gotten two ripe tomatos so far.

No it's not just tomato's either. Half that garden is other things. I keep four foot wide beds with paths that run east to west. The shorter stuff grows at the front of the beds and the tomatos shade the footpaths. It's 32x32 and I have another at 12x40.

Watermelon, zucchini, gourds, turks turbins, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, turnip greens, green beans, soy beans, peas, bitter melon, leaf lettuce, winter lettuce, miners lettuce, turnip greens, onions, strawberry spinach, strawberries, long island cheese pumpkins, giant pumpkins, pie pumpkins, american giant sunflowers, potatoes, eggplant, hot peppers, sweet peppers, verdolaga, and italian wall lizards.

There's around 14 kinds of tomatos, 3 hot peppers, etc. I grow many types of flowers too. Here's mullen banana custard next to my pool.

I'm growing the hottest pepper in the world this year, the bhut jolokia, which is three times hotter than the second hottest the habanero. It rates a around one million scoville units. The pepper spray they use in riot control is 2 to 5 million scoville units, while tabasco is a mild 2,500 units.

Here's a video of some kid eating a habanero. Notice the flames coming out his ears and the uncontrollable knitting of his eyebrows in anguish. He emits a pained squeal before going for the water. You need to watch this first to be impressed by the others.

Here's different guy but instead eating a bhut jolokia. Remember the individual peppers are between half and one fifth pepper spray by volume. I'm quite impressed but I think he was born with defective pain sensors so it's not quite fair. At least he was smart enough not to eat then entire thing like the other guy.

A couple of these Mexican's are obviously racist against East Indians as they don't seem to be enjoying this traditional Indian food. The one on the right not only handles the hot but she is hot. Perfect if you're planning a riot.

I thought I wasn't going to be able to find any videos of normal people eating the bhut jolokia. Seem's like everybodies doing it but they are all super human. This guy eats a whole one, you can sense he wants to cry when he talks, but then he gulps down another. Apparently it hurts on the way out too.

Yes, someone did "plant" italian wall lizards in my garden to keep the bugs in check. Besides they're cute. I think that same someone is responsible for putting them in my old garden back in New Hyde Park. They have been in the news recently as they are rapidly evolving new body parts.

I believe with the new habitat containing bhut jolokia this is the first step in evolving true fire breathing dragons.


The Course of Human Events

Ad appearing in NY Times 4 July.

H/T Daily Paul


Maximize Totals, Not Averages

Over on his personal blog, Patri shared some thoughts about life extension, with which I agree. What I find interesting is this response in his comments:

What does more time give you? In many of your other posts you're talking about living in the now, seizing the moment, and from your seasteading, poker and fitness I would say you're doing a good job of that, but how many people can say the same?

How many people waste their time with soulless activities? And giving them more time helps them how? Creating consumers to an infinite amount or reruns?

This is a fairly common response to the prospect of extending lifespan, and it's completely bizarre to me. The line of argument seems to say that if we were no longer under the clock, as it were, of aging, we'd whittle away our lives on pointless activities and so the average quality of our lives would go down.

First of all, I'm not at all convinced this is true. We're hardwired from billions of years of evolution to act as if we're aging, and I suspect we'd carry on much the same as always, other than developing a stronger risk aversion.

But assume arguendo that it's true that the average quality "per minute of life" would decline with agelessness. The only proper response is "so what". Suppose you found out that you were going to die in exactly three years of a terminal, but painless, disease. Then it is very plausible that your "average quality" of your remaining years might be higher. You'd probably make an effort to spend more time with friends, travel to new places, and so forth. (For sure I wouldn't spend more time reading the Administrative Code of Virginia for my research assistant job.)

But nobody would wish for this diagnosis, and the reason is obvious. What we're after in life is to maximize our total enjoyment, not our average. Sure, if you know you're life will be shorter, you might make more of an effort to compress more activity into your shorter years. But virtually everyone would rather have 30 more years of routine holidays and quiet dinners with the family rather than three glorious years of "maximal living". If everyone understands this when we're talking about cutting life short, why do people suddenly forget it when we're talking about making life longer?

It really is a weird inversion of what Bryan Caplan called the "Woody Allen fallacy"

If a finite quantity of life is worthless, how can an infinite quantity be desirable? [. . .] If an infinite span of days is so great, what's stopping you from enjoying today?

But here we have someone who accepts that the marginal value of life is declining, but thinks it dips negative, the only possible explanation of why shorter lifespans should be preferred. And call me a naive optimist if you must, but I think life is pretty damn good, and I can't imagine the marginal value of another day being negative, at least so long as I'm healthy.


Forget Diversity; Pass the Wine and Spaghetti Please

Socioeconomic Inequalities vs. Health in 22 European Countries

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine points out that there are health outcome disparities in European countries too. I thought it would generate a lot of newspaper articles and public discussion but there has been silence as far as I can tell. Inequity in health outcome among groups of various socioeconomic status (as measured by education, occupation, and income) constitutes part of the debate about American health care.

It is unknown to what extent such inequalities are modifiable or exactly how they arise. This does not keep persons with strong political agendas from using these disparities to demand specific changes.

For example this list from the Commonwealth Fund gives a rundown of things that need to be done in order to ameliorate health care disparities in the United States.

  • Effective evaluation of disparities-reduction programs.
  • Minimum standards for culturally and linguistically competent health services.
  • Greater minority representation within the health care workforce.
  • Establishment or enhancement of government offices of minority health.
  • Expanded access to services for all ethnic and racial groups.
  • Involvement of all health system representatives in minority health improvement efforts.

But how much benefit should we expect if we do make these changes? Perhaps it would be appropriate to look at conditions in other parts of the world.

Data on mortality according to education level and occupational class in this study came from census-based mortality studies. Deaths were classified according to cause, including common causes, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, smoking, alcohol use and causes amenable to medical intervention, such as tuberculosis and hypertension. Data were also obtained from health or multipurpose surveys given to 350,000 persons asking them about their general health. For each country, the association between socioeconomic status and health outcomes was measured with the use of regression-based inequality indexes.

Europe offered an excellent opportunities for this type of research because of the intercountry variety of political, cultural, economic, and epidemiologic histories and because good data on inequalities in health are often available.

In almost all countries, the rates of death and poorer self-assessments of health were substantially higher in groups of lower socioeconomic status, but the magnitude of the inequalities between groups of higher and lower socioeconomic status was much larger in some countries than in others.

Findings of interest included the following:

  1. Inequalities in mortality between socioeconomic groups and genders were small in some Southern European countries and very large in most countries in the Eastern European and Baltic regions.
  2. Though higher education was associated with lower mortality in all countries the ratio differed markedly between countries. In England, Wales, and Sweden lower education was associated with less than twice the mortality rate of the more educated persons. In Eastern Europe there was a four fold increase in mortality among the least educated. In the Basque country of Spain the disparities were less pronounced than anywhere else. Southern Europe seemed to be the healthiest area over all.
  3. Among men and women, smaller inequalities in the rate of death from any cause in the Southern European regions are due mainly to smaller inequalities in the rate of death from cardiovascular disease. For example, among men in the Basque country, where the education-related inequality in the rate of death from any cause is below the European average, decreased death from cardiovascular disease accounts for 45% of this difference. Larger inequalities in the rate of death from cardiovascular disease make an important contribution to larger inequalities in the rate of death from any cause in the eastern and Baltic regions as well; however, important contributions are also made by cancer in the eastern region and injuries in the Baltic region.
  4. I wonder about the effect of the Mediterranean diet on this reduction in cardiovascular mortality in men. The custom of eating a high fiber diet rich in monounsaturated fat and low in saturated fat, washed down with a little wine seems a more pleasant alternative to the Commonwealth Fund plan described above. Smaller scale studies really do show unexplained disparities in the way people are treated according to race and gender. But the reasons for this are not clear( See Below)
  5. Smoking and Drinking in Europe as whole, inequalities in mortality from smoking-related conditions, account for 21% of the inequalities in the rate of death from any cause among men and 6% of those among women. In Europe as a whole, inequalities in alcohol-related mortality account for 11% of inequalities in the rate of death from any cause among men and 6% of those among women.
  6. Deaths from conditions amenable to immediate to medical intervention account for 5% of inequalities in the rate of death from any cause when measured among social groups.

Discussion: The authors state that Smoking, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and deficiencies in health care represent only some of the determinants of inequalities in health. Yes, Social inequality is important. Yet within Western Europe, there is little evidence that among-country inequalities in health are related to variations in government support for health care. For example, Italy and Spain have welfare policies that are less generous and less universal than those of Northern Europe but they appear to have substantially smaller inequalities in mortality. Do overriding cultural factors, such as the Mediterranean diet and the reluctance of women to take up smoking outweighing government health care activities? Evidently they do. Cultural factors seem to have prevented differences in access to material wealth and other usual health related resources in these populations from translating into inequalities in lifestyle-related risk factors for mortality.

The study also found no evidence for a leveling of health inequalities among classes in countries in Northern Europe. This was surprising, because these countries have long histories of egalitarian policies, reflected in, among other things, welfare policies. These policies provide a high level of social-security protection to all residents of the country, resulting in smaller income inequalities and lower poverty rates. The studies results suggest that although a reasonable level of social security and public services may be a necessary to prevent inequalities in health, it is not sufficient. Lifestyle-related risk factors have an important role in premature death in high-income countries and also appear to contribute to the persistence of inequalities in mortality in Northern Europe.

New York Times Story June 5,2008


This kind of news report
is typical of media hype but is this where the real problem is?

“Race and place of residence can have a staggering impact on the course and quality of the medical treatment a patient receives, according to new research showing that blacks with diabetes or vascular disease are nearly five times more likely than whites to have a leg amputated and that women in Mississippi are far less likely to have mammograms than those in Maine.

The study, by researchers at Dartmouth, examined Medicare claims for evidence of racial and geographic disparities and found that on a variety of quality indices, blacks typically were less likely to receive recommended care than whites within a given region. But the most striking disparities were found from place to place.

For instance, the widest racial gaps in mammogram rates within a state were in California and Illinois, with a difference of 12 percentage points between the white rate and the black rate. But the country’s lowest rate for blacks — 48 percent in California — was 24 percentage points below the highest rate — 72 percent in Massachusetts. The statistics were for women ages 65 to 69 who received screening in 2004 or 2005.

In all but two states, black diabetics were less likely than whites to receive annual glycolated hemoglobin testing.( a test that monitors long term diabetic control) But blacks in Colorado (66 percent) were far less likely to be screened than those in Massachusetts (88 percent).

The study was commissioned by the nation’s largest health-related philanthropy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which on Thursday planned to announce a three-year, $300 million initiative intended to narrow health care disparities across lines of race and geography.
Such variations may be partly explained by regional differences in education and poverty levels, but researchers increasingly believe that variations in medical practice and spending also are factors.

“In U.S. health care, it’s not only who you are that matters; it’s also where you live,” wrote the study’s authors, led by Dr. Elliott S. Fisher.”

The fact that there are marked state to state variations seems to argue against racism as the cause of these disparities unless Colorado is more racist than Massachusetts. If the European study sited in the first part of the post holds true in the United States, changes in welfare and medical care should be expected to have only marginal effects on mortality as compared to life style and cultural changes. Perhaps the Johnson Foundation would get more bang for the buck by distributing cases of olive oil and wine to the disadvantaged.


Our Restraint on Trade has Failed to Sufficiently Restrain Trade

Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, today weighed in on the evils of market pay for newly drafted rookies:

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said it's "ridiculous" to reward untested rookies with lucrative contracts, and wants the issue addressed in contract talks.

"There's something wrong about the system," Goodell said Friday. "The money should go to people who perform."

Goodell referred to Michigan tackle Jake Long's five-year, $57.75 million contract -- with $30 million guaranteed. Long was the first overall draft pick by the Miami Dolphins in April.

"He doesn't have to play a down in the NFL and he already has his money," Goodell said during a question-and-answer period at the end of a weeklong sports symposium at the Chautauqua Institution. "Now, with the economics where they are, the consequences if you don't evaluate that player, you can lose a significant amount of money.

This is, of course, complete nonsense. While it is true that Jake Long hasn't played in the NFL, what matters is the expected value of his future play. Goodell's statement that you lose money if you mis-evaluate a player is laughable. If Tom Brady goes down with a career ending injury tomorrow, then that puts a damper on the Patriots hopes. Sports, like life, are unpredictable. To the extent that this is especially true of rookies (and I'm not actually convinced it is for offensive tackles), then the uncertainty shows up as lower salaries. Problem solved!

If teams don't want to pay for high draft picks, they can choose not to sign them. Remember that fiasco a few years ago when Minnesota failed to get their pick in on time? Other teams were allowed to step right in and take their picks. This shows the ridiculousness of the claims made by some that high draft picks are now something teams want to avoid. If they really did want to not use their picks, they are perfectly free to not do so.

The owners have put in place a system (the reverse order draft) which decimates the bargaining power of potential players and which would be instantly ruled an illegal restraint on trade in any other industry. Having installed this laughably anti-market system, the owners want us to be sympathetic that they just can't stop themselves from paying potential franchise-saving players money, and this is bad because it's "risky".

The owners, as usual, are full of crap, and yet for some reason the sporting public continues to support these taxpayer-money-stealing, cartel-managing, lying billionaires against the athletes they all love. It's a mystery to me.


Why Are High Housing Prices Good?

Have you ever read a news story like this?

“In other reports, sales gasoline rose in May, although prices continued to drop, according to the Petroleum Institute Sales rose 2 percent to a pace of 499 million gallons. The median sales price per gallon, however, fell to $3.75, down 6.3 percent from a year ago. That was the fifth biggest year-over-year price decline in records that go back to 1999. Many analysts think gasoline prices need to stop falling or start rising for the ailing petroleum market to get back its health.”

This is a slightly doctored version of the story below.

The Associated Press:
“In other reports, sales of previously owned homes nudged up in May, although prices continued to drop, the National Association of Realtors said. Sales rose 2 percent to a pace of 4.99 million units. The median sales price, however, fell to $208,600, down 6.3 percent from a year ago. That was the fifth biggest year-over-year price decline in records that go back to 1999. Many analysts think housing prices need to stop falling or start rising for the ailing housing market to get back its health.”

I hope prices of houses go up enough so I can afford to buy one.


Voting corrupts. And so does moral philosophy.

Our moral intuitions are acquired and reinforced in actual face to face encounters with other humans. Our moral intuitions become corrupt when we are given the power to make morally significant decisions while remaining shielded from the consequences of our own individual decisions - either actual decisions, as when we participate in mob violence, or imaginary decisions, as when we practice moral philosophy (or, for that matter, vote, since the impact of an individual vote is nil even if the collective impact is significant).

Arthur and "immigrant" attempt in recent comments to restore the reader's sense of right and wrong to its non-corrupt state. They do this by asking the reader to imaginatively place himself in a situation in which he is in an actual face to face encounter with another human.

Arthur:

If you have any self respect, grab a gun and shoot immigrant children crossing the border. If you wouldn't be willing to enforce a "right", how can you seriously claim it exists?

Immigrant:

Will you look at me with a straight face, right in the eyes and tell me I should be forced on a plane out of the U.S.? Would you be willing to participate in my arrest? How Would you do it? Would you knock me out and wait for the police to arrive?


One Upping

I'll try to top David Masten's post. The Senate majority leader in my home state of Minnesota, Larry Pogemiller (DFL), recently had this to say:

I think it is simplistic and naive to say that people can spend their money better than government... The notion that everybody can individually spend their money better than government, I just think is trite wrong-headed and anti-democratic.

Video here.


Time for Show Trials

I wish I could come up with something insightful to say about this, but I'm drawing a blank. I had thought the issue of show trials for heresy had been settled, but once again I've been proven wrong. From the Guardian, here are the latest ramblings from Chief Defender of the Faith James Hansen:

James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

Hansen will use the symbolically charged 20th anniversary of his groundbreaking speech (pdf) to the US Congress - in which he was among the first to sound the alarm over the reality of global warming - to argue that radical steps need to be taken immediately if the "perfect storm" of irreversible climate change is not to become inevitable.

Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.

In an interview with the Guardian he said: "When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that's a crime."