Public posts will appear on the Community blog, and may be promoted to the front page.

Schneier warns against private security

I thought Schneier was supposed to have some special insight on the subject of security. Now I'm not so sure.

A simple educational philosophy that works

My husband and I home schooled our two boys for most of their lives. When they were 13 and 15, I was asked to teach at a local private school. The teacher originally hired found a better paid job just a week before class started and the school needed a new teacher urgently.

As part of my application I wrote this teaching philosophy the night before. We had always used this philosophy intuitively for our own boys and the application gave me reason to write it down.

I used this philosophy to teach a small (12 students) class of teenagers (sixth to twelfth grade) for two years. It worked just as well in a classroom situation as for our own boys at home.

It is based on the assumption that education is not an entitlement. It is a gift that parents and others wish to give to their child that he may or may not accept.

What are your goals as an educator?

My goal is to help children become confident and self motivated young adults that will be able to do many things in their lives, because of a good and healthy attitude.

Describe your educational philosophy.

There are four things a student has to learn, the rest will
work out just fine:

1) The student must agree and understand why it is good to study a particular subject.

  • In general it is important for a student to know that he learns things for his own benefit and not for his teacher’s or his parent’s, but totally for his own benefit. The more he learns, the more he will be able to use this knowledge to do what he wants in life.
  • He must feel that he is in charge of deciding whether he wants to learn or not.
  • Let the student be involved with deciding what subject he wants to study.
  • If the student does not want to study a particular subject, but the teacher and parents think it is good for him, it is the teacher’s job to encourage the student to agree, by means of reasoning. By no means can a teacher use force. The teacher can use examples of why it would be wise to study this subject or maybe suggest learning this subject at a later, more appropriate date.

2) Find a way to make learning as much fun as possible.

  • Once the student agrees to study a subject, try to make the learning as much fun as possible. This can be done by asking the student for any ideas. Yet again, the student needs to feel it is his decision to study and he can have a large input on how. The teacher can make suggestions.

3) Help the student obtain methods and materials for learning.

  • If the teacher spends time on showing the student where to collect information and how to work with it, the student can learn to work independently more easily. If he expects a teacher, parent or other adult to have all the answers for him, he will always depend on another person showing him what to do.
  • It is not a good idea for a teacher to lecture all the time. Maybe sometimes it could be nice, when both parties agree.

4) Help the student set goals, scheduling and self evaluate.

  • It is important the student to set his own goals. If he understands what he is trying to achieve, it makes it easier for him to schedule the work.
  • The teacher can supervise the scheduling of the work. It is important that the student agrees on the dates. It puts the
    responsibility in the student’s hands and it is not the teacher who is bad if he cannot finish in time. Along the way, the teacher is there to encourage him and to remind him in a positive way to stay on target. If he loses interest, it is important to go back to making sure he remembers why he wants to do it and try to wake up his enthusiasm again. Always keep his cooperation.

Sometimes it can be hard to get a student through these stages, but it is important to keep trying, because I believe these are the most important aspects a teacher should hold himself to.

Why are you interested in a private alternative school setting?

I am interested in a private school setting, because:

From what I have seen so far, Government run schools have a strict agenda. The teacher stands in front of the class and lectures what has to be learned for the day. The student does not feel like he is learning out of his own free choice, nor for his own benefit and often not what he has an interest in at that time. If he does not learn what the teacher tells him to, he will not get a good grade, and he will not pass and keep up with the strict agenda. This kind of education, for many students, could perhaps create a good soldier that does what he is told, but he will not learn to think for himself and take responsibility. That might be the Government’s goal, but I believe the world is much better off with humans that can think for themselves. In a private school, it can be up to parents, students and school management how to go about the education. The agenda can be adjusted.

If a class has too many students, there is no easy way for the teacher to communicate with each individual. Young adults need guidance, each one in a different way. Private schools usually have smaller classes.

Greenpeace stunt backfires

Consumer advocates manage to benefit some consumers.


Recently, it was reported that the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry was going to seek cabinet approval for a lifting of the ban on open-field trials of transgenic crops. Greenpeace was not amused and reacted by dumping tons of papayas at the entrance to the ministry.


[A]fter the dumping, people flocked to load up on the free papayas, ignoring the environmental organisation's campaign against the dangers of GM fruit


"I'm not scared of GM papayas. Rather, I'm scared I won't have any to eat," said Ubon Ratchathani villager Ampon Tantima, 31, before rushing back to his car with the free fruit.

(original Bangkok Post article offline, but it was indexed by Google News so it's real)

I'm not sure the papayas were really GM (seems very possible they were regular papayas and the reporter or the blogger jumped to conclusions). However, Tantima's statement renders that question moot.

teaching the extended order

Somewhat inspired by Arthur Foulkes, and mulling taking a couple of years to teach high school in the future, I thougt of an interesting way to open the first day of a high school economics class. 

Instead of telling the students that they have their desks because the military protects them, I'd start by telling them they can't use any of their school supplies until someone or some group gives the class a presentation of how that object was made. They wouldn't have to do it for pencils, of course; after passing out Leonard Read, I'd spot them permission to use computers and a phone for research outside of class, and paper to take notes with in class. 

Then they'd have to give somewhat detailed stories, for credit, of how any particular product was made, else they couldn't use it in class. I'd tell them on the first day about chalk and the class chalkboard. They'd have to learn about desks to sit on, both the plastic and the metal bars. Folders. Backpacks. Chairs. One on a particular article of clothing, though probably making them leave their clothes at the door would be controversial. 

Would this impress upon them how dependent we are upon the extended order of which we know virtually nothing? Any other ideas for doing so?



Stand up economist

So many levels of irony

self-directed learning bias?

I’m skeptical about claims, which I hear often by classical liberals, that kids generally love to learn innately. Personal experience gives everyone some expertise on education. But if that’s all we’re posting from, I think the sample from which the classical liberal blogosphere is drawn makes such claims overrepresented. Call this an argument from skeptical elitism.

Bloggers at places like Catallarchy are people who spend their spare time discussing political theory. Thus, they are more likely to be intelligent people. This is especially true if smart people are more likely to be libertarians.

Intelligent people are intelligent because they learn better than others.

Some people are better learners than others. (Josh Waitzkin, the chess and martial-arts champ, attributes his success to knowing how to learn.) Similarly, some people are better at self-learning than others. Ceteris isn’t paribus, but I’d argue that people who are better self-learners are still more likely to be better learners overall.

Thus, people who are more self-directed, who dislike more the strictures of school, are more likely to frequent classical liberal fora and to write...criticisms of school. Don’t get me wrong, I think dumbing-down public schools makes them well worthy of criticism. But we need to build on thicker reeds than just our own experience as students, if our experience isn’t representative. 

No rights for animals

Rights are the exception in nature, not the rule. Species consume other species. Territoriality approaches rights, because territoriality shares elements (though far from all) with property rights, and rights generally can for the most part be expressed in terms of property rights. But just because some birds and mammals are territorial in some sense, that does not give me a reason to enter into any territoriality arrangements with them. Birds respect territory because they have a good reason to, not for any other reason. Similarly, I have a conscience presumably because it's in my long term interest to. But it is not, except perhaps accidentally or in contrived situations, in the interest of humans, individually or in groups, to habitually respect the rights of animals.

I think where rights differ sharply from territoriality is in the human practice of teaming up against violators. Territoriality is, or at least is stereotyped to be, one on one. But what gives human law bite is not that an individual will defend himself (all animals defend themselves), but that where there is a conflict, humans all around will decide who's right and side with the one in the right. This happens all the time though nowadays it's largely taken over by the state and its police, who jealously guard their privilege to identify and team up against malefactors. Vigilantes not welcome wherever a state holds sway. But it's essentially the same as in anarchy: where there is a conflict, the good guy (if there is one) and bad guy are identified and essentially all of society goes after the bad guy (be it directly through vigilantism or mediated by a government with its police force).

Animals can't do this, or at least, their ability to do this is strictly limited. If you murder a human and are seen doing it, then your description can be spread far and wide and you will not be entirely safe in human society anywhere. But go up to a dog, even in plain view of other dogs, and kill it, and you are safe, in large part because dogs have no ability to spread information about your actions. If dogs had that ability, then things might be different. But they don't. And same with cats, horses, birds, snakes, whatever. You can predate on non-human animals openly without fear of "animal society" turning on you. You can't do that with humans.

We are fundamentally all predators. Predation is how we survive. It is also how we provide luxuries for ourselves (e.g., leather and fur, and even just wood if you include predation on plants). Since it is what we are it is nothing to be ashamed of. If we are to avoid predating on other animals - including other humans - it had better be for a damn good reason, one that is damn good when considered from the point of view of self interest. I think the case against predating upon other humans is an excellent one, and not at all altruistic. But the case against predating upon animals is much weaker. Those who advocate it simply fail to provide compelling reasons other than quasi-religious ideas. Essentially the animal-rights crowd seem mainly to base their ideas on a simple and direct analogy between humans and animals. Humans have rights. Animals are a lot like humans (this is undeniable). Therefore (they seem to conclude) animals have rights. It is evil to kill and dissect innocent humans. Therefore, they seem to reason, it is evil to kill and dissect rats, monkeys, cats, and so on.

It's not all that weak an appeal to intuition, because analogy is a common and useful tool when reasoning about rights. However, I argue that it is incorrect for the reasons that I have outlined above.

(this was a comment which I've promoted to a blog entry)


We Are All (or Mostly) Mike Vick

I had sworn that I wasn't really going to write on the whole sad Michael Vick thing. In part, that's my Hokie background. When I think Mike Vick, I still think of him putting the Hokie offense on his back in Morgantown and pretty much single-handedly saving the Hokie's undefeated season in 1999.

Indeed, the whole Vick family saga, which once seemed so inspiring (freakishly talented brothers escape poverty) turned into a sadly commonplace one (spoiled, self-indulgent athletes think that rules are for everyone else). But this post isn't really about Michael Vick. It's actually about hypocrisy. Plus, Patri sort of opened the door for this. So blame him.

You see, one need not look very hard to find all sorts of people calling for everything just short of drawing and quartering (in comments) Vick. I don't dispute the assertion that Vick's actions are wrong. But I do find the calls for Vick's punishment to be curious at best. Consider, if you will, what it is that makes Vick's dogfighting wrong in the first place. As I see it, there are two possible lines of argument:

Rights argument

  1. Animals have a moral right not to be tortured.
  2. Violating a moral right is morally wrong.
  3. Dogfighting necessarily involves the torture of animals.
  4. Therefore dogfighting is morally wrong.

Suffering argument

  1. It is wrong to cause animals needless suffering.
  2. Dogfighting necessarily involves needless suffering.
  3. Therefore dogfighting is morally wrong.

I am not going to try to argue for one of these arguments over the other (though I suppose that I might as well mention that I personally find the rights argument to be uncompelling, largely because I don't think that anything has moral rights). What I am going to point out is that both versions of the argument are pretty much parallel to some other sorts of arguments about animals. To wit:

  1. Animals have a moral right not to be tortured.
  2. Violating a moral right is morally wrong.
  3. Factory farming necessarily involves the torture of animals.
  4. Therefore factory farming is morally wrong.


  1. It is wrong to cause animals needless suffering.
  2. Factory farming necessarily involves needless suffering.
  3. Therefore factory farming is morally wrong.

I think that it's fairly clear that anyone who buys the argument that animals have moral rights really has to give up eating them. After all, if a thing does possess moral rights, then surely the right not to be killed for someone else's pleasure has to rank right up there among those rights. And, at the end of the day, what is eating an animal if not the killing of it for the pleasure of how it tastes (since one can, after all, get complete proteins from things like soybeans, quinoa, and spelt)?

The analogy between the suffering argument against dogfighting and the suffering argument agains factory farming, however, is a bit more complicated. After all, there are a couple of (I think superficial) differences. Let's consider the arguments in a bit more detail.

Here's an expanded version of the consequentialist argument against dogfighting

  1. Training a fighting dog requires depriving the dog of food and light and forcing it to exercise for hours at a time.
  2. The act of fighting results in significant (and often fatal) injuries to the dog.
  3. Dogs suffer when they are deprived of food and light, forced o exercise for hours at a time and subjected to significant (and often fatal) injuries.
  4. Some people receive enjoyment from watching dogs fight.
  5. The enjoyment that people get from watching dogs fight is not sufficient to outweigh the suffering that the dogs must endure as a necessary condition for fighting.
  6. Suffering that is not outweighed by enjoyment elsewhere is needless suffering.
  7. It is morally wrong to cause needless suffering.
  8. Dogfighting creates needless suffering.
  9. Therefore dogfighting is morally wrong.

Now let's compare that with the consequentialist argument against factory farming

  1. Factory farming cows requires depriving the cow of space, force feeding the cow an unnatural, protein-rich diet, and forcing it to spend its final days confined to a feedlot.
  2. Cows suffer when they are deprived of space, force-fed unnatural protein-rich diets, and confined to a feedlot.
  3. Some people receive enjoyment from eating inexpensive beef.
  4. The enjoyment that people get from eating inexpensive beef is not sufficient to outweigh the suffering that the cows must endure as a necessary condition for factory farming.
  5. Suffering that is not outweighed by enjoyment elsewhere is needless suffering.
  6. It is morally wrong to cause needless suffering.
  7. Factory farming creates needless suffering.
  8. Therefore factory farming is morally wrong.

Now the interesting thing here, I think, is that in the argument against factory farming, lots and lots of people object to premise (4), claiming things like, "Hey, I don't know about you, but I really get a lot of pleasure from my hamburger." I'm not entirely sure that I buy such a claim. I mean, a hamburger is good and all, but the cow spends a couple of years suffering so that you can eat that burger. Two years of cow-suffering for the 15 minutes you're going to spend scarfing a burger? Seems like a crappy deal. Still, I can hardly be in a position to know how much happiness you really get from eating a hamburger. But I submit that there's something slightly disturbing about claiming that my happiness makes someone (or something) else's suffering all okay. I mean, suppose that Michael Vick were to say something like, "Hey, I really enjoy watching dogs try to rip each other's throats out." Do we then just say, "Oh, well in that case, have at it?" No. I think that, in point of fact, what we say is something more like, "I don't care. It seems pretty obvious that the dog's suffering outweighs your pleasure. And if that isn't the case, well, then, that just makes you a sick fuck."

That doesn't seem a totally irrational reply to Vick. So why we don't say exactly the same thing to someone who eats a factory farmed cow?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not out to shill for PETA. I'm a vegetarian, but I'm not a particularly good one. Just last night, I cheated with a big plate of fish and chips. (I also tasted a cheeseburger, my first taste of beef in 5 years. Surprisingly, it wasn't nearly as delicious as I'd remembered.) At any rate, there's no high horse here. I'm just out for a bit of consistency. If you're going to jump all over Mike Vick for torturing dogs, then, by the same logic, you really ought to start clamoring for the folks at Smithfield to face some jail time for their treatment of pigs. And if you're okay with that BLT you had for lunch, you probably should break out the "Free Mike Vick" t-shirt campaign. At the end of the day, there's really very little to separate the two. Except for the fact that we all think dogs are cute and cuddly, whereas we all think of cows (to the extent that we do) as lunch. I'm pretty sure, however, that cuddliness isn't a morally relevant trait.

So either trade in the steak for some quinoa or lay off Michael Vick.

In defense of Michael Vick

I don't understand why people think Michael Vick ought to go to jail. From what little I've read, he killed dogs as part of running an illegal dogfighting ring. So what? I just don't see animals as having that much weight in moral calculations. For example, I would happily shoot a thousand dogs to save a person's life. Why would you lock away an actual human being (albeit a moronic and possibly sadistic one) for something that happened to animals?

I do think that dogfighting is barbaric, gross, and weird. Knowing that someone liked it would change my opinion of them in negative ways. The thought of it makes me queasy. But I don't think people should go to jail just because they do things that make me queasy.

The best argument I can see against Vick is that animal-focused sadists are much more likely to commit crimes against people. But that suspicion doesn't seem like enough cause to lock someone up.

Are there good arguments as to why animals should have rights?

(And of course, PETA is all over this, even though they kill orders of magnitude more dogs than Vick does.)

Political trends among the tech crowd

Slashdot currently has a poll on political affiliation. Most people are either liberal or libertarian. Anarchists (which in the current context probably implies leftist) communists and socialists outnumber conservatives and moderates.

There's a somewhat famous article from 1992 I came across in the past highlithing a few reasons why programmers can make good consequentialist libertarians, it's very worth reading.

This coin has two sides though. I think the left part (except the anarchists whom I suspect to be merely being anti-conformist) are mostly people who believe in central planning, it may be the dark side of a computer science mentality, people can be organized as data and with the right "program" society can be organized. They are the typical positive constructivists described by Hayek in "The counter revolution of science".

Some interesting posts in the discussion following the poll, healthcare seems to be a huge issue.

The "Are You Qualifed to Vote?" test - Civics questions

Those who choose our representatives in government should understand something about government. A knowledge of civics is essential to being an informed voter.

1. The nature of our legislature, with one house apportioned by population, and the other house apportioned by state, is a result of a compromise at our constitutional convention between:

  • a. Loyalists and Patriots
  • b. Democrats and Republicans
  • c. Tories and Whigs
  • d. Large and Small states
  • e. Slave states and Free state

2. If there is a tie vote in the Senate a tie breaker vote is cast by:

  • a. the Vice President
  • b. the President Pro Temp
  • c. the Speaker of the House
  • d. the Senate Majority Leader
  • e. the Secretary of State

3. The largest expenditure in the current federal budget is for:·

  • a. Foreign Aid·
  • b. Military Spending·
  • c. Social Security·
  • d. Welfare·
  • e. Education

4. In terms of the total federal taxes paid which of the following is true:·

  • a. The bottom 50% of earners pay the same as the top 10%·
  • b. The bottom 50% pay slightly less than the top 10%·
  • c.  The bottom 50% pay slightly more than the top 10%·
  • d. The bottom 50% pay much more than the top 10%·
  • e. The bottom 50% pay much less than the top 10%

5. Which amendment extends the constitutions restrictions on the federal government to the states?·

  • a. the Second·
  • b. the 14th·
  • c. the 25th·
  • d. the First·
  • e. the Fifth.

I think these questions are fair and clearly worded. What do you think?


Jury Nullification

Representative democracy is a poor substitute for real control over our government. In the battle between power and the people, concentrated interests – politicians and special interests, are at a distinct advantage over the diffuse and disorganized interest of the common citizens. The few protections we have on runaway abuse of political power: checks and balances, courts, constitutions, and elections, serve the majority of the time only as legitimizing spectacles and diversions that consume our activist energies and blunt our horror and fury at the idiocy, rapacity, and bloodthirstiness, of our public officials.

Can any elected representative simultaneously maintain his principles and his political efficacy in the fetid swamps of our national and state capitals? Can a good and honest person even get elected under our current system? Even in the most directly democratic institution in our system, the public referendum, the politicians pick the proposals we vote on and enforce or ignore them largely as they please. States’ rights and federalism? Fine said the Republicans, until the people of California voted to allow the production and distribution of marijuana to sick individuals, then the federal government’s domestic military came down on the peaceful growers and marijuana clubs and rode roughshod over the will of the state electorate.

One institution remains where citizens retain the power as individuals to interpret constitutional law, veto the laws of their legislatures, and reject the actions of their legal system: jury nullification. Jury nullification is the act of a jury judging the law itself, of which a defendant is accused of violating, and rendering a not-guilty verdict based upon its judgment of the law as invalid or unjust. It is a legal right firmly based in common law principals and legal precendent: courts are prohibited from punishing juries for their verdicts and prohibited from retrying acquitted criminal defendants. As a result no juror’s oath is enforceable and a jury’s decision to acquit can not be reversed no matter what judges or prosecutors think the law demands. Our English and American ancestors fought and suffered for these important rights and we should not surrender them. As Thomas Jefferson said, “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

If this power is so important and powerful why have most people never heard of it? For obvious reasons our political masters have had reason to fear this legal principal and have continually taken steps to obscure its existence and limit its use. The right of jury nullification is not normally disclosed to jurors in their instructions from the court. Potential jurors who seem too knowledgeable of their rights are unlikely to make it past the jury selection process. Hold-out jurors are often pressured by judges and their fellow jurors " avoid the expense of a hung jury and mistrial."

But the purpose of a trial is not to carry out the will of prosecutors and judges as quickly and efficiently as possible. If it were, jury trial would be a stupid way to go about it. Its purpose is to judge the guilt of the accused by the standards of his peers. Even hung juries send powerful messages to legislatures about problems with the law. All law and government depend, at least, on the passive acquiescence of the ruled. Jury nullification is our most practical legal defense against the runaway power of the police state.

The Fully Informed Jury Association 

Losing industry?

One semi-common comment is that the US, or "the western world", is de-industrializing, or losing industry, or that industry is in decline.

Twofish in a comment to a post at Brad Delong's blog argues that the whole world is de-industrializing.

Actually the reason that industrialization didn't spread in China-19th century is easy to explain. In the early 21st century, we are witnessing a massive worldwide de-industrialization, as capital-intensive industries are being replaced by labor-intensive ones in China.

Look at your shirt. Chances are that it wasn't made in a factory in the Midlands and New England, but rather by hand in China. The reason for this is that China has a lot of people, and this population boom started in the late-1600's.

This idea ignores a couple of important facts.

1 - The value of industrial production in "industrialized western countries" continues to increase.

That data is for the US, but the same idea applies to most industrialized countries.

2 - China (and other developing countries) are industrializing. In China's case at a fairly rapid rate.

Yes China's production methods typically are more labor intensive than those in say the US, but its not like China's export industry consists mostly of purely hand crafted items. Factories are going up or expanding all over China. Yes production in more labor intensive developing countries such as China, is growing faster than production in more developed countries. But since the value of industrial production is increasing in both in China and in the rest of the world, it doesn't make a lot of sense to say the world is losing industrial production.

In the developing countries not just the value but the bulk and weight of industrial products is increasing. (That might also be true for developed countries but I'm not sure where to find the stats, and in any case I consider value to be much more important than weight, why should we feel bad if we switch to lighter and/or smaller products if they are equally or more useful than the old items?)

In one sense developed countries are "de-industrializing", in that less people are required to produce manufactured goods. But that just means productivity has grown, not that we are "losing industry to China", let alone that the world as a whole (including China) is losing industry. This is similar (if so far much smaller than) the decline in agricultural labor in the US. We used to employ a large majority of Americans in agriculture, now less than 2% of Americans are farmers, but they produce much more (not just in terms of real value, but even in terms of tonnage).


Conservative Anarchism - Obvious Contradiction or Obviously Awesome

Few ideas are as mistaken as that belief that conservatism and anarchism are completely incompatible. In fact, both ideas, correctly understood, form a powerful, mutually supportive ideological whole.

Conservatives see tradition as the embodied wisdom of the past. Tradition conveys the practices, beliefs, and rules that worked for those that came before us. Tradition reflects an evolutionary process – those practices that promote success and wellbeing are perpetuated and imitated (even if people do not know why, how, or even that they work) while those that are injurious to their practitioners are selected against and die out. If we recognize the limits of our individual rationality, we will think long and hard before we choose to radically contradict the teachings of those that came before us.

But it is a betrayal of this valuable mechanism to insist in an unthinking conformity to received practices maintained through force. As Burke wrote, “A state without the means of change is without the means of its conservation.” Change, whether to continue improvement or to adapt to changing social environments, must be organic. As in evolution, periodic experimentation, much of which will be pernicious to the social organism, must be tried on a limited scale where the extent of harmful effects will be limited but from which productive discoveries can be imitated and adopted by the rest of the society. Governments, behemoth organizations, and authoritarian systems, insist on universal compliance and top down planning, thereby obstructing Proudhon’s “spontaneous order” from arising. Real traditionalists will be suspicious of any enterprise or organization that promises to heal the sick, care for the elderly, restore public morality, or make the world safe for democracy, instantly and everywhere through force and fiat. Carried to its conclusions, this rejection of compulsion and meddlesome self-appointed authorities amounts to the anarchism of the ruggedly independent pioneers and scofflaw revolutionaries that founded this country.

Many American conservatives honor free enterprise and unencumbered commerce. They recognize the value of individual initiative and competition in the provision of goods and services. At least in word if not deed, conservatives advocate lower taxes, fewer regulations, and less government spending. “Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Why not eliminate it? While most anarchists are opposed to “capitalism”, they certainly could not object if the people where you live wanted to set up businesses and exchange. What is more, nothing about conservatism insists that all cooperation must take place on the market - “faith based initiatives” and what not. Anarchy is the real free market.

Many conservatives are Christians or at least appreciate the values of Christian morality. Does anarchism square with Christianity?

The Old Testament contains one of the earliest defenses of a stateless order. The people of Israel come to the prophet Samuel and begged for him to establish a King over them. Up to that point “there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Samuel warned his people of what having a King would entail: He would conscript their sons into his service raising his crops, making his weapons, and fighting his battles. He will make their daughters cook for him and bake for him. He will take their servants and young men to serve him. He will seize their fields, and vineyards, and oliveyards, and give them to his servants. He will tax away a full tenth (horrors!) of their seed, land, sheep. “And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you and the LORD will not hear you in that day.”

Jesus advocated nonviolence, even pacifism. “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” How can one carry out the functions of a government without force? Even the state’s defenders will admit that the state is institutionalized and legitimized use of violence. The church that Jesus started was highly decentralized and egalitarian. It was a faith for the downtrodden and oppressed common people. Only after the conversion of Emperor Constantine did the church come to be identified with the will of the ruling elite and, in some cases, a religious justification for the exercise of power. Followers of Jesus would be well served to remember his injunction to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” by throwing Caesar out on his head.

Although the Catholic Church has been historically hostile to anarchism, Catholic intellectuals seeking to develop an economic system consistent with Catholic social teaching they arrived at a suspiciously anarchistic political model called distributism. Thinkers like G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc sought to avoid the concentration of power in the hand of a few bureaucrats (socialism) or in the hands of a few capitalists (capitalism) by distributing the means of production as widely as possible throughout society. Under this system production would be dominated by guilds, cooperatives, small family businesses, and independent artisans. The distributist emphasize the concept of subsidiarity, the principal that no larger unit of social organization should perform a function which can be performed by a smaller unit.

Government and hierarchy are greatest enemies of culture, virtue, and tradition. Stop them now before it is too late.

Paper Doll World, Controlled From Some Guy’s Couch

I read the same Times article Scott did this morning and was going to write the following spoof. I sort of feel bad now posting this because it might seem that I'm mocking Scott instead of the intended target. Not bad enough to keep me from posting this, however. Besides I'm sort of with Marvin Minsky on this thanks to Constant.

I found this statement from the Times article laughable:

In fact, if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom’s, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation.

Here's how I read parts of the article.

"Dr. Nostrom assumes that technological advances could produce paper crafts in the future that simulate entire worlds. The advanced papercrafts of these advanced humans or "posthumans" could run "ancestor simulations" by creating paper worlds inhabited by paper dolls with fully paper craft virtual nervous systems.

If civilization survived long enough to reach that stage, and if the posthumans were to make lots of paper simulations for research purposes or entertainment, then the number of paper doll ancestors they created would be vastly greater than the number of real ancestors. There would be no way for any of these ancestors to know for sure whether they were virtual or real, because The paper dolls can't tell they are just simulations. But since there would be so many more virtual paper doll ancestors, any individual could figure that the odds made it nearly certain that he or she was living in a paper doll world. The math and the logic are inexorable once you assume that lots of paper cutout simulations are being built."

See, isn't it so obvious this is right. Given these quite reasonable assumptions I think it's a mathematical certainty. It also explains why the World Trade Center went down so easy. ;)

Wet to dry

Athens, Alabama may be bringing back prohibition

Voters have a chance on Tuesday to return this northern Alabama city to the days of Prohibition.

A measure to end the sale of alcohol in Athens is up for a citywide vote, a rare instance where voters could overturn a previous vote to allow sales. Business interests are against repeal, but church leaders who helped organize the petition drive that got the measure on the ballot are asking members to pray and fast in support of a ban.


Gooch isn't worried about the city losing businesses or tax revenues if alcohol sales are banned. Normal economic growth and God will make up any difference if residents dump the bottle, he said.

"We believe that God will honor and bless our city," Gooch said.

While I think the law would be a huge step backwards for the city, at least it's limited to a small locality. Let them suffer the consequences and reap the rewards.

The fact that wine and liquor can't be sold in grocery stores in New York or that alcohol sales were prohibited on Sundays in Massachusetts is different from what the Athens, Alabama government is proposing only by a matter of degree.

Cuban growth under Castro

Movie Critics Aghast at Andy Garcia's The Lost City

by Humberto Fontova

I found the link to that article here

Its a comment to a blog post

that also might be looking at.

The comment quotes Fontova's article, most tellingly with

"In 1958 Cuba had a higher per-capita income than Austria and Japan. Cuban industrial workers had the 8th highest wages in the world."


Another commenter argues against this, mostly with ad-hominem, but he does provide a link

If you follow the chart at that link you see how things in Cuba have supposedly gotten better from 1958 to 1978.

Some responses come to mind.

1 - What about since 1978. Cuba was subsidized by the Soviet Union during the cold war.

2 - Only 5 categories of good and services are considered. Also the harder the category is to measure and put down to one simple number, the larger the difference. Education suppossedly went from 100 to 448. What does that even mean? Health care went from 100 to 202. Again what this means is very unclear. And do you really trust Cuban statistics?

3 - The other three categories, show minimal improvement over a generation. "Food and beverage" goes from 100 to 125, clothing from 100 to 100, housing from 100 to 104. This over a twenty year period where much of the world showed much larger improvements (And that's assuming that these numbers can be said to even measure anything).

The link tries to explain some of the slower areas of growth, or show how the larger areas where performed despite severe handicaps. I'll answer a few of the points.

1. Decline in clothing figures can be explained by the fact that a lot of raw material for the textile industry was imported from the US and needed to be replaced by local inputs, a structural transformation that was long and difficult.

Raw materials for textiles are wildly available on the world market. Lose one supplier and you can buy elsehwere.

2. Lack of growth in housing is because priority for the construction industry was given to building infrastructure, schools and industrial plants.

And the fact that government sets the priorities away from what might be directly useful to many people is somehow a good thing?

3. Gains in health took place despite the fact that 1 out of 3 doctors left Cuba in the first 3 years of the revolution. The infant mortality rate in Cuba, up until the recent economic crisis, was one of the lowest in the developing world.

And I'm sure the Cuban government has NO responsibility for the actions and policies which caused one third of its doctors to leave in just three years...

4. The illiteracy rate in Cuba went from 23.6 percent to 3.9 percent in less than one year."

Normally I try to answer clearly incorrect claims with argument and/or data, but this one's so extreme that perhaps the best answer is simple, BS.

"This was corroborated by UNESCO"

If that's true it reflects rather poorly on UNESCO.


Troubles in the Celestial Kingdom

Chinese toothpaste recalled.  Chinese Elmos recalled.  CEO committs suicide.

Axl, release Chinese Democracy.  A billion people need you!

The "Are you qualified to vote?" test - World History questions

A person can not understand the current world without understanding history. So I am including the following questions in my test. Knowing the answer to these questions is important and also would signal a knowledge of history.

1.What event caused the breakup of the Ottoman empire?  

  • a. WWII
  • b. WWI
  • c. The Crimean War
  • d. The Iranian Revolution
  • e. The Franco-Prussian war

2. What was the outcome of the 'The Great Leap Forward'?

  • a. The Russian Revolution
  • b. The Chinese developing the atomic bomb
  • c. A huge famine
  • d. The invention of the assembly line
  • e. The opening of Japan to western ideas

3. What caused the original split in Islam between the Sunnis and the Shiites?  

  • a. Dispute over who authored the Koran.
  • b. Dispute between residents of Mecca and Medinah
  • c. Dispute over meaning of jihad
  • d. Dispute over who took over after Muhammed's death.
  • e. Dispute over role of women in society

4. The outcome of which of these Civil War Battles is considered most strategically important?  

  • a. Cold Harbor
  • b. Vicksburg
  • c. Shiloh
  • d. Fredricksburg
  • e. Wilderness

5. The seige of what city is considered the turning point on the eastern front of WWII?  

  • a. Stalingrad
  • b. Leningrad
  • c. Volgograd
  • d. Moscow
  • e. Minsk

6. What foreign country was the source of the most support to the US during the American revolution?  

  • a. Russia
  • b. Spain
  • c. England
  • d. Germany
  • e. France

I think they are clearly worded and fair, but what do you think?