Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Currently reading

Here's a review from the Cato Journal that introduced me to the book.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Atheists on the march

This is worth reading only because it challenges one's faith.

Memorial Day 2007 in my hometown

Memorial Day Ceremony in Wakefield, MA. (May 28, 2007)

Say it ain't so

Fossil fuel extraction and consumption pose a lot of problems as we know. But biofuels aren't a pretty solution.
Indigenous people are being pushed off their lands to make way for an expansion of biofuel crops around the world, threatening to destroy their cultures by forcing them into big cities, the head of a U.N. panel said Monday.

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, chair of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, said some of the native people most at risk live in Indonesia and Malaysia, which together produce 80 percent of the world´s palm oil -- one of the crops used to make biofuels.

She said there are few statistics showing how many people are at risk of losing their lands, but in one Indonesian province -- West Kalimantan -- the U.N. has identified 5 million indigenous people who will likely be displaced because of biofuel crop expansion.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Poem of the day

When I carefully consider the curious habits of dogs
I am compelled to conclude
That man is the superior animal.

When I consider the curious habits of man
I confess, my friend, I am puzzled.
-MEDITATIO, Ezra Pound

Discuss among yourselves, please!

A quote for the day; a verity

"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure."
- Colin Powell

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Paul Krugman is nuts

Paul Krugman blames Milton Friedman for the outbreak of e coli bacteria on spinach, the result of the New York Times premier economist suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome. Don Boudreaux will have none of this foolishness.

Question for Krugman, chief mouthpiece for the Democratic Party and self-described "dangerous liberal": How do you account for the number of deaths caused by the F.D.A which refuses to let near terminal patients try drugs that may save their lives? If that's not a case for abolishing the F.D.A then it's certainly a greater concern that a few batches of spinach people fail to wash. For a more reasonable view read this. It's gated, sorry.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A thorough fisking of poor old Business Week

Business Week says predatory banks are waging a war on the poor by enticing them to assume debt they can't pay. Of course, Business Week, reliably liberal and transgressive, doesn't want you to see the unseen: More poor people have goods they wouldn't otherwise have were it not for credit; and some pay the loans back. As one observer noted: "It's either 'Predatory Lending' if you lend to the poor, or its "Redlining" if you don't. Of course Business Week is trying to instigate more government intervention since they know more than the poor.

Russell Roberts over at Cafe Hayek has one of the best "fiskings" or take-downs of the year thus far.
So yes, indebtedness is up in America. Most of that debt is housing. So people have more debt but they also have more assets—median net worth over that time period has gone up for every group except the second lowest quintile. So people are borrowing more but their assets are generally worth more.
Read the whole article.

You don't say

Speaker Pelosi and her crowd taking full advantage of majority status. Yet when they were the minority it was a different story. Power corrupts.
Democrats are wielding a heavy hand on the House Rules Committee, committing many of the procedural sins for which they condemned Republicans during their 12 years in power.

So far this year, Democrats have frequently prevented Republicans from offering amendments, limited debate in the committee and, just last week, maneuvered around chamber rules to protect a $23 million project for Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.).

On Wednesday, Democrats suggested changing the House rules to limit the minority's right to offer motions to recommit bills back to committee -- violating a protection that has been in place since 1822.

Much of this heavy-handedness is standard procedure in the House, where the majority has every right to dominate, but it contradicts the many campaign promises Democratic leaders made last year to run a cleaner, more open Congress.
And Congress as a whole isn't very popular -- right down there in Bush territory.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"There is no God!" Vitamins a waste of $$$

Ditch those high doses of multivitamins.
There's more worrisome news about vitamins: Taking too many may increase men's risk of dying from prostate cancer.

The study, being published Wednesday, doesn't settle the issue. But it is the biggest yet to suggest high-dose multivitamins may harm the prostate, and the latest chapter in the confusing quest to tell whether taking various vitamins really helps a variety of conditions—or is a waste of money, or worse.
And then there's this:
My love affair with vitamins and supplements is over: With a few exceptions -- stay tuned -- I'm tossing them out
What's next the Green Tea?

Only in America

Can home-school immigrants excel? Yes they can because hard work pays off. According to one of the sisters “If everything is too easy, that should be a warning sign,” says Anjela. “It means you’re not on the right plan.”
Two Russian-born sisters are due to become assistant professors of finance in New York state later this year, even though they are only 19 and 21, university officials said Wednesday.

Angela Kniazeva and her younger sister Diana were due to take up their new positions in September at the University of Rochester, where half of their students will likely be older than them.

The pair, who already have masters degrees in international policy from Stanford University in California, were picking up their doctorates from New York University's Stern business school on Wednesday after five years of study....

The duo were home-schooled by their parents and earned the equivalent of their US high-school diploma at the ages of 10 and 11 before graduating college in Russia at the ages of 13 and 14....
We need more immigrants like this.

Hat tip to Volokh Conspiracy.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pure attitude from angry white guy

He's left Massachusetts, bless his soul, and he's still angry.
Uncle raises the topic, Stuff That Sucks.
Shit, where do I start?
How about people who suck?
Wanna know who sucks?
The designers and manufacturers of every car, truck, and SUV I've ever owned, who, for reasons I'll never understand in a million fucking years, couldn't see fit to incorporate into their design a windshield fluid reservoir with a capacity of more than 0.92 gallons. Do you sadistic little fuckers get off knowing there are thousands, if not millions, of garages and driveways in this country with one-gallon bottles of windshield fluid lying around with barely an inch left in the damn things...

Who else?

The R&D people single-cell organisms at Scott Brand Products who came up with their new "Extra Soft" toilet paper. Did any of you asswipes (no pun intended) ever try actually, oh, I dunno, WIPING YOUR ASS with this shit??? Those thousands of cute little quilted fluff-nodules, or whatever the fuck you call them, do but one thing. They serve as one gigantic perforation zone, the sole purpose of which seems to be the introduction of some kind of cost-saving measure, through which men can wipe their ass and give themselves a prostate exam at the same time.

Give me that cheap scratchy shit we had to use in grade school. You know the stuff with the branches and leaves still intact and visible in the fabric of the paper. At least it held together and got the job done.

Friday, May 11, 2007

As only she can mix it up

Camille Paglia is eclectic.
Is there a return to visionary Romanticism these days on classical music stations? In the last few months, I've heard an unusual number of works that heavily influenced me in my youth. Each of them has a passionate, rhythmic force or hypnotic lyricism: Leopold Stokowski's dynamic orchestral transcription of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor" (written for organ); Alexander Borodin's "Polovetzian Dances"; Ernest Chausson's "Poème" for violin and orchestra; and Ralph Vaughan Williams' "English Folk Song Suite."

The Stokowski transcription of Bach had an explosive impact on me when I first heard it on my parents' 45 RPM record before I had even entered kindergarten. This week Philadelphia's WRTI played a spectacular recording of it by the Philadelphia Orchestra (for whom the transcription was originally done), conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch. The sonorities of those massed strings could make the earth shake.

The "Toccata and Fugue" is so thunderous, propulsive and over-the-top that it seems to prefigure the Led Zeppelin phase of early heavy metal. It's a clash of the titans: We're overhearing two quarreling aspects of Bach himself. The heroic, questioning, yet tragic individual voice looks forward to Romanticism, while the orderly affirmation of transfiguring collective faith looks back toward medievalism.

The Vaughan Williams "English Folk Song Suite" has special meaning to me because it was a splendid set piece of my concert band in the early 1960s at Nottingham High School in Syracuse, N.Y. The clarinets do a lot of heavy lifting in that piece. Alas, I played clarinet very badly (I was always last seat, third section), partly because I longed to play the drums -- considered unsuitable for a girl in that era.

To my surprise, I recently discovered that the "English Folk Song Suite" was originally written for military band and was not, as I had always thought, transcribed from an orchestral version. The date was 1923 -- a year after the publication of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land," which registered the devastating disillusion of the generation that had lived through World War I, with its obscene carnage (over 8 million killed to redraw a few borderlines).

Thus Vaughan Williams' juxtaposition of folk song motifs with military riffs was a poetic relinking of British culture to its pre-modern agrarian past. That's exactly what Led Zeppelin did in their signature song, "Stairway to Heaven," which begins with the pipes of the medieval English countryside (whose fragrant herbs appear in "Scarborough Fair"). The savagery of war, with its wanton waste of young lives, would be purged and spiritually transcended through art.

But before purgation and transcendence, the bloodshed must stop. Bring the troops home from Iraq now.
I dissent from the last sentence but the woman is entitled to her opinion. Unlike other war critics, she actually thinks before she speaks.

Taking on libertarian dogma, Arnold Kling soars

A libertarian-leaning economist, Arnold Kling, takes on the libertarian view that only government is coercive.
The difference between government laws and private agreements is not that only the former are ultimately backed by force. The difference is that the cost of finding an alternative government jurisdiction is typically much higher than the cost of finding another private party to a contract
.Read the whole article, look for "The Coercion Herring."

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Pandering to the aggreived: Hate crimes laws are unjust

Jacob Sullum fisks the Pelosi Democrats for misguided and unconstitutional "hate crimes" legislations. Of course hate is the eye of the beholder which takes the shape and thrust of creeping federal government.

The bill, which the House passed and President Bush has threatened to veto, expands the federal government's involvement in prosecuting bias-motivated crimes by eliminating the requirement that victims be engaged in a federally protected activity such as voting. It also adds four new bias categories (gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability) to the existing four (race, color, religion, and national origin).

Religious conservatives warn that the bill, combined with existing federal penalties for anyone who "counsels," "commands," or "induces" someone else to commit a crime, could be used against a pastor who condemns homosexuality if one of his congregants later assaults gay people. This seems like a stretch, especially in light of the well-established First Amendment rule that speech can be punished in such a situation only if it is intended to incite "imminent lawless action" and is likely to do so.

But it's not a stretch to say that hate crime laws, by their very nature, punish people for their opinions. A mugger who robs a Jew because he's well-dressed is punished less severely than a mugger who robs a Jew based on the belief that Jews get their money only by cheating Christians. A thug who beats an old lady in a wheelchair just for fun is punished less severely than a thug who does so because he believes disabled people are leeches.

The rationale for such unequal treatment is that crimes motivated by bigotry do more damage than otherwise identical crimes with different motivations because of the fear they foster. Yet random attacks arguably generate more fear, and hate crimes cause anxiety in the targeted group only when they're publicized as such. In any case, judges can take a crime's impact into account at sentencing.

Even if states were justified in punishing bigoted criminals more severely than merely vicious ones (as all but a handful currently do), the case for federal action would be weak. Unlike the situation in the Jim Crow South, there is no evidence that state and local officials are ignoring bias-motivated crimes.

The hate crime bill, which authorizes federal prosecution whenever the Justice Department perceives a bigoted motive and believes the perpetrator has not been punished severely enough, continues the unfortunate tendency to federalize crimes that are properly the business of state and local governments, just so legislators like Nancy Pelosi can show they care. Although the Bush administration claims to be concerned about this trend, the details of its objections to the bill (not to mention its history of supporting unconstitutional expansions of the federal government) suggest otherwise.
Read the whole article.

A project worth checking out: Building a fish weir

I came across my first fish weir last year while walking in the Boston Common. is dedicated to making the rest of us aware of the artifacts and way of life of the city's Native American population going back 4,700 years. It's a pity that the city has not one landmark commemorating a way of life. As in the past, public school students will help build this year's fishweir on the Common. It will be on dsiplay for most of this month.
Buried under Boylston Street and the Green Line subway, fishweirs are direct evidence of the native communities that once occupied the area where urban Boston has grown.

In a city full of bronze sculptures of historical markers and memorials, there is no public display of information about the ancient fishweirs or the people who lived here 250 generations before the colonists arrived.

By engaging the imagination with the fishweir story, the Ancient Fishweir Project seeks to expand the timeframe of history told in Boston's public places and honor the memory of Boston's early Native inhabitants.
Here's a Globe story on the fishweir project from 2003.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Currently reading...

Having read Fooled by Randomness, I was quick to order Nassim Nicholas Taleb's new book. So far, so good.

Today is F.A. Hayek's birthday

Today is Hayek's birthday.

For a primer on this great classical liberal and Nobel prize-winning economist, consult that byproduct of spontaneous order, Wikipedia

Monday, May 07, 2007

By defeating the Germans, did Stalin make the world safe for democracy?

Could Nazi Germany have been defeated without the help of the Soviets? Have American historians overemphasize the U.S. contributions at the expense of Stalin? Interesting debate at Oxblog.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Less children equal a cleaner world

The heartless environmentalist mindset has no sense of the future. A world with fewer children will not solve the problems facing the world. More people equals more solutions to the problems.
HAVING large families should be frowned upon as an environmental misdemeanour in the same way as frequent long-haul flights, driving a big car and failing to reuse plastic bags, says a report to be published today by a green think tank.

The paper by the Optimum Population Trust will say that if couples had two children instead of three they could cut their family's carbon dioxide output by the equivalent of 620 return flights a year between London and New York.

John Guillebaud, co-chairman of OPT and emeritus professor of family planning at University College London, said: "The effect on the planet of having one child less is an order of magnitude greater than all these other things we might do, such as switching off lights.

"The greatest thing anyone in Britain could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child."

What to make of this?

More efficient vehicles are putting a dent in state gas tax revenues. It's always a story when government lose revenue as if it were a tragedy.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters says that the federal highway trust fund will lack sufficient funding from taxes beginning in 2009. She has been pressing states to look for alternatives to gasoline taxes.

"The bottom line is that we are spending more than we take in, and we have nearly run through the balances that had built up in the fund," Ms. Peters told Congress in February. "The highway funding problem is not going to go away, nor can we put it off until the last minute."

The highway-fund shortage could be exacerbated if Congress raises fuel-economy standards to curb pollution and reduce reliance on foreign oil. Cars with higher fuel economy can travel longer without refueling.

Cars already are more fuel-efficient than they used to be. Two decades ago, passenger cars got an average of about 14 miles per gallon, according to the Department of Transportation. Now that number is 17 mpg -- in part because people are trading in older cars for new ones with greater fuel-efficiency. The number would be higher had the fuel economy of vans, pickup trucks and SUVs improved, but it has stayed about the same at just over 16 mpg.

Some states are imposing more tolls on highways to raise money. In 2005, states' income from tolls was $5.9 billion, up from $4.1 billion in 1998. In the past two years, 10 more states have begun the process of putting more tolls on new or existing roads.
Now that's answer more tolls!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Whew the Republic survives the Oxford Union

The proposition debated by the Oxford Union was on its face preposterous, a fit of crude anti-Americanism. But we survived.
I am happy to report to you that the Oxford Union, in its infinite wisdom, has allowed America to continue existing.

After a raucous debate in front of a packed house, the motion - "this House regrets the Founding of America" - was overwhelmingly squashed.
Next time the rabid anti-Americans wallow in their prententious b.s. remind them who saved their ass in World War II. Ingrates I say.

Read this dispatch from the BBC.

Good question: Where are all the anti-communist movies?

Could it be that the Hollywood left is more sympathetic to socialism and opts to ignore the bad characters in its "ideal" system?
Anti-Nazi movies keep coming out, from Confessions of a Nazi Spy and Hitler, Beast of Berlin in 1939 and on through The Great Dictator, The Mortal Storm, The Diary of Anne Frank, Sophie's Choice, Schindler's List, right up to the current Black Book. And many of these have included searing depictions of Nazi brutality, both physical and psychological.

But where are the anti-communist movies? Oh, sure, there have been some, from early Cold War propaganda films to such artistic achievements as The Red Danube, Ninotchka, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Killing Fields, East-West, and Before Night Falls. But considering that National Socialism lasted only 12 years in one country (and those it occupied), and Communism spanned half the globe for 75 years, you'd think there'd be lots more stories to tell about Communist rule.

No atrocities, maybe? Nazis and Brits were vicious, but Communists were just intellectually misguided? Well, that seems implausible. They murdered several times as many people. If screenwriters don't know the stories, they could start with the Black Book of Communism. It could introduce them to such episodes as Stalin's terror-famine in Ukraine, the Gulag, the deportation of the Kulaks, the Katyn Forest massacre, Mao's Cultural Revolution, the Hungarian revolution, Che Guevara's executions in Havana, the flight of the boat people from Vietnam, Pol Pot's mass slaughter—material enough for dozens of movies.