Saturday, May 31, 2008

Reading

I want to read Le Morte d'Arthur. Has anybody else read it?

Trinity

WaPo:
The Obamas announced their decision in a letter to Trinity United Church of Christ's Rev. Otis Moss III on Friday, saying, "We are writing to make official our decision to end our membership at Trinity."

"We make this decision with sadness. Trinity was where I found Christ, where we were married and where our children were baptized," the letter said. "But as you know, our relations with Trinity have been strained by the divisive statements of Reverend Wright, which sharply conflict with our own view."


Rev. Wright retired. So, what brought this on? Did the congregation turn against the Obamas? Was it politically inconvenient to continue? Was it like Hitchens said, Michelle liked the church, and Barrack convinced her to leave? Were they asked to leave by the current preacher? So many questions, so few answers.

In case you didn't know: Old Money

And I mean OLD money.

Marcus Licinius Crassus is ranked the #8 all-time richest person.

Two things came to mind when viewing this list. First, I am surprised by how rich the robber barons were historically. I figured pharaohs or somebody would blow them out of the water. Second, and this is where Crassus comes in, how does one normalize 170 sesterces into present day dollars? Seems fishy. Same goes for 200,000 gold talents. I guess one could just take the market price of an ounce of gold and translate, but I thought there were discrepencies about exactly how much a talent was. It changed in different times and places. But I can at least understand talents. Didn't sesterces have a value greater than the raw value of the metal? I dunno.

FLG's hypocrisy

He hates it when people confuse "can" and "may." Yet, he does it all the freakin' time. FLG knows the difference, just like he knows not to split infinitives or the difference between they're, their, and there, but he always screws it up. Yes, there is self-loathing whenever he commits these errors.

Sometimes FLG feels like an illiterate buffoon. Othertimes, he remembers that he speaks French and knows what obfuscate means. Ah-ha! That reminds him of something.

FLG tries to use visual memory techniques to remember things. For example, he still remembers the three largest exports of Venezuela from his 9th grade history class. FLG sees a banana on his left shoulder, a tennis ball on his right, and an oil derrick on top of his head. (Rubber, bananas, and oil.) Anyway, the meaning of obfuscate is closely associated with Bill Clinton for my memory's sake. There are others that I might share later on. Memory techniques are part of the reason I have found The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci so intriguing.

Democrats

Andrew Sullivan:
We're discovering for the umpteenth time that the Democrats obviously can't govern themselves. This absurd circus in DC today really does remind me of their inability to understand rules, and congenital refusal to apply them.


If the Democrats snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this election because of their own stupidity, then they should simply close up shop as a political organization. Perhaps they could reform themselves as an international organization. They're feckless as well.

I sincerely hope they get their shit together soon.

Absolute Hot

Visit Andrew Sullivan if you want a link to the article.

I just liked this slider thingy.

Waddayasay?



HT: The Agitator

Quote of the day

"Men are jerks, women are psychotic." - Kurt Vonnegut

Mad at MADD

Add one more thing to my growing list of why I hate MADD.

SignOnSanDiego:
a uniformed police officer arrived in several classrooms to notify them that a fellow student had been killed in a drunken-driving accident.

About 10 a.m., students were called to the athletic stadium, where they learned that their classmates had not died. There, a group of seniors, police officers and firefighters staged a startlingly realistic alcohol-induced fatal car crash. The students who had purportedly died portrayed ghostly apparitions encircling the scene.


Fuckers.

Hat Tip: Balko

Thank Goodness...

that University of Wyoming student "created a poem about menstruation with syllables arranged in a mathematically harmonious order, known as the Fibonacci sequence."

Because it is going to come in handy big time tomorrow.

Clift

One of the only times I have read something that makes sense written by Eleanor Clift:
[The] complaint, that Hillary Clinton may be denied the nomination because she's the victim of sexism, doesn't hold water.

Sexism by whom? By the press? By Barack Obama? To be sure, there have been sexist comments. Some women are still smarting over the time when Obama pulled out Clinton's chair after a debate, seeing it as chauvinist as opposed to gentlemanly. But highlighting sexism undercuts Clinton's argument that she is the more electable of the two candidates. How can she be more electable if sexism is this strong within the Democratic primaries? What would happen in November? If she's the candidate, would hordes of men see the light?

Is Abortion Feminism's Undoing?

OCRegister:
Smaller families may mean just a boy or a girl for liberal Democrats, but in other societies it means just a boy. The Indian writer Gita Aravamudan calls this the "female feticide." Colleen Carroll Campbell writes that abortion, "touted as the key to liberating future generations of women," has become instead "the preferred means of eradicating them." And, while it won't eradicate all of them, Philip Longman, a demographer of impeccably liberal credentials, put the future in a nutshell in the title of his essay: "The Return of Patriarchy."

Enlightened progressives take it for granted that social progress is like technological progress – that women's rights are like the internal combustion engine or the jet airplane: once invented they can't be uninvented.

But that's a careless assumption.


I am going to have to think about that more. However, this is something I have thought about:
As I wrote in my book "America Alone," unless China's planning on becoming the first gay superpower since Sparta, what's going to happen to all those excess men? As a general rule, large numbers of excitable lads who can't get any action are not a recipe for societal stability. Unless the Japanese have invented amazingly lifelike sex robots by then (think Austin Powers' "fembots"), we're likely to be in a planetwide rape epidemic and a world of globalized, industrial-scale sex slavery.


The timing of the end of slavery with the emergence of the Industrial Revolution is not coincidental. Capital replaced labor and doing the right thing, abolishing slavery, was feasible economically. Slavery is morally abhorrent, but until the Industrial Revolution dramatically reduced the need for labor it could not be abolished.

Sex, however, is unlike other labor. We have not invented a machine that can replicate a real, live prostitute. Only an "amazingly lifelike sex robot" will elminate sexual slavery and prostitution. Well, maybe not elminate either of them, but reduce both of them by several orders of magnitude.

I wonder if eliminating prostitution as an option for women will be a benefit? On one hand it is dangerous, demeaning, and many would argue immoral. On the other hand, it offers employment to many women. While prostitution is not a desirable form of employment, it is employment nonetheless. Without it what would those women do?

Overall, it would probably be for the best, but don't think eliminating prostitution will only have positive social consequences. Eliminating sexual slavery, however, must be an imperative.

Ferraro

Ta-Nehisi Coates, filling in for Matt Yglesias, asks:
One last question. I was only nine when Ferraro ran in 84. Was she really this much of an idiot then? Or has time done a number on her?


She was always a moron.

Friday, May 30, 2008

End of an Era

Telegraph:
Airline paper tickets will be consigned to history this weekend 75 years after being introduced to protect passengers' rights.

No more will be produced by airlines, bringing an end to a four-year programme in which they have been moving towards a paperless future.


I've always liked paper tickets and the sleeves when I was a kid. They seemed really important like diplomatic documents or something.

On a related note, a year or two ago I went to a airline counter at Reagan National Airport to purchase a ticket. The attendant looked at me like I had two heads.

"We don't sell tickets," he said.
"But isn't this the ticket counter?"
"No, it's the check-in counter."
"You seriously can't sell me a ticket?"
"No. You have to do it over the phone or online. I can then print the ticket for you."
"I can print my own ticket if I do it online. That's not the point."
"Sir, you can go to the phone over there and use the 800 number to purchase the ticket and then I can print it for you."
"No, no, no. I came here to buy the ticket. You have a computer right there. You can see who is on what flights and check people in. Do you not want to sell me the ticket or is it not possible."
"I'm sorry. I cannot sell you a ticket."

Now, you might be wondering, FLG, why did you go to the airport when online is so much easier? Good question. The reason is that I had a voucher for a free flight that I wanted to use, and Mrs. FLG had an unused ticket that I needed to switch to Cabo San Lucas. I figured that going in person would be easier in this case. Furthermore, the airport is only a few minutes away. But alas it was all for not. Pretty soon skycaps will be gone too. (I've never actually used a skycap.)

French National Pastime Update

Le Monde:
Des syndicats d'enseignants appellent à rejoindre la grève des fonctionnaires le 10 juin


Teachers unions call to repeat the civil servant strike June 10.

Believe me. The national pastime of France is not boules. It's protesting.

International Tax Avoidance and Evasion

Guardian:
The increasingly global marketplace, with many large companies extending their businesses around the world, has made the taxman's job progressively more difficult.

The government introduced laws designed to prevent businesses from avoiding tax in Britain in the 1980s. The legislation was in response to the growing numbers of people using tax havens. The controlled foreign companies (CFC) rules have been amended throughout the years as accountants have found loopholes, but the basic tenet, that companies should not be able to take advantage of the substantially lower rates of corporation tax in different states, remains the same.


People often ask what the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion is. Avoidance is legal. Evasion is not. There are technical definitions, but I will give you the real one. If you hire a good tax attorney and accountant, then it is tax avoidance. If you don't, it is evasion.

Now, this means that as long as it costs less to pay tax attorneys and accountants than it is to pay taxes (this is almost always the case for corporations and high income individuals) international tax avoidance will exist. Lawmaker and tax enforcement can't possibly keep up with the loopholes exploited by highly paid tax professionals. Let's say a company will pay me 10% of all taxes saved to find a loophole. How motivated do you think I would be to find a way to save them $1 billion? That's right. Pretty freakin' motivated. Hence, there will always be tax avoidance by large corporations and wealthy people.

There will also be tax evaders. These are mostly cheap and stupid people because they are too cheap to pay good tax professionals or too dumb to know the difference. Wesley Snipes seems to fall into both categories.

Giving religious believers a bad name

BBC:
US coffee chain Starbucks has come under fire for a new logo that critics say is offensive and overly graphic.

The Resistance, a US-based Christian group, has called for a national boycott of the coffee-selling giant.

It says the chain's new logo has a naked woman on it with her legs "spread like a prostitute... The company might as well call themselves Slutbucks".















Earth to nutjobs: It's a mermaid and they aren't fucking real!

Eurozone Inflation

Le Monde:
l'inflation à un niveau historique de 3,6 % en mai


Inflation at a historic level of 3.6% in May

Wowza!

I still maintain that the US will have to raise rates to stamp out inflation before the summer is over. The EU will have to raise rates even sooner. This will lower the value of the dollar, which will increase American inflation, which will make the Fed raise rates. At least, I think they should, but I have thought that for a while and nobody listens to me anyway.

On Writers

I have long believed that the best writers work in marketing or advertising. This is not to say that all marketing and advertising people are good writers. They're not. But the best writers are in that line of work. Mrs. Peperium over at Patum Peperium, whose writing I greatly admire, reinforces my theory.

Back in the first years of our marriage, before I gave up my career to be a wife, and years later, a mother, I was a senior art director on the Jeep account. (Yes, chances are very good all of you have seen my work both print and television.)

Cyberspying

CNN:
Government officials are not confirming a report that Chinese officials may have secretly copied the contents of a government laptop computer during a December visit to China by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.


I hope to goodness the Commerce Department encrypts its laptops. The Chinese might be able to break most weaker encryption, but at least it makes doing so a huge pain in the ass.

As I have mentioned before, I encrypt my entire laptop with TrueCrypt. While the NSA or FBI may still be able to get the data, I am not too worried about that for two reasons. First, I don't really have anything important on my laptop. Second, if the NSA or FBI are after me I have bigger problems.

And I thought I had a bad day

Telegraph:
A tourist in Australia is lucky to be alive after being bitten on the penis by one of the world's most venomous snakes.

Hottest Royals

CNN:
They're young, fabulously wealthy and have blue blood coursing through their veins. Meet the "20 Hottest Young Royals" in the world, compiled by influential fortune tracker, Forbes magazine.


I did the ground work and found some pictures of the women.

01. Prince William (Britain)
02. Prince Harry (Britain)
03. Zara Phillips (Britain)

















04. Princess Beatrice (Britain)






















05. Charlotte Casiraghi (Monaco)






















06. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum (Dubai)
07. Princess Victoria (Sweden)





















08. Prince Azim (Brunei)
09. Prince Carl Philip (Sweden)
10. Andrea Casiraghi (Monaco)
11. Prince Albert von Thurn und Taxis (Germany)
12. Princess Madeline (Sweden)






















13. Princess Theodora (Greece and Denmark)
14. Prince Wenzeslaus (Liechtenstein)
15. Princess Tsuguko (Japan)
16. Princess Sirivannavari (Thailand)























17. Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum (United Arab Emirates)
18. Princess Iman bint Al Hussein (Jordan)
19. Prince Philippos (Greece and Denmark)
20. Princess Sikhanyiso (Swaziland)


Needless to say, I think the ranking is incorrect. I would like to mention that #19 did graduate with me. So, he is cool in my book, but I was more concerned with the females.

The Occasional Dissident

Alan has a long article on our unwitting transformation into colonizers over at his new site The Occasional Dissident.

My stance on global warming

Pretty much what Krauthammer said:
I'm not a global warming believer. I'm not a global warming denier. I'm a global warming agnostic who believes instinctively that it can't be very good to pump lots of CO2into the atmosphere but is equally convinced that those who presume to know exactly where that leads are talking through their hats.

Iran

According to David Brooks and Sun Tzu, Iran will inevitably succumb.

Brooks:
We don’t understand the Iranians because the Iranians don’t understand themselves. The regime isn’t sure whether it is an ideological movement championing global jihad or whether it is merely regional power seeking Middle East hegemony. Until the Iranians resolve this internal ambiguity, you can talk to them all you want, but they won’t be able to make a strategic shift or follow a more amenable path.


Sun Tzu:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.




The United States for all its mistakes, foibles and troubles does know itself pretty well. It might take an election or two, but we get back on the right path. Iran because of its theocratic government tries to know what is written in the Koran. Indeed, the clerics do know what is written in the Koran, but God's word does not necessarily reflect the character or life of the people. One might argue God's word should, but it doesn't.

A major reason why the USSR failed, and communism is bound to always fail at the state level, is that it fundamentally requires lying to itself. Without the information contained in a market-based price signal the central planners of an economy know very little. Eventually this becomes evident to all parties involved. Planners assign arbitrary quotas and producers lie about meeting the quotas. The planners ignore the lying because there is really no way they can change the producers beyond coercive force, which has been tried countless times by communist nations. However, forced labor is rather unpleasant, and adds to resentment among the populous. But I have digressed. We were talking about Iran.

Since Iran does not know itself and we do know ourselves, then we should eventually prevail. I never really doubted this despite recent events. Iran will become a better global citizen and stop producing nuclear weapons eventually. The crucial question is not whether we will prevail, but the manner in which we do. Brooks has it right that the President will be forced to play defense and support every diplomatic initiative under the sun despite little chance of success.

Your job may be to wage rear-guard political battles until the ideological tide can turn. It’s not glamorous work, but governing isn’t campaigning. You volunteered for this.

More on Education

UD at Inside Higher Ed:
This of course has always been the fundamental model of university education — It gathers young people from all over the country, all over the world, and removes them from their parochial, familiar setting. It doesn’t keep feeding them what they’re used to — which is why online education and similar forms of pandering are a disaster — but rather asks of them a heroic effort of self-transformation


Exactly! FLG has always been a proponent of attending college far enough away from home such that returning is only possible on big holidays. This basically means a location farther than 5 hours. Anything less and the student is too tempted to come back home for a weekend. Distance from parochial, familiar settings is not required, but recommended for disproving The Big Assumption. People really need to pay attention to this Big Assumption thing. It really explains a lot.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wrong, wrong, wrong

The Times:
The era of cheap and plentiful food was declared at an end yesterday as a key international report issued a warning that high world food prices will continue for at least a decade.

Much bigger family food bills will remain an everyday fact of life for consumers across the West, while for poor nations permanently dearer food will spell widespread hunger, famine and civil conflict, the study from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said.


I don't doubt that there are well-meaning people at the OECD and UN who really believe this, but they are almost certainly wrong. Food will be cheaper, in real but probably not nominal terms, well earlier than 10 years. Obviously, high food prices and the apocalyptic predicted consequences increase the importance and relevance of international organizations and especially the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, but these fears are overblown. Higher food prices, and hopefully the elimination of godforsaken ethanol subsidies, will ameliorate the food price issue within the next couple years.

A fine line

CNN:
A U.S. Marine in Iraq has been removed from duty amid complaints that he was handing out coins with Bible verses at an American checkpoint, the military said Thursday.

A military spokesman said Iraqis in Falluja complained that the Marine was giving the coins, which were printed in Arabic, to people at an entry control point in Falluja.


I completely agree with the decision to remove this Marine from duty. Our service members do not have to check their beliefs at the door or anything like that. However, they should not attempt to spread their religious convictions while in uniform. It is a fine line, and religious believers are correct that restrictions on their free exercise of religion sometimes cross the line, but a U.S. Marine in uniform and on duty at a checkpoint represents the United States of America as much or even more than himself. There is a context issue here in which the representation of the United States of America is larger than his individual representation. Therefore, he cannot use that time to promote his religious beliefs.

Environmental Economics

I have a theory that most environmentalists are not very knowledgeable about economics. Obviously, there are exceptions. People with PhDs in environmental economics are probably 1) environmentalists and 2) know economics. However, often the economic analysis of environmentalism is wishful thinking couched in economic sounding terms, but this is not my main point.

John Schwenkler has a post about people stealing waste cooking grease.

For anyone who doesn’t know, cars that take diesel fuel...can run perfectly on a diet of only very slightly modified leftover cooking oil. (You can do the modifying yourself.)


Big Black from Rob & Big even hooked up his joint to run on biodiesel.

The argument usually goes like this:
Biodiesel is better for the environment and the fuel is waste oil thrown away by restaurants. They will give it to you for free.

Asking for stuff for free works great when you are the only person asking and those who have it would rather be rid of it. Can I take away that old, rusty, broken refrigerator for free? Sure! Obviously the high price of gasoline has prompted people to convert their cars to biodiesel based upon the pitch that the fuel is free. Free grease just isn't scalable. The sad part is that people don't understand supply and demand. The biodiesel thing works until more than one guy comes by every week for fuel.

Pre-biodiesel demand for used grease was a vertical line at zero. Nobody wanted it at any price. One biodiesel car owner does not increase demand very much. Most restaurants probably don't care if he/she takes it for free. In fact, restaurants are probably happy to get rid of the nasty, smelly stuff. However, once a certain amount of people have biodiesel cars a more normal downward sloping demand curve begins to form. People will demand an infinite amount at price zero, but once restaurants 1) can't easily supply it and 2) realize they can make money off of it, they will begin to charge or ration their waste oil.

There really is no such thing as a free lunch or fuel for that matter, even if it does smell like french fries.

Child of American Idol

At first, I thought this disproved his gayness. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)

MSNBC:
TMZ reports the former "American Idol" runner-up will be a father in the near future. People.com has also confirmed that Aiken will indeed be a father.


Then, I was shocked it was with a cougar.

According to TMZ, the mother is Jaymes Foster, 50, who is Aiken's record producer and the crooner's close friend.


Not to mention I thought 50 was too old to have a child, but modern medicine is amazing. Then, I realized this disproved nothing. He is still gay.

TMZ reports she was artificially inseminated and is due in August.


Aiken might end up being the Jacko of this generation.

I predict...

a huge increase in interest in etymology among teenage boys. Well, maybe full grown men too.

Link here

The President's Questions

Will:
Most improvements make matters worse because most new ideas are regrettable, including this not-quite-new one from John McCain's speech depicting how improved America will be after four years of him: "I will ask Congress to grant me the privilege of coming before both houses to take questions, and address criticism, much the same as the prime minister of Great Britain appears regularly before the House of Commons."


It is true that most improvements make matters worse, but I completely disagree in this case. The Prime Minister's questions are entertaining and sometimes informative. However, Will does have it right that this doesn't jive with our system of government.

But prime ministers sit in the House because Britain's system of government is not based, as ours is, on separation of powers...Routine presidential appearances in Congress, of the sort McCain proposes, would further reduce that institution to just another of the stages on which presidents preen.


He has a good point there, but I still think The President's Questions would be the most entertaining thing on CSPAN, an admittedly low bar. What would it do to our constitutional institutions? Probably what Will argues. So, on balance, it is probably a bad idea.

Oh, and if you don't agree, then just imagine a hypothetical President Joseph Biden taking questions. Those long-winded answers will destroy anything good about a President's Question time.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Teacher training

A guest blogger for Megan McArdle links to a paper which proves that Teach for America produces better results than more experienced teachers. This does not surprise me in the least.

Unfortunately, most people I knew growing up who became teachers were mediocre students. They then went through the box checking fiasco that is teacher certification and licensing, and further check boxes to become highly qualified. There are certainly good teachers who care, but there are a lot who are poor and don't really care. In my opinion, unions prevent what should be the swift removal of the latter group. Anyway, highly motivated students from elite schools probably understand math and reading better than your average starting teacher from a local school with an education degree. Granted those students with education degrees probably know all about the challenges posed by multicultural learning environments and Racial Microaggressions among Black Supervisees in Cross-Racial Dyads. However, I would rather have a recent graduate of an elite school with a math degree who went through a boot camp in teaching methods than somebody who is concerned about microaggressions.

All that said, Miss Self Important made a really good case that we don't need rocket scientists teaching K-12. Nonetheless, I would take an elite school graduate working for 2 years over somebody who went through the motions of bullshit procedural box checking to become a teacher.

Activism

Georgetown's Mark Lance is one of many who promote activism. My venerable colleague, GEC, has already questioned this particular article. However, I am too lazy to find one of the many other calls for activism or to get involved.

That's fine, but to what purpose? Too often justice, for which Prof. Lance advocates struggling, is confused with fairness by 18-22 year olds, and you know how much I hate the word fair.

Fr. Shall, S.J. had an article in The Hoya around the same time advocating caution:
Plato now, at 40, looking back on these scenes, is poignant, perhaps prophetic about the nature of this world. “The more I reflected upon what was happening, upon what kinds of men were active in politics, and upon the state of our laws and customs, and the older I grew, the more I realized how difficult it is to manage a city’s affairs rightly.” Einstein, I believe, said it was far more difficult than anything in science.

In the end, Plato suspected that it would never be otherwise. If there were a just city, it could only be “in speech,” as he put it in the Republic. And if it is not consciously there, no one is safe in his own soul. This putting it there is what education is about. We do not like to hear these things, I suppose, but they are in our tradition.

Some philosophers even say that this very desire to have the perfect city is the cause of all political evils that do happen in the world. It says in Scripture that “we have here no lasting city.” Plato suspected this latter also, even though many want to accuse him of being the origin of all utopianism. “How difficult it is to manage a city’s affairs rightly.”


I always fear the allure of Uptopianism among young activists.

Do Thucydides and Hobbes ruin education?

Marginal Revolution:

This time it's Robin Hanson's turn:

...why exactly would learning that the world is a brutal place make one less interesting in learning more about that world? Wouldn't learning help one to avoid brutality?

That's in response to Paul Graham, who had written:

We want kids to be innocent so they can continue to learn. Paradoxical as it sounds, there are some kinds of knowledge that get in the way of other kinds of knowledge. If you're going to learn that the world is a brutal place full of people trying to take advantage of one another, you're better off learning it last. Otherwise you won't bother learning much more.

Very smart adults often seem unusually innocent, and I don't think this is a coincidence. I think they've deliberately avoided learning about certain things. Certainly I do. I used to think I wanted to know everything. Now I know I don't.



I agree. My cynicism completely eliminates any desire I ever had to learn about international law because I view it as an interesting, but ultimately useless thought construction. Now, I believed this before I read the Melian dialogue or The Leviathan, but these two texts can really throw students for a loop.

However, I also think it is very necessary that students are thrown for that loop. Why? Because it is part of disproving The Big Assumption.

Rasputin

Poulos:
McClellan’s irradiated reaction to so many years beside the most radioactive people in government is to propose a First Guru. This is somewhat like assigning a crackhead a caseworker empowered to do everything for the addict but take away their crack, but possibly even more willfully ignorant and wrongheaded. Under the clement reign of the First Guru, future administrations will find themselves encouraged to undertake bad policies so long as they do so more guilelessly than the wicked Rove-Cheney administration. Even contemplating a First Guru is to presume that Presidents of the foreseeable future will increasingly be in thrall to systemic features we are all powerless to prevent, such as Machiavellian underlings run amok and an election cycle that demands permanent campaigning.

In short, if McClellan’s proposal actually is a good idea, the game has been lost. If the question is how to recover from a bad President, the answer is not to install a Rasputin.


I agree with Poulos right up until the Rasputin reference. Sure, Rasputin was an adviser to the czar and czarina, particularly the czarina, but that is about where the similarities between McClellan's proposal and Rasputin end. Unless, of course, a requirement for the job would be to mysteriously treat haemophilia, immunity to cyanide, as well as the ability to survive disembowelment, being shot and beaten with clubs. In short, somebody whose kryptonite is icy cold water.

Otherwise, leave the references to Rasputin alone. My guess is that Poulos figured he is obscure and cool enough to burnish his intelligent hipster credentials, but the comparison itself is suspect.

NATO and Hot Chicks

Guardian:
The Canadian foreign minister Maxime Bernier, dubbed "Bumbling Bernier" by his critics, resigned yesterday after admitting that he left sensitive government documents at the home of his former girlfriend.

Announcing the resignation, the prime minister, Stephen Harper, said Bernier had "left classified documents in a non-secure location. This is a serious error".

Reports indicated that the documents included details of Nato strategy in Afghanistan and briefing papers for a Nato summit held in April in Romania.
I don't blame him for forgetting something at her house. I would probably leave something there too just to have a reason to go back. Plus, remember that hot chicks are required for world peace. Maybe she had something to offer the plans.


Cambridge just lost some of my respecte

Guardian:
Cambridge University finalists have been asked to demonstrate their three years of intensive study at a world-class institution in an exam question that compared the poetry of Sir Walter Raleigh with the lyrics of the pop singer Amy Winehouse.


Is this really what one of the world's best universities wants to ask?

Amnesty International

IHT:
Sixty years after the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, governments in scores of countries still torture or mistreat their people, Amnesty International said Wednesday in a report that again urged the United States to close down the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.

The report singled out for criticism China, the United States, and Russia and accused the European Union of complicity in the rendition of terrorism suspects. The European Union, it said, must "set the same bar on human rights for its own members as it does for other countries."

It urged Washington to close down the Guantánamo facility and other "secret detention centers," and to "prosecute the detainees under fair trial standards or release them and unequivocally reject the use of torture and ill-treatment."

The report assailed the moral leadership of the United States, saying that, as "the world's most powerful state" it "sets the standard for government behavior globally." But, Amnesty International said, the United States had "distinguished itself in recent years through its defiance of international law."

In the past, the State Department has accused Amnesty International of using the United States as "a convenient ideological punching bag."


I always wonder why Amnesty International singles out the US so much. On one hand, the US should be held to a higher standard. On the other, there are far worse violators of human rights, not that two wrongs make a right, but AI might be misprioritizing things. I mean North Korea is probably the worst human rights violator in the world. Yet, I am pretty sure it receives less attention that the US by word count. (I haven't read the report yet, but I feel comfortable in my assertion.)

There are a few reasons why this could be. First, at the macro level, I assume AI adheres to the constructivist view on international politics. Consequently, the United States is seen as a major impediment to international law and collective security. Both of these are daydreams, but the US is seen as an obstacle by those who actually believe them. Second, at the practical level, the US is a democracy and democracies respond more readily to political pressure. Third, they have an irrational anti-US bias.

I don't necessarily disagree with AI's concerns about US actions, but they would be lower on my list than North Korea, China, Zimbabwe or a host of other countries.

Evil Incarnate

BBC:
Michel Fourniret, a diminutive, bespectacled man, was dubbed the "Ogre of Ardennes" for the crimes he committed alongside his grey-haired wife, Monique.

He has been found guilty of murdering seven girls and women aged between 12 and 22 from 1987 onwards.

By his own admission, however, he has killed more - strangling, shooting or stabbing his victims with a screwdriver.

Fourniret was discovered when, in 2003, a 13-year-old girl he attempted to abduct managed to escape.

EU versus Chicken

Le Monde:
La commission européenne doit proposer, mercredi 28 mai, une levée de l'interdiction (effective depuis 1997) d'importer en Europe des volailles américaines traitées au chlore. Le règlement autoriserait, du même coup, l'utilisation en Europe de ce type de traitements.


Translation:
The European Commission must propose, Wed May 28th, lifting the ban (effective since 1997) on the importation into Europe of American poultry treated with chlorine. The ruling would authorize, simultaneously, the use of the same type of treatments in Europe.

I am unsure that we should allow it in the US. Let alone the EU allowing it. I guess it is safe, but chlorine is a pretty harmful chemical.

Hey, hey, hey, Good-bye!

BBC:
The Himalayan nation of Nepal has become the world's newest republic, ending 240 years of monarchy.

A constituent assembly meeting in the capital, Kathmandu, overwhelmingly voted to abolish royal rule.


Hopefully, this will ameliorate the political instability present in Nepal over the last few years.

EU versus Football

BBC:
Fifa's "six plus five" proposal on foreign players has been branded as discriminatory and illegal by the European Commission.

President Sepp Blatter wants to limit the number of foreign players in each team to five by 2012.

And he said he expects the plan to be endorsed by Fifa delegates at the ruling body's congress later this week.

However, the Commission believes a quota on foreign footballers would be incompatible with European Union law which allows workers from the EU to move freely between member countries.


This is supposedly to ensure that what we here in the states would call a farm system continue to produce homegrown talent. I think it is a stupid rule and it is stupid for the EU to get involved. Certain occupations, like professional sports, affect such a narrow population and require such high levels of particular skill that it is stupid to control it under standard labor laws.

Clinton Paranoia

CNN:
Former President Clinton said that Democrats were more likely to lose in November if Sen. Hillary Clinton is not the nominee and suggested that some were trying to "push and pressure and bully" superdelegates to make up their minds prematurely.

"I can't believe it. It is just frantic the way they are trying to push and pressure and bully all these superdelegates to come out," Clinton said at a South Dakota campaign stop Sunday, in remarks first reported by ABC News.

Clinton also suggested that some were trying to "cover up" Hillary Clinton's chances of winning in key states that Democrats will have to win in the general election.

Why is it that everytime something doesn't go the Clintons' way they attributed it to some vast conspiracy?  Is it because they are paranoid, insane, or deluded?

More Health and Safety Paranoia

First, barefoot in park warnings. Now...

Telegraph:
Celebrating students have been warned not to throw their mortar boards in the air at graduation ceremonies in case the falling headgear hurts somebody.

The move to abandon the tradition at Anglia Ruskin University was described as "health and safety gone mad" by student organisations.

The university, which has campuses at Cambridge and Chelmsford, said the action had been taken because a mortar board had injured a graduating student several years ago.

The student had to be taken to hospital for stitches after he was struck in the face. The incident is the only mortar board inflicted injury to have been recorded by the university.

Texting Fears Cross the Pond

Economist:
"Look at what text-messaging is doing to the French language," lamented President Nicolas Sarkozy in February. "If we let things go, in a few years we will have trouble understanding each other." Most secondary-school pupils have their own mobile telephones, and they use an abbreviated phonetic language to communicate. A2M1, for instance, means à demain, or "see you tomorrow". JTM is je t'aime (I love you). Or try: Ta HT 1 KDO? (T'as acheté un cadeau?, or have you bought a present?).

Jesuits

I am half way through The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci.  It's a great book, and I thank Withy for the recommendation.  This prompted me to add something else to my list of things to do if I win the lottery.

First, I would never wear socks two times.  I have said that before.  Now I am adding a second thing.  I would endow a chair in diplomatic history in the School of Foreign Service with the requirement that they teach a course entitled Jesuit Diplomatic History.

Women running for office and Bloggers

Ruth Marcus has a column on why women run for office less than men. She offers different levels of ambition and possible child rearing duties as reasons.

My take:
Two reasons: 1) Women tend to have a more realistic perception of their chance of winning elections than men do (I read a study somewhere, but cannot find it currently.) and 2) Women tend to be more risk-averse.


She then addresses the dearth of female op-ed writers:
The cockiness gap, too, has parallels in the opinion-writing business. The undeniable underrepresentation of women on op-ed pages has always struck me as more a function of limited supply (women willing to speak out) than inadequate demand (male chauvinist editors). It is intimidating to put your opinions out there, especially in an age of online, highly personal vitriol. It takes a certain unbecoming arrogance to believe you have something valuable to say -- even one time, no less week after week.


I think this is half right. I don't doubt that their is a cockiness gap. However, I think the intimidation part of the argument makes women sound like wimps, which they are not. Thinking that I don't have anything to say is completely different from thinking that I don't want to say it because of vitriol.

What interests me, as a blogger, is the extent to which this effects bloggers. I happen to read a lot of female bloggers, but perhaps my sample size is too small. Are there more male bloggers? What is the percentage? What if we ignore sports, fashion, gossip, and niche blogs about things like antique dollhouses and cars? What is the percentage of women bloggers? I wonder.

One last thing, I may have reconsidered the vitriol thing. I have seen countless women, my mother, my mother's friends, my aunts, my ex-girlfriends, but oddly not my wife, be completely nice to another woman that they hated. Pick either the mall or a grocery store for the locations, and the conversation goes like this:
[mumbling] "Oh no, that's so and so. I hope she doesn't see me."
Silence for a beat.
[mumbling] "She saw me."
Mrs. so and so walks up.
[In a preternaturally high voice] "Hi! I haven't seen you in forever."
"I know! What have you been up to?"
"Well, our little one...wah wah wah" (I tune out here usually, and the conversation sounds like The Peanuts.)
"Wah wah"
"Wah?"
"Wah."
"It was so good to see you. We need to have lunch."
"Call me."
Mrs. so and so walks away.
[mumbling] "I hate her. She thinks she is so great."


This conversation does not occur between two men. If somebody comes up to me who I hate the conversation goes like this:
"Don't fucking talk to me. Turn around and walk away."


So, if these are representative of different levels of acceptance of vitriol, then maybe vitriol does keep many women from writing op-eds. If many cannot tell some bitch that they hate them, then what hope is there when thousands of people start writing hate-filled letters?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Question

Am I immature for laughing my ass off at this?



HT: Andrew Sullivan

Hill's new low

I meant to respond to her ridiculous and downright awful reference to RFK's assassination the other day, but I will let Olbermann do the talking for me. I don't like Olbermann, but I am with him on this one.

That's Shitty

Telegraph:
While one of the crew was using the Russian-made toilet last week, the toilet motor fan stopped working, according to Nasa.

Since then, the liquid waste gathering part of the toilet has been working on-and-off. Fortunately, the solid waste collecting part is functioning normally.

Cyberwarfare

Le Monde:
les experts de l'OTAN vont développer des instruments pour défendre le cyberespace qu'ils mettront à disposition des pays membres sous forme d'entraînement, d'analyse, de consultations. L'Estonie, dont l'économie est très dépendante d'Internet, militait depuis des années pour l'ouverture d'un tel centre.


Rough translation:
NATO experts are going to develop tools to defend cyberspace which they will put at the disposal of member states in the form of consultations, analysis, and transmission. Estonia, of which the economy is very dependent on the Internet, has been calling for several years for the opening of such a center.

First, I am not comfortable with this mission creep. Second, do we really want NATO to be doing this? Is this a military or law enforcement function? On one hand, do we want military assets pursuing a hacker in a basement? On the other, it is a legitimate security threat? I would rather the NSA or FBI handle this and consult with Estonia rather than NATO expanding its mission.

That sucks

Telegraph:
A retired French paratrooper's daring bid to skydive from the edge of space came to a farcical end when the balloon that was to take him almost 25 miles up drifted off without him. After two decades of preparation and $20 million of investment, Michel Fournier, 64, could only look on helplessly as the helium balloon lifted off from North Battleford airport in the Canadian state of Saskatchewan, leaving him stranded on terra firma in his pressurised capsule. It was the latest dashing of a life-long dream for Mr Fournier, who had planned to perform what has been dubbed Le Grand Saut (The Great Leap) from almost 25 miles up after a two and half hour ascent to the edge of the stratosphere — about four times higher than the cruising altitude of a commercial jet. But his capsule never left the ground after the balloon detached itself while being inflated.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Conservative at Boulder

As always, UD was ahead of the curve on this. (I actually responded on her comments page rather than typing a full post at that time.)

Stanley Fish:
I’ve just returned from New Zealand and find that in my absence the University of Colorado – the same one that earlier this year appointed as its president a Republican fund-raiser with a B.A. in mining and no academic experience – has gifted me again, this time with the announcement of plans to raise money for a Chair in Conservative Thought and Policy.

Embedded in this sentence is the following chain of reasoning: The University of Colorado, Boulder, is left-leaning and therefore it is appropriate to spend university funds (technically state funds) in an effort to redress a political imbalance.

Wrong on all counts. First, what does “left-leaning” mean? Does the university issue policy statements on controversial matters? Does its administration come out for gay marriage or for gun control or for reproductive rights? Does the university endorse liberal candidates, or criticize Supreme Court decisions, or contribute to Move On.org? If the answer to any of these questions were “yes,” “left-leaning” would be an accurate designation. It would also be a reason to deny the university its tax exempt status and demand that it register as a lobbyist. But of course the university does none of these things. How then does it lean left?


First, I have attended CU-Boulder and it doesn't lean left. It runs à la gauche at full sprint.

The Plank responds to Fish:
Stanley Fish, after huffing and puffing about the very real idiocy of the CU Regents' reasoning, ends up agreeing with me in his last few grafs. At worst, such an endowment would bring someone like Bill Kristol to campus--where he would make an ass of himself, discrediting his own ideas in the process. At best, it would be taught like any intellectual history course, preparing students to grapple with a tradition that they will encounter once they leave school. In terms of the real impact on campus life, I just don't see a big downside.


I like the intellectual history course idea. In fact, I think the history of ideas is given short shrift in the modern academy. It has been replaced with courses on Harry Potter and other inanities. Nonetheless, I am not sure that a Chair in Conservative Thought and Policy should be created at any school. It is almost as if conservatives are some dying native American tribe whose culture and language require preservation.

Conservatives, in my opinion, get a better education than left leaning students. It is more difficult to argue a point contrary to what the professor believes than to parrot back what they said. I am sure my grades were hurt because of my conservatism, but not because of intentional bias. All of my professors were fair. It is simply more difficult to convince somebody of ideas antithetical to what they believe than it is to agree with them. Yet, even though my grades were adversely affected by this, I can argue and write more effectively and strongly than many of my more liberal peers because their beliefs were never as strongly challenged.

So, conservatives should stop worrying about supposed indoctrination and give thanks that they often receive more thorough educations than left-leaning students.

Nationals Park

Mrs. FLG and I went to the Nationals game today. It was a very nice day, and the new park is pretty cool. We both prefer Camden Yards, but Nationals Park is very nice. The airy feel and unobstructed views are key.

Too bad the Nats lost.

I'm sorry, I didn't know you were sleeping

Telegraph:

A 59-year-old American woman who was presumed dead after her heart stopped and she was taken off life support came back to life, stunning her doctors and family.

Memorial Day

On Saturday, Mrs. FLG and I went to Arlington National Cemetery to pay our respects. The lady in the visitors' center told us it was over a mile away. It was a nice walk. It was beautiful day and it is always touching when all of the graves have an American flag. We were all alone on the far side of the grounds. I commented to Mrs. FLG that there were headstones as far as the eye could see and each and every one of them had served our country. I got a lump in my throat.

On the way back there were a group of high schoolers on a group tour of DC. You could tell by their matching T-shirts. They were goofing off and making noise even though a family was nearby. It pissed me off. Then we walked passed the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and near the Kennedy grave site. The thing that struck me was the demeanor of the people. They treated the cemetery as if it were some other monument.

I have issues with people who lack basic decorum at the Lincoln or Jefferson Memorials. But there it is common courtesy. At Arlington, those headstones aren't simple memorials. They are the final resting place of some of our country's greatest sons and daughters. So, next time you are in Arlington please try to remember that.

And please remember that Memorial Day is to honor those who have fallen, and not simply an excuse to visit the beach or have a barbecue. You can still go to the beach or have barbecue, but take some time out of your day beforehand to remember.

Doctors have a warped perspective

NYTimes:
But while many doctors say there is nothing wrong with walking barefoot in New York, some see small but definite risks.


This is one of many times when doctors are party poopers. They freak us out about grilling meat. Butter vapors from microwave popcorn might be dangerous. They are still trying to tell us that Sweet and Low causes cancer.

Maybe if you eat excessive amounts of grilled meat or saccharin and inhale popcorn vapors twenty four times a day, then you might get cancer. But it is questionable that doctors even freak out about these things. The risks are so small. I question whether many of these studies are accurate, it really comes down to the misplaced priorities of doctors.

There are some obvious controllable health factors that have definitive negative repercussions for health. Smoking, excessive drinking, and obesity come to mind. The idea that grilled meat is as bad as second hand smoke is just crazy. Doctors place too much emphasis on longer living, and too little on good living. Let's say the docs are correct and if I stopped BBQ-ing, using Sweet & Low, walking barefoot in the park, etc, then I would live to 120. Well, I wouldn't want to live to 120 if I couldn't BBQ and walk barefoot in the park.

The issue for doctors is that they often have single-minded used on health. So, they warn against anything that poses a infinitesimally health risk. They say they are focusing on life span and quality of life, but they are wrong. They define quality of life as the ability to do things in your life, get around, etc. If you followed their advice, assuming it is correct, then, sure, you would live longer and your body would be healthier, but you couldn't do anything fun. To live longer it seems one has to stop doing almost everything that makes life worth living. When they are giving you warnings about being barefoot in the park because you can step on a nail shit has gone too far.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pizza, Sex, and Indiana Jones

At lunch the other day, somebody said, "Temple of Doom was a bad movie." I demurred. They then rephrased it to "Temple is the worst Indiana Jones movie." "Ah, that's different," I said. "Indiana Jones movies are like pizza and sex. Even when they are bad they are still pretty good."

That no longer stands.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a bad movie. Not bad in comparison only to other Indiana Jones movies, but bad among movies period. Bad. bad. bad.

Chávez

WaPo:
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has been caught. Despite his protestations of innocence, Interpol has corroborated the authenticity of thousands of computer files captured during a Colombian Army raid on a FARC rebel camp in Venezuela. Only a small share of this trove has been released, but it leaves little doubt that Venezuela has been aiding the guerrillas’ effort to overthrow Colombia’s democratically elected government.


I hope our Hollywood actors begin to realize that he isn't mister nice socialist.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ted Kennedy

I feel terrible for Ted Kennedy, and wish him a speedy recovery.

However, I have a huge issue with seven words in Bob Herbert's column today.

This is a guy who has experienced every kind of horror, who went down in a plane, who had to fight back after Chappaquiddick, who has had two kids stricken with cancer, and on and on. So who knows?


Ted had to fight back after Chappaquiddick? Are you kidding me? Somebody died because of him. Her name was Mary Jo Kopechne. And he is the victim? I realize Sen. Kennedy is sick, but I can't abide by somebody going as far as to call Teddy the victim of the Chappaquiddick incident. It just won't do.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Ancient Greek

FLG recently has had a strange desire to learn Ancient Greek. He is tempted to register for a course at NVCC in the fall, but alas another blogger is probably going to be taking the class then, and he feels too much like a cyberstalker as it is to register for the same course.

So, he is thinking of taking Differential Equations and Linear Algebra. How are those related to his desire to learn Ancient Greek? Good question. They're not. In addition to Greek, he also wants to learn mathematics up through real analysis.

GEC has recommended a slew of courses at G'town to take this fall, but many are at times inconvenient for FLG. America in Vietnam and Military History of NATO are particularly intriguing. For those of you wondering why somebody opposed to the continued existence of NATO would want to take a class about it, I say, "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." I have to know its history to destroy it.

An advanced French class at the Alliance Francaise de Washington is also in the running. FLG is debating what to do.

The promise of the Internet fulfilled

You can print your own Monopoly money. Now, if they can find some way to download the plastic rope from Clue, all would be right with the world.

HT: Marginal Revolution

Block out the sun

In a Mr. Burns, comic book supervillainy type of way this guy is going to block out the sun.

When Dennis Hawes family built the terrace on the roof of their seaside home, he and his family looked forward to lazy days in the sun gazing across rolling countryside and the ocean.

But his neighbour had other ideas.

Just as Mr Hawes, a retired oil industry worker, put the finishing touches to the extension, the businessman next door erected a 16ft high wall blocking not only his view but most of his light as well.


That's dick.

Dumbest person on Capitol Hill

The above title was held by Rep. Marcy Kaptur until today.

Congratulations to Rep. Maxine Waters, who reached new levels of Congressional stupidity.



HT: GW Patriot

Toads

I had never read warty bliggens, the toad until just this moment, but I really like it.

Islamic Operating System

Since I am out of school and can now just goof off on my laptop instead of worrying that it won't work when I need to write a paper, I decided to download the newest Ubuntu Linux version and install it. That isn't very exciting unless, like me, you are a recovered, or not so recovered, computer geek. But...I also discovered that an Ubuntu Muslim Edition exists.

Ubuntu Muslim Edition is a set of packages that customizes the Ubuntu distro by installing islamic software (prayer times, Quran study tool, web content filtering tool etc.) and by changing its design.


Click here for screenshots. On one hand, it is a pretty cool idea to include those tools and redesign the OS. On the other hand, having a special operating system version for followers of a religion kinda bothers me. This is especially true when Ubuntu is a Zulu word that translates as human community or something. It seems to me that the existence of a version for a particular religion is somewhat antithetical to that goal, but I am not sure.

SocGen Update

Le Monde:
La Société générale a rendu publique, vendredi 23 mai, la version finale du rapport interne destiné à faire la lumière sur les circonstances de l'affaire Kerviel, quatre mois après la fraude présumée qui a coûté à la banque française 4,9 milliards d'euros. La mission d'audit interne, confiée à l'inspection générale de l'établissement et supervisée par le cabinet PriceWaterhouseCoopers, met en cause, pour la première fois, les supérieurs directs du trader et laisse penser que M. Kerviel a pu bénéficier de complicités au sein de la banque.
Translation:
Société générale made public, Friday May 23, the final version of the internal report destined to put light on the circumstance of the Kerviel affair, four months after the alleged fraud which cost the bank 4.9 billion euros.  This internal audit mission, entrusted to the  inspector general of the bank and supervised by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, blames, for the first time, the direct supervisors of the rogue trader and allowed Mr. Kerviel to think that he could benefit from complicity within the bank.

I still stand by my original analysis when the story broke.  Somebody made a decision to streamline a process and that decision had repercussions of which they were not fully aware.  This allowed Kerviel to exploit the system and manufacture large gains.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Batman versus The Terminator

BBC:
Christian Bale is to play rebel leader John Connor in three sequels to the Terminator franchise, its producers have revealed.


Christian Bale is a good actor. He is especially good in The Machinist and American Psycho. I was excited to hear he was playing Batman. I liked Batman Begins, and eagerly awaiting The Dark Knight. However, him signing up to do three Terminator movies bothers me.

Since there was no LOST tonight

I have decided to post the Orchid Orientation film in preparation for next week's episode.

Libertarians

Balko writes:
[Tucker Carlson is] articulate, TV-savvy, and very much not crazy (not always a given in the Libertarian Party).


I have never been able to get passed the bow tie, but the point about sanity not being assumed among Libertarian Party members is spot on. I am all for less government involvement in almost every aspect of life. Yet, I cannot bring myself to accept that everything would be Utopian but for the existence of government. It is the anarchic-Libertarians that scare me.

Israeli Underpants Gnome Plan

McArdle:
1) Build settlements
2) ???
3) Greater Israel

Online Gambling

I actually wrote a term paper on online gambling that was very similar to this article in Reason.

On July 16, 2006, the CEO of BetOnSports.com attacked an anti–online gambling bill that the House of Representatives had overwhelmingly approved a few days before. “We want to be regulated,” David Carruthers wrote in the Baltimore Sun. “We want to be taxed. We want to be licensed. Instead of dealing with us constructively to address issues of mutual concern, these legislators prefer to pretend that they can control the Internet. Instead of protecting the public, they would rather waste time on public posturing to their partisan base.”

In 2006 Goodlatte’s bill was combined with a Leach bill to become the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The law was tacked onto an unrelated, supposedly urgent measure dealing with port security, which Congress passed just before adjourning for mid-term elections in 2006.


So, they tack this into the ports bill and ban money transfers for online gambling, but then exempt all kinds of domestic gambling over internet connections. For example, off-track betting transmitted over TCP/IP. Anyway, this ran afoul of WTO rules and was challenged by some Caribbean nations, who subsequently won.

There are two primary problems with trying to outlaw online gambling. First, it is impossible. The internet is not really controllable, and if people want to gamble then overseas operators will find a way to do it. Second, the arguments used to justify making it illegal (potential money laundering and shady operators) are a product of it being illegal. If online gambling was ok'd in the US, then people would flock to the Caesar's Palace and Mirage websites not Bob's online casin-o-rama. Regulators could work with Caesars and Mirage to ferret out money laundering.

One other potential issue is that people will gamble all their money away thus destroy their family. It is difficult to argue that a problem gambler would be any more likely to gamble all their money away at an online casino than the many physical casinos that are scattered throughout the nation. Almost everybody is within a day's drive of a casino. Gambling will increase if online gambling were legalized, but problem gamblers by definition have a problem. A few hours drive does not keep them from gambling. Furthermore, legalized online gambling would be a safer alternative to mafia run or other illegal gambling, which I am sure is available everywhere.

So, let's just legalize the thing and regulate it. The moral crusade against it actually makes things worse.

All right versus alright

Alan, amateur professor of English, recently told me that one of his pet peeves is alright. "It's All Right," he said.

From M-W.com:
The one-word spelling alright appeared some 75 years after all right itself had reappeared from a 400-year-long absence. Since the early 20th century some critics have insisted alright is wrong, but it has its defenders and its users. It is less frequent than all right but remains in common use especially in journalistic and business publications. It is quite common in fictional dialogue, and is used occasionally in other writing


M-W dates it to 1887. So, I say it is official. One can prefer all right to alright, much in the same way that I prefer data to be singular rather than plural, but neither is wrong.

Anonymous Blogging

This article is precisely the reason I keep my identity somewhat anonymous and mention very little about my own life. However, I think it is a personal character, for lack of a better word, issue. I turly don't want attention, and I certainly do not want to be famous. Therefore, I post very little about myself and use a pseudonym.

On the other hand, I think that using a pseudonym comes with responsibilities. I try extra hard to avoid ad hominem and other cheap attacks. I may have crossed the sarcasm line with Prof. Deneen a couple of times, but I don't think too far over the line.

My main point is that a person who craves personal attention will never be able to remain truly anonymous or to omit their personal feelings from a blog. I endeavor to do both.

On a related point, this is probably the third NYTimes article in as many months about how bad blogging is. I think they are afraid.

Open-source Windows Clone

Apparently, ReactOS is an open-source windows clone still in alpha, but I will keep tabs on it.

Parliamentary System

Marie Cocco in the NYTimes:
Thatcher, for instance, never ran for executive office on her own. She became the first (and only) female prime minister of Britain by reaching the leadership of the Conservative Party. That is how many female heads of state have risen -- through parliamentary systems that often use quotas to guarantee women legislative seats.

And we don't like political wives who strike out on their own. Yet around the world, political spouses, widows and daughters are elected with stunning regularity. Indira Gandhi of India; Corazon Aquino of the Philippines; Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua; Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan; Cristina Fern¿ndez, the current Argentine president -- who succeeded her husband -- all rose to power through family connections.


First, the article from which I a quoting asks "if not Clinton, then who?" To which I respond, I don't know, but believe me this is more than simple sexism. 50% of this country hated Hillary Clinton before the election. I have no problems with at least 10 women that I can name off the top of my head becoming president, but Hillary sends chills down my spine. Always has, always will.

Second, I contend that much of the problem for women is due to our political system. We have a presidential system elected by winner-take-all, first-pass-the-post. Why does this discourage women? Two reasons: 1) Women tend to have a more realistic perception of their chance of winning elections than men do (I read a study somewhere, but cannot find it currently.) and 2) Women tend to be more risk-averse.

Women realize the odds are stack against new contenders in elections and are less likely to roll the dice. This leads to less women in politics generally when compared with Europe.

In Europe, and I will over generalized, they have parliamentary systems. Furthermore, many places, such as Germany, have proportional representation of parties. What does this mean for women?

Well, say a woman joins the Green Party. She signs up and gets put last on the slate of electors should the Green Party win 100% of the vote in her district. If she continues working with the party, and stays loyal, eventually she will be at the top of the list and will probably be elected. See, the important thing in a parliamentary and proportional representative systems is to stay loyal to the party. It is less risk taking and more doggedly keeping the nose to the grindstone. Even in the case of the UK, where the parliament is elected in each district by first-pass -the-post the PM is decided by the party in power. So, Thatcher herself did not have to win a nationwide election, the party did.

In the US, becoming president even harder than being elected to congress. If one assumes that female potential candidates analyze their chances more realistically than men and are more risk averse than it is probable that only women who begin the campaign with high name recognition, like former first ladies, would attempt to run.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bloggers wanted

Fear and Loathing in Georgetown is still accepting applications from Georgetown students, alumni, or faculty to blog on this site.

Instructions and Rules:
Send an email to the address listed on this site. Please include a list of interests that you would blog about and your preferred blogger pseudonym. Candidates will be selected through a completely opaque and arbitrary process by FLG in consultation with GEC. Final choice of blog pseudonyms rests with FLG, though he will work with candidates to choose one acceptable to both parties.


Apply before the deadline, which I have just now set at June 15th.

Poor Sports

University Diaries frequently reports on the boorish, often illegal behavior of college athletes. My two college football RSS feeds provide insight into how widespread the bad behaviour is. Here are the last 10 entries on one of them.

NBCSports.com: College Football
  1. Texas Tech Center indicted in assault
  2. Former Penn St. CB a step closer to sports (To clarify: He graduates from law school after an injury).
  3. Arkansas RB Barnett arrested
  4. Arizona player indicted for sexual assault
  5. Big 12's best players
  6. Top 'Noles WR to sit out first 2 games of season (Misdemeanors)
  7. Expert: Repeat unlikely, but don't overlook LSU
  8. Rivals.com: They're after the kid from Okeechobee
  9. Va. Tech recruit arrested in undercover drug sting
  10. Penn State's Baker gets 2 years probation


6 out of 10 are legal troubles, and this ratio is constant on the two feeds.

Fucking French

Telegraph:
Much of France will grind to a standstill as hundreds of thousands take to the streets to protest at pension reform proposed by President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Unions predict that more than half a million French, including train drivers, teachers and civil servants but also many from the private sector, will down tools to take part in 80 demonstrations around the country.

They oppose government plans to make people work 41 years before being able to draw a full state pension compared with 40 years now.


It is actually a little bit more complicated than the above. There are special regimes and regular pension regimes. Nevertheless, reforms are needed and protests against them will be strong.

Wealth, Genes, and Smarts

Telegraph:
They are more likely to get into elite universities because they have a "significantly higher average IQ than lower social classes", says Bruce Charlton, reader in evolutionary psychiatry at Newcastle University.

He argues that the large number of middle-class students at top institutions was the "natural outcome of meritocracy" rather than the result of skewed admissions policies.

In the past, ministers have accused universities of social bias for failing to admit enough sixth-formers from state schools and deprived backgrounds.


I disagree with anybody who chooses an extremum in the nature-nurture discussion. Therefore, I disagree with this guy. What a child is exposed to certainly influences their intelligence. However, it could be that smarter people are generally wealthier, and therefore the children of wealthier people are smarter by benefit of genes. For instance, doctors and lawyers are smarter than average and wealthier than average. One would assume that their children would be smarter than average either from better genes or more resources used in child rearing. Nevertheless, we, as a society, should provide opportunities for human flourishing through education to all members of our society.

Deneen's Glee

Deneen's most recent post states that:
1) The S&P 500 might collapse over the next 1-2 years
2) American Airlines is cutting back severely
3) A farmer is using mules instead of a tractor

While I have issues with the above, my primary concern is the tone of glee with which Prof. Deneen's recent posts read. There is a noticeable lack of "my worst nightmares are coming true and it is freakin' terrible." Instead, there is a tone of "nanny-nanny boo-boo, I told you so and thank goodness because there is hope we might actually live virtuous lives now."

But what if there is only pain and no virtue? One should not confuse a person who is starving with one who is fasting.

Computer Education

Dvorak:
There are, for example, computer users between the ages of 25 and 45 who can't do a simple Google search and are stunned when you show them how. Where have they been hiding over the last decade? Don't schools generally offer a universal study of the computer? That's a high-school course everyone should take, and it should be a requirement for graduation.

Education is the key, and it is never too late to start. At least a single year of computer training—the sophomore year would be my pick—would benefit high schoolers no end. Yes, many of them can put up a Facebook or MySpace page, but what else can they do? The nerds in the school can do a lot (up to and including hijacking public transportation using a TV remote), but the rest need to be taught, and even a single course would be valuable and fun.

Car Lover

Telegraph:
A man who claims to have had sex with 1,000 cars has defended his "romantic" feelings towards vehicles.

Edward Smith, who lives with his current "girlfriend" – a white Volkswagen Beetle named Vanilla, insisted that he was not "sick" and had no desire to change his ways.

Mr Smith, 57, first had sex with a car at the age of 15, and claims he has never been attracted to women or men. But his wandering eye has spread beyond cars to other vehicles. He says that his most intense sexual experience was "making love" to the helicopter from 1980s TV hit Airwolf.
Can you imagine how he would be with KITT?

Obama-Clinton '08

Commentary:
Hmmm. Hillary Clinton as a maker of change.

Obama-Clinton 2008. Put money on it.


First, Clinton on the ticket KILLS Obama's candidacy. What don't people understand about 50% of America hates the woman? It isn't that hard. Just read a poll. Second, in the case of the above author, John Podhoretz, who is a conservative, I think this is more like wishful thinking because he knows Clinton on the ticket is probably the only thing that will keep Obama out of the White House. Lastly, Obama will pick somebody who can help with his problem voters, working class whites, who isn't Hillary. I thought it was going to be Edwards when I heard about the endorsement, but after seeing the long-winded speech Edwards gave I changed my mind. Edwards is too full of himself for Obama to choose him, and we are talking about two politicians here, so if I am saying that Edwards is too full of himself then it is pretty bad. However, maybe Obama is used to it and doesn't care. I don't know.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Phlying Phallic Phallanx



I like Gary Kasparov. He is brave, but that is funny.

HT: Ace of Spades

Public Transportation

Yglesias:
The benefits of frequent service for transit are, I think, hard to overstate. If you're trying to get into a bus that only runs once every 30 minutes then if you want to get anywhere on time you need to be paranoid about not missing the bus and usually wind up showing up too early and wasting time. What's more, if a bus happens to be a minute or two late, panic sets in that you've missed it or that some incident has taken the bus out of service and maybe you need to scurry off and find another way of getting where you're going.

That kind of stress and hassle winds up making the bus a "must avoid" transit method, and helps perpetuate the bad bus branding where you constantly meet carless young professionals who've lived in DC for years and know almost nothing about bus routes.

Endowments

I have been meaning to write this one for a while.

BostonGlobe:
Massachusetts lawmakers desperate for additional revenue are eyeing the endowments of deep-pocketed private colleges to bolster the state's coffers by more than $1 billion a year, asserting that the schools' rising fortunes undercut their nonprofit status.


In response, Greg Mankiw proposes:
Instead of expanding the university into Alston, Harvard could create a second campus in another state. Call it Harvard South. (Put it in a better climate than Boston, and I would be one of the first faculty to volunteer for the move.)

Then, the endowment and university would move.

University Diaries is pro-tax on excessive endowments and for spreading it to less wealthy colleges and universities.

I also agree with this point in an Inside Higher Ed piece:
Colleges, I suspect, are far less likely than businesses are to leave a state because of adverse conditions. Yale and the University of Chicago would surely pay a hefty tax to turn their crime-ridden neighborhoods into versions of Stanford’s Palo Alto. Yet both these schools stay put, even when nearly any similarly situated multi-billion-dollar business that sought to attract the best and the brightest (and often the richest) would have long ago moved to more pleasant surroundings.


So, Harvard is egregiously rich. It probably won't move because the capital and social investment in the area is so high. Furthermore, UD is probably correct that Harvard would retain its position atop the higher ed world for five to seven centuries even if its endowment was taxed at 2.5% on every dollar over $1 billion.

Nevertheless, I don't think messing with Harvard's endowment is the right thing to do. I suggest removing the tax deductible status of donations to universities with endowments higher than $5 billion. (We can quibble about the number.) The point is that a donation to Harvard or Yale isn't a write off. Whereas, a donation to Southwest Missouri State is. Let Harvard have its $36 billion and hedge fund-esque returns, but shift new donations to other schools.

In case you didn't know: Congo

For those of you who haven't taken Map of the Modern World, there are two countries named Congo.

Democratic Republic of the Congo aka Congo-Kinshasa

Republic of the Congo aka Congo-Brazzaville

The capitals of each country, Brazzaville and Kinshasa, are separated by, you guessed it, the Congo River.
 
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