More airport idiocy It seems that in the wake of 9/11 that the Transportation Security Administration has decided to lobotomize every single one of its employees. That is the only explanation I can find for the stellar stupidity of these keystone cops. So far we have this story about poor Fred Hubbell, and this story about the 2-3" soft plastic toy gun, and this story of a woman drinking her own breast milk. The problem is that these shitheads at the Transportation Security Administration have a zero tolerance policy:
But his misstep - which, of course, caused him and his wife to miss their Dallas-bound plane and got them home several hours later than expected - is an object lesson on what the Transportation Security Administration means by "zero tolerance." Hubbell actually got off easy: Most such arrests result in misdemeanor "breach of peace" charges, which require a court appearance.
This means they tolerate nothing, not even common sense. If it looks like a gun it must be a gun. So be careful with your fingers or they just might cut them off and make you put them in your checked luggage. Here is a list of prohibited items on airplanes. I am shocked to see that canes are not on that list. After all canes are just about the right size for many martial arts styles, for example a cane would not be that much different the bokuto used in some martial arts such as aikido or Kashima Shinryu. Even the metal fork that comes with the meal could be a dangerous and even deadly weapons in the hands of a person with the mind to use it. A zero tolerance policy would insist that canes be prohibited on airplanes. Why are canes and forks allowed? Not only do they supposedly have a zero tolerance policy, but they can't seem to follow it. A woman got completely past the airport screeners, on the airplane and to her connecting airport with a loaded .357 caliber firearm in her carry on. If you are going to humiliate, intimidate, and trample our dignity into the dirt at least MAKE GODDAMN SURE NOBODY IS GETTING ON THE PLANE WITH A FRIGGING GUN YOU SHITHEADS!
Yeah this makes me angry, but stupidity always does. Steve
Friday, August 30, 2002
Treason of the Academics An article at FrontPagMag.com on how some Middle Eastern Scholars are...well...stupid. In particular, this article includes an attack on Daniel Pipes (link over on the left there--check it out) as an Islam basher. A quick perusual of Pipes website and his articles will quickly show that Stanford professor Joel Beinin is well...a blithering idiot and/or a liar. Steve
Ibn Musa: YEA..oKay..and hey....when u DO i.then DO it soo badly that he spits out blood and and starts crying really badly...stab him till da muslim blood from his abdomen comes out ...and ....ermmmm....lets make this more freaky....hey CUT his head off .... i mean like not FAST....i mean cut it in a SLOW MOTION....and let him shout ...cry....and do anything he wants lol......then leave him alone...on the floor....let the blood come out from his THROAT...+ ABDOMEN....and yea yea yea...lol.... and wait till he dies okay....when he dies....then give him a KICK and tell him that it was from IBN MUSA lol...hey we dont want kumo sis or anyone to faint while lukin at theyr own thread rite?...so ST OP it here man..lets do this in DA BRO AREA .....
Ibn Musa: hey am gonna sleep rite now kay....il give u guys the threads name in brothers area ... i want to see that FILLED WITH BLOOD AND OTHER YUMMMY STUFF for tomorrow inshallah
tha name of that thread is " > : : : » JUICY JEW « : : : <" gud name eh ... lol Steve
Recent reports indicate the Taliban and al Qaeda are regrouping in preparation for a major escalation of fighting in Afghanistan. Moreover, STRATFOR has received intelligence that resistance to U.S. forces in Afghanistan has spread well beyond these groups, threatening a steep increase in fighting over the coming months.
Also there are reports that bin Laden is back in control of Al Qaeda and is in Afghanistan directing the fighting there. Apparently the strategy is to engage in a protracted war of attrition that relies on assassinations and guerrilla warfare.
(Note: Not sure how long that link will be good for.) Steve
Environmentalists I can’t figure environmentalists out, at least the more extreme ones. Take for example the case of Bjorn Lomborg a statistician who has written a book on titled, The Skeptical Environmentalist. In this book he looks at some of the "environmental movements" sacred cows such as global climate change. Lomborg notes that the cost of the programs to help alleviate the problems with global climate change are very expensive and that we might get more bang for our buck if we used that money elsewhere such as water treatment. But this does not sit well with environmentalists. But consider these two questions:
How many people have died (or will die) from global climate change?
How many people have died from diarrhea?
As for the first, I don't have a clue (and here is the dirty secret, neither does anybody else). As for the second, how about 4.6 million in 1980 and 1.5 million in 1999.
So here is my take; some things in the environmental movement are "sexy", are good marketing, get people to part with their money. Large-scale problems are more marketable than something as mundane and "dirty" as diarrhea. So we see environmental movements focusing on those things that will be good for their revenues and ignoring those things that are not. Thus, when somebody says, this is really expensive and that money could be used better somewhere else (i.e. forget about this problem) they get attacked.
And how Lomborg has been attacked. For example, he has been accused of pseudo scholarship. This on is funny because the basis for this attack is the fact that Lomborg has over 3,000 footnotes that gives the appearance of careful research but supposedly really doesn't. To support this contention the reviewer refers to...wait for it...a footnote! The section on statistical fallacies is also amusing. The author of the critique makes essentially the same "mistake" that association implies causation. And their 8th criticism is typical when one does not really have a counter argument. Attack the person and/or his credentials. Sure Lomborg is a statistician. But is Paul Ehrlich an expert on populations? No, he is an expert on butterflies, and is anything but an expert on populations given his horrendous track record at making predictions. Lomborg responds to this "critique" here.
So, we see that offering a different viewpoint that isn't all that dissimilar to that of the environmentalist, at least in terms of the goal, results in a nasty response. Lomborg's book has done another service besides providing lots of information; it has shown the world that these environmentalists are no different than the rest of us. The become defensive when their funding is threatened, they aren't as kind and caring as they claim they are, and when you get right down to it they are a bunch of hypocrites.
Check out Kloognome This is a site run by a friend of mine. Although the stinker didn't tell me he had started blogging! Then again I didn't tell him I had started blogging either. Anyhow, Rob's commentary and insights are quite good and you can also check out his minatures art work. Steve
Some of Hesiod's Disgusting Tactics Hesiod notes that Ward Weaver made a defiant press conference and so did Stephen Hatfill...therefore Hatfill is guilty since it looks like Weaver is guilty. Guilt by association when there isn't even any association. His pathetic attempt to reclaim credibility with this
Make no mistake, Hatfill is entitled to a presumption of innocence. But, it is very possible that his press conferences were designed as a stunt to influence any future jury pool, and to throw a spotlight on his accusers.
Hesiod Blows it on the NEA Earlier I noted the idiocy of the NEA here. Hesiod, in typical fashion, believes whatever he reads from the The Daily Howler. I have actually gone to the NEA site and read the materials there and I have to say, it is at the very least disingenuous to put that material into a "packet" on "Remembering 9/11". Steve
Corporate Governance It is looking more and more like the Corporate Governance Bill was just political manuevering and a huge waste of time and resources. Looks like two top executives at WorldCom are about to be indicted. Perhaps if the government enforced existing laws, rules, and regulations we wouldn't need these redundant laws. Of course at the same time this wouldn't give the strutting peacocks on Capitol Hill and in the White House a chance to strut. Steve
The next day, eight members of Black September, part of Arafat's Fatah organization, stormed the Saudi embassy in Khartoum, took Noel, Moore and others hostage. A day later, on March 2, 1973, Noel, Moore and Eid were machine-gunned to death – all, Welsh charges, on the direct orders of Arafat.
Our own State Department, how disgusting. Steve
Mulitculturalism Is this the new face of racism? Think about it for a minute, multiculturalism claims that people are defined by the culture, ethnic, and racial background. I suppose to some degree this is true, but multiculturalism doesn't just stop there. No, multiculturalism goes on to posit that all of these different cultural, ethnic and racial backgrounds are of equal value. Here is an excerpt from the essay, "Building Blocks: The First Steps of Creating a Multicultural Classroom":
Teachers in multicultural classrooms must be open to their students and put forth the effort needed to get to know their students inside and outside of class. If a teacher is hesitant about being open, the class will reciprocate and the students will become estranged from one another and the teacher. In order to be open, teachers must be interested in their students, fearless, willing to try new and different things, sure of themselves in order to avoid taking things personally, and non-judgmental of his or her students (Canning 196).
That sounds nice, but the problem is what if one of the students culture favors such things as slavery? Should we be open minded to that? I don't know, but it seems to be just the wrong answer. Being open to new things is fine, but at the same time it does not require you to completely relenquish your responsability to say something is wrong. Further, isn't there an inherent paradox here? Suppose one student comes from a cultural background that says that males are not to study in classrooms with females? Shouldn't we be open to this and perhaps segregate boys and girls? But, then what about those sutdents who come from cultures who do not hold such views? Aren't their views diminished, reduced, and ignored if we decide to engage in segregated teaching? Surely a choice must be made, but I don't see that this is possible with multiculturalism.
Here is another excerpt from the same article:
Also, openness is not making assumptions and being prepared for the unexpected (Canning 199). In the Mexican-American culture, children are accustomed to hugging, kissing, or touching (arm squeezing or rubbing the back of) figures of authority. Christine Canning (author of "Getting From the Outside In: Teaching Mexican Americans When You Are an 'Anglo'") writes of her experience, "I noticed that students touched my hand or arm while talking to me. I was feeling uncomfortable with this until it occurred to me that touching might be a cultural behavior" (197).
Wait a minute! What about my cultural behavior of not doing this? Isn't that important and should my behavior be suppornated to the cultural behavior of others? If you have to respect all forms of cultural behavior what do you do when two or more behaviors intersect and are at odds? Unfortunately the article is silent on what to do in that situation. In fact, I don't know what a "multiculturalist" would do in that situation. You can't have both behaviors if the behaviors are diametrically opposed.
In short, the essay is sophmoric and serves only a mish-mash of platitudes and nonsense. For example:
A math book written by an African-American man or woman will send good messages to a population of students that has seen math books that exclusively features the writing style and craftsmanship of a European-American. Incorporating multicultural literature in to the class is very important, if teachers do not do this they will fall into a trap of buying "the book that has always been used" or "a book that is good enough." Thoughts like those will lead teachers to a sad day when they're packing up all their books on the last day of school and suddenly they realize that they have been sending a message to their students that only White people exist in Math. This is the message that many students are getting today, no matter if they are White, Black, Asian and Hispanic etc... that teachers must do away with.
First, nobody exists in Math anymore that a person exists in physics. People exist in the real world. Second, I happen to own a good many math books and for the life of me couldn't tell you the race of most of the authors. Further, while in school I didn't even care about the race of the author of a book. So how are teachers to convey the knowledge that Samuel Johnson the author of An Introduction to Algebra is black? Tell the class?
"Class, here is our text. And you might be pleased to know that it is written by a black man."
Does that sound condescending or what? What kind of message is that sending to the black student. How about, "I know you black people are pretty dumb for the most part, but golly look at what this guy did."
How do we accomplish multiculturalism or manage diversity? It means encouraging and enabling differences in a safe, inclusive environment. It means celebrating diversity, maximizing the full potential of all students, and having students reject rejection. "Multiculturalism, as the art of managing diversity, is an inclusive process where no one is left out." (Rosado, 2001) Multiculturalism in education means the empowerment of all groups, which includes changing attitudes as well as the underlying culture of a school.
Again we see the platitudes and bromides, but what is the reality. Such a goal is for all intents and purposes impossible. For example, a student who does not speak Spanish and is with several other students who speak Spanish amongst themselves is excluded from any conversation in Spanish. The idea that "no one is left out" is so trite it is bordering on stupid.
It seems that multiculturalism is an empty notion, one that is devoid of any practical application and usefullness. Further, trying to actually apply it could be just as damaging as ignoring cultural differences in the classroom. Perhaps the best course, is to be aware of cultural differences, but that does not mean one has to go out of one's way to "accept" or "tolerate" these behaviors if they are a problem. Steve
Militant Islam catagorized with Communism and Fascism by Daniel Pipes in an interview with Investor's Business Daily.
IBD: What is it about militant Islam that appeals to its adherents?
Pipes: It is a massive way of saying "no" to modernity and to Western life. You can say "no" not just to government policies, but to an entire way of life.
IBD: Is this something that could attach itself to the anti-globalization, anti-IMF movement?
Pipes: Yes, but I wouldn't restrict it to that. It is much larger than that. It is a worthy successor to fascism and communism. It is the international threat.
Pipes also points out that militant Islam has a long history of using violence to help achieve its goals. Too bad the Bush Administration cannot see the problem posed by militant Islam. Out of fear of being labeled bigots and/or racists the Administration is bending over backwards to avoid the appearance of going after muslims. A distinction needs to be made between militant Islam and Islam. Unfortunately the supporters of multiculturalism have succeeded in making this practically impossible.
-According to U.N. weapons inspectors and western intelligence agencies, Iraq possesses the necessary components and technical knowledge to build nuclear bombs in the near future. A report prepared by the German intelligence services in December 2000, based on defectors' reports, satellite imagery, and aerial surveillance, predicted that Iraq will have three nuclear bombs by 2005. But that may be too optimistic. Before the Gulf War no one had a clue how far advanced Saddam's nuclear weapons program was. According to the Federation of American Scientists, even with an intrusive inspections regime, "Iraq might be able to construct a nuclear explosive before it was detected." Today, no one knows how close Saddam is to having a nuclear device. What we do know is that every month that passes brings him closer to the prize. Steve
Al Rajhi said the suit could result in the withdrawal of Arab investments in the United States and "negatively affect the U.S. and western economies." He did not elaborate.
Oh yes, take that money and forgoe those profits. It isn't like your country doesn't have a $200 billion dollar deficit. Oh wait, it does. It is amusing to see a backwards nation like Saudi Arabia engaging in such blatant intimidation tactics. Steve
Media Bias? Notice that the first thing that article about Bush campaigning for Bill Simon in California is on the nearly $80 million judgement against Simon's company. Then at the very bottom of the article they casually mention that Davis is not popular and mishandled the energy crisis. Jesus Christ on a pogo stick. Lets see, Simon has an $80 million dollar judgement against his company. Davis on the other hand has blown a $24 billion dollar hole in the state budget.
Davis' policies have bankrupted the largest of the three investor owned utilties in the State (by the way, many of the stock holders are retirees who rely on the dividends that are no longer being paid by the two out of the three investor owned utilities in the State), nearly bankrupted the second largest, and is pushing to raise taxes (vehicle registration fees). Further, his bungling of the energy crisis has resulted in huge losses for California. His energy contracts where purchased at fairly high prices and are now virtually worthless. Also, rate payers are now paying very high rates, possibly higher than if he had acted in a more intelligent manner.
You see early on in the energy crisis Davis went on record as saying he could solve the whole problem overnight by simply raising electricity rates (like the investor owned utilities asked). It is quite possible that the debt the rate payers are now paying off that the utilities incurred buying energy for so long at the astronomical prices would have been substantially lower meaning a lower rate hike. Also, it would have meant the State would not have to get involved in buying energy which is contributing a significant amount to the State's budget deficit.
So, the news article trumpets a piddle $80 million dollar judgement but completely omits Davis' mismanagement that has lead to a crisis in the state that in dollar terms is 300 times larger. Is Reuters part of the Democratic National Committee or something?
Update: I just learned that Simon's company was not fined which implies criminal conviction, but lost a civil court case which is a contract dispute. This article is political propaganda and quite possible lying. Steve
Thursday, August 22, 2002
Mugabe's Bankrupt Policies and Famine It seems Mugabe, the leader of Zimbabwe, has instituted some idiotic policies that threaten the population of Zimbabwe with famine. Some of these policies are:
Evicting white farmers from their land
Controlling the price of maize - meaning businesses are not importing maize into Zimbabwe for sale
Controlling the exchange rate, which has the same effect
I'm sure Mugabe and his cronies wont go hungry. Steve
Mr. Reimers, though, will be happy to know his view is echoed across the hemispheres. Five days before 9/11, the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reported that 65% of the country's rapes were committed by "non-Western" immigrants -- a category which, in Norway, is almost wholly Muslim. A professor at the University of Oslo explained that one reason for the disproportionate Muslim share of the rape market was that in their native lands "rape is scarcely punished" because it is generally believed that "it is women who are responsible for rape."
So Muslim immigrants to Norway should be made aware that things are a little different in Scandinavia? Not at all! Rather, the professor insisted, "Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes" because their manner of dress would be regarded by Muslim men as inappropriate. "Norwegian women must realize that we live in a multicultural society and adapt themselves to it." Or to modify Queen Victoria's wedding-night advice to her daughter: Lie back and think of Yemen.
I don't know about you, but that made me feel vaguely ill. Women must take their share of responsibility for being raped? That professor is an asshole. This is precisely the same kind of idiotic "blame the victim" mentality that we saw on 9/11. 'The U.S. asked for the terrorist attacks with its arrogant policies.' Oh, so the next time somebody, like that Oslo professor, acts arrogant I can beat him to a pulp? Some how I think the jackass would object, and rightly so. This kind of "no culture is superior" attitude is morally bankrupt and should be thrown in the trash can of idiotic ideas. Unfortunately, academia seems to inspire the stupid to put forth such fecal matter as profound thinking. Steve
On a blistering 120-degree morning in August, a Saudi Arabian Airlines pilot named Sultan al-Duweihi took his place in line for a visa outside the U.S. Embassy. "This is too much — over and beyond disgusting," said al-Duweihi. "Saudis are being collectively punished for the actions of a few."
Oh, poor fellow. Would you like some cheese with that whine. Better get used to it, the majority of the terrorists on board those jetliners on 9/11 were Saudi citizens. Saudi Arabia has been rather...lack luster in its support of the war on terror. Further, Saudi Arabia is the fountain of Wahhabism the type of Islam that bin Laden and the Taliban practiced. Saudi Arabia has been helping the Palestinian terrorists in Israel. And we should make it easy for these guys to get into our country.
But Saudis feel betrayed by a country where many studied, vacationed and did business, and which they looked to as a bastion of the freedoms and human rights they long for.
Well then get off your fat butts and do something about gettubg these freedoms and human rights. Just don't sit there and whine after your countrymen fly jetliners with innocent civilians into buildings full of other innocent civilians.
Here is a stellar example of media bias:
But at the nongovernmental level the new frostiness has been evident in one incident after another: Rudy Giuliani, as New York mayor, spurning a donation to the city from a Saudi prince...
...relatives of Sept. 11 victims suing Saudi officials, banks and charities, claiming they helped finance Osama bin Laden's network and the terror attacks...
Well lets see, 15 (IIRC) of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. Thousands more have gone through Al Qaida training camps. There might be nothing to these lawsuits, but guess what, you know those freedoms you so want, this is one of them. Here is an idea, why doesn't Saudi Arabia give up on the religious state (that is most assuredly what it is--try belonging to any religion other than Islam there), get rid of the barbaric practices such as stoning people to death and cutting off limbs, let the economy move towards a market economy, and let the women actually do things like drive, get jobs if they want, and have actual lives, and then perhaps you'll find that most people wont consider your country a land so backwards. Steve
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
Here is a picture of the digsite where they found the T. Rex mentioned below.
T. Rex to Stop in D.C. This is one of the T. Rex' found in the Hell Creek region of Montana. The leader of the expedition is none other than Jack Horner the paleontologist who has put forward the hypothesis that T. Rex is in actuality a scavanger vs. a predator. If you are in the D.C. area you should check this out. Steve
Consider the paradox: Almost every government agrees that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is an appalling monster and shudders at the prospect of his acquiring nuclear weapons. Yet those same governments are also furiously signaling their disapproval of an American-led military effort to depose him.
I don't know what to call this. Except maybe idiotic tripe from the National Education Association. This is the largest teachers union in the country and represents public school teachers. The following lesson plan is part of the NEA's "Remembering 9/11" program. So far it looks more like blame America.
"Is it alright to shoot an unarmed soldier?"
What the hell does this have to do with 9/11? How about, is it alright to slam a plan full of civilians into a builiding full of civilians and cause both massive loss of life and loss of property?
Oh...wait, I get it. These are actually questions that will get the student to see the evil and vile nature of Al Qaida and the Taliban. After all, what regimes have attacked religious sites? The Taliban defaced many acient buddhist artifacts. What group is responsible for killing thousands of unarmed civilians? Al Qaida. Of course I am being sarcastic here in that I think the NEA and Red Cross actually think the U.S. is either to blame for 9/11 or has done something wrong in going after these miscreants.
This just highlights that our nation's schools are, by and large, run by blithering idiots who actually make a good case for forced sterilization. Unfortunately given my strong libertarian views I would oppose any attempts to remove these boneheads from the shallow end of the gene pool before they crap in it again. But there isn't anything stopping me from pointing to the fact that they have once again left a bowel movement for the rest of us to deal with. Steve
The Followers of Militant Islam A Danger to their Own Countrymen The bigotry and narrowmindedness of militant Islam needs to be fought tooth and nail. These people pose a threat to everybody who disagrees with them. The idea that we can agree to disagree, or live peacefully together while holding different beliefs/values is anathema to these people. Steve
Our Enemies, the Saudis This is an interesting article by Victor Davis Hanson that looks at the U.S.'s relationship with Saudi Arabia. He notes many of the things that Daniel Pipes has noted as well. That the religion in Saudi Arabia is Wahhabism that is a fundamentalist version of Islam that is not that different from the Islam espoused by the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. That they are quite possibly in danger of losing their oil revenue or at least seeing it shrink as countries such as Russia start pumpin more and the West develops such things as hybrid cars to run on less gasoline. In short, not only do we need to stop thinking of the Saudis as our allies out of necessity (all that oil), but that we should start to see them as enemies. While the latter might be a bit extreme, Saudi Arabia should be seen as a rival such as China. Steve
Saturday, August 17, 2002
The Bayesian Approach Some people might be wondering what the heck is this Bayesian stuff. Well, the Bayesian viewpoint (for statistics and science) is based on a philosophical interpretation of a mathematical theorem proved by the Reverand Thomas Bayes. Bayes theorem is a way of calculating a conditional probability. A conditional probability is the probability of a given event (call it X) given that another condition (or event) holds (call this other condition or event Y). That is
In statistics you might be interested in the distribution f(x|q) where q is the parameters. A person with a Bayesian view will consider a probability distribution for q defined as f(q). This distribution is Bayesian terminology is called a prior probability distribution (or just prior) for q. Then when new data is gathered the Bayesian statistician can calculate the updated prior probability (or posterior probability or just posterior) as
f(q|x) µ f(q) L (q;x).
Where the symbol µ means proportional to, and L (q;x) is the likelihood function.
That is the new update distribution is proportional to the prior times the likelihood function. The likelihood function, crudely put, is a function that represents how likely the observed data are as a function of the parameter. The likelihood does not return a probability since it is a function of the parameter and takes the data as given. So you can see that the initial prior influences the posterior, but what you also see is that the data changes the initial distribution! That is as you gather more data you learn more. You let the data tell you how to adjust your initial assessment about the distribution of q.
While this sounds very nice, and personally I think it is how statistics should be done, it can often in practice be fairly difficult. Fortunately with the drastic improvements in computers it is likely that the Bayesian approach will see more application. Steve
Learning to Play Bayesian Games This is an interesting paper by Eddie Dekel, Drew Fudenberg and David Levine that looks at games where Nature has a move and the players disagree over the distribution governing the chance move by Nature. They look at the long run results of Bayesian learning and note that only under restrictive assumptions do the Nash Equilibria result. Hence one should be careful in relying on relying on Bayesian games that imply the Nash Equilibria coincide with steady states since such games also imply other outcomes are steady states as well. Steve
1. The U.S. is strong and project force anywhere in the world; Europe is so weak it can barely project force in Europe let alone anywhere else.
2. As such the U.S. relies on the policies of a strong nation; Europe relies on the policies of a weak nation.
The author uses and interesting metaphor. Imagine you are out in the woods and there there is a bear in the woods as well. Now imagine two instances:
1. You are armed only with a knife.
2. You are armed with a high powered rifle.
In case one deciding to live with the bear and hope he leaves you alone is a better policy than trying to kill the bear. In case 2 trying to the risk involved in trying to kill the bear is greatly reduced and now might look like a more attractive alternative.
The policies of a weak nation are negotion, diplomacy, and persuasion. Taking the long view and working through more subtle means. In contrast, the strong nation will favor more direct and even coercive actions.
In the last several decades Europe has become increasingly weak in ineffectual in terms of military power. Oddly enough they could only do this with the military might of the United States. So it is an interesting paradox (to say the least) when the Europeans claim their method is superior when it is precisely because of the United States' military might and willingness to use that might that has allowed Europe to become so "superior". Steve
...[that] Congress must get involved, exercising its responsibility to enact a new legal regimen for citizen-detainees in time of national emergency. That regimen must respect citizens' rights under the Constitution, including the right to judicial review of executive branch decisions. Constitutional rights are not absolute. But they do establish a strong presumption of liberty, which can be overridden only if government demonstrates, first, that its restrictions are essential and, second, that the goals it seeks to accomplish cannot be accomplished in a less invasive manner. When the executive, legislative, and judicial branches agree on the framework, the potential for abuse is significantly diminished. When only the executive has acted, the foundation of a free society can too easily erode. Steve
Looks like the Hamdi Case is Heating Up I am not sure about this "unlawful enemy combatant" thing. It seems rather vague and nebulous and it makes me a bit nervous. I don't see what the big deal about making public what the criteria are for determining if a person is an "unlawful enemy combatant". Steve
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
Kent Hovind FAQ at Talk Origins Talk Origins is a great site for stuff about evolution and "creation science" (there is a link over on the left). Anyhow this FAQ looks at Kent Hovind, a.k.a. Dr. Dino. Kent Hovind is a creationist that peddles a truck load of psuedo-science in his attmepts to discredit evolution and garner support for Biblical creation. He has postulated such absurdities that there were dinosaurs on Noah's ark (presumably Noah managed to get his hands on some baby dromaeosaurs as well as baby diplodicus'). Another example of his psuedo-science is this gem:
The universe came into being by itself by purely natural processes (known as evolution) so that no appeal to the supernatural is needed.
Uhhhm, Kent...evolution has to do with well the evolution of living organisms. Evolution says nothing about the formation of the universe or even about the formation of the first living organism. The areas of science that look into these two events are cosmology and abiogenesis (respectively). And for all we know God did create the first simple organism and then sat back letting evolution take over and this is just a big simulation he is watching. So either Mr. Hovind does not understand the subject he is lecturing on (highly ironic and it would be funny if so many people didn't believe him) or Mr. Hovind is a deciever. Here is a review of Kent Hovind's PhD dissertation, I highly recommend it for the humor value. Steve
A Market for Organs No, not the musical instrument, but human organs. Sounds shocking, but there are some interesting points in there. Paying for organs might very well increase the supply of organs that are suitable for transplanting. Further, even if the government is paying for them, a competitive market typically has a higher level of output than a monopsony. Consider this, even if the government is not out seeking profits firms in a competitive market would be, and hence would be more aggressive in pursuing suitable organs. Of course, there would have to be measures put into place to ensure that organ donors are not "created". Still something to think about. Steve
Update on Commerce/BEA "Mistake" Well after reading Novak's rantings I shot off an e-mail to Brent Moulton. Apparently there are some problems with the data. For example, when they get data from the corporations there isn't much information on stock options, also the accounting chicanery of Enron, World Com and so forth did not help. This can skew the data. Eventually BEA gets more accurate data from the IRS and is able to revise the numbers then, this typically takes about 18 months. Is it a big revision? Yeah. Should we get our panties in a wad like Robert Novak? No. It is an unrealistic expectation for projections to always be within a certain error bound...as anybody who has taken a statistics course. Maybe Novak could try that and also show it is never to late to teach an old dog new tricks. Steve
Talk About Not Being Able to Let Go Bob Somerby, the publisher of the Daily Howler just can't seem to let go of the fact that Gore lost the 2000 election. It has become his mission (obsession?) to show just how unjustly Gore (apparently his patron Saint) was treated. How unfarily he was treated by the Supreme Court, the Washington Press Corp, and wel...just about everybody else. I think somebody needs a hobby...oh wait, I see he already has one. Somerby has written an article about this on August 2nd, 5th, 6th 7th and today. Wow, and I was wondering if I was going overboard with my focus on Social Security and Medicare. Steve
"The gap is a bit larger than usual, but not really out of line," Brent Moulton, associate director at the Bureau of Economic Analysis, told me. Moulton, who was in charge of both the old figures and the new revision, said the problem was the two-year delay in obtaining corporate tax returns (reflecting changes in telecommunications and business services).
I know Brent Moulton, he was my boss at BLS. I doubt they were deliberately cooking the books, still it looks bad.
This is one of the problems when you don't have current data, if the series takes a turn, without current data you are unaware of it and your forecasts can be seriously out of whack.
Also, I don't think Brent is incompetent. Brent earned his PhD at the University of Chicago and is a student of Arnold Zellner's. He has published in such journals as Journal of Econometrics andJournal of Business and Economic Statistics. Steve
The Morons Among Us A woman with her infant waiting to board a flight is ordered to drink her own breat milk. As the attorney Ron Kuby noted, it is probably safe to assume the number of caucasian, lactating mothers that have gone through Al Qeada training is zero. What a waste of time and resources. Because of this idiocy there is likely to be a lawsuit, which will suck up resources because of some complete blithering moron. Steve
Israel is Winning, By Daniel Pipes It looks like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. Palestinian intellectuals and public figures are starting to critcize the use of suicide bombers. The Palestinian economy is in such a sad state that people might be starting to question if this war is worth it. Well lets hope that perhaps this horrific mess will end soon and everybody will be better off. Steve
The last big accounting scandal was old news by late June, and WorldCom stock was already below a dollar when that story broke. Yet the broad stock market rout began after July 5, when the government offered to help, mainly by criminalizing risk. We were repeatedly promised that stocks would rise if the president preached against avarice and Congress passed any bill described as "tough." Yet Sen. Joseph Biden, Delaware Democrat, soon noted that the market fell every time President Bush gave another speech against "endless profits." And Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat, praised Alan Greenspan's testimony for calming the markets, but failed to apply that same test to his own bill. On the day the Sarbanes bill passed, the S&P 500 fell 3.4 percent.Link
Isn't that interesting. The conventional wisdom is that the President, Congress and other Powers That Be have to step up and start talking tough and reassure everybody that everything is going to be fine. But every time they do, the market takes a dive. Maybe it is because "talking tough about greed" is seen as being anti-profit. And let me tell you a little secret, it is only about profits. Corporations are about maximizing profits. Ideally they should do this legally, and by and large most companies do. But ranting about greed is making investors nervous that it is just a short step to ranting about profits, i.e. profits in general. Maybe it is time for the President, Congress, and other Powers That Be to just shut the Hell up? Steve
Krugman and the Third World While I have been finding Krugman's partisan ranting hard to take lately, his views on the Third World and the jobs there is great. The argument goes like this: While to many Americans the jobs and working conditions in Third World countries look horrible, the alternatives are even worse.
Pretty simple, no? Well consider this: Suppose you could force all these companies to pay these workers a good wage, and improve the working conditions. What then? Well, my guess is lots of these companies would just shut down operations. If they have to pay high wages in Bangladesh, pay alot for improving the working conditions, and pay to ship their product back to countries where they are bought...why not just stay in the country where thier products are bought? So now these jobs go away. What is next? Not new jobs because you are requiring any other company to meet the same criteria. So it is to the streets; to dig through garbage for food, panhandle and in some cases prostitution (child prostitution). Sound good? Is that what you really want?
As the incomes of these workers increase they will spend more...in their local economy employing others. The economy will start a climb up the ladder of prosperity. At each new rung things will get better. Eventually, these countries might have the luxury of doing away with many of these less savory practices. But make no mistake, the alternatives to these unsavory practices is even more unsavory. So don't be stupid. Steve
Krugman's Major Disconnect on Social Security Now, don't get me wrong, I think Paul Krugman is a fine economist. He has done some really ground breaking work...in theoretical international economics. However, when it comes to the real world we should all question where the hell is Paul Krugman? Certainly not here with us.
Now suppose that there is a Social-Security type pay-as-you-go system, in which all workers pay some fixed amount - say $1 - which is not invested, but instead used to pay current benefits to retirees. Since given our assumptions the number of workers equals the number of retirees, this means that every individual will put in $1 when young, then get $1 back when retired - a zero rate of return.
Welcome to the world of fantasy economics. What Krugman has failed to take into account is the bureucratic overhead of a system like Social Security. It is immense. So you pay in a dollar, the retiree is not going to get back a dollar. It is just that simple. To pretend otherwise is...well stupid.
But you should immediately realize that there must be something wrong with that argument. After all, there isn't any waste in the pay-as-you-go system - it's just transferring money around. So where does the return go?
The answer - which I guess isn't that obvious - is that it goes to pay a hidden debt. When the pay-as-you-go system starts up, there is a generation of retirees who receive benefits without having made contributions. (What this corresponds to in the real world is the very high rate of return received on contributions by early recipients of Social Security.) That debt - equal in this example to $1 per worker - is never paid off; instead, the earnings from each worker's contribution are in effect used to pay the interest on that debt. And that's where the money goes.
Or if all of this is too metaphysical for you, let's just ask what it would take to privatize our simplified retirement system. You couldn't just say to workers "OK, you're free to invest your own money"; somehow you have to find the money to pay for the benefits of the current generation of retirees. That is, you have to find a way to pay off that hidden debt. That's why a straight comparison between the rate of return on private retirement plans and Social Security contributions is meaningless.
And now you can see why if you or I came up with a similar scheme privately we'd be tossed in jail. However, the government can do it...well because they got guns and lots of them and if you don't like they will incarcerate you and probably take your property. What a great bunch of guys. Brings new meaning to the phrase, "I'm from the government and I am here to help you."
First, the proponents try to pretend that there isn't any cost.
Either Krugman hasn't read the stuff by Kotlikoff (which I personally seriously doubt) or Krugman is just flat out lying. What a pitty he is letting his own bias here get in the way of the facts. Kotlikoff has not denied that to end Social Security we'd have to pay off the current obligations. Steve
Friday, August 02, 2002
Again, is the Corporate Governance Bill Neccessary Given that we have had arrests in the Adelphia case and now these arrests in the Worldcom case, why pass this bill? Why not enforce existing laws more vigorously and save the hassle of additional red tape? Oh, wait, there I go again thinking logically. Always a mistake when dealing with politics and politicians. Steve
On September 22, Zewdalem Kebede overheard a group of Saudi Arabian students at San Diego State praising the 9-11 attacks. Kebede, who speaks fluent Arabic, surprised the students by interrupting their conversation in their native tongue. "Guys, what you are talking about is unfair. How do you feel happy when those five- to six-thousand people are buried in two or three buildings?" Kebede said to the students. "You are proud of [the terrorists]. You should have to feel shame." The ensuing conversation grew heated, with a Saudi accusing the recently naturalized American of objecting to students speaking Arabic. Shortly thereafter, Kebede and the Saudi students parted ways. A half hour later, the campus police came-for Kebede! Soon, the university ordered him to attend a disciplinary meeting and threatened him with expulsion because, it was alleged, he had been "verbally abusive to other students." He received a letter ordering him to respond to his accusers or face sanctions. Outraged, the Ethiopian immigrant went public. SDSU subsequently backed off the charges and concluded the matter with a threat of disciplinary action. "You are admonished to conduct yourself as a responsible member of the campus community in the future," the school's missive warned. That's precisely what some would say that Kebede was doing on September 22, when he castigated those who celebrated mass-murder.
Well it seems clear that the administration at SDSU are all blithering idiots.
Hamas finally reveals its goalThe Hamas in Gaza proudly claimed responsibility for this massacre. In English, Sheikh Rantissi declared the strikes would continue until Israeli occupation ends.
Hamas does not want a Palestinian state existing side-by-side with Israel, they want the destruction of Israel. This is rather depressing because it makes the prospects of peace very dim. Steve
The Evil Isn't Islam An article by Daniel Pipes. In this article Mr. Pipes points out that it isn't Islam in general that should be thought of in negative terms, but militant Islam. Consider this, a few centuries ago Islam was the center of learning and culture, now most Islamic countries are backwards (practive slavery--Mauritania, Sudan and even Saudi Arabia, and view interest on loans as bad) and/or run by despots who seem to have little regard for their own people. Anyhow, check out the article and click on the link to the left to see more about Daniel Pipes' site. Steve
Judge Orders Release of Names of 9/11 Detainees Well it looks like those who were bloviating about the U.S. becoming a police state were...just a tad overblown. Maybe people will put a little bit more trust in the system our founding fathers came up with. Of course, worrying about athoritarianism is legitimate, but some of the hysterical ravings were a bit much. Steve