January 27, 2010

Lech Walesa Campaigns for Illinois Republican

Imagine the conniption fits the Right would be having if Nelson Mandela or Desmond Tutu campaigned for Obama.

R.S. McCain gushes:
It's not every day that a Nobel Prize winner becomes involved in a U.S. election, but Lech Walesa -- famed for his Cold War leadership of the Solidarity movement in Poland -- will be campaigning this week for a GOP gubernatorial candidate in Illinois.
(Boldface mine.) Jimmy Carter and Al Gore immediately come to mind. (Mandela and Tutu have also won the Nobel Peace Prize.)
Foreigners don't belong in US politics. Period. (They're free to kibitz of course, but candidates who let them play are unworthy of support.)

My no-confidence feedback to the GOP is validated.

January 24, 2010

This Is Not What I Mean by Conservatism

The Tories want to impose draconian taxes on liquor.

Not only are Western political elites sending the countries they govern down the tube, they don't want to let us drink ourselves into oblivion while they do it.

January 23, 2010

The Bernanke Confirmation Process

Congressional refusal to confirm Bernanke for a second term would be like firing Grant because his armies took casualties while winning the Civil War.

Wait, they tried to do that too, didn't they?

January 22, 2010

Why is the Market Down?

The sudden uncertainty about Bernanke's reconfirmation, of course. A WSJ blog headlines "Warren Buffett Predicts Chaos If Bernanke Is Not Re-Confirmed". Buffett:
BUFFETT: If I could vote twice, I would. He should be, I mean, he did a magnificent job over this period. Now, everybody can do it somewhat better. We could sit here and armchair quarterback him, but when I look back at particularly September and October of 2008, he took some extraordinary actions that, if they hadn't been taken, willingness to act like that, and even stretch his authority some. But he did what you do, and we talked about it being an economic Pearl Harbor, he did what should have been done in response to that Pearl Harbor. And I think he's done a stellar job.

BECKY: What happens if he's not reconfirmed? What's at risk?

BUFFETT: Well, just tell me a day ahead of time so I can sell some stocks. (Laughs.)

BECKY: You think there would be a strong selloff?

BUFFETT: Oh, I think so, sure.

BECKY: Across the board?

BUFFETT: Yeah. I think it'd be justified.

BECKY: You do?

BUFFETT: Yeah, I think - I think one of the - I think Congress generally is the worry of the American people, particularly what they've seen over the last 12, 18 months. If Congress essentially said we can do this better then a Ben Banana, and we think we know, I would get very worried.
The full transcript is here.

If the market hates uncertainty, what is it making of the latest SEC fishing expedition about market structure? Money quote from the Concept Release (pp 41-42):
In addition, what standards should the Commission apply in assessing the fairness of the equity markets? For example, is it unfair for market participants to obtain a competitive advantage by investing in technology and human resources that enable them to trade more effectively and profitably than others?
The text is the SEC's. The boldface, dropped jaw, and boggled mind are mine. Who's in charge at the SEC, Handicapper General Diana Moon-Glampers?

January 19, 2010

Audentis Fortuna Iuvat

Congratulations, Senator Scott Brown.

The Eyes of the Nation are on Massachusetts

I never thought I'd write that. It gives me a shiver. How incredible to have an important vote.

I pushed the cement snow off my car and got to the polling place in my rural Central MA town of maybe 4000. At 3:00, 1100 people had already voted.

The holbytlan emerge from their humble burrows and shake the towers and councils of the Great.

Addendum. This is a good line too:
And once again, there is a Tea Party in Massachusetts.
The whole thing is worth reading.

Addendum. I'd made up my mind to leave Massachusetts if in a financial position to do so. The 25% hike in the sales tax during a deep recession was the last straw.

I may revisit my decision if Brown wins.

January 18, 2010

A Better Choice for First Black President

Former California Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown:
If we as a state want to make a New Year's resolution, I suggest taking a good look at the California we have created. From our out-of-sync tax system to our out-of-control civil service, it's time for politicians to begin an honest dialogue about what we've become.
Mind you, I'd probably be howling in protest if he had the job--but I wouldn't be terrified that he'd run the country off a cliff.

NB: the foregoing holds irrespective of Brown's race or political philosophy.

January 17, 2010

Coakley-Brown and the Miracle on Ice

Sunday's polls are in and all show Brown with a lead. The Intrade odds have increased to 7:4 in his favor.

For an upset of this magnitude, everything has to go Brown's way. One glitch and he has a moral victory, i.e. he loses (and can start running for governor).

The fact that tomorrow is a holiday might give the machine time to regroup: many voters can be reached at home instead of being inaccessible at work.

January 15, 2010

Is This Democrat Rooting for Scott Brown?

Deval Patrick, I mean.

Deepest-blue Massachusetts has nevertheless had a run of Republican governors--Weld, Celucci, Romney--until Patrick conned us into taking a chance on the one-party thing.

If Brown loses, I'm guessing he will immediately take aim at the unpopular Patrick.

Moreover, unlike his three GOP predecessors, Brown seems rooted in the state. He just might try to build up the state GOP instead of viewing the governorship as a steppingstone. (Correction: Four GOP predecessors. I mercifully forgot Jane Swift.)

Patrick has not been visible on behalf of Coakley. Part of that might be that he's so unpopular that he'd do more harm than good--but part might be self-interest. (Will Deval share the stage when his buddy Barack visits? You'd think a Democratic governor almost has to appear with a Democratic President. Hopefully the Brown people will manage some Patrick-Coakley photos although I'm guessing the Democrats anticipate the danger.)

Addendum 20100116. Brown's contribution page has an option for recurring monthly donations. Patrick is up for reelection this coming November.

January 10, 2010

Important Point, with More Important Implications

Steve Wolfram notes that computers do mathematics very differently from humans (I've read similar things about chess programs: they play differently from a human with enhanced speed and memory):
When Mathematica was young, we actually used to include as part of our software distribution a lot of source code for doing things like symbolic integration. It happened to be easier to do the software engineering that way. And we had the idea that perhaps occasionally someone would look at the code, and give us a good suggestion about it.

But that turned out to be completely unrealistic. The code was pretty clean. But it was mathematically very sophisticated. And only a very small number of experts (quite a few of whom had actually worked on the code for us) could understand it.

And the only tangible thing that happened were a few tech support calls from people who thought they could modify some piece of the code—and were about to horribly mess things up.
So what are the implications for AI? For the techno-optimism that future AIs will be human-friendly?

This is a worthwhile historical overview.

January 6, 2010

France Strikes Again

After the monumentally incompetent Bush administration and the possibly worse Obama, it's bad form for an American to gibe at the Europeans, but I can't resist. From the BBC:
The French government wants to take the controversial step of introducing a new law banning "psychological violence" between married couples or partners living together.
The law is expected to pass.

I don't expect this law to be applied uniformly, objectively or fairly. I do expect it to be extended beyond cohabitants.

Could 'psychological violence' be invoked to circumvent the USA's First Amendment? Look for the usual suspects to get interested.

Addendum 20100107. Chicks on the Right captures the insanity:
What are they going to ban next? The silent treatment?
Yours truly comments. Here too.

Addendum 20100117. According to Rasmussen, 32% of Americans favor such a law (40% opposed and 27% undecided).

A republic, if you can keep it. More and more of us are uninterested in keeping it.

Addendum 20100303. The French are on the verge of passing a law requiring electronic monitoring bracelets for husbands who have a restraining order to avoid their wives.

Speaking of Incompetent Security

Apparently we are not alone. The BBC, which is not an unbiased source afaic, reports:
China's chief negotiator was barred by security for the first three days of the meeting - a serious issue that should have been sorted out after day one. This was said to have left the Chinese delegation in high dudgeon.
No kidding.

At least the Danes didn't bomb the Chinese delegation's quarters.

January 5, 2010

Massachusetts and California

If MA shared a border with Mexico, we would be in the same shape as California.

(The prosperity from CA's Pacific ports and natural resources has also contributed to the arrogant airheaded idealism that got them into their mess.)

Comments: January 2010

On the Scott Brown candidacy for Massachusetts' open Senate seat. Here too.

On Brit Hume's call for Tiger Woods to become a Christian.

On the Coakley-Brown race: here, here, here, and here. Here and here too. Here and here, here and here.

f*gg*t humor at Notre Dame. Scroll down to "gs on January 15th, 2010 10:31 pm".

online reaction to Bernanke's confirmation difficulties. Scroll down to "6:19 pm January 22, 2010 gs wrote".

On Obama's bright idea that government contractors must be certified as non-tax-delinquent. I suggest that compliance costs may outweigh money saved. Scroll down to "Posted by: gs | Jan 20, 2010 10:01:00 PM".

On the fearful state of the Union.

On the pending shutdown of after-hours science labs in Berkeley High School.

A Benign Variant of Alcohol?

The Telegraph reports on UK research (HT: Instapundit):
The synthetic alcohol, being developed from chemicals related to Valium, works like alcohol on nerves in the brain that provide a feeling of wellbeing and relaxation.

But unlike alcohol its does not affect other parts of the brain that control mood swings and lead to addiction. It is also much easier to flush out of the body.

Finally because it is much more focused in its effects, it can also be switched off with an antidote, leaving the drinker immediately sober.
If it's related to Valium, how confident are they that it's not addictive? For that matter, I wonder if there's more to alcoholic dependency than desire for a pleasant buzz. Still, this worthwhile research is a clear step forward.

If the government allows the step to be taken:
The new alcohol is being developed by a team at Imperial College London, led by Professor David Nutt, Britain's top drugs expert who was recently sacked as a government adviser for his comments about cannabis and ecstasy.
“No one’s ever tried targeting this before, possibly because it will be so hard to get it past the regulators.

“Most of the benzos are controlled under the Medicines Act. The law gives a privileged position to alcohol, which has been around for 3,000 years. But why not use advances in pharmacology to find something safer and better?”

Getting the drug approved could be hard for the team as clinical trials are expensive, and it is not clear who would pay for them, according to Professor Nutt.

He said that the traditional drinks industry has not shown any interest, however some countries might be persuaded to sponsor the team.
The usual special-interest coalition of zealots and grifters controls the regulatory process. This is a(n unintended?) consequence of the War on Drugs and collateral damage from the Precautionary Principle. In effect, the government's effort to stop the damage done by (some) drugs is stifling the development of safe alternatives. Remember: the issue is never the issue. The issue is control.

(Medical researchers might be getting a better handle on high blood pressure too.)

January 3, 2010

Wheels within Wheels

Pachauri was apparently the Bush/Saudi candidate to head the UN's IPCC. See this, this, and this.

Yet he is accused of profiting from efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

So...whose side is he really on?

Rajendra Pachauri's side, I imagine...