May 29, 2010

Oh for Heaven's Sake

One thing the nomination of Rand Paul has definitely achieved — it’s showing Americans just how far out of mainstream thought libertarians are. Libertarians like Rand Paul and his father Ron are absolutists, and any form of political absolutism is profoundly anti-human. That’s why Rand Paul can say “accidents happen” about the BP disaster — because he has no empathy at all for the millions of people whose lives will be affected by it. It’s the same reason why he is an anti-abortion fanatic, despite his lip service to libertarianism — because he has no empathy for human beings. His ideology rules his world view, and human beings play a very small part in it.
(Boldface mine.) The cluelessness on autopilot that many libertarians have about human relations is no surprise to this small-el libertarian. See: Ayn Rand. See: the Libertarian Party (after Harry Browne, not one penny more, not ever!).

But here's what really takes the cake, from one of the most active commenters at LGF:
Except for the eminent domain part (it should be limited, of course, but society could never get by without it), those are all eminently liberal policies. Well, maybe not the tax part, either, but then taxes are a red herring issue.

A lot of them are up to the states, though.

So why the insistence on replacing the second "al" in "liberalism" with "tarian"?

Could it be a dogwhistle? Sounds kinda like "Aryan", after all.
Taxes are a red herring? Liberal policies favor limiting government? The standard suffix "-arian" is a racist dog whistle? (Note the affirmative votes in favor.)

The tone inoculates the writer against a rational response.

A rational position is here.

May 28, 2010

Celtics-Magic: I've Been Worried

In the 1985 NBA Finals the Celtics beat LA by 32 points in the first game and went on to lose 4-2 despite home court advantage. To their undoing, their characteristic brashness turned into overconfidence.

Now they've lost two games in a row--the second in blowout fashion--after upsetting Cleveland and leading Orlando 3-0.

Given this year's choke by the Bruins and the Patriots' history of choking (not to mention the pre-2004 Red Sox, and the closeness of the two Celtics wins in Orlando), I have declined to be confident about the Celtics' prospects. Good luck to them, but note that, in a sense, a--historic--sweep of their semifinal series remains possible.

Addendum 201006101947. Okay, false alarm.

Now I see that Paul Pierce, while working to win Game 2 and tie the series, gibed at a fan the Celtics wouldn't return to LA. Whereupon they lost the first of three consecutive games in Boston...

Addendum 201006171950. Okay, another false alarm.

An hour before the rubber game starts, I see that the sports press, which was talking up the Celtics when they took the lead in the series, is now talking up the Lakers after they won Game 6.

My pessimistic temperament is telling me that the Curse of the Bambino hasn't been broken: it's been transferred to the Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics. This kind of infantile swagger from, fittingly, the Celtics' 'Big Baby' Davis doesn't make me feel any better.

Addendum 201006180038. sigh Congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers and their fans.

I was definitely rooting for the Celtics but my feelings became mixed once I realized their reputation as braggarts and bullies.

The following has the ring of sour grapes, but I'm getting very repulsed by the steady stream of news about thuggishness by professional athletes. At this point I haven't withheld my attention. Maybe ultracompetitive sport, like war, brings out the best and worst in people; for sure, I've been noticing the bad.

May 25, 2010

Shaddup and Sign the Checks

Christina Agapakis is working on her PhD in biology at Harvard. She weighs in on the recent transplantation of a genome:
The reaction to the Venter Institute's synthetic genome transplantation has been decidedly mixed. Is this the beginning of something new and wonderful, the ability to really design organisms from scratch? Is it something more sinister, the beginning of a dark era where techno-corporate (or terrorist) interests can design something that will destroy the environment in catastrophic ways?...
Note the threat prioritization implicit in the phrasing 'techno-corporate (or terrorist) interests'.

Agapakis concludes:
Synthia is important for showing what big budgets and bigger patience can do, and for continuing and broadening the public discussion on synthetic biology....The possibilities are endless and it's up to all of us to make sure that it's good for everyone.'s up to all of us to make sure that it's good for everyone. Make sure that it's good for everyone.

More Agapakis:
Hey Senator, stay out of my research!!!

Senator Sam Brownback recently introduced a bill to congress to ban the creation of human-animal hybrids that blur the line between species. Clearly, this is a huge setback for synthetic biology.
Her research? Is Agapakis an heiress? No, she has an NSF fellowship and her research is funded by the US Army. (!)

You don't have to be a fan of Sam Brownback to grant that a US Senator has a legitimate interest in government-funded research. Or maybe he's not part of Agapakis's 'we'.
The foregoing is hardly worth mention as an individual case. I've tracked down the links because I suspect that Agapakis is an example of a mentality and a type that makes me uneasy about the future.

May 24, 2010

Fairness Compels Me to Admit (via Clenched Teeth)

The media are giving Sarah "Drill Baby Drill" Palin a cheap shot after her criticism of Obama's relationship to Big Oil and the implications for his handling of the BP oil spill. They wrote exactly what was on my mind until this piece reminded me that Palin was no friend of the oil companies while she governed Alaska.

How the incident reflects on Palin's political skills is yet to be determined. Is she naive, or is she laying a trap for her critics?

Balko on the Punditocracy

I really loathe this about cable news. They bring in the same personalities to talk what's going on in the news. It doesn't matter if those personalities have the slightest idea what they're talking about. They're on TV not because they have specialized knowledge about a given story, but because they're talented at applying standard partisan talking points to a wide variety of issues. And now, Dick Morris will talk about the Federal Reserve. Joining us to explain what the drug war violence in Mexico means to you, here's Democratic strategist Bob Beckell. Their job is to tell the portion of the audience that already agrees with them what the audience already thinks it knows. Everyone is stupider for it.
Direct hit.

May 18, 2010

Richard Feynman on Central Planning

In 1963 he wrote to his wife:
The real question of government versus private enterprise is argued on too philosophical and abstract a basis. Theoretically, planning may be good. But nobody has ever figured out the cause of government stupidity—and until they do (and find the cure), all ideal plans will fall into quicksand.
Not exactly libertarian, but not opposed either.

May 16, 2010

AGW: What Would the Victorians Do?

What would the people who designed the Erie, Suez and Panama Canals do?

They wouldn't wring their hands and snivel about the need for austerity. They'd go right ahead and fix it.

Bill Gates, who, unfortunately, increasingly seems like a transient throwback to a more vigorous time, is funding research on cloud seeding.

Comments: May 2010

On China's reaction to evidence of espionage by (apparently) Chinese hackers.

On the Western media's treatment of Japan.

On religion in politics and natural law: here, here, here, and here.

Whom does the EU need: Churchill or Thatcher (or Erhard)?

May 13, 2010

Price War!

Virgin Galactic competitor Space Adventures is offering an Alan Shepard-style ride to the edge of space for $102K, i.e. half of Virgin's price.

While nobody has flown yet, one gets the sense that this business has attained critical mass.

NBA Fines for Criticizing Referees

I keep reading that the NBA heavily fines coaches and players who criticize the refereeing of games.

The NBA had a crooked referee.

The fines do not give me confidence that the problem has been solved.

Religion and Politics

I have no problem with people whose political opinions are influenced, or even determined by, their religious faith.

I have a major problem with people who refuse to convert such religious opinions into secular terms: who, as it were, refuse to phrase them in terms of so-called natural law.

May 9, 2010


Let me get this straight.

The Religious Right believes that a person is created at the moment of conception so that even a morning-after pill is murder.

The Wymyn's Left believes that a fetus is a (disposable, at her sole discretion) part of a woman's body until it is born.

Whereupon the father is responsible for contributing to the child's livelihood. A skeptic might wonder whether the vehemence with which wymyn claim sovereignty over their bodies is intended to ensure that the foregoing feature attracts minimal attention.

What would the consequences be if unwilling fathers started sending formal, notarized requests to the mothers requesting that the pregnancy be aborted?


Kneejerk Libertarianism

Some libertarians have kneejerk opinions. They believe that only government (and union) power is bad and are comfortable with corporate abuses and monopolies. They have fallen hook, line and sinker for the "intellectual property" trope.

I'd like to see a metric of liberty that includes and quantifies constraints from as many sources as possible in addition to the government.

Freedom involves the freedom of the strong to take advantage of the weak. Too many people behave as though that's a feature, not a bug. (Within limits, the advantages presumably outweigh the costs, but I can't take seriously the position that there are no costs.)

Addendum 20100520. The simplistic libertarian views society as composed of a government which exercises force and of individuals in voluntary associations. That ignores the likelihood that systemic concentrations of power, i.e. compulsion, will spontaneously arise from such a starting point.

The simplistic liberal views society as composed of individuals and a government which expresses their enlightened will and consensus. That imputes an unlikely degree of competence and purity to the government.

I agree with libertarians when they say that government overreaching is rampant and illegitimate, but I part company with many of them wrt to the financial crisis, which IMO required major government intervention.

May 1, 2010

L'Affaire Stephanie Grace

This is what we get when we do not respond to discrimination against groups by insisting that people be treated as individuals.

This is what we get when we refuse to embrace objective criteria of merit wherever possible.

I fear that, while we're all celebrating diversity, one of the "groups" in the world will develop a critical mass of evil genius and then it's off to the races again.

Follow-up: This commenter at neoneocon puts it well:
Individual justice, where the rules apply to everyone equally, is American. Social justice, where the rules apply according to what group one is, is Un-American left fascism.
Heh, talk about synchronicity: that was posted three minutes after my post here.